How to get free food: 8 family-friendly methods that really work

Knowing how to get free food, or at least super cheap food, can help families struggling with high food prices

father and children stand in kitchen eating slices of pizza
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Knowing how to get free food has become increasingly important for struggling families. Checking out at the supermarket has become a nerve-wracking experience for many, with the cost of food up by over 18% in the last year.

And even though you might still be able to bag some bargains shopping at the cheapest supermarkets, their prices are rising fastest. According to Which?, prices at Aldi rose by 23.5% in the year to May and were up 22% in Lidl, well ahead of Morrisons and Asda at 17.5% and 17.1% respectively.'s Money Editor Sarah Handley says: "Food price increases is one of the key reasons inflation has remained high for so long. Energy prices, adverse weather conditions and increased fuel costs have all impacted how much food costs. Most households will be feeling the pinch, but those with lower incomes will be feeling it the hardest."

While you might be using your supermarket loyalty card to ease your pain at the checkout, there are more ways to save money on food that are worth checking out. But there are also numerous ways to get free and super discounted food – if you know where to look. 

1. Feed the kids for free (or £1) 

Eating out from time to time can be convenient time saver, but it can also be super cheap too, with a number of affordable options offering free meals for kids. This can be an absolute life-saver for parents looking to feed their children for free over school holidays.

Some examples include:

  • Morrisons Café: For every adult meal you buy costing £4.49 or more you can get one free kids meal, a saving of £3.49
  • Asda Café: From 25th July to 4th September under 16s can get a hot or cold meal for £1 with no minimum adult spend. Babies are able to get a free Ella’s Kitchen pouch as part of the offer too. The offer is available throughout England and Wales
  • Brewers Fayre: Two kids can fill up with an unlimited breakfast buffet free of charge, for every adult paying £9.99
  • Bella Italia: Kids under 11 can enjoy three courses and a drink for £1, with every purchase of an adult main course. The deal is available Monday to Thursday, 4-6pm. It’s also available over the weekend at some locations. Normally kids meals are £6.49 or £8.49 (small and larger portions)
  • Bill’s: Two kids can eat for free for every adult ordering a main course from 24th July to 1st September (doesn’t include weekends). A kids main, side and dessert is normally £6.95.

2.  Sign up for fast-food apps and loyalty schemes 

As an incentive to get you to download their app, some fast-food outlets will give away some freebies. For example, if you download the Greggs app, you can get a free hot drink, a sweet treat on your birthday as well as reward freebies such as buy nine items and your 10th is free. McDonalds, KFC, Nandos, Krispy Kreme, Burger King and Subway all offer reward schemes too - hit certain targets and get free rewards. We rounded up the best free birthday offers to keep an eye out for. 

It might not be a healthy option, but worth embracing if you – or your teens – are spending at these outlets anyway.

If you love the occasional takeaway, then it's worthwhile checking out whether you can qualify for 12 months free Deliveroo delivery to keep costs low.

mum with children sitting around a dinner table passing bowls

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3.  Grow your own! 

You don’t need an allotment to grow your own fruit and veg, you can start with a few herbs on the window sill, hanging baskets, compost bags or pots on the patio if you’re short on space.

Try the following, which are all relatively easy for novices:

  • Potatoes
  • Courgettes
  • French beans
  • Chillies
  • Herbs
  • Beetroot
  • Strawberries
  • Rhubarb

It’s cheaper to grow from seeds but first timers might have more success with young plants from a garden centre. 

4.  Go foraging 

Going foraging for fruit like blackberries is not only a whole lot cheaper than a pick your own site, it’s a great way of keeping the kids entertained in the long summer holidays too.

Also look out for elderflower to make your own cordial, strawberries and wild garlic. Mushroom foraging is best avoided unless you can tell your giant puffball from your toadstool or death cap.

Just remember to take tubs to bring home your loot.

While, it’s not exactly foraging,when you’re out and about in the summer, keep an eye out for houses giving away windfall fruit. Some might also give away eggs too. You can also ask neighbours with apple or plum trees for supplies. They’ll likely have more than they can eat.

young daughter feeding dad a strawberry in the kitchen at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Download Olio

Olio is a free app that connects people with food that they won’t use to somebody that will. At the time of writing, bread, dried fruit, avocado and strawberries were all being given away in my area. Food goes fast though, so you need to get in quick. 

Download the app from the App Store or Google Play.

6.  Get surplus food from restaurants and supermarkets 

The Too Good to Go app doesn’t offer free food but it is super cheap. It sells surplus foods from supermarkets, restaurants and bakers that they can no longer sell at heavily discounted prices.

The catch is that you can’t choose exactly what you want and instead buy a bag of surprise goodies. See how one mum saved £150 in four months by using this app.

Morrisons is one supermarket that works with Too Good to Go. It offers ‘Magic Bags’ that can be collected from stores for £3.09 which can include a mix of fruit, veg, bread, cheese and milk. Blogger reckoned she got around £14 worth of food in her Morrisons magic bag. 

You can download the TooGoodToGo app from the App Store or Google Play.

parents with two children sit around a circular table at home to eat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

7.  Check out the new budget supermarkets 

Traditional supermarkets might not give away food for free – but new types of discount supermarket, that specialise in short dated foods, are offering huge savings on some non-perishable products.

Motatos is new online supermarket, that seeks to reduce food waste by stocking up on food from distributors and wholesalers that doesn’t have a long enough date to be sold in conventional supermarkets. Stock may also be surplus or have damaged packaging. Some food might even be past its best before date.

Deals we liked when we had a look included two bars of Divine 34% chocolate for £1.50 (a discount of 71%) and two jars of Cirrio passata for £1.70, a discount of 50%.

Approved Food is another online supermarket that works in a similar way. One bargain we spotted there was £5 for a £16 box of chocolate from Hotel Chocolat – the catch was that it was already a month past its best before date.

8.  Explore community pantries 

Community pantries are cropping up across the country to offer low-cost groceries to people who are struggling to pay for food, but may not be able to use a food bank. Most charge a cheap subscription to access the store.

My local community pantry is stocked by surplus food from supermarkets that would otherwise end up in landfill. It distributes weekly food boxes to around 400 people every week, but its shop is open to all and no vouchers are required. 

For other ways to save money on food, check out our guide to whether you can freeze cheese, our money expert's #1 hack to reduce her food costs, and this cheese hack that takes hardly any time, but saves you money.

Personal finance expert

As well as being a mum, Rachel Lacey is a freelance journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about all areas of personal finance and retirement planning. After 17 years at Moneywise magazine as both writer and editor, Rachel now writes for a variety of websites and newspapers as well as corporate clients. She is passionate about financial education and simplifying money matters for all.