When the Fridge and the Wallet Are Both Empty

Several times in my life, I found myself without any money at all and an empty refrigerator. Thanks to my atrocious money management, I needed food but had absolutely no money to spare until my paycheck arrived later in the week. That meant three or so days without food. I didn’t want to go to a soup kitchen, but I began to wonder if this was the only option without resorting to stealing or some other less than ethical chicanery.

It’s not. Here are five easy ways to get food in your stomach at no cost – if you’re in a pinch.

Call the local churches and ask if there are any community gatherings that evening. In almost every town of any size, there are freewill offering dinners held at a church every night of the week. Show up there and eat; you don’t have to donate, though when you have money in your pocket again, you might want to show up at another freewill dinner and give a healthy amount so that they can continue to provide this service. The crowds at these are generally elderly, so you can usually find interesting dinner companions if you put some effort into breaking the ice.

Check the community calendar. You can usually find one of these online or by contacting town hall or the local chamber of commerce. Quite often, there will be free continental breakfasts or small meals available at community gatherings, such as a meet and greet with a politician or a community meeting of some sort. Go to these, fill your stomach, and you might find some new information about your community as well.

Visit at the very end of a farmer’s market. If there is a farmer’s market near you, visit it just as people are packing up and offer to get rid of any leftovers they might have. Be aware that many people won’t want to give away anything, but some will. It’s going to be picked over, but it’s also free fresh produce that you can take home and cook in some fashion.

Visit a grocery store in the middle of the day, especially on weekends. Most grocery stores offer some free food samples during the day. If you want to maximize your samples, go to a Sam’s Club and request a one time day pass. Sam’s Club offers incredibly abundant food samples, especially on Saturday afternoons.

Visit a car dealership in the morning. Many car dealerships have free coffee, bagels, and doughnuts in the mornings. Stop by one on your way to work and tell them that you want to browse the lot a bit and you’re not close to making a purchase. Eat your food as you walk around the lot, then leave. I’ll admit that this marketing technique worked for me; I wound up buying a vehicle at the place that gave me consistent free bagels when I was particularly poor.

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