A College Student's Guide to Free Food

Student searches ofr a snack at a machine With spring break fast approaching, the midterm's grind has a tendency to amplify the rumblings in my stomach. Unfortunately, it is also about this time of year when my budget needs some nourishment.

Instead of giving in to the convenience of ordering carry-out every night while you cram for exams, take a break from studying and follow this plan to find free food. Not only will it get you through the next week well fed, but the money you save can be used for whatever debauchery your heart desires during spring break.
Become a Serial Meeting Attender

Scour your school's events calendar and pick a different club or lecture to attend each night. Unless you meet the Marla Singer of book clubs, you should be free to feast your week away without anyone noticing you're not really a club member. You have to make a little bit of a time committment, but hopefully you will learn about some interesting things happening on your campus in the process.

Monday -- Focus group about online publications: pizza;
Tuesday -- Student Environmental Alliance: all natural pizza (a food you should probably grow to love if you are thinking about making a habit of meeting-crashing);
Wednesday -- Lecture on Arab-Israeli relations: falafel sandwiches; Thursday -- women's book club: subs;
Friday -- ribbon cutting event for new athletic center: catered Italian.

You just made it through a whole week without paying for dinner. If you play your cards right, you might get to take home some leftovers.If you venture off campus, however, a whole universe of free food awaits you. Here are a few more tips for noshing for nada:

  • Befriend those professors: If you show some real enthusiasm for a class, it may result in an invite to dinner at your teacher's home. I have had some incredible home-cooked meals while discussing 18th century French Literature. Plus, there is something that feels appropriately collegiate about breaking bread with a bow-tie and corduroy-clad professor.
  • Work in a restaurant: Affectionately called "family meal" in the industry, many restaurants feed their employees before each shift. While this may not have all the psychological benefits of sitting down to a meal with your real family, you also don't have to deal with your father's nagging about grad school applications.
  • Go home: Your parents will be thrilled, your mom will cook you a mean meatloaf and you probably can even squeeze in a Costco run to restock your pantry.
  • Donate blood: The Red Cross can't have you fainting in the process, so there is always a supply of gummy snacks, cookies and juice on hand. You can only do this every 56 days, but if you're in a real pinch it's not a bad option -- and you get to help save someone's life!
  • Request free samples: Check websites such as Freaky Freddies, TheFreeSite or Free Mania for coupons and promotional samples of new products. Get creative and plan a dinner party for your friends with your freebies. Kashi, Miracle Whip and Cheez It casserole? Delicious.
To quote Mark Twain: "Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed." So, before you get "hangry" (so hungry you are angry -- my new favorite adjective), get yourself a nice free meal. Then, stick to your principles, blow your midterms out of the water and enjoy your spring break.

Sarah Smith is a junior at Loyola University Chicago majoring in international studies and visual communication. She writes for Money College about her personal finance experiences as a student.
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