Food is expensive, especially if you’re trying to eat balanced meals. What if you could get free food and groceries? For many families, the food budget is the most flexible part of their budget, but it’s also the most stressful.
If you find that your money is mostly going to pay bills and leaving you with just a tiny amount for groceries, it’s time to take things into your own hands. Some moms end up working the opposite shift from their spouse, others will find work at home options. I’ve put together a few ways you can earn some free food without having to land another job.
How to Get Free Food
As long as you’re willing, there are ways to get free food and other groceries.
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk lets you do microtasks that don’t earn a ton of money for the most part, but they do give you Amazon gift cards. Work enough on the microtasks and you’ll end up with enough to buy your groceries on Amazon. I’ve made up to $300 in one month from the site. It’s not going to make you rich, but it’s a handy amount of cash to use on food.
How it works: Join the site with your Amazon account and look for some HITS (jobs) that you’re qualified for. At first, there won’t be a lot of selection, but as you gain more experience, you can get better jobs. Once you have 1,000 HITS under your belt, you’ll see higher paying jobs and simpler tasks. For example, you may be paid several dollars to record yourself saying a few different phrases. It all adds up!
Volunteer on a Farm
Some farms, particularly co-op and organic farms, are happy to exchange fresh produce for a couple hours of work. We have one of these in our area and by volunteering to pull weeds or plant seedlings for a morning, you get a big bag of food to take home.
How it works: Look for farms in your area and ask them if they have a volunteer for food program. Don’t forget to ask if kids can come along. Older children may even be able to help and earn a few veggies themselves.
Eliminate Food Waste
Supermarkets throw away a LOT of produce and fresh food and most of the food is still good. For example, one couple I know that picks up food waste from the supermarket gets an overabundance of milk, yogurt, and cheese that is still a week out from expiration. Entire boxes of fruit are thrown out because one berry or one piece of fruit is bruised.
How it works: Contact your local supermarket to see if they allow locals to cart their waste for animal feed (in many areas, it’s not legal to give this food to people for human consumption). The food is terrific fodder for pigs, chickens and other animals if you raise them. And no one will fault you for picking out the good stuff as free food for the family.
Try Mystery Shopping
My sister eats pizza for free several times a month, just by being a mystery shopper. She also gets a ton of other food for free . . . in fact, she gets paid to eat at certain restaurants and to buy in shops. This is a fun way to earn some free food for your family and to pick up a little extra gas money. If you’re really serious about it, you could actually make some decent money.
How it works: Sign up for a mystery shopping company that operates in your area. If you live in a major city, you’ll have more opportunities. You’ll be given assignments to choose from and when you get one, you will follow the instructions and report back on the experience. For example, when my sister goes to pick up a pizza, she notes how long it takes, what customer service was like, and how clean the place was, among other things. Then she writes up a detailed report for the company.
Order Fast Food with Apps
Not all fast food companies will offer freebies, but some, like Subway, Burger King, and KFC routinely offer a free food item if you order via their app.
How it works: Scout your favorite takeout places for free apps and download them to see the savings. Whenever you plan to order something, make sure to take advantage of the offers.
Pick Fruit No One Wants
If you’re willing to do a little work for your food, you can get plenty of fresh fruit and berries by harvesting what no one else wants. My mom used to take us to the golf course after getting permission to harvest apples from the many apple trees there. The falling fruit was annoying to golfers, so we were allowed to take as much as we liked . . . for free!
How it works: Basically, look for overladen fruit trees and bushes that no one is harvesting. Then go ask the owners if they’d let you harvest. You can offer to give them a portion of the harvest if you want to sweeten the deal, but in many cases, people just don’t want to deal with the rotting fruit!
Do you have a great way to get free food for your family? While you may not want to use these all the time, it’s helpful to know where to go when that paycheck just won’t stretch to the end of the month or if you are trying to save up some cash for a big purchase or trip.