How to Get Free Food

Two Methods:Quick Sources of Free FoodLong-term Plans

Occasionally, you run out of food and you need to get food fast, right? Or is it because you just want to try out something new? Below are steps to getting free food.

Method 1
Quick Sources of Free Food

  1. 1
    Visit restaurants at closing time. Most restaurants can't keep extra food after they close, so they trash all the food. If you ask nicely, some staff members will give you the food instead of throwing it away.
  2. 2
    Look for free events. Free art shows and small, local concerts often serve food. If you live near a university, check bulletin boards or online event calendars. There are almost always public events happening, and many of them serve food.
    • A catered event for a private group might have extra food if you hang around near the end time.
    • Many religious services offer free food to anyone who attends the service.
  3. 3
    Browse stores for free samples. Some stores offer free samples of their products each day, or offer coffee or snacks for customers. Learn which ones do in your area and visit regularly. It might not be much, but at least it's something.
    • Some examples in the United States include Sam's Club, Costco, Trader Joe's, and BJ's.
    • Larger stores are less likely to care if you eat extra samples or visit daily. Small stores often kick you out if you eat samples without buying anything.
  4. 4
    Keep an eye out for new stores. Newly opened grocery stores, supermarkets, and restaurants may offer giveaways to attract customers. Sometimes, even stores that don't sell food will have a catered event on the opening day.
  5. 5
    Dumpster dive. A few bakeries, stores, and restaurants have "food dumpsters" or "bread dumpsters" that they only use for food, making it easy to pick up a clean meal. Even if you have to root through trash, sealed packages of food (that don't require refrigeration) are almost always good the day of their expiration date or a short time afterward.
    • Be cautious about discarded food that has not hit its expiration date, and does not have obvious physical damage. This may have been thrown out for health concerns.
  6. 6
    Bargain. If you bargain well enough, you might get free food. Talk to a cashier or waiter before you've eaten the food or opened the packaging.
  7. 7
    Find out about charity offers. The local government building may be able to tell you about local sources of free or very cheap meals. Some restaurants offer "pay what you want" meals, or special cheap meals for those in need. Soup kitchens and homeless shelters offer free meals, while food banks and community cupboards give away bags of kitchen ingredients.
    • St. Vincent's is one free restaurant with locations across the US.
    • Local churches and other religious buildings often host these giveaways or can direct you to local opportunities.

Method 2
Long-term Plans

  1. 1
    Grow an edible garden. Don't hesitate to ask neighbors, friends, and garden store employees for advice when you start out gardening. Even if you do have to pay for the seeds, they often cost very little. Plant any fruit or vegetable suitable for the local climate, and eat them once they are completely grown.
  2. 2
    Collect coupons or reward points. If you collect enough coupons, you might eventually get a free or cheap product. Most stores only allow one coupon per item, so you're better off looking for a reward program.
  3. 3
    Offer to work for food. Hotels are often in need of staff, and may offer a meal in exchange for a few hours of dish washing. Don't expect a swanky establishment to take you in without references, though.
  4. 4
    Ask the Department of Agriculture and ask about food giveaways. They usually happen twice per month in rural areas of the US. Some farmers will allow you to "glean" their fields after the harvest is completed. Usually 25% of the remaining product is still quite usable.
  5. 5
    Apply for restaurant jobs. Most restaurant staff get free food every day. Typically, you get a free meal during your break, and may be able to take home extra food at the end of the day.
  6. 6
    Volunteer for long-term programs. Humanitarian aid organizations often need volunteers, and will feed and house you if you're willing to spend a long time working abroad. The army is another option if you meet the physical fitness requirements.


  • Not all steps may work like intended, so if you can't do some of them, then don't do them!
  • If you have kids, look for restaurants with "kids eat free" deals on certain days.
  • Even stores that require a membership to shop there will usually let you walk around and eat free samples.
  • Some restaurants will give you free food if it's your birthday, wedding anniversary, or honeymoon. Some restaurants require an ID (or wedding license) as proof however.
  • To keep costs down while gardening, avoid commercial compost or fertilizer. Make the compost yourself from kitchen waste.
  • If desperate, join dating websites. Ask or imply that your date pay for the meal.
  • All Sikh temples offer free food. Identify those by the yellow flag post out front. You may be required to cover your head, take off your shoes, and show up only when sober.


  • Don't do anything illegal.

Article Info

Categories: Meal Planning