13 Ways to Get Food for Free

Be a mystery shopper. Take a walk in the woods. Chat up your green-thumbed neighbor. If you're tired of paying for food, you can stop doing it. Here are 13 ways to get food for free.

01
Be a Mystery Shopper

A woman carrying shopping bags
Ragnar Schmuck / Getty Images

Become a mystery shopper and you can enjoy free meals out on the town, or even get paid for it. Restaurants want to know how they're doing, so they pay people to pose as regular customers. You go out to eat, and when you get home you fill out a brief survey. Easy! 

To get in on the action, sign up with any of several mystery shopping sites. Then watch their shop boards for restaurant gigs. If you see a gig you want, grab it. The best get snatched up almost as soon as they're listed.

02
Forage

Learn how to identify edible foods in the wild and enhance your diet with free-for-the-taking fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and nuts. Many mycological societies and agriculture extension services offer guided wild-food tours, so start there if you're new to foraging.

03
Use Coupons

Apps

Karlis_Dambrans/Flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Employ the right coupon strategies and you could walk out of the grocery store with free food items each week. You don't have to clip coupons ​if you don't want to. Just spend a few minutes loading digital coupons to your cell phone or store loyalty card. Then go collect your freebies.

04
Request Freebies

Cereal

Y'amal/Flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Free offers are abundant on the internet. Find a deal blog that you like and check it regularly to stay on top of the latest food freebies. Every cereal, granola bar, and snack sample you secure is one that you don't have to buy.

05
Barter for Food

Cake

Kelly_Hunter/Flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Barter your skills and services for the foods you like to eat. Trade a quick car repair or a bit of mending work for free produce from someone's garden, a cake, a home-cooked meal, or some home-canned goodies. Food is an awesome currency.

06
Join the Gardeners' Network

Produce from Garden
Hinterhaus Productions/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Know someone with a bumper crop of zucchini or tomatoes? Let them know you'd be happy to take their extras. Gardeners are always looking for someone on whom they can pass off their surplus.

07
Socialize

Potluck Dinner
Ross Durant Photography/Getty Images

Festivals, church events, meetings, grand openings, and receptions often include food. Keep a lookout for any social event that offers free food, then join the party. You can easily knock out one meal a week this way, even if it's just light hors d'oeuvres. Free is free.

08
Plant Perennials

Apples

Steenbergs/Flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Annuals get all of the attention in the world of edible plants, but perennials are the real bargain. Start a garden of perennial herbs, vegetables, fruits, and legumes, and every harvest after the first will be free.

09
Fill Out Receipt Surveys

Receipt Survey

nathanmac87/Flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Don't ignore those surveys at the bottom of restaurant receipts. They're a great way to score free food. A few minutes spent answering questions about your meal could net you a free appetizer, dessert, or entree.

10
Go Freegan

Freegan Find

Natalie_HG/Flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Where do all of those grocery store cast-offs go? Usually straight into the dumpster. There's a thriving subculture known as freeganism that attempts to put that waste to good use. Join a freegan organization in your town, or go dumpster-diving on your own.

11
Sign Up for Consumer Test Panels

Taste Tester

Dennis Tang/Flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Become a product tester for food manufacturers and try new products before they hit store shelves. You'll get free full-size products to try, plus cash or a gift card for sharing your opinion.

12
Eat While You Shop

Costco Food Samples

Sarah Murray/Flickr.com/CC BY 2.0

Warehouse stores and high-end grocery stores are known for their generous free samples. Hit the free sample stations throughout the store, and you may find that you can skip lunch.

13
Enter Sweepstakes

Winner

Colin Hawkins/Stone/Getty Images

Set aside a few minutes each day to enter sweepstakes with restaurant meals and groceries as prizes. Someone has to win, so why not you?