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How to Get Free Food in the UK: 10 Methods to Fill Your Belly!

Written by, Bojana Atanasovska

Updated June, 3, 2022

We’ve all been there: dissecting our grocery bills to understand how we spent so much money on food. It all adds up, doesn’t it?

To help you with your grocery, restaurant, and takeaway bills, our article tells you how to get free food in the UK in several ways.

Let’s dig in!

How to Get Free Food in the UK?

Food Giveaway Apps

Using free food apps in the UK is one of the best ways to fill an empty stomach without paying a pence. For instance, by using ‘Olio’, you connect with individuals, organisations, and businesses that have surplus food of any kind and would like to share it with others before it goes bad.

‘Too Good to Go’ is another excellent platform aiming to reduce food waste by allowing you to rescue ‘magic bags’ of edible food at a very discounted price. As of now, over 20,500 UK restaurants and other food businesses participate in the ‘Too Good to Go’ movement.

Cashback for Takeaway Sites

Many UK food takeaway sites offer discounts and cashback offers, especially when ordering online. For example, ‘Just Eat’ currently features up to 25% cashback rates for new customers, whereas Gousto offers a £15 discount voucher.

While this method doesn’t get you free food, you can still use it to earn enough money to buy additional meals when shopping with your favourite takeaway sites. Also, you may have to sign up for UK’s top cashback sites first, such as Quidco and TopCashback.

Supermarket Coupons

Despite being one of the original money-saving methods, especially for food, coupons are still helping countless people get discounts or even free food from supermarkets in the UK.

Nowadays, instead of clipping them off newspapers, most coupons are found online, especially via cashback apps that offer cashback and coupon rewards. Also, you may find hidden coupons on the packaging, at various food events, in your junk mail, with loyalty schemes, and more.

Food Foraging

Why not do it as our distant ancestors and forage for food out in the wild? When you learn to identify and find edible plants, fungi, and other types of food for free, you’ll enrich your pantry with all kinds of fresh and seasonal produce and increase your awareness of nature.

The most easily recognisable plants and fruit you can look out for on public lands and footpaths include nettles, berries, various nuts, mushrooms, and elderflowers.

Free Meals at Work

Many modern employers offer pantries packed with food for their employees. So those lucky enough to work for UK companies that give free food can simply have their lunch at the office instead of eating out or ordering in. In such cases, you can also take some freebies home.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a job with free food for college students, you can always apply for one at cafés, pubs, or restaurants or as a delivery person. That way, you’ll always get a free meal during lunch breaks or after work.

Community Fridge

This community-driven social movement is centred around communal fridges where people can donate free groceries or ready-to-eat food to those that need them more, thus building a stronger local community and reducing food waste.

For instance, Hubbub, one of the UK’s most prominent charity organisations, manages a massive network of around 300 (soon to be 500) community fridges estimated to save up to 26 million meals from the landfill each year.

Growing Your Own Food

Forget about free food vouchers, apps, and deals, as one of the best ways to stock your pantry is by growing your food, and you only need a small garden or a window box.

You can always find or ask for free seeds of fruits and vegetables, and planting and nurturing them is easier than you’d expect! Most of them only require regular watering.

Mystery Dining

To ensure the quality of the food they serve, eating establishments often welcome ‘mystery diners’ to improve the hospitality they offer. But on the other hand, these mystery guests will get to eat at reputable establishments without paying for the experience.

To become a mystery diner and get free food for signing up, you first have to find a mystery dining company in the UK, such as HGEM, and ensure you meet the signup criteria, which may only require you to submit a written report in English and arrive with an empty belly.

Signup Bonuses With Fast Food Apps

Unsurprisingly, big fast food chains often give away freebies when you sign up for their newsletters and/or apps. For example, some of the most popular apps that give you free food in the UK include Subway, KFC, and Mcdonald’s.

When you download and install these fast food apps, you get access to various goodies, from discounts on different menu items to free fries, cookies, drinks, and sandwiches.

Food Banks

To help people and families in need, various charity organisations in the UK have established networks of food banks that offer free meals and support to people in crisis.

For instance, if you are unable to feed yourself, you can visit one of the 1,200 centres in Trussell Trust’s food bank network to get nutritionally-balanced food for at least three days.

Additional Ways to Get Free Food in the UK

While you should easily get free food deals in the UK via one of the above methods, we’re also listing several unconventional ways to fill your belly.

Free Food and Drink Samples

Whenever shopping stores stock new food and drink items, they typically give out free samples to walk-in customers to get them to purchase the product. Some large businesses do the same in exchange for a loyalty card, such as IKEA’s Family plan, which comes with free drinks.

Restaurant launches are also a great opportunity to get free fast food or an entire meal in some cases. Even if you don’t, opening nights almost always come with huge menu discounts!

Birthday Specials

Loads of restaurants and cafés include free food offers on their menu for customers celebrating birthdays. To get these freebies, you only have to sign up for a few newsletters and loyalty schemes or even show your ID card in some cases.

The type of food you may be able to get ranges from a glass of prosecco to full meals. So if you plan it right, you could be eating for the entire day before and after your birthday.

Free Food From Phone Networks

Strangely enough, even O2 and Vodafone customers can gree free snacks and drinks, such as chocolate, coffee, and beer, via the Priority Moments and the VeryMe app.

Moreover, even if you are installing these apps for free food, you will also get other freebies such as digital subscriptions, free cosmetics, and chances to win event tickets.

‘Pay as You Feel’ Restaurants

Meet ‘The Real Junk Food Project’, a charity organisation running hundreds of cafés around the UK that use edible food ingredients that were bound for the landfill.

The costs of the meals sold at these restaurants are based on a ‘pay as you feel’ policy, so you could offer a symbolic donation or even some free time to help them out!

Visit Your Family

If none of these options work, then why not visit your family for a little get-together? There’s always food there, and you will get some leftovers too! At the end of the day, there’s no shame in asking for help from your family, especially for free food for students on a budget.

Bottom Line

Today’s reality is that the less fortunate need to learn how to get free food in the UK when going through a rough patch. Luckily, you can always find free meals via anything from installing free food apps to visiting food banks or even foraging for food. That way, you don’t have to worry about satisfying your most basic necessity and instead focus on bettering your life.

Bojana is my name and writing is my game. I am a content writer from Bitola who is always interested in the latest research in almost all areas of life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and a perfectionist character, both of which help me find the most accurate data and information available. Although I have my head stuck in studies and reports most of the time, I still have a bit of free time during which I enjoy knitting and watching classic 90’s Disney movies.