10 Ways To Get Free Food in College

by Broke Grad on September 22, 2008

Even though I’m no longer a college student, the appeal of free food still hasn’t worn off. Why does the exact same pizza taste so much better when you get it for free? Maybe it’s just one of life’s many mysteries.

While we may never solve that mystery, there’s another issue at hand that I can definitely help you out with — finding ways to get free food in college. With 8 years of college under my belt, here are some tips for finding free food on or around your campus.

1. Join a club
Campus clubs will often have free food at their meetings throughout the school year. In some cases, you actually have to be a member of the club, but other times they’ll throw events that are open to all students. Go for the food, and who knows? You may even meet some interesting people and learn something new.

2. Participate in the fraternity rush
Just because you participate in the frat rush doesn’t mean you have to join a fraternity. What it does mean is that you’ll get free food almost every day of the week as you visit the different frat houses. I did this with a few friends my freshman year, and while a lot of them ended up joining fraternities, I didn’t. The free food was awesome though. Sorry, girls, sororities usually skip the free food and activities for their rush.

3. Go to campus events and activities
Throughout the school year, colleges have various events, activities, fundraisers, etc., and there’s usually some free food involved. I’ve had everything from free cheesecake to free BBQ. Be sure to show up early though, because the food at these events tends to run out fast.

4. Check out art openings
It’s hard to mention art without mentioning wine and cheese. Stay on the lookout for gallery openings and new exhibits on or near your campus. These events are almost always stocked with wine, cheese, and other treats. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you actually appreciate the art as well.

5. Go to restaurants on free food days
Some restaurants give out free food throughout the year. Check your campus paper for coupons and ads. Over the years, I’ve happily devoured my fair share of free Chipotle burritos, and I’ve stood in line for free ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s on their annual free cone day. Speaking of free ice cream, Cold Stone is giving out free ice cream on September 25th from 5:00-8:00 PM.

6. Become a regular
If you frequent a place enough, you should get to know the owner, manager, and waitstaff. While you shouldn’t expect to eat an entire meal for free, I’ve gotten free appetizers, drinks, etc. in the past. It’s even better if you already know someone who works there, because you get the free food benefits immediately.

7. Shop at a grocery store with free samples
I’m not suggesting that you make a trip to a grocery store just for the free samples, but at some stores, you could almost make an entire meal out of them. Stores usually have more samples out during the weekends, so if you’re up for braving the crowds, you can enjoy a miniature feast while restocking your supply of ramen noodles.

8. Find a boyfriend/girlfriend
If you’ve got a significant other, you’re pretty much guaranteed free food on at least one day of the year — your birthday. Then there are those other days like Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, half-birthdays, or whatever other crazy things you choose to celebrate. Depending on your relationship, you’ll either get free food or the satisfaction of paying for your partner’s free food.

9. Go to a thesis defense
It’s no secret that free food is the best bait for graduate students. In my graduate program, students typically provide free snacks at their thesis defense. Of course, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth sitting through an entire thesis defense for a couple of donuts. The other option is to show up at the end and scavenge the leftovers.

10. Go dumpster diving
This is the only tip on this list that I’ve never done myself, but from what I’ve read, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Bakeries and bagel shops are popular targets for dumpster divers, since many of them throw away perfectly good day old items. Grocery stores are another great target, because they throw out “expired” goods, which could be anything from aged produce to cases of wine.

For even more tips and ideas on how to get free food in college, check out these articles:

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