Free food: 11 top tips from being a mystery diner to bonus birthday treats

Money Saving Expert has highlighted their top tips to grab free grub – and you could even get paid to dine out. One top way of getting free treats is to sign up for rewards and apps ahead of your birthday.

There are lots of tips on how to get free food and snacks

Nothing tastes better than free food, but how can you get your hands on some?

From mystery shopping to supermarket coupons, Money Saving Expert has picked out eight top tips to grab free grub, including how to get paid to dine out.

Enjoy free cake or a Krispy Kreme doughnut on your birthday and celebrate ‘World Sandwich Day’ with a complimentary six-inch Subway.

Here are some of the best free food options currently available – from being a mystery diner to signing up to the best apps so food doesn’t go to waste..

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Grab free fast-food through apps and clubs

Fast food chains are offering new and existing customers discounts and freebies via their apps and membership ‘clubs’.

Here are some freebies that are currently up for grabs:

  • Taco Bell – Redeem a free crunchy taco everyday between 12pm and 2pm until May 15. No app is required for this offer, simply turn up at Taco Bell for its ‘Taco Swap’. There is no actual swap, you’ll just be given a free crunchy taco.

  • KFC – Customers can receive a free side when signing up to the app. Three free loyalty stamps will be awarded after downloading the app, which is enough to redeem a free side. No purchase is required.

  • Greggs – Customers can get a free hot drink when they sign up to the app. They have previously offered free slices of pizza, sausage rolls, doughnuts and more.

These fast food chains offer freebies occasionally, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their apps:

  • McDonald’s – If you download the app today, you’ll get 20 percent off the first time you order. They have also offered free burgers, fries and iced lattes in the past.

Get paid to be a mystery diner

Some restaurants such as Wagamama, Leon and Giraffe use mystery-shopping companies to ensure the quality of service and food is up to scratch.

Mystery diners will not only have a free meal, but in some cases can actually be paid too.

To take part you will have to apply online, no previous experience is necessary but diners will need good written English, a camera and access to the internet.

Mystery dining firms currently recruiting include:

  • Mystery Dining by HGEM – Works with more than 200 clients, including restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues.

  • Service Scan – Arranges visits for restaurants, pubs, bars , and mystery shopping at retail outlets.

Mystery diners will be given a set amount for each job, which usually covers the cost of the meal and sometimes a small bonus.

Free food from Pret a Manger, Costa, local bakeries and more

Instead of binning surplus food, people have started signing up to Olio and offering up their grub to the local community.

Major supermarkets and retailers such as Tesco and Pret a Manger and independent cafes and bakeries have been offering up any leftovers at the end of the day.

Once you have found something that you want, request it and message to arrange a pick-up.

Too Good To Go is another free app that allows you to purchase unsold food at the end of their service at a discounted rate to prevent it from being thrown away.

Businesses sell ‘magic bags’ of their unsold food, which is usually priced around a third of the original value, with the contents being a surprise until you pick it up.

You pay in advance and have to pick up your food during a certain time frame.

Enter free food competitions

You can bag yourself free food just by entering competitions online.

Higgidy gives away 100 cases of pies to 100 lucky winners during the last week of every month.

All you have to do is sign up to their newsletter to be in with a chance of prizing the pies.

Food hamper competitions could see you take home a bundle of goodies, including the Fortnum and Mason grocery hamper, Cadbury Father’s Day Chocolate basket, and an afternoon tea selection box.

All you need to do is enter online for free.

Get free food from your mobile network

If you’re a Virgin Media customer, or a customer on the O2 or Vodafone mobile networks, you can claim freebies by signing up to their loyalty apps.

After creating an account, you’ll receive regular freebies, discounts and special offers.

  • O2 Priority – Past rewards have included coffee from Caffè Nero, chocolates from Thorntons and Hotel Chocolat and beer at Byron Burger.

Earn free food with supermarket coupons

Most supermarket coupons and cashback apps just get you a discount on specific products, but some offer products totally free.

Check out the Supermarket Coupons guide for a full list of coupons and cashback currently available.

Previous freebies have included Covent Garden Soup, Warburtons bread and Dr Oetker pizza.

Complimentary hot drinks at IKEA

Customers can claim a free hot drink at Ikea on weekdays as many times as they like.

Sign-up to the free Ikea Family card to get a free cup of tea or filter coffee at the in-store restaurant.

In the past Waitrose and Booths have also offered drinks to shoppers.

Enjoy a free doughnut and cupcake on your birthday

There are also lots of birthday treats up for grabs


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What better way to celebrate your birthday than with free cake?

Usually all you need to do is sign up to their mailing list and you will receive an email around your birthday with the reward.

Here’s a selection of what you can currently get:

  • Krispy Kreme – Sign up to the ‘Friends of Krispy Kreme’ rewards app and you can bag yourself a free doughnut of your choice, plus a free glazed doughnut for your children and significant other on their birthday.
  • Greggs – Download the app and register for the rewards scheme to claim a free cake or doughnut.

Bag free food at your job

Working at a restaurant or café may already have financial benefits as staff often receive tips on top of their pay check.

Staff can normally bag free food too, with complimentary meals during their shift being an added bonus for their service.

You don’t always have to work inside the diner for this secret advantage, delivery drivers for takeaway joints often take food home with them after their shift.

Free alcoholic drinks at the pub for 18 and 19-year-olds

If you are aged 18 or 19 you can get paid to go to the pub as a mystery shopper.

Serve Legal employs mystery shoppers to check whether staff in pubs, bars and supermarkets are asking for ID when selling alcohol.

Those who take part are paid for their time (typically between £6 and £8 per visit), plus expenses and get to keep the drink they purchase.

Use a community fridge

A community fridge is a space where anyone can donate or take surplus food from other members of the community in order to reduce food waste.

They are free to use and are managed by volunteers in a publicly accessible space.

The food donated from stores or individuals are within their use-by date and clean to eat.

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