No money for food? If you're in this situation you can try to get free food at the food bank or through appropriating food waste. On Moneyless.org we have quite a few tips to get food without money. There's no reason to starve if you don't have money. On the contrary. You can ask for food and you can search for food. If you follow some of these tips you might even eat tastier food than if you had bought your food. We'll discuss food banks, dumpster diving, finding food in the wild and even growing food yourself.
How to get free food? When it comes to free food there are several approaches: Asking: at a food bank, shops or even at restaurants - use the abundance of food, requires various levels social interaction. Finding: in nature or in dumpsters. Growing: the most sustainable way.
Asking for free food
You don't always need money to eat. You can also simply ask for food. You can do this with restaurants, market people, shops or people you know. It's always important that you explain why you need food: for example because you don't have money to eat. In the beginning it's not easy to do this but definitely not impossible. In Portugal and Germany there are even organizations that take left over food from restaurants and reshare this among people without money.
One of the easiest way to ask for food is to go to a food bank. Food banks are charitable not-for-profit organizations that distribute food to people without money or with little money to avoid hunger and often also to provide a source of nutritious food. In 2014 food banks are feeding almost a million people in the UK, one of the richest countries on earth. In the United States the numbers are probably even higher, even per capita. There is definitely no need to be ashamed to go to a food bank but many food banks have some conditions for whom they give food to. You can also find food banks in developing nations such as South Africa and India. We have collected a list of useful links below.
Ask for leftovers at a restaurant
You might think it takes a lot of effort to ask for food, but practice makes perfect! Be patient and things will be alright. Some restaurants even give you a table to sit and put the food on it, right there, for free, if you don't have money. How does this work? You enter and wait till someone comes to you. You explain to the person that you don't have money. You ask if they have some left overs in the kitchen. It's good to have an empty plastic box in which they can put food.
The idea might seem ludicrous at first but if you live in a city you can easily try this in a restaurant district. With a success rate of 5% you'll need to try with 20 restaurants. It also depends on timing. Go after the busy time but not too late. It also helps to create a personal connection with the people working in the restaurant. They might not have any food the first time you ask but if they're friendly you can ask if they can set aside some leftovers the next day.
Get free food on the market
You can also ask around at markets. It's best to go around closing time. Tell them you don't have money and ask: "Maybe you have something that you can't sell anymore?" Ten against one that the person will give you some salad or apples. If not, thank the person anyway and ask at the next stall. Until you have plenty for yourself.
Get free food from supermarkets
You can do the same with supermarkets. Big stores don't work out well for this. Employees will almost always say: "My boss does not allow me to do that." And you never get to speak that boss. Small supermarkets are much better and neighborhood stores. Many shops run by immigrants in big cities in the Western world are usually happy to give, especially shops ran by muslims.
Moneyless.org does not endorse the activity, but 10% of all US citizens have tried shoplifting. Never ever do this in a small store though. You don't want to steal from a small shop owner.
Ask a farmer
If you live in the countryside there are often not many options for asking at restaurants or shops. Fortunately there's always food to be found at a farmer, at least in the West. Not everything a farmer grows will end up in stores. A lot is left on the fields. You can ask the farmer if you're allowed to pick those leftovers. You'll surely find a lot.
In many villages you can find a piece of land where people can have a plot in a community garden. They share what they reap. Ask them! They might even want to teach you how to grow your own food. Then you can live in a self-providing way and you won't need money to eat. Always eat for free.
Find free food online
Some people offer free food on websites. There are new initiatives such as the German foodsharing.de that allow people to offer their left overs.
Free food samples and coupons
In the United States there are many companies that send out free samples of new products. You can also use this to get free food.
Free coupons are another way. You can request the coupons online, they will be sent to your home and then you can use the coupons to get the food in stores or restaurants.
Search for food
Free food grows on trees, under the ground and in shrubberies. Dandelions, chickweed and wood sorret can be quite tasty and are easily found. If you practice a bit you'll know what to eat and more important what not. Even in cities you can find quite a lot of edible food. If you're near down town Seattle you're particularly lucky, as you'll be able to check out the first Food Forest in a major American city.
You can also find great food in dumpsters, for example at stores. This is called dumpster diving and many people do this. It might sound weird but it's really much weirder that almost half of produced food ends up as trash. Turning some of this into a meal doesn't seem so weird anymore. Check Trashwiki for great tips and places to dumpster dive, the project was started in 2008 by the same folks who work on Moneyless.org and features a lot of information about finding free food in rich countries.
No money or consciously without money
You might feel ashamed for not having money. But you can also accept it and live a rich life without it. The most important if you don't have money is that you don't feel ashamed about it. The fact that everyone around you does have money to eat doesn't mean you are less worthy than them, or that you have to be afraid about what others think about you. These are paradoxes created by society. You don't have to adhere to them. Especially if you're moneyless. We have a lot more information about living with no money on our website.
Grow your own food
If you're moneyless the best way to get food is to grow food. If you live in the country side and there's enough land you only need to get seeds. There are many seed swapping communities, where gardeners meet to exchange seeds. There's likely to be plenty of people willing to get you started if you don't have seed of your own to swap. If you live in the city guerrilla gardening can be an interesting alternative to owning your own land.
Don't be critical about what you get
With money you can often choose what to eat. Without money you don't have this choice most of the time. It's better to be satisfied with what you find or get. Are you used to eating meat? Meat is a bit harder to get or find. Are you vegetarian and asking at a restaurant? It's better to leave with it, you eat what they give you. You're freegan now, you eat whatever is free.
If you are critical about your food you can always resort to taking out a loan.
More on Moneyless about Free Food
Further reading and external resources
- Trashwiki is a great resource for dumpster diving in developed countries
- Gleaning, "the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested"
- Shoplifting guide at Nomadwiki
- Seed swapping
- freefood.org for free food coupons all over the US
Links to Food Banks in various countries
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Netherlands (in Dutch)
See also Wikipedia about food banks. Note the list here is not complete list. We'll update this list as we find more. You can also contact us if a link is outdated or you know of another organization in a country we haven't added yet.