5 Ways To Get Groceries for Free

The USDA’s Economic Research Service predicted food prices to grow slower in 2023 than in 2022, but we’re still witnessing significant increases for many groceries.

Given these price increases, you may have decided to get creative to lower your grocery bill. Specifically, you may want to find as many ways as possible to get free food.

Thankfully, this might be easier than you think. If you’re willing to put in a bit of time and effort, you’ll find there are lots of methods to get groceries for free, including these five ways:

1. Buy Nothing Groups on Facebook

Billing itself as a “worldwide network of hyperlocal gift economies,” the Buy Nothing Project operates a benefit corporation and builds communities, largely through Facebook groups.

With neighbors sharing with neighbors, you can get anything that is offered by arranging a pick up or drop-off through text or Facebook Messenger. Free items can include staple foods to treats and anything in between.

Writing at Money Talks News, Donna Freedman said, “Sometimes it’s a single item and other times a big bag or box full of assorted goodies. Among other things, my Buy Nothing Facebook group has gifted us pasta, black beans, rice, soup, fresh rhubarb, canned salmon, flour, teabags, protein powder, shredded coconut, some little bags of Cheetos (my niece’s kids were delighted), half a dozen cans of Spam (my partner was delighted), flaxseed, pickling salt, baking powder and yeast.”

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2. Little Free Food Pantries

Promoting access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds, little free libraries, or book exchanges, are commonplace around most neighborhoods. This concept has been co-opted by little free food pantry makers, who supply weatherproof containers for people to swap nonperishable food items and sometimes toiletries and baby or pet items.

Anyone is free to take anything they need and are available 24/7, so they are convenient for those who are flexible with donated food. A quick online search might provide you the locations of these pantries in your city, but also look at The Little Free Pantries and The Little Free Pantry to help you find a site in your area.

3. Community Gardens and Gleaning

Usually managed by a local organization or group, a community garden can be a great way to get free food. “Once you’re a member, you’ll likely be asked to help with garden tasks like planting, weeding and harvesting,” said Samantha Hawrylack, co-founder of personal finance blog How to FIRE. “In exchange, you’ll be able to take home a share of the produce.”

According to the USDA, gleaning, “the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state/county fairs, or any other sources in order to provide it to those in need,” has become popular as food waste increases and more Americans are at risk of going hungry. A nonprofit called Food Forward lists gleaning groups in the U.S.  

4. Freecycle and Craigslist

You might not realize it, but there are many websites and online communities dedicated to sharing information about freebies and giveaways — including those offering free food. Depending on where you live (or how far you are willing to travel), you can receive free groceries from popular gifting/selling sites like Freecycle and Craigslist.

Some communities are unbelievably generous — but you’ll have to be flexible about what you’re getting. This means wading through undesirable listings before you hit on something you can use, like an over-supply of fresh produce or someone giving away bulk items they don’t like.

But it could be anything and although you won’t be getting free home-cooked meals on these sites, every dollar you don’t have to spend on the basics equals a dollar you can put toward a utility bill, gas for your car or other grocery items.

5. Dollar Store Coupons and Freebies

Though you might not be able to subsist on dollar store freebies, you’ll be surprised at what sort of items you can get free (or discounted) with a coupon. As Money Talks News noted, although you won’t get full meals free from discount stores, you’ll be saving on basics, enabling you to spend more on essential items when money is tight.

As Donna Freedman mentioned on her “Surviving and Thriving” site: “I’ve seen free-with-coupon-or-app deals on items like cheese, frozen entrees, cereal, crackers, hot sauce, baking mixes, pretzels and sweeteners.”

To start, visit the websites of your favorite stores or brands, as many offer coupons that can be printed or used online.

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