Free Meals Out: 22 Restaurant Hacks That Will Save You Tons!

Money Saving Tips for saving money at restaurants - restaurant hacks

Our priority at MoneySmartFamily is to help readers improve their finances and we partner with companies that could help you. Some links on this page are from our partners. Read how we earn money here.

Discover the amazing world of Restaurant Hacks. You’ll find lots of awesome tips and tricks to save money when eating out or getting takeout! Treat yourself to scrumptious meals without breaking the bank by using these insider secrets.

We love eating meals at home, but once in a while, a meal out at a restaurant is a wonderful treat. And what makes it even more special is when you can get the same meal for a discounted price.

Please, if you do get something for free or discounted, remember to be generous in the tipping of your server.

1. Kids Eat Free Meals

Out To Eat with Kids Logo Poster.

If you’ve got kids and you want to know which restaurants in your area offer free kids meals visit Out To Eat With Kids. Just put in your zip code and you’ll find restaurants listed by miles from your home and the day of the week that they offer free kids meals.   Steve & Annette Economides – Scottsdale, AZ

2. Restaurant Gift Cards & Gas Points

We bought a Chipotle gift card at Fry’s (Kroger) when they were running 4x Gas Points on any gift card purchase. So a $25 gift card earned us 10 cents off per gallon. Then we went to Chipotle, bought two meals, and used an online coupon to get free chips with our meal. Steve & Annette Economides – Scottsdale, AZ

3. Restaurant Coupon Searching & Company Kindness

We’re always looking for coupons on each restaurant’s website and coupon codes from

Sometimes, if you send comments or suggestions to a restaurant’s corporate office, they will send you gift cards or coupons too!  Rebecca Hinson Beck – PA

4. Free Meals Out on Special Calendar Days

This is a list of restaurants that give away free food on special days. This list is ever-changing. Please verify before going to the restaurant. We’ve listed these by calendar dates.

  • January 19 is Popcorn Day – Free Popcorn in Theaters and Malls
  • February 28 is National Pancake Day – Go to IHOP to get free pancakes
  • March 20 – Rita’s Italian Ice – Free Ice
  • April 26 – National Pretzel Day – Auntie Anne’s Pretzels are discounted
  • May – Mothers’ Day – TCBY Free Fro-Yo to Moms
  • June – the first Friday in June is National Donut Day – go to Krispie Kreme or Dunkin Donuts for a free one.
  • June – Fathers’ Day -TCBY Free Fro-Yo to Dads
  • June – First Friday – Krispy Kreme – Free Doughnut Day
  • June 10 – Seven Eleven – Free Ice Tea
  • July – the first Sunday in July is National Ice Cream Day – see if your local Baskin Robbins is celebrating with free scoops.
  • July 11 (7/11) Free Slurpee at 7-11 stores
  • July – Chick Fil A – Dress Like a Cow Day for dressing in costume
  • September 19 – Talk Like a Pirate Day – Free Doughnut at Krispy Kreme
  • September 29 – National Coffee Day – Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Peets Coffee – Free Drink
  • October 31 (Halloween) – Free Doughnut at Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts
  • October 31 – Chipotle discounted meal.
  • November 11 (Veterans’ Day) Applebees, Golden Corral, TGI Friday’s, Olive Garden, Denny’s – Free Meal for Veterans (or active duty)
  • November – another opportunity to celebrate National Donut Day – go to Krispie Kreme or Dunkin Donuts for a free one.

Related Story: Steve & Annette get free meals at Chick-fil-a

5. Appetizers for Dinner

My husband and I bought appetizers and drinks to save money on restaurant meals.
Tabi Jozwick – Macomb, IL

6. Split a Big Meal

If the restaurant serves large portions, ask to split the meal with your significant other. Sometimes there will be an extra plate charge. Merritt Lori McKeon – Laguna Hills, CA

Another reader suggested this burger hack to get two meals for the price of one:

Five Guys Burgers & Fries can be a bit pricey, but this trick will help you save a lot of money.

Here’s how it works: Start by ordering your favorite burger (mine is the bacon cheeseburger) and add an extra patty. You can then select your toppings, which are all free at Five Guys, and ask for them on the side. The secret is that you can also get an extra bun for free. With the additional bun, double patties, and plenty of toppings, you can create two mouthwatering burgers for the approximate price of one!

7. Free Food at Happy Hour

Try going to a restaurant for happy hour. Buy one drink and enjoy the free appetizers . . . If the food is good. Merritt Lori McKeon – Laguna Hills, CA

8. & Baseball

Get gift certificates. You can get a $25 gift certificate for as little as $2 sometimes.

Use it on a night when you can get kids’ meals for free.

A few restaurants in my area give free kids’ meals with the purchase of an adult meal on certain nights of the week. In my area, the 99 gives free kids’ meals the day after the Red Sox win (every time they win). Robin Madore Roper –  Franklin, New Hampshire

9. Order Water to Drink and Take Food Home

We (almost) never order anything to drink besides water, and typically take half our food to go for leftovers the next day. Two meals for the price of one! Julie Mead – Show Low, AZ

10. Get Pizza for Less

Get discounted pizza without a coupon by calling virtually any pizza place near you and ask the following question. “Do you have any pizza orders that were made, but not picked up?” If they do have unclaimed pizzas, you can usually get them at a discounted price, as long as you aren’t picky about what you get. It never hurts to ask, right?

11. Chicken Nuggets at McDonald’s

If you order two, four-piece Chicken McNuggets you’ll spend less than buying one, six-piece order. Plus, you’ll get extra sauces! Anonymous

12. Free Meals Out on Your Birthday

A birthday cake with 10 lit candles on it.

This is another great restaurant hack. Most of these free birthday offers require you to sign up for the restaurant’s loyalty program at least a month prior to your birthday. Don’t wait till the last minute – you probably won’t get your birthday freebies.

46 Restaurants that give you free food on your birthday

  1. Applebees – Sign up for their E-Club and get a Free Dessert
  2. Arby’s – Sign up for Arby’s Extras and get a Free Milk Shake and Curly Frys
  3. Auntie Anne’s – Free Pretzel
  4. A&W – Join their MugClub and get a free root beer float on your birthday
  5. Baja Fresh Mexican Grill – Join Club Baja and get a Free Taco and Burrito
  6. Baskin Robbins – Birthday Club Members get a Free scoop of Ice Cream
  7. Bd’s Mongolian Grill gives you a free meal on your birthday when you join their eclub.
  8. Benihana – Membership in their Chef’s Table gets you a $30 gift certificate to be used anytime during your birthday month.
  9. BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse – get a free Pizzookie on your birthday when you sign up for their Premier Rewards Plus.
  10. California Pizza Kitchen – join their CPK rewards program and get a free treat during your birthday month.
  11. Carrabba’s – Join their Amici Club and get a free appetizer or dessert any time during your birthday month.
  12. Carvel – Get a Free Ice Cream Cone if you’re a Fudgie Fanatic member.
  13. Cheesecake Factory – Free bowl of ice cream
  14. Chili’s – Free Brownie Sundae
  15. Chipotle – Join Chipotle Rewards and get a free order of chips and guac when you spend at least $5 on your birthday.
  16. Cinnabon – Club Cinnabon members get a coupon for a free treat. 
  17. Cold Stone Creamery – Free scoop of ice cream
  18. Cracker Barrel – Free Dessert
  19. Culver’s – get a free sundae on your birthday if you’re a “club” member.
  20. Dairy Queen – put your birthday into the DQ mobile app to get a BOGO Blizzard on your birthday.
  21. Edible Arrangements – Free item
  22. Dunkin’ Donuts – get a free beverage of your choice on your birthday when you join DD Perks
  23. Denny’s – Get a free Grand Slam – no email, just show up and prove you were born.
  24. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit – gives you a free reward on your birthday and on the anniversary of the date you sign up for their rewards program.
  25. Einstein Bros. Bagels – get a free egg sandwich on your birthday if you join Einstein’s e-club.
  26. Firehouse Subs – Firehouse Rewards members get a free medium sub on their B-Day. 
  27. IHop – Free Meal
  28. Jamba Juice – Free Smoothie
  29. Jersey Mikes – Free 8″ Sub and Drink
  30. Krispy Kreme – Free Doughnut
  31. Olive Garden – Free Appetizer or Dessert
  32. PF Changs – Free Appetizer or Dessert
  33. Qdoba – Free Burrito
  34. Red Robin – Free Burger
  35. Ruby Tuesday – Free Burger
  36. Sprinkles Cup Cake – Free Cup Cake
  37. Steak ‘n Shake – Free Double Burger with Cheese Fries
  38. Souper Salad – Free Meal on your Birthday Week
  39. Spaghetti Warehouse – Free Meal
  40. Texas Road House – Free Appetizer or sidekick of ribs
  41. Tony Romas – Free Entree
  42. Uno Pizzeria – Free Entree
  43. Waffle House – Free Waffle
  44. Wendy’s – Free Frosty
  45. Krispy Kreme has so many free days throughout the year, you’ll want to check out this list!

See more free birthday deals from and

13. Buying Dinner Right Before Lunch Hour Ends

When we get a craving for Chinese take-out food, we plan it for a day I can pick it up while already out on errands. I go during the restaurant’s lunch hours. It costs about 2/3 the price of a dinner meal, AND the lunch specials usually include extras such as soup or egg rolls that the dinner meal does not. Thanks, I’ve been enjoying your email newsletter twice each month.
Ann Thomas – Bridgeville, PA

14. Save Money Traveling with Hospital Food

The hospitals near us have improved the variety and flavor of their food. It’s almost like eating at a restaurant.

So, here’s a great way to get a tasty meal for just a few bucks. Visit your local hospital cafeteria. Here’s what I’ve found: For breakfast: Two eggs, toast, hashbrowns, and bacon for $2.50. They even gave me a 10% senior discount.

Lunch is almost a better deal, hamburger, fries, and a 20oz drink for $2.50. Dinner prices range anywhere from $4 to $6 – the prime rib was delicious.

We’ve heard the same thing from friends who have done this in other parts of the country while traveling in their RVs.   Sylvester Meola – Scottsdale, AZ

Related Story: Sonic Happy Hour Drink and Meal Deals

15. Check out Groupon for Restaurant Meals

There are hundreds of restaurants that advertise on Groupon – and the savings can be significant. We loved it when one of our favorite Chinese restaurants dropped a Groupon Coupon – we’ve gone there before and paid retail, but this time we saved a boodle!

16. Half Price Drinks at Sonic

Every day between 2 and 4 pm Sonic Drive-Ins host “Happy Hour.” Most of their drinks and some other food are discounted by 50%. Learn more about Sonic’s Happy Hour.

17. Carrying Tea Bags with You

I used to go to the expensive coffee shop and order a mocha for about $3. Since economizing, I still go for “coffee” with my friend. But now I carry my own favorite tea bags (purchased in bulk for 9 cents each) in my purse.

I ask for a cup of hot water and pop in my own tea bag – most restaurants are really nice about giving it to me for 10 cents or less. I also use this tactic when I am running errands or taking the kids here and there.

It helps me avoid heading to the nearest place to buy coffee especially when I’m tired.  Julia L. – Camas, WA

18. Discount Restaurant Gift Card Promotions

One of the best ways to save on restaurant meals is to buy a discounted gift card. You can often find them on sale either online or in stores, with many restaurants offering discounts of up to 20% off any gift card or reload

. This means that $12 gets you $15, $20 gets you $25, $40 gets you $50, and so on.

Since the gift card is treated like cash at the restaurant, you can combine it with any other deals you have. This is an excellent strategy for coupon users looking to maximize savings at various restaurants.

19. Loyalty Programs Get You Discounts

By signing up for restaurant loyalty programs or downloading the restaurant’s app. You’ll receive lots of deals and coupons, and earn enticing rewards such as BOGO deals, free meals, free appetizers, and other cool discounts.

20. DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats Discounts

Delivery apps like DoorDash, UberEATS, and Grubhub frequently offer promotions with significant discounts, particularly for new customers.

Some of these discounts have been as high as 75% off, and they have even provided “On Us” promotions where you could get a free meal worth up to $30.

While using these apps for meal delivery can be costly, by applying the right discount, you can still save money even after factoring in fees and tips.

Although there is a pickup option to avoid delivery fees, the major coupons often only apply to delivered orders.

Additionally, many restaurants available on these apps have their own deals, such as buy one, get one free, cashback offers for a certain spending threshold or free items. There are numerous ways to save when using these delivery apps, so make sure you take advantage of them!

21. Buy a Kids’ Meal

Some restaurants will allow you to purchase a lower-priced kid’s meal as an adult. One reader suggested this hack.

You can save money and enjoy a dessert by using the chicken tender kids meal hack. When you order, get a chicken tender kids meal and add a bun and pickles on the side. Choose a drink and swap the toy for an ice cream cone. Then, create your own Chick-fil-A sandwich by combining the bun, chicken tenders, and pickles. Don’t forget to ask for sauces to enhance the flavor. With this method, you not only save money but also get a sweet treat!

22. McDonald’s Hacks

Here are two ways to get more for less at McDonald’s

Big Mac for Big Savings

Enjoy the taste of a Big Mac for almost half the price with a simple substitution. Instead of ketchup and mustard, ask for Big Mac Sauce and lettuce on a McDouble burger. While the middle bun will be absent, it’s a small trade-off to save a couple of dollars and still savor the iconic flavors.

McFlurry for 15% less:

Save some money and skip the pricey McFlurry just for its unique spoon! Instead, order a hot fudge sundae and ask for toppings like M&Ms or crushed Oreos on top. Mix it yourself, and you’ll essentially have a McFlurry at a 15% discount.

Save on Non-Restaurant Food

The following tips will save you money when you don’t eat at a restaurant.

Taking Food with You on an Outing with Kids

A spiderman lunch box with wheels on it.

I always bring a sack lunch with me. Whenever I go to the mall with my kids – especially if we go in the morning- I pack water bottles, snacks, and a sack lunch of PB and J, frozen Go-gurts, and fruit in a lunch box.

This way, when we get hungry we are not tempted to eat at someplace in the food court, which can add up quickly. It also saves me the hassle of trying to maneuver through a busy area with kids, a stroller, and food on a tray all the while looking for a table and a high chair!

We are all set to eat whenever and wherever!   Erin M. – Phoenix, AZ

 When You Are Too Tired to Cook

Two cans of dintey moore beef stew with mag wheels on them racing very fast.

With three kids and homeschooling, my life has been busy. I generally cook from scratch, but some days I’m just too tired.

So as not to buy fast food or the like, I have resorted to buying some ready-made foods on sale, to keep on hand. Items such as frozen pizza, canned tamales mixed with canned chili, macaroni, and cheese, or other canned soup make an easy meal.

This saves money and the kids think it is a treat.   Chrissy and Steve – Phoenix, AZ

Save Money on Drinks When Traveling

Years ago when we just starting on our frugal trek, we discovered many ways that we were wasting money. One of them was soft drinks.

When we’d go out for a weekend drive and get thirsty, we stop at a fast food place to get a soft drink. On a daily basis, it didn’t seem like a lot of money, but on a monthly basis, it really started to add up.

We decided to start taking our favorite drinks with us. A little planning in advance can really add up! Mike and Linda Lenich – South Holland, IL

Free Coffee From the Bank

Recreation Savings on Meals and Food for your Family.

Instead of buying a $3 coffee while I’m out doing errands, I take advantage of the free coffee offered at my bank and credit union. Most financial institutions in my area have an automatic one-serving coffee maker with to-go cups for customers. Some even offer flavored coffee!

Once or twice a week when I am doing my banking, I’ll make a cup of coffee while there, and then take it with me to enjoy while completing my other errands! I’ve just eliminated the latte factor!

Editor’s Note:

We love your idea. If you want to purchase your own  Keurig coffee maker and it saves you from ordering out coffee all the time, this could be a great money saving purchase!

More Latte for Less Loote

A white cup of coffee being held by a person wearing red mittens.

Our son-in-law, Collin is a college student and works part-time at QuikTrip (QT) gas stations/convenience mart. QT operates about 700 stores across the country. As a working college student and a new member of our MoneySmart Family, he is always looking for ways to save money.

He recently shared this tip for those of you who love to have your morning jolt of Java or flavored coffee.

If you go into a QT and bring your own cup (smaller than 54 ounces) you can get a refill for 86 cents! If you’re looking to build savings through David Bach’s “Latte Factor” you don’t have to give it up whole-hog. You can merely change where you get your coffee from and bank the savings. If you’re normally buying a Starbucks coffee for $5 per day, changing to QT could save you around $20 each week or $1000 each year (based on a 50-week work year).

This money-saving strategy works for all of their fountain drinks, not just coffee.

Sometimes a change of thinking, convenience or location can end up saving a whole lot of change!

Coffee dispensers at QuikTrip convenience / gas stores.
Drink Counter at QT

Another great blog of ours is about Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwiches.

And here’s some great information about Sonic’s Happy Hour.

For other terrific money-saving fun ideas for recreation, consider our first book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money!

Restaurant Hacks - 14 Money Saving Tips Eating at Restaurants.

Leave a Reply