No money for food

dumpstered veggies

No money for food? There is nothing worse than feeling hungry without money in the pocket. Thankfully there are solutions. There is enough food, and you don't always need the money to get your fair share of it. There is no reason to starve if you don't have money. On the contrary. Following are good examples of how to get free food in the USA, UK and Australia, as well as New Zealand, Canada and Ireland. The tips and tricks should also allow you to get free food in other countries in the world.

USA Hunger Line. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.

I need help with food today

  • If you're in a dire need of food, be sure to check out the local food bank in your country or city. Find the list of foodbanks and food pantries at our resource section.
  • If you're in this situation where you need free groceries, you can try to get free food at the food bank or through appropriating food waste. On our website, Moneyless.org, we have a lot of tips to get food without money.
  • 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

Summary: How to get free food

I'm hungry where can I get free food? Especially now with the current Covid crisis, there is an huge increase of people asking this question: How to get free food near me?. Well, 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. There are many guides that explain you where you can find your food for free.
  • Growing: the most sustainable way, but it takes time for food to grow. So get this done now so you can eat in the future.

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 re-share this among people without money.

Free food from dumpstersIn many affluentwasteful countries you can find a lot of food in dumpsters

Food banks

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.

In the United States it's also possible to get free food at public libraries. See this article for more information: Public libraries are giving away an insane amount of free food.

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.

How to get free food online

Following this approach of asking food at restaurants, there are even new ways of asking for food online. There are special apps for on your phone that let you search for places such as restaurants and supermarkets that have left-over food ready to be given away for free or for a reduced price.

  • Examples include Too Good To Go. You still have to pick up the food yourself, so it's not really a way how to get free food delivered. But at least it's fairly cheap.
  • Another example of an app that gives you food from restaurants at reduced price is Foodforall.com

If you're looking for help to get food, and you find yourself not capable of leaving your home, be sure to ask for help. There are often neighborhood groups, volunteer organizations, and mutual aid groups that are here to help you out.

Find free food online

Some people also offer free food via websites. There are new initiatives such as the German foodsharing.de that allow people to offer their left overs to others. It's a distributed non-centralized initiative to share food. We haven't found a good example yet of such an initiative in the USA, Canada, Australia or the UK.

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.

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.

A community garden in Montreal, Canada

Community gardens

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.

Dandelions are easy to find and can be quite tasty

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.

A dumpstered salad in NYC

Save money on groceries

If you do have some money, it's not too hard to spend it wisely. It's not hard to save money on groceries and yet get good food each day. One of the best tips include create a weekly budget for food, and use cash or a separate bank account especially for this budget. Spend only on food that's good for you and healthy. Go especially for greens, whole wheat food and legume such as beans and lentils. The latter is considered staple food. Don't buy the precooked stuff, as it's a lot cheaper soaking the legume overnight yourself.

Know that it's a journey. Often it's harder in the beginning but once you get rolling it gets easier. See this good example of a one person household who went down from averaging 5$ a day towards a little bit less than 1$ a day on food spending.

Resources for free food

More on Moneyless about Free Food

Further reading and external resources

Links to Food Banks in various countries

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.

Food Is Free Project

The Food is Free Project is a 501(c)(3) non profit in the United States that grows communities and food launched in January 2012. The project is connecting people both online and in their own street to grow and share food among people.

The project is creating models for growing food in unused public spaces so that people can get fresh and organic food.

Dumpster Diving Tips

tips for dumpster diving

There's enough food for everyone, but a lot of food is chucked. Stores, consumers and producers simply dump a lot of good food! You can find this food by checking the bins you find outside of stores. Dumpster diving can also be a lot of fun!

How to save money on groceries

There are two things sure in life, death and taxes. And actually, there is a third thing we can be sure of: inflation. Over time prices of almost all products are rising. This is especially obvious with groceries. World food prices have been rising more steadily in recent years. And you might feel that in your wallet. Saving money on groceries is a good way to get around it. How to save money on groceries?