Free food equals free money. Both free food and free money tend to get people’s attention! But did you know that most readers probably pass up free food every week! By taking advantage of such free food you can regularly save money without having to expend any additional time and very little energy. Now recognize as I list this, that what we are proposing at Wiser Dollar is really a moderate frugality. Please do not feel the need to be compulsive about every money saving strategy. Simply consider your situation and what strategies are helpful. When finances are tight, such tips may be especially helpful. Below are some ways to find free food.
When fast food is purchased, condiments such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, salt, pepper, sweet-n-low and sugar are either placed in the sack or available for pick up. The business establishment factors into the cost of the meal their expense for condiments. Why not accept this offer?
Now I am not advocating picking up a huge amount of ketchup packages, but the purchase of a meal should justify a couple of packages, regardless of whether they are used with that particular order of fries or not. When arriving home after pick up at a drive through, save those extra gifts. For years we tended to simply throw them away and then reach for purchased mustard and ketchup in the fridge. But now we save them. Such prepackaged condiments can easily be included in sack lunches as well as used at home. A fiesta bowl in our kitchen now contains a wide selection of such condiments available in individual servings. How convenient is that?
When purchasing food at a barbecue establishment recently, the cashier asked if I would like pickles, onions and peppers. I said sure and they came in handy for a meal later. When purchasing Mexican food, free salsa and jalapenos were made available at a salsa bar. Since I had made a purchase, I picked up a small amount with the thought I might use them for that meal, but if not we’ll eat them later.
Also when dining out at Mexican food restaurants, recognize that the wait staff throws away left over chips and salsa. Why not ask for a to go box and take those items from your table with you.
When purchasing a salad, often times free crackers and packaged salad dressing are available as well. I’d suggest you pick up a few crackers and some dressing. Select what seems to be an appropriate amount for one salad and then if it is not consumed with the meal, you’ll have extra for later.
At a Chinese food establishment where we get take-out, we are usually offered plastic-ware, chop sticks, napkins, soy sauce and fortune cookies. What should be the answer when asked if we would like any of these items? Yes!
When staying at a number of hotels, a complimentary hot breakfast is offered. Take advantage of it. Eggs and sausage, juice and milk, waffles and fruit are all available. You can even pick up a packaged pastry and place it on your car’s dash. A hot pastry after lunch can be a nice dessert.
When dining at restaurants consider what food items you have paid for and yet not taken advantage of. Dickie’s Barbecue and Jason’s Deli have ice cream available for all customers. Essentially you have paid for it whether or not you get it.
Some restaurants have ways to sign up for free food as well. At one Texas based Mexican food restaurant, Ruby Tequila’s, if you fill out a short evaluation card, they will mail you a coupon for free quest. Another Texas based restaurant, El Chico’s, mails out multiple $5.00 off coupons every Christmas. The closer your meal is to $5.00 then the closer it is to free.
At one of the banks I use and at a local oil change place, they offer free soft drinks to their customers. In the past I declined because I typically don’t drink soft drinks. But then I realized that when I pay $30 for an oil change, the business is offering me essentially a quarter back in the form of a soft drink that my kids will drink. So, now I say yes. At another bank and a local bookstore, free coffee is dispensed. Now I don’t force myself to drink a cup just because it’s free, but if coffee sounds good then this is a great opportunity.
Finally, Sam’s Club and Costco regularly give out free food samples. Sam’s Clubs also typically have kiosks that dispense free products, such as gummy candies, peanut butter and crackers and protein bars. Again, take advantage of the gifts being given.
Now concerning all these recommendations, you may or may not decide to pursue such a strategy for dietary or other reasons. That is fine. But for those who would consume these items anyway, these suggestions may prove to be financially helpful. What strategies do you have for obtaining free or nearly free food?
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photo credit: Ralph Daily, Belgian Waffle, via Flickr cc License – 9/11/15 with no changes