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These Broke College Girls Thought Of A Clever Way To Get Free Food

If you went to college, you probably know what it’s like to be stuck on campus with zero cash and a grumbling stomach. And while there’s always food in the dining hall, the meals usually aren’t any better than high school lunches. College cafeteria food can also get real old, real fast. However, a pair of college roommates at Texas State University came up with humorous way to try to get free food.

The two students, Emma and Madelynn, set up a sign in their window that read “Bring Food to 443.”

According to photos on Emma’s Twitter account, they actually received a response. The guys below them replied with their own sign, which read “What kind of food?” (Emma and Madelynn apparently took the photos from the parking garage across the street, in case you’re wondering.)

The duo responded requesting any type of free food, because #college.


After another string of messages, the roommates allegedly asked when dinner was. But instead of setting a date, the guys wanted a million retweets.

WTF, right?

By the looks of it, it seems like the girls never did get a meal. Well, at least they tried.

All of this went down in 2017.

Emma’s original post, which said, “We put a sign up to bring food to our dorm and the guys below us replied,” went viral on Twitter.

Her caption also included the photos and ended with, “I’m done.”

The collection of pictures was retweeted over 96,000 times and got more than 355,000 likes.


But in true Twitter fashion, some people had a bone to pick.

One skeptical Twitter user tweeted, “How is it you have identical sign boards. “Is there a STAPLES nearby,” they added.

Many folks wondered how the dorm downstairs could even see their sign.

Regardless, it’s a funny story, and it went viral for a reason. Something tells us there are a lot of hungry college students who can totally relate to the girls’ attempt to get free food.


Others were thinking about the possibility of them running into each other outside.

But also…

Another user made a great point. In the time it has taken them to do all this work — creating the signs, posting them, posting them on Twitter, etc. — couldn’t they just have gone out to find free food or a food discount somewhere?


And just in case you’re also confused about how they’d see the sign if it was being posted in the dorm below them, user emmaskyyye has got you covered.

“from outside lol”

Well, folks, it’s really as simple as that.


But also, could you imagine if you went to the same school as them?

How bizarre would it be seeing these photos going viral on Twitter and realizing, “Hey… that’s my dorm.”

Would you join in on the fun by posting your own sign? Or, would you simply enjoy seeing the signs IRL instead of just online?

If you’re in the same boat, you’ll be glad to know it’s possible to obtain free meals.

It doesn’t even involve placing signs in your window. The key is to get creative with your resources, along with a little extra effort.

Granted, as a college student, you’re probably already super busy.

But we promise these tricks, tips, and hacks will be totally worth it in the end.

One method is to enjoy free samples at grocery stores.

Obviously, you won’t get a full-course meal by eating samples. But you’ll be able to nosh on free food, which is never a bad thing. Simply visit your local grocery store or warehouse club, like Costco.

Retailers typically offer the most samples on weekends and holidays.

This is especially useful if you already need to shop for groceries anyway. How’s that for multitasking?


According to The Kitchn, Costco isn’t the only destination for free samples.

Whole Foods is also the place to be if you want some free food.

You can always ask a staff member for a sample (within reason), which makes sense because Whole Foods tends to be on the pricier side.


Publix and Trader Joe’s are also great options when it comes to getting some free samples while you’re shopping.

The best part is that you get to try new things you might not ordinarily add to your cart.

Particularly when it comes to Trader Joe’s, where their stock is always changing, you really get to experiment as the seasons change. Not sure if you want to try a new frozen item they’re offering? Just keep an eye out for a sample!

Some fast food chains offer special discounts and freebies for college students.

For example, according to Retail Me Not, Chik-fil-A offers students a free drink with any purchase. All you need to do is show your college ID.

It’s best to ask your local fast food chain for details, since promos differ from location to location.

You can also ask local cafes and restaurants if they have promos for students. It certainly wouldn’t hurt! Just make sure you have your school ID handy.

At Chick-fil-A, you can get a free drink with your meal, and the same can be said at Chipotle.

If you want more than a drink, you can get 10% off at Burger King, 10% at Dairy Queen, and 10% off at Dunkin’, according to Business Insider.

Even McDonald’s offers 10% off when you present a student ID.

Another technique is to visit restaurants for tasty birthday freebies.

Well, only if it’s your birthday, of course. But even if you’re not a college student, getting free food on your birthday is always a treat.

Denny’s, for instance, is happy to serve you a free Grand Slam on your big day.

Meanwhile, IHOP will give you a full stack of pancakes and Panera will give you a free pastry. You’ll likely have to sign up for a rewards program or email list to get free food on your birthday.

We think it’s so worth it, though.

If you head over to Applebee’s, you can get a free dessert on your big day, which is basically like free birthday cake!

And who doesn’t want free birthday cake?

You just have to make sure you’re a part of the chain’s EClub, which is super easy to sign up for. And guess what? You’ll earn yourself a free appetizer just for creating your account.

At Baskin-Robbins, you can get yourself a free ice cream scoop just for being born.

And all you have to do is join their Birthday Club. It’s really that simple.

But don’t worry — if you’re more of a Ben & Jerry’s person, you can also get a free ice cream there on your b-day.

Even Carvel has gotten in on the action, meaning that you can get a free cone if you become a Fudgie Fanatic (scroll down to the bottom of their homepage).

The same can be said of the Cheesecake Factory — just let your server know.

Cold Stone will also give you a BOGO ice cream offer on your birthday if you sign up for the My Cold Stone Club.

The only problem is that you’ll have to bring a friend along… and make them pay for the first ice cream so you can get the second one free.

You’ll also earn one point for every $1 that you spend, and after you get 50 points, you’ll get a $5 reward.

Essentially, you can now get at least five free ice creams on your birthday, which is great if you’re stomach can handle it.

Otherwise, you can have one that day and then free the other four to enjoy later.

It’s all about planning here, people! However, ice cream isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Fortunately, if an actual cup of tea is your cup of tea, then there’s still a beautiful deal or two out there for you.

You can get a free beverage at Dunkin’. You just have to sign up to be a member of DD Perks.

If Starbucks is your preferred coffee chain, you can also get a free beverage or food item there.

Just make sure you’re signed up for the Starbucks Rewards program.

On a similar note, use cash rebate apps like Ibotta.

Rebate apps offer cash back on purchases from specific retailers, including grocery stores. The rebates are typically quite small, but they’ll eventually add up.

Using rebate apps can be especially helpful if you’re making a big purchase or shopping for groceries.

Once you accumulate a certain amount, you can “withdraw” that cash or get a gift card to a restaurant. Score.

According to Urban Tastebud, Checkout 51 is also a great option.

“Literally, all you have to do is buy groceries and you’ll get cash back!”

All you have to do is browse offers on the app, upload your receipt, and then wait for them to confirm your purchase and wait to cash out once your account balance reaches $20.

It’s also a good idea to download apps for your favorite fast food chains.

Installing a restaurant app can score you a free menu item. For example, if you download the Krispy Kreme Rewards app, you’ll get a free doughnut.

You can also get a free scoop of ice cream after downloading the Baskin-Robbins app.

Love soft pretzels? Install the Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Perks mobile app and receive a pretzel (on the house) with your first order of $1 or more.

If you download the Dairy Queen app, you can get a BOGO Blizzard deal for your birthday, which means you can share with a loved one.

The Starbucks Rewards app is also a great option.

Because if you download the app on your phone, you an get perks like free food and drinks, ordering ahead, and free refills. Sign us up!

The Taco Bell app also seems worth it.

When you place an order through the app, you can get fun deals like 15% off.

Take advantage of coupons in ad inserts and from digital sources.

You don’t even need to become an extreme couponer. It can be as simple as printing manufacturer coupons from websites like and

These coupons can usually be combined with store-specific sales.

This can result in deep discounts, or better yet, free food. For tips on how to coupon wisely, check out this handy article on Money Crashers.

Don’t forget to check out campus events and fairs, too.

We’re talking job fairs, guest talks, and educational seminars. Not only do these events benefit your progress as a student, but they often provide free snacks and drinks.

Imagine leaving a school function with a full brain and stomach.

That’s what we call the ultimate college student hack. You can find events on your college’s website or bulletin boards.

Your residence hall likely hosts events (with food) as well.

From BBQs to movie nights, dorm-sponsored events are another source of free food. They also give you an opportunity to bond with people in your building, which is always helpful.

Residence advisers often promote events on bulletin boards and through email.

You can also stay up-to-date by following your dorm’s Facebook page, if it has one.

Work part-time at a café or restaurant, if you can.

At most eateries, leftover food is inevitable. But instead of tossing the leftovers and calling it a night, more and more places are passing them on to customers or employees.

It’s a great reason to work at a place that sells food.

If you’re able to swing a few hours of part-time work each week, consider applying to a restaurant. You’ll make some extra cash and have first dibs on leftovers.

On Quora, user Cody Dostal, who worked as a Department Manager in Training at McDonald’s, says that perks can vary depending on what location you work at. 

At one location, they were able to get free drinks while working and during breaks.


At another location, everyone was allowed a free meal during their breaks (though this did not include tw0 value meals, which would end up being 50% off for them).

As for Panera Bread, that’s a completely different story.

According to Quora user Andrew Scott, Panera Bread has a “strict no freebies policy.” However, employees are able to get 50% off everything on the menu, which sounds like the next best thing.


Reddit user beethovensnowman advertised Chick-fil-A as being the best when it comes to free food. They explained,

“We basically had free range to fries, soda, nuggets, strips, fillets, sandwich stuff, chicken salad, ice cream…”

“…basically everything but the salads & the wraps & cheesecakes. Produce came locally, so I guess it was limited.”

However, this was back in 2005, so things might be different now.

The same goes for Wendy’s, according to user sarsXdave, where the official rule is that employees get a discount. However, they added,

“Our particular storefront was pretty nice about letting us have something on our break.”

So really, it all depends on the location you choose to work at.


So, before you decide to apply somewhere, maybe see if the specific location is more relaxed when it comes to employee freebies and discounts.

Become a mystery diner at local restaurants.

Don’t have enough time for an actual part-time job? Consider working for a mystery shopping company. They’ll reimburse your meals at certain restaurants in exchange for honest, specific feedback.

If you’re a stickler for detail, you’ll probably enjoy this gig.

Oh, and the free food doesn’t hurt too. This option is ideal if you have limited or sporadic availability.

For instance, there’s Lettuce Entertain You.

If you live in Washington, DC; Minneapolis, MN; Las Vegas, NV; or Chicago area, IL, you can apply to be a mystery diner who visits certain establishments, rates them, and gets reimbursed and paid.

And if you’re curious about the mystery diner experience, you could always binge Food Network’s Mystery Diners. 

The show aired from 2012 to 2016 and took a look at what restaurant employees were doing when their bosses weren’t around. It might not be exactly what you’d experience as a mystery diner, but it sure does sound entertaining.

Another idea is to host a potluck with your friends.

There’s a good chance your fellow classmates are broke too. So, why not get together and have a potluck? Even if each person contributes something small, everyone can enjoy a variety of foods.

You can also place a monetary limit, such as $10 per dish.

While you do have to spend a small amount, you’ll still get tons of free food in return.

Plus, if you’re living in a dorm, arranging a potluck should be super easy.

You can even make it a bonding activity during which everyone on your floor plays games and gets to know each other, while eating food!

If you’re up for the challenge, you can try dumpster diving.

These days, many students in college find free food by digging through dumpsters. People have reported finding all types of edible gems, like packaged veggies and bread.

However, we do not recommend this.

“It’s a very risky thing because we don’t know what’s in the garbage,” said public health consultant Carla Eskow, according to NCBI.

Some dumpsters are sprayed with pesticides, contain sharp objects, and are breeding grounds for harmful bacteria.

It’s definitely not an activity you should be doing for the heck of it.

A lot of people do it as a part of the “freeganism” movement.

Freeganism involves scavenging for food — yes, via waste bins — to reduce waste. But once again, doctors and public health officials do not recommend this lifestyle choice due to the harm it can cause to the human body.