Day 5 – $50 week grocery challenge – attracting free food

Mallow leaves

OK, I admit it – I regularly eat free food. I even cook with it and give it away to other people.  So where do I get it from?  And how can you attract free food into your life?

This blog post follows a Facebook live conversation I had on the Frugal Dare to Millionaire Group earlier this evening. If you missed it, check out the Facebook group to watch it again.

‘Free’ food brings up a range of emotions.  It equates to begging for food for some people, something that you do when you are desperate and have no money.  Surely affluent people with good middle class lifestyles and good jobs shouldn’t accept free food?

I disagree. I believe that abundance is everywhere. I gladly and happily accept gifts of food. I take what I need with gratitude and give away the rest in the spirit of generosity. I never seek to hoard or steal.  I give freely, and I receive gratefully and then pay it forward.

This might seem obvious, but I certainly do not want to give my readers the impression that I cheat or steal, or that I am greedy or mean.  People who are stingy or scroogey like this rarely get ahead.

These are some of the ways that I attract food:

  1. My café at work gives away unsold food at closing time. It used to be a ritual with my bestie at friend to go down together at 4.30pm every day. She got into work early and would finish early. I would go down with her for a chat and some ‘free’ food, and then go back upstairs and do some productive work before going home. I liked to use the stairs and get some exercise. My café has a no waste policy so would give away anything unsold. I no longer do this as I am now in a new role, and also, well it was getting to feel a little bit like I was snatching leftovers.  I still, however, do it from time to time.
  2. My friends and neighbours. I am really big on community.  Good friends who visit me will usually be treated to something home cooked, and invariably go home with someone gifted such as clothing, books or kids toys.  In the past this extended to home grown flowers such as roses and bounty from my vegie patch.  I (think) I have the knack of identifying what I have that I no longer need that other people will want.  Anyway, I give with generosity and I receive back in abundance.  Neighbours give me bags of excess fruit and vegetables if they are heading away on holidays.  Friends give me homegrown lemons, or pumpkins, or zucchinis.  If I am lucky it might even been eggs from someone’s backyard.  People who are moving tend to give me their leftovers, knowing I am one of the few people who would not think it was strange or weird.  I receive all gifts with thanks and pay it forward in the spirit of love.
  3. I am a proud urban forager.  Whether it is blackberries and fennel fronds in summer or mallow leaves (see the picture above) and thistles and dandelion in early spring, or roadside apples in autumn, I am a happy forager.  There is a lot of food growing for free. I wish I knew more about bush tucker and more about edible weeds.  There is still so much growing around us organically, without the need for expensive fertilisers, that I don’t yet know about.  Some areas actively encourage this.  For example, there is a Canberra urban foraging map and the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council has recently released an urban foraging map.
  4. Buy Nothing Project.  This is one of my favourite Facebook groups. If you are not a member, then join.  I have literally saved thousands of dollars in things I have been gifted from others through this group.  And yes, I give (hopefully generously) as well.  Sometimes people gift food that they have bought but for various reasons do not want to, or cannot eat.  Or they gift excess bounty from their gardens. I gladly accept anything that would otherwise go to waste.
  5. Food exchange groups.  A member of my Buy Nothing Project recently started the Canberra Food Exchange Inner North group.  People post things that they want to giveaway. Recently someone gifted me a container of roasted vegetables they knew they would not get around to eating. I made it into a sort of North African mean with cous cous (the cous cous had been gifted by someone from the Buy Nothing Project).  Yum!
  6. Community gardens and commons.  Apartment dwellers like me can grow food on their balconies.  Sometimes even simple things like herbs.  But for more ambitious vegies and fruit trees, there are always community gardens. A good friend of mine has told me about the nearby Lyneham Commons, which operates as a community resource (i.e. anyone can take what is grown there). I plan to take the kids to a working bee this weekend.
  7. Leftovers at work.  If you work in an office like I do, invariably there will be the odd working lunch.  And often there are leftover sandwiches, cheese platters and fruit platters.  This is a source of free food and abundance.  A note here.  People always notice how you conduct yourself, even if they don’t say anything. If you are petty or greedy, people will notice. In the larger scheme of things, is it worth getting a few dollars of free food if your boss is going to think you are rude and greedy and selfish?  It is best not to run to the kitchenette and gobble up everything before anyone else gets an opportunity to nibble an egg and lettuce sandwich.  Conversely, if there is sufficient for everyone and if the food is going to go to waste, then do everyone a favour and take some extras home. When in doubt, ask someone if it is okay.  And also help with the dishes and the cleaning up.
  8. Bread from my church food bank program.  I often attend the Kippax Uniting Church, which through Unitingcare Kippax has an amazing food bank program.  There are several food banks throughout Canberra, and I am sure through other places in Australia. If you are in need, then don’t suffer in silence – sign up for help.  I am not a welfare client in need of emergency assistance, but I still regularly take ‘free’ food from my church.  My church works with two bakeries, who provide leftover bread at the end of the day.  I am on the roster for receiving and packing the bread from one bakery, and I am staggered by the amount of waste that would otherwise be thrown out. There is more than enough to feed the hungry, so the remainder is regularly given away to the community.  The church hall is rented out for community purposes during the week, so anyone is welcome to take the bread. I love the metaphor of sharing the bread with the community in this way. Oh and in addition people often bring in homegrown vegies to gift and then there are things grown from the community garden onsite.

These are just some of my ideas for attracting free food. But enough about me. I would like to hear from you about how to get ‘free food’ in your life.

Your challenge for today is to find some free food.  Think about what you need and how you might attract it, in the spirit of love and gratitude.  And share your success on the Frugal Dare to Millionaire group.


  1. Great post!
    I love free food ????
    I’m a member of my local Buy Nothing group and definitely encourage others to join as well. It is such a great feeling to pass things on when you don’t need them and receive new to you things in return so they don’t end up wasted.
    There is also a fair bit of free food at my work too.
    My favourite place for free food is my grandparents ❤ when we have a family lunch I always take something along, but somehow manage to leave with more than I brought, both food and edible plants for my garden (I’ve yet to keep anything alive except the lemongrass and rosemary). They truely give for love.

    1. Isn’t the Buy Nothing Project great? I remember my Nana also used to load us up with ‘free’ stuff. It’s a type of generosity that is infectious:)

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