As everyone knows, food can get expensive. To save as much money on it, some people take advantage of coupons, BOGO deals, and other sales they might be happening. Then there are other people who have their own strategy of saving money on food. These people reveal their top-notch secrets on how they got food for FREE! Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
"I used to go to Wendy’s every day with my group of friends. Since our lunch period was the first of the day, and I was able to sneak out of my gym class a bit early, I was first in line almost every day. I would order a four for four buck meal, which was a pretty good deal at the time. However, by the end of the year, one of the cashiers knew my name and order so it would cut down on the time I had to wait for my food.
One day, that same cashier came over to my table. Around this time Wendy’s was also promoting this, 'Donate a dollar to charity for Free Frostys.' She told us that if we completed the online survey, and wrote her a good review, that she would give us some free frosty coupons. Of course, wanting the free food, everyone at my table started doing the survey.
So now at this point, every time I would come into Wendy’s, she would give me a big smile and ask me to do the survey. In return, she would give a coupon book, with five coupons for a free small Frosty. On the last day of the promotion, she handed me a stack of about 10 books. At that point, I was only using one coupon every time I went to Wendy’s, so I had way too many to use on my own. I had received 22 books over the two-month period, totaling about 110 free Frosties. I started giving coupons to all of my friends and classmates.
The school year was about to end, and I had stopped going to Wendy’s. But when I did go, I did not see that one nice cashier. It turned out that every time I had written her name in a review, her superiors saw it, and there was an incentive program involving these reviews. She had actually been promoted to manager, with the help of all of our reviews. On the last day I saw her, she told me that the Wendy’s that we went to every day had gone from one of the worst-rated Wendy’s in Chicago to the best, according to the review algorithm."
"Around 2010, McDonald’s introduced their McWrap in Sweden. To promote their tasty new Wraps, they created a game in the McDonald’s iPhone app where one could find free wraps on a map while walking around in the real world.
In order to receive a real McWrap, we had to find a wrap on the map, get there, pick it up by holding down our finger on it through the map, and then continue holding our finger on our phone’s screen until we could redeem the virtual wrap at a nearby McDonald's. If we would let go of the screen, then we would drop the virtual wrap and risk a hungry competitor stealing our virtual wrap. There were three different flavors and we could try one flavor once - per registered account.
Soon the wraps were getting scarce, and it was only easy to find wraps located far from any McDonalds. Using a jailbroken iPad together with two unofficial apps - one for switching between apps without putting them in background mode and one for faking my GPS location, I was able to move wraps to anywhere in the world.
I could park outside McDonald’s and get my wraps from wherever they were to be found, immediately.
However, I realized after a couple of days that it started to get tricky to find wraps at all. Others were obviously using the same technique. I had to hide my virtual wraps. The wraps would only show on the map if I was zoomed in enough, so if I could find a remote location in the world where nobody was likely to look, I could keep a pile of private virtual wraps.
I settled for a very remote island in the North Sea. I spent a couple of hours moving wraps there and soon I had my very own McWrap island filled with hundreds of wraps. I ate free lunch for weeks. My colleagues would call me up requesting wraps to be sent to various McDonald’s locations at lunchtime - a request that I happily helped out with.
Eventually, Mcdonald's found out about the trick and started to log how many kilometers a wrap had traveled. I didn’t get very disappointed by this, as I was pretty tired of McWraps."
"In the mid-to-late 90s, I could walk into a Little Caesars and get a free pizza any time I wanted. To be fair, it wasn’t always free. Sometimes they made me give them a quarter. Or on rarer occasions, they would even make me work for it.
Back then, at least in my area, all the local Little Caesar's places had these 'Brain Teaser' games. You got three chances for a quarter. The scores were cumulative. If you had ever played a Simon game, then you would know the rules. A button lights up, you press it. Each successful duplication of the pattern revealed adds another button to the end of the sequence.
Apparently, the prizes differed from region to region, but in my area, you had to score at least a 110 to get a free order of Crazy Bread. If you scored 210 or better, you got a free pizza (and when I started playing, Little Caesars was known for 'two pizzas for one low price so I actually originally got two pizzas).
The sum of consecutive positive integers can be found using the formula, n(n+1)/2, and we knew that we wanted to score at least 110 to get free Crazy Bread (which was all I wanted when I started playing, honestly). Since you got three chances and the scores were cumulative (even though the pattern reset between attempts), you knew you had to score at least 110/3 or 36.6667 points per game. Using the sum of consecutive integers formula from above and a little 'back of the napkin' calculating, we saw that a sequence of eight got us to thirty-six, then we just had to get two buttons correct on the next sequence to hit a cumulative score of 110. And who can't remember eight things in a row?
'But Stewart,' I hear you say, 'This is about free pizza, not free Crazy Bread.'
So it is. After a few months of free Crazy Bread, I decided to see how far I could push it. As it turns out, I could push it pretty far. All I had to do was quickly and reliably be able to memorize a sequence of 12 numbers once, followed by two sequences of 11. I started blowing it out of the water, just to see how far I could go. Then I started stopping at 210 on the nose, just to show I could do it. As the people working there started to recognize me, I could just slide a quarter across the counter and get a pizza, and eventually, they didn’t even make me give them a quarter.
Sure, if someone new was working that day, I would have to show them why I got free pizza, but most of the time it was just a matter of showing off.
Little Caesars went away for a long time, and when they came back, the machines didn’t come back with them. No more free pizzas for me, but it was fun while it lasted."
"In the mid-’70s, I found a secret trick that only worked for a year, but it was an awesome year. I was in a Hy-Vee store in Burlington, Iowa, having just purchased a 'Mad' magazine with my allowance. I still had five cents in change, so I hit up the Oak Acorn gumball machine
At only seven years of age in 1973, five cents was not to be thrown away, so I thought if I turned the handle really slowly that may be more than one gumball would make it through. So I turned it slowly, slowly, just until I heard the ball drop, then I stopped. But it was just one. I then decided to try turning the handle counter-clockwise, and it did move back just a little bit before catching, but that was enough - turning it clockwise again dispensed another gumball.
I crouched before the machine, wiggling the handle back and forth for a full minute before I had more gumballs than I could carry in one hand. Fearing getting caught by the authorities for my 'nickel larceny,' I quickly headed out the door. But I returned several times that year to load up on gum until they replaced the machine with one that had a better mechanism."
"I had this friend, let’s call him Oulis Audigo. Oulis graduated college but kept his ID because Oulis lived in New York City and sometimes needed access to a bathroom, which is something you don’t think about until you live in New York City. Oulis had bought gym memberships just to have access to multiple bathrooms in the city.
Oulis also remained a subscriber to the newsletter of a particular campus club who got 'the most amazing breakfast spread (Oulis’s words, not mine) for finals week, and they sent out a newsletter letting all students know they had got them covered if they needed a study break. This was an amazing service provided by this club, because I’m talking fresh diced fruit, actually squeezed juices, bagels, and cream cheese of every kind you could think of, and I know what you’re thinking.
You’re thinking, 'Louis, your friend Oulis is a monster. I can’t believe he would take food that should rightly go to college students who are studying for finals!'
Before you judge my friend, let me assure you that I attended the same university, and have, more than once, while enrolled as a student, of course, partaken in this particular breakfast spread and I can tell you that for every semester I’ve been to it, there’s almost nobody there. They often try to give me or Oulis more food on the way out, and they’ve told me the reason they send the newsletter out to the whole campus is that almost nobody comes, so they usually end up having to figure out what to do with all the leftover food at the end of the day.
The other reason you shouldn’t throw too many rocks at Oulis, bagel burglar though he may be, is that this club accepts donations. So now that Oulis was no longer a broke college student, he made sure to leave some cash even though he was 'technically helping them with their surplus problem' (Oulis’s words, not mine)."
"I love to practice my Spanish at McDonald's, especially since Latinos are never offended, but rather surprised that a Gringo can speak Spanish. On one occasion, I arrived at 10:35 am and asked for a burrito and coffee. The young lady behind the counter told me they had already stopped serving breakfast.
So I asked her in Spanish, 'Would you please ask in the kitchen if they have any burritos leftover from breakfast?'
Her manager, who was also Latino, looked to see what Gringo was trying to speak in their native language. In a few moments, the manager came to the counter with a smile and two burritos.
On another occasion at the drive-thru, I detected a Spanish accent over the speaker and ordered an ice cream cone in Spanish. At the pay window, there was a clerk and another Latino employee peeking around the corner to see who I was. At the delivery window, a hand came out with a bag with fries and a cheeseburger, then my ice cream cone (helado).
I said, 'Muchas gracias, Querida!'
Me gusta practicar mi espanol en McDonald’s."
"Some time ago, I had watched a video on YouTube about a guy who went to his local Starbucks and asked for a large cup of ice with some matcha powder, of which he later used milk that he already had to complete the drink. Then he magically had a fancy matcha drink, for just 99 cents - something of which would normally be about five bucks had he directly asked for an iced matcha latte or whatever it called.
So, taking this knowledge to my own local Starbucks, I asked for a large cup of ice with three (I think) scoops of matcha powder. It rang up to 30 cents - I was expecting 99 cents so I’m not sure what happened there. The barista made my order and slid a cup full of ice mixed with matcha powder across the counter saying, 'Enjoy your drink' with a smirk on his face.
To his credit, it did look kind of gross. However, little did he know, I then filled the cup with the free milk that they have set out for you to add to your drink, and walked away with a fancy matcha iced latte - for a fraction of the price. Best 30 cents I’ve ever spent, and it tasted great, too.
My mother was with me that day. She ordered her usual peppermint mocha and needless to say, was very embarrassed over my 'shenanigans.' Sigh. I think she was just jealous."
"A few months ago, I was sitting in my local movie theater with two other friends, and all of us were starving. And ya know what the worst part was? Movie theater food is way overpriced.
So me being me, I started to try and think of ways to finesse the movie theater. Then it hit me. You were allowed to order food to your seats, and they would bring the way too expensive food to you. Then by that logic, couldn’t I walk up to a server walking into a theater, and act extremely surprised and say they were currently holding my order? Sure, it required a bit of acting and thinking on the fly, but I loved doing both of those.
So I said, 'What the heck.'
I got up, waited by the door that led into our movie theater room, and looked out of the transparent portion, waiting for a server. Sure enough, one came. I immediately analyzed the order, and then opened the door and allowed a surprising look to pass my face.
'Is that my Chicken Crispy sandwich meal?' I asked.
The server looked extremely surprised. I’m a tall guy as well (six feet tall) and I knew most young servers wouldn’t want to question such an intimidating figure. Sure enough, it worked. She handed me off the food without a hint of suspicion. I came back to my friends, feeling extremely victorious, and not as extremely hungry. But here was where the genius came in. Soon enough, after the meal was finished I realized I was still quite hungry.
Then, the thought crossed my mind, If I took someone else’s food, doesn’t that mean someone didn’t get their order? And if someone else didn’t get their order, couldn’t I walk up to the food counter and claim my order was not delivered to me?
Long story short, it worked. We ate well that day."
"One day, I went to meet up with a friend but due to some reasons, he couldn't arrive there. I didn't have any money with me. I only had my cell phone, which didn't have a call balance. I was starving that whole day and all I wanted was something to eat. So with a hungry belly, I started walking towards my home.
I saw a marriage reception was happening nearby so I decided to enter the reception and eat some food. But I was scared of what would happen if someone found me. But I was so hungry so I decided to not miss the chance. Whatever may happen, I would try it.
When I entered the main door, the bride and the groom's family were there. They invited me with a smile. I was like, 'Oh gosh! I'm done! They gonna ask me something.'
But they didn't ask me anything.
They said, 'Please come! First, have the food then see the couple.'
I was a little shocked. Then I entered the food area and ate the best dishes there. Then I took a photo with the bride and groom and wished them good luck. No one asked me who I was. This happened in Tamil Nadu, India. That is the Tamil Culture for ya."
"When I was in college, I had a friend that discovered an incredible way to eat for super cheap at Arby's. We would go in and make our first purchase, and then we were given a receipt that had a link to a survey that we could fill out for a free Beef n’ Cheddar. We would do the quick four-question survey and come in the next day, buy a small fry ($1.69 at the time) and redeem for our Beef n’ Cheddar, and a water to drink. We would take the new receipt and go home to do the survey when - oh no, you weren't only allowed to complete one survey a month and your browser wouldn't let you do it.
Well, until you cleared your cookies from Arby’s.com, then you could do another one with no problem. We started to come in every day for a free Beef n’ Cheddar and the woman working there asked if we were giving her five stars every time. We said we were (and we actually were) and she started giving us free drinks. So basically for $1.69 a day, we got a premium entree, a drink, and fries. That little scheme pretty much fed me through college until I discovered a new scheme.
In the southeast United States, we have a chain called Moe's Southwest Grill that has fantastic burritos, and every year on your birthday, if you were signed up on their email list, they would send you a coupon for one free burrito. The coupon would be valid during the entire week of your birthday and had expiration dates. All you had to do was open the email, and mistakenly on their part, you could just put your cursor on the expiration date and type whatever date you wanted. Can you believe they kept it as an edit-able type field?!
So my friend who taught me the Arby's thing (I told him about this one) and I started getting free burritos at various Moe’s restaurants all over town. We would just make sure that we didn't go to the same one within a few weeks twice, and we tried to remember the workers at the restaurants that had served us last. We ate like this for about three months before Moe’s caught on and started enforcing a 'must present an I.D. to verify birthday' rule. Now they just stopped the emails and instead have an app that gives you a virtual coupon that stops working after it is used.
I don't think either of these tricks works anymore but it really made eating out affordable through college."
"As a closing delivery driver for a large pizza chain, I had the option of taking home all of the pizzas that were never picked up throughout the day. Most of these were cheese, pepperoni, and all other types of pizza.
But my roommates and I came up with a diabolical plan to exploit this. While I was at work right before closing, they would occasionally call in the most delicious pizzas and 'never show up to pick them up.'
We feasted on free pizzas for months. On my last day at work, I got a call in for 'pizza with the most pepperoni possible on it.'
My boss rang it up as a quadruple pepperoni and looked at me funny.
After saying my goodbyes, I told the manager about the ongoing scandal and she whispered 'genius' as I walked out the door with my free quadruple pepperoni pizza"
"About 20 years ago when I was a young single man, broke, and had lots of time on my hands I would hang out with mainly older dudes and soak up their wisdom and sometimes questionable ideas.
One day, a buddy of mine who worked for one of those rent-to-own places asked if I wanted to come to ride along with him as he went on a collections run. Basically, folks would do the rent-to-own furniture thing and then fall behind on their monthly installments. The furniture store would send him out on Saturday mornings to go knock on doors and collect cash, checks, and late fees.
So we ended up hitting about two or three stops before he proclaimed he was starving.
I said, 'Me too!'
We proceeded to head to the nearest Holiday Inn.
After we parked the huge panel van in the hotel parking lot, he said, 'Just be cool and walk towards the elevators.'
I was very confused at this point but did what he said. We then headed inside the hotel lobby and walked towards the elevators. The staff at the desk waved and said, 'Good Morning!' He said his good morning back and we made it to the elevators.
We got inside and I was asking him what in the heck we were doing. He pushed the button for the top floor and he told me that at most hotels there was a free breakfast bar for the guests. I told him we weren't guests and we would get caught.
He said, 'They see hundreds of people a day and the desk staff rotate three or four times a day. They have no idea who is a guest or isn't.'
Sure enough, we stuffed our faces with a hot breakfast and nobody even once thought we didn't belong there. Afterward, we headed back down, waved to the desk staff, and we hopped in the van, and drove away.
I pulled that move maybe once on my own about a year later and it worked. I thought that guy was a god for years."