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Food is a basic need for everyone, whether you have money or not.
You need to eat at least one meal every day to survive, which can be tricky when you do not have money.
Sometimes the economy is terrible, you have been laid off, or your wallet was stolen.
Even if all these cases happen accidentally, hunger does not know that you got laid off or lost your wallet.
It is, therefore, essential to have a few tricks in your bag for when such things happen.
Knowing how to get free food with no money is a life hack everyone should have.
You could ask neighbors, look for restaurants that give free food, or get free food from charities that provide food to the homeless.
Below are 35 ideas to help you survive another day when you are short on cash and need to eat.
Table of Contents
35 Ways To Get Free Food With No Money
#1. Food Waste Supermarkets
Food waste supermarket initiatives work with big restaurants and supermarkets to reduce food waste by taking any food that is not being used.
Any food that would otherwise be thrown out is donated to these places.
The food waste supermarkets have stores or cafes that distribute the food before it becomes uneatable.
The food is not free, but payment is not by money.
With a pay-as-you-feel policy, you can get the food and pay through donations or volunteer to work in the warehouses.
With that contribution to such initiatives, you can get free food for as long as needed.
#2. Zero-Waste Apps
Zero-waste-free food apps help people dispose of their excess food by donating it to people who do not have anything to eat.
Olio is an example of a zero-waste app that connects hungry people with no money to any excess food near them.
You can download the app and fill in your details, including location, to find out who has excess food items near you and is willing to share.
You can score good food from your neighbors through the app because most people give out what they have in ample supply.
That also means that what you get depends on what people near you offer.
#3. Birthday Freebies
Your birthday is an important day that could even give you free meals.
Most restaurants offer customers free food on their birthdays to celebrate and make their day special.
The best thing about birthday freebies is that you can eat the best meals a place has without spending any money.
However, most restaurants will require proof to show that it is your birthday.
If you have no money on your birthday, walk into any restaurant and tell them it’s your birthday.
While a bit unethical, you can even do this when it’s not your birthday.
Remember the restaurants you visit to ensure you don’t try this so frequently they catch on.
#4. Supermarket Coupons
You can find free coupons on various websites or free newspapers and either print or cut them out.
While this method depends on your luck and whether you know where to find these coupons, it is a sure way to get free food.
A simple Google search will also help you identify websites with these coupons on their pages and where to find them.
A supermarket coupon can get you anything you want in a particular store, including food items.
You can get free food, from free ice cream to frozen dinners.
The coupons guarantee free food online from supermarkets near you and help you survive a day without money.
Also, be sure to know the store’s policy on doubling coupons.
Many grocery stores still double the value of manufacturer coupons, which means if you have a $1 off coupon on a $2 item and the store doubles it, you get the item for free.
#5. Free Food Samples
Another brilliant way to score free meals is to go to restaurants with various food-tasting events.
They usually have various free samples to give to people for free.
While they do not ask for money for the free samples, they would want to hear your opinion on their dishes.
You get free samples for sharing your thoughts on the new menu the restaurant is trying to introduce.
You can find these free food sampling in supermarkets, restaurants, or even on the streets.
Most of these will be available in big cities with multiple food joints and stores.
If you want free samples at the grocery store, make sure you visit the store on a busy day.
For example, I would never find free samples at my local grocery store when I shopped on Tuesdays.
But if I went shopping on Saturday, multiple free samples were offered.
#6. Foraging In The Wild
When you do not have money, you need to get creative to get free food.
One of the creative ways to find something to eat without spending any money is foraging in the wild.
The limitation is that you must live in a place with a forest or bush around to look.
The wild has mushrooms, berries, and other wild fruits that could fill your belly before you find another solution.
Knowing which fruits and items are edible in the forest is vital to avoid poisoning.
Some of the supplies you get from foraging will also require some form of heat to be edible, meaning you need to have a way to cook them before eating.
#7. Eating Competitions
Eating competitions have plenty of free food for anyone willing to overeat to win a competition.
If you come across an eating competition when hungry and with no money, you can register to participate and have your fill without spending anything.
If your goal is to eat your fill, you do not need to win the competition.
You can eat at your pace until you can eat no more.
You will probably lose, but at least you will be full.
Finding eating competitions in your area is one way to score free food when you do not have any money.
#8. Restaurant Launches
Having no money can keep you hungry for hours, but you can change that by visiting new restaurants within your neighborhood.
When restaurants launch, they will have free food for all visitors as a way to market their restaurants to locals.
You can either learn about the launches online or walk around the city to see which new restaurants have an opening event.
Depending on the restaurant’s offerings, you can get free chips, drinks, and many other types of free food.
Any food you get when you are broke is worth celebrating because it keeps you from starving.
#9. Local Food Banks
A local food bank is a non-profit charity organization that distributes free food to people without food.
Food banks also invest in teaching people about nutrition and sustainable ways to get food in the future.
You can do an online search to see if there is any local food bank in your area and get as much free food as you need.
Food banks might not have the high-end restaurants kind of free food, but they have nutritious food that will keep you going for a while.
The other good thing about food banks is that they do not judge you for not having money or food.
Their main goal is to feed everyone and ensure food security for everyone, irrespective of where they come from.
#10. Ask People For Food
The best way to get a free meal when you don’t have money is to ask the people close to you for food.
You could go to your neighbors and ask them to help you with something to eat.
In most cases, neighbors will be generous because you live next to them and could help them out some other time.
You can also ask relatives and friends to help you get free food for the day.
If your friends and relatives live far away, you could call and tell them that you do not have anything to eat or have no money.
They could send you the money to buy food or find ways to get you financial help to purchase food.
#11. Accept Invitations
If you get invited to dinner or hang out at a friend’s or family member’s house, take them up on the offer.
Unless the offer is for dinner, chances are you will only be given snacks.
But when you can’t afford food, something is better than nothing.
#12. Dumpster Diving
While this is not the best or most hygienic way to get free food, it is one of the surest ways.
Dumpsters near restaurants and food joints will have plenty of food thrown out because it cannot be sold to customers or is almost expired.
The best time to dumpster dive is after work hours because that is when restaurants will dispose of whatever they did not sell or use that day.
Most restaurants prefer selling fresh items to their customers, and if whatever they have that day does not sell, they throw it out.
Restaurant or supermarket dumpsters are, therefore, a goldmine for anyone who does not know where to get their next meal.
And if you get good at dumpster diving for food, you can save money by also learning how to dumpster dive for other items you need.
#13. Trade Labor For Food
If you are strong and healthy or have a skill, you can use it to do some work that gives you a way to get free food.
You can trade labor for food in restaurants, food warehouses, farms, or even food delivery trucks.
Such places will have a lot of food, and if you help them with some of the tasks, they can pay you with a free appetizer, free dessert, or a full meal.
The food you get depends on the food the place offers and the amount of work you do.
Some will give you the option to choose what you want to eat, while others will give you what they have.
#14. Ask For Leftovers In Restaurants
There is a lot of free stuff like free dessert in restaurants, especially on tables where customers leave untouched food.
You can hang around food joints and take any uneaten food or intercept leftovers from tables.
Many people will buy the food they cannot finish and end up eating half or even just a few spoons.
Some hotels will willingly give you customers leftovers instead of throwing them out.
In such cases, you need to gather the courage to walk over and take any leftovers in the restaurant or ask for them from the staff.
All the free stuff in such places should not go to waste when you barely have anything to eat.
#15. Become A Mystery Diner
Restaurants pay marketing firms to conduct surveys to see how well their staff is doing.
When you get hired by one of the marketing firms, you become a mystery diner where your job is to visit the restaurant, order and eat a meal, and then fill out a report.
You will be required to answer questions about cleanliness, the attentiveness of the staff, how quickly your order arrived, the food, etc.
Your payment is a free meal.
The catch is usually, the pay only covers the cost of the food, not drinks.
In other words, you can order a meal and a beer and have your entire tab be paid for.
Also, some firms require you to pay and then reimburse you when you submit your report and receipt.
#16. Free Hotel Breakfasts
Another option for getting free food is to find hotels offering free breakfasts for guests.
Walk into the hotel in the morning and participate in the buffet.
It helps to make sure you look like you belong, so act the part to not get caught.
#17. Sign Up For Food Delivery Apps
Many food delivery apps offer discounts when you first sign up.
You can turn these discounts into free food.
For example, if you are given a $10 coupon, purchase $10 worth of food, and you will not have spent any money.
Read the terms and conditions first, as some apps have begun to crack down on this by offering you a discount on your second order.
The biggest problem stores and shopping centers have worldwide is shoplifting.
While it is illegal and can get you arrested for theft, it can also save you from sleeping hungry.
It is not something we encourage anyone to do because it could get you into trouble with the authorities. Still, sometimes it is all you can do.
Do not shoplift from small businesses because they will feel the effects much more severely than the big chain stores.
It should also not be a habit because that will increase the odds you get caught and sent to jail for stealing.
#19. Ask Farmers For Food
Farmers always have food in plenty.
If you live in a rural area where most people around you have farms or small gardens, you can approach the farmers and ask for food.
Most farmers are also generous with food because they often feel like they get it for free from the farm.
You cannot be picky with what farmers give you because they can only share what they have in excess.
You should also have a way to cook the foods the farmers give you because it will be raw produce.
However, in most cases, eating raw vegetables is perfectly safe as long as you wash them first.
You can get cereals, vegetables, fruits, milk, and other farm produce.
#20. Community Garden
There are community gardens where people farm together and share the food they get from the gardens.
This usually applies to people who live in the same neighborhood.
If you live in a community of people who grow their own food in such gardens, you can request them to help you with food.
The free food they offer depends on what they have planted in the garden.
As with asking for food from farmers, you also have to find a way to cook the free food you get from community gardens around you.
You can ask a neighbor to help you cook the food if you do not have the means and then share the food with them.
#21. Grow Food
Another option is to grow your own food.
While it will take time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, this is one of the best ways to cut the cost of eating.
Where you live will determine what you can grow.
And don’t think you need to buy seeds to start a garden.
You can get free seeds from many foods, like tomatoes or apples, and plant them.
You can even take the stem of a celery stalk, place it in some water, and grow your own celery.
#22. Local Churches
Churches are the best places to get free food in any area.
In most cases, churches will be generous enough to offer free food to anyone in need and provide shelter and clothing.
If you find a church within your area and do not have anything to eat, you can walk in and plead your case.
That applies to mosques and temples as well.
Any place of worship will always preach and practice sharing and generosity, which works in your favor when you do not have money or food.
#23. Charity Organizations
Charity organizations are meant to help those in need of supplies to keep them going.
You can find charitable organizations in every area, whether non-profits or government-sponsored projects.
Look on Google or ask friends and neighbors about any available charitable organizations.
The best thing about organizations that focus on charity is that they can help you with a free meal, even if food is not their area of focus.
They intend to help people in need, meaning they will come to the rescue of anyone needing help.
#24. Rewards Program
A rewards program works by offering free gifts to customers who frequent certain stores.
You must sign up for a reward program in order to convert your loyalty points into a free meal.
However, some rewards programs allow the transfer of reward points, meaning you can use another person’s reward points to get free food.
Therefore, it is possible to use rewards program points from your local stores to get free food coupons and other free items.
Also, many stores offer freebies just for downloading the app and signing up.
For example, 7-11 will give you a free donut, free coffee, or free Big Gulp just for downloading the app.
With Panera Bread, you can get a free pastry when you join the MyPanera rewards program.
Krispy Kreme offers a free donut, and Dairy Queen offers a free Blizzard.
The next trick is to open these apps from time to time.
I use the Chick-Fil-A app, and every few months, they grant me a reward even though I haven’t spent any money.
Usually, the reward is a free beverage or a free sweet treat.
#25. Exchange Your Things For Free Food
Sometimes you could have no money or food, but that does not mean you have nothing else to your name.
You could have household items that you are not using at the moment.
One way to find free food online would be to look for someone who needs the things you have and offer to give them in exchange for food items or ready meals.
Barter trade is an excellent way to help you get what you want without using money.
The person might also have food in plenty and even give you more than the value of the items you gave them.
The point here is to have something you can offer another person in exchange for a free small plate of food.
#26. Food Stamps
The government usually gives people food assistance through food stamps to help them provide for their families.
To qualify for food stamps, you need to either have no income or low wages that cannot sustain you.
However, you can always get free food from places that offer assistance if you tell them your story.
They might require you to provide an identification document to verify your story, but the chances are high that they will give you food for that day.
#27. Sign Up For Restaurant Newsletters
Another way to get free food online from restaurants is to subscribe to their newsletters.
Many restaurants offer free food to people when they sign up for their newsletter as a way to convert them into a customer.
Also make sure you follow them on social media, as many places will post sales, discounts, and other coupons for their followers to take advantage of.
#28. Soup Kitchens
Soup kitchens give free box combo food to the homeless or people struggling to get food on the table.
While there is no judgment here, you might not get the best quality food.
Soup kitchens rely on donations from people and charitable organizations, meaning they take whatever they get.
There is also a high number of people with no food, which means that the amount of food you get might not be satisfactory.
However, it is a way to help you survive one more day when you have no food or money.
You can search online to see whether there are any soup kitchens in your area or ask around.
#29. Befriend Hotel Workers For A Free Meal
Hotel workers always have food at their disposal.
In most of their workplaces, they will either get free food as part of the contract or are allowed to take the leftovers home.
Befriending someone who works in such places will get you free daily food.
Sometimes the food they get is too much that they cannot finish alone.
#30. Befriend Restaurant Workers
You can get free food by befriending fast food workers as well.
You can have them tell you when they throw out food so you can easily get it from the dumpster.
Or you can have them save the food instead of throwing it out.
I did this in college.
I had a friend who worked at Taco Bell on Sunday nights.
When he closed the store, instead of throwing out the prepared food, he brought it back.
Most Mondays, for lunch, I had free burritos and tacos.
#31. Food Pantries
Food pantries get their food from food banks.
If you do not live near a food bank, there is probably a food pantry near you where you can get free food.
The same food you find at food banks is the same you will find at a food pantry.
Most places with food shortages will have multiple food pantries to help people deal with hunger.
Whether your case is permanent or temporary, you can approach a food pantry within your area and get free food to last a couple of days.
#32. Join Survey Sites
While you won’t get free food directly by completing free surveys, you will earn points or cash that you can redeem for free gift cards to restaurants.
- Read now: Learn how to get free gift cards
Some sites allow you to play games and watch videos for points.
There are plenty of survey sites, but my favorites are Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, and MyPoints.
I even share with you how to maximize your earnings with the least amount of work in the post below.
#33. Check Your Receipts
When you do spend money, be sure to look at the bottom of the receipt.
Most now have a website or a phone number to call and complete a survey.
In exchange for leaving feedback, you get free food.
The food you get won’t be a full meal, but it is better than nothing.
And if you don’t spend any money, you can still use this tip.
Most people never take their receipts from coffee shops or fast food joints.
You can find receipts on the floor, on tables, or near the trash cans, complete the survey, and get free food.
#34. Crash Parties
As with shoplifting, this tip is not encouraged as you can get into serious trouble.
But if you are desperate, you can crash parties and weddings to get free food.
You don’t even need to sit down for a meal as most parties have hors d’oeuvres that you can enjoy.
Make sure the party is large enough so you don’t stand out.
If it’s a small family reunion, they will know you don’t belong.
#35. Discounted Food Apps
Finally, this isn’t a way to get food at no cost, but rather save money on highly discounted food.
Apps like Flashfood partner with restaurants and grocery stores that sell food near expiration at up to 80% off retail price.
The apps are free to download, and both are expanding throughout the country.
Lacking food and money is unfortunate, but that does not mean you should die of hunger.
There are many ways to get free food with no money, including dumpster diving, foraging, or even begging for food.
Some people are always willing to share their food. You just need to know where to find such people.
Soup kitchens, pantries, and banks are great places to get free meals and save yourself from hunger.
The next time you go hungry with no money, try any of the above ideas and see how much free food is available.
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I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.