Free Food Tricks

If riffling through garbage isn’t your thing, try making a friend who works the closing shift at a supermarket or restaurant – it’s amazing what you can get if you ask nicely. Otherwise, you can simply eat leftover food from the tables of strangers. This technique works particularly well at pizzerias, where people leave behind untouched slices of pie.

Another way to score a free meal is to take a trip to your neighborhood soup kitchen. Although you’ll literally be taking food from the mouths of the homeless, soup kitchens rarely ask questions (just make sure to wear something old and shabby). Similarly, if your income is low enough, you could apply for food stamps or subscribe to a local food bank (which, unless you are actually impoverished, may require a few white lies).

If you don’t want to further deprive the already destitute, you could consider attending local events/establishments that offer free food (such as open houses, art/film exhibitions, conferences/seminars, banks, etc.). Church functions are especially notorious for providing free food. Just slap on your Jesus peace, bust out your yarmulke or grab your Quran (or don’t, because a true religious group will accept you regardless of your beliefs). If you stick around until the function dies down, you can usually finagle some leftover food for later. Wait until the event has ended and offer to help ‘clean up’. Say that you hate seeing things go to waste and ask people if they want anything to take home. They will usually decline (or take a few small items), allowing you to have your way with the remaining loot.

If you are really confident in your appetite, you could partake in an eating competition. Some are held for free at carnivals and county fairs. Others can be found at specific restaurants (especially ones offering spicy wings . . . if you can handle the heat). Regarding the latter, make sure that you can actually finish the meal, otherwise the payment can be steep!

Samples at supermarkets can make nice snacks, but they hardly constitute a meal. So if it’s breakfast time and your belly’s rumbling, stroll into a hotel that provides a complimentary breakfast. Many hotel breakfasts are tantamount to all-you-can-eat buffets. All you need is the courage and confidence to sidle in and start eating. Because the hospitality industry is extremely customer-centric, you will rarely, if ever, be harassed or accosted in any way.

Freeganism: The Dumpster Divers Guide to Canning

For those who are particularly parsimonious, dumpster diving is paramount. In the rubbish heaps behind grocery stores and restaurants lay bountiful feasts fresh for the picking. Dumpster diving (also known as, skip diving, binning, and canning) is not only a good way to score free food, but it is also very “green” and environmentally friendly. It reduces aggregate waste and frees up space in municipal landfills. Dumpster diving can even become a sport. There are social communities who revel in the hunt, getting cheap thrills by constantly competing for the best finds.

Legally speaking, grocery stores are required by law to dispose of food that has outlived its shelf live. But those “sell-by” and “use-by” dates are merely a formality; a guarantee of freshness. Most items are perfectly fine for days or even weeks after the expiration date. Regarding restaurants, acceptable inventory is thrown out daily because it does not adhere to the companies’ quality control standards.

Before you begin your dumpster diving quests, make sure to research local legislation. In some cities and states it is completely legal to riffle through other people’s garbage. In others, you could be charged with trespassing, invasion of privacy, or even theft. Best practices suggest dumpster diving at night. This is not only when markets and restaurants dispose of unused/expired foodstuffs, but it is also when your activities can be conducted in relative secrecy. As is the case with any venture, metrics, benchmarks, and KPIs are crucial. Keep a mental or written log of the best times and locations to maximize your diving efforts.