Savvy ways to get free or cheap food

As a student, we look to save as much as we can, yet still want to do all the social and fun things which heavily centres around eating. You may think there is no such thing as a free meal BUT if you put the leg work in it is possible to eat morning, noon and night… completely free!

1. Mystery eater

Dine at some well-known restaurants by going undercover as a mystery diner. You’ll more then likely get free food and sometimes also get paid! Lots of the major chains and independent use third party agencies to mystery shop their staff, including restaurants Giraffe, Leon and Wagamamas.

This might sound too good to be true but here are some testimonials to help you take the leap

I signed up to an agency and have had at least a couple of free meals a week. It’s actually crazy i never caught onto this sooner

Joe, London

So how do you sign up?

Below are a few agencies who are currently looking for people. All you’ll need for the job is good written English, a camera to take photos of your receipts and access to the internet to upload your reports.

Mystery Dining by HGEM – They have 200 clients currently on their books, including Eat, Giraffe, Itsu, as well as entertainment and pub venues.

Service Scan – This established agency cover restaurants, pubs and bars, plus a few retail outlets. They are currently looking for diners in certain areas. These include:

Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Chichester, Colchester, Durham, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Gloucester, Henley, High Wycombe, Horsham, Kent, Leeds, Lewes, Marlow, Newbury, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, Reading, Salisbury, Staines, Taunton, Tunbridge Wells, Windsor, Witney, Wokingham and York.

Market Force – this global agency does mystery shopping and dining. Once you’ve signed up you’ll be able to see mystery dining jobs on their portal, as well as set up email alerts. Each job comes with individual instructions which all need to be followed in order for you to be paid.

2. Get FREE KFC, GBK fries and much more

It’s common for fast food chains to offer discounts and freebies via their apps.. for this alone it is worth downloading. Here’s a few of our top picks:

– Greggs – Get a free drink when you sign up to the app

– Subway – They have previously offered free six-inch subs but this isn’t currently available

– KFC – You can get a free side when you sign up to the app and you don’t even need to purchase anything to activate the freebie. Sides include hot wings, popcorn chicken, fries and ice cream sundae YUM!

3. Would you dare eat your neighbours food?

The app Olio offers you food and other groceries from your local community. It’s a bit like Freecycle for food. Once you see something you like, you just request it and arrange to pick it up. It now has 1M users signed up in the UK, with the app being available in 38 countries.

You may be thinking ‘this isn’t for me’ but when we checked out the app we found some pretty yummy top quality foods… definitely worth checking out even if you don’t become a user.

4. Get on the reward apps!

Reward apps, such as O2’s and Three’s have a loyalty app where you can get offers and freebies.  All you need to do is download the app and you’ll get access to their freebies, discounts and special offers. In most cases you’ll get a code which you can show the person who is serving you or enter online. Below are some of our recommended reward apps:

– Three’s app – Wuntu – They have offered free costa, chocolates, pizzas and free meals at cafe Rouge. It also very cleverly tailors offers to you as you use it and it gets to know you.

O2 Priority – They have in the past offered free coffee, chocolates and a beer at Byron Burger. This app is specifically for O2 customers but if you get a free O2 sim card then you can also benefit from the freebies (you’ll have to top it up with a tenner though).

5. Don’t underestimate coupons

So you know about the loyalty cards with supermarkets which offer a discount from a product, but there are also coupons that give you products completely free. The list below shows some of the products which have been offered for free in the past:

– Covent Garden Soap

– Warburtons bread

– Dr Oetker Pizza

You’ll have to dedicate some time browsing the internet for the best coupons.

6. Get freebies on your birthday

We have a whole article dedicated on this but we’ll summarise here. A lot of companies actually offer various discounts and freebies on your birthday. Usually you’ll have to sign up to a mailing list and a voucher will be sent around your birthday. Here are our top picks:

– Krispy Kreme – this had to be first on our list. Register on their app and you can get a free doughnut of your choice, plus a free glazed doughnut for children and significant others on their birthdays too.

– Hotel Chocolat – Get a VIP card in store and get a surprise gift for your birthday

– Greggs – they offer free cupcakes, cream cakes and doughnuts when you download their app and register for their rewards scheme. It’s also valid for a month so you don’t have to rush down on your birthday.

7. You can actually get paid to drink

Yes that wasn’t a typo, you can actually get paid to drink if your 18 or 19. Serve Legal look to employ people around the UK and Ireland to check whether staff at pubs and bars are asking for ID when selling alcohol.

8. Be a guinea pig at training restaurants

Top chiefs all have to start somewhere and that means testing their food out to a willing audience. That means for you – you can get a fine dining three course meal for as little as £5, cooked by a student.

There are a lot of training restaurants up and down the country but here’s a few we recommend. It’s worth searching the internet for one’s near you:

Taste at South Thames College

Pillars at the University of West London (Ealing)

Scholars’ at City of Glasgow College in Glasgow

Academy Restaurant at University of Ulster in Belfast

Usually these restaurants will have set times and days you can go, within college and university term times as they are staffed by students. Check to see whether you have to book in advance.

9. Go to a pay as you feel restaurant

The Real Junk Food Project is a charity that runs over 40 cafes across the UK. They serve food which would otherwise go to waste and you can pay as you feel. You can locate the nearest cafe to you using their find your nearest cafe tool. 

You are expected to pay something but it’s completely up-to you what you pay. The charity say “people can pay with money, they can offer their time, or they can present a skill”.

10. Too good to go to find exclusive end of day discounts

The too good to go app app offers leftover food at the end of the day from local cafes, bakeries and restaurants, and lets you buy it at a discount.

Meals are priced between £2 and £2, with a minimum discount of 50%. This is an attempt to reduce food waste and help with saving money.

It works by you selecting the meal you want via the app and paying through the app. Then you can simply visit the store and collect it at the specified time.

We hope you find this information super useful and you get saving. Tell us if you know of any great deals in the comment section below.

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