Introduction: How to Eat for Free Everyday (at a University)

Picture of How to Eat for Free Everyday (at a University)

I go to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Every day there are dozens of events with free food waiting to be eaten by hungry engineering students. All you have to do is know where to go! This is my first instructable, but I've found it invaluable. I've gone for weeks without paying for food using this method (although weekends are harder to get through).

I think some of these steps may seem like I'm plugging google, but really its only because that's the application I used to get so much free food. By the way, this can work for non-students too; they never (repeat... never) check for students IDs at these events, at least at the University of Colorado. If you know how to make a google calendar and share it with people, you can skip steps 1-3.

By the way the "Grad Wine and Cheese" event in my calendar is real, and was incredibly delicious, as well as intoxicating (there aren't a lot of Religious Studies grad students, and they had way too much wine). By the way, I'm an Aerospace Engineering senior. I only wish I could have though this up sooner.

Step 1: Get a Gmail Account

Picture of Get a Gmail Account

There may be other mail clients with calendar services, but I've found this is the easiest to use and share with friends, which is an important aspect of this instructable. Go to and click on the "Sign up for Gmail" link. You will have to enter some personal information like any other mail client, but it's worth it.

Step 2: Create a Google Calendar

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Make a calendar on your gmail account. This isn't too hard to do. Once in your mail client, click on the "Calendar" link at the top of the page. A new page should open with your calendar client. Click on the "create" button in the "My calendars" panel towards the left side of the window.

This should open a new window. Name your calendar, give it a good description and click on the "Create Calendar" button.

Step 3: Share the Calendar With 4-6 Friends

Picture of Share the Calendar With 4-6 Friends

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP!!! Share this calendar with a few friends. Tell them to add any free food events to the calendar that they come across. Soon, you will have a massive amount of free food events on this calendar to attend whenever you feel hungry.

To share with friends, they will also need gmail accounts. Go make to the main calendar window and click on the "Settings" button, which should be to the left of the "Create" button used in step 2. This will open a new window that can be used to give your friends access to the calendar. Make sure to change their permission settings so that they can edit the calendar as well as see it.

Step 4: Where to Find Events

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Events with food can be found just about anywhere. The following is just a small list. Most of these events are going to be presentations by companies that want you to work there. What they don't know is that you hate working.

*Bulletin Boards
*Career Bulletins - Sent out by CU's Career Services
*Mailing Lists - Look for alumni lists, great catered food
*On Campus Religion - Jesus is delicious
*Employer Presentations - There are hundreds of these
*Science Presentations/Seminars
*Talks by Famous People - Usually not famous enough to lack the necessary attraction of food.

Look for things out of the ordinary. Pizza can get old for some people (not me).

Step 5: EAT!!!!!!!

Picture of EAT!!!!!!!

After my friends picked up on the brilliance of my idea, the calendar started picking up steam. Here's a clip of the current week.

Yesterday for example, I stole some pizza from the Puget Sound Navel Shipyard presentation, stopped by the Hillel (a christian fraternity thing, I don't really know) for some BBQ, and then topped myself off at the Jewish temple with some Chabad food. The day before I had sushi. Add some events and eventually your friends will catch on.

Be sure not to share with too many people, otherwise all the food will be gone. Also keep in mind that you don't have to be a college student for this to work. I've seen a lot of suspiciously older people in some of these events that seem to have been doing this for a while. Good luck and happy hunting!


nehmo (author)2016-01-19

Although I haven't done this in a few years, this still works in plenty of places:

Call first, and explain how the fast-food place mangled your order*. Ask for them to replace the missing Quarter Pounder or whatever. When they agree, leave your name. Then, go there and collect!

*There have been numerous times when I really was shorted but didn't bother to try to get it corrected. This makes up for those times- if you need justification.

skippershoneywell (author)2014-03-25

I actually read through all of the comments, as the first several were rife with grammatical, punctuation, and (basic) spelling errors, from either (self professed) college students or college graduates. It's time to take some English and composition classes, people!

Not everyone is from English-speaking country. And not everyone is native English speaker. Understand it :)

thepoopeater (author)2016-01-19

The sad part is that even after you graduate from "engineering school" you'll still need to find a way to eat for free.

silveravnt (author)2016-01-19

It seems scummy to take food by false pretenses.

DragonDon (author)silveravnt2016-01-19

Nah, it's no different than watching a commercial but not buying the product. Those 'free' events are all promotional events. No one is disillusioned enough to realized that 100% of the people eating are going to be 100% involved with the event. Besides, it's not like the money wasn't already allotted and people go there and have nothing to eat.

universidadtolima (author)2015-07-15

What a good trick! LOL

romanfernandez (author)2014-05-25

Simple and amazing.

shizumadrive (author)2013-03-24

Hmm my wife then girlfriend got invited to events for foreign students all the time (at OSU). We then discovered how much free food their really was. I was always worried I'd get throw off campus if I went to things every day.

Facebook has a lot of these already grouped and listed for you. Like I think Ill look for these on the weekends. I might have to dress up professorly though.

Tiktaky (author)2012-07-15

My University doesn't even have any "clubs" or events, so this wouldn't work for me at all, but it is great advice for most American Universities.

lockpick (author)2010-12-12

I'm hoping I can get into aerospace engineering

The Beef Baron (author)lockpick2010-12-13

Good luck! I just graduating last spring, and had a good amount of offers, so I don't think the job market is as bad as a lot of people think. I did it because I thought it was pretty broad and I didn't know what I wanted to do after college. One warning: it was insanely difficult! I didn't have much of a life through college.

mgalyean (author)The Beef Baron2011-07-31

If I had to do it all over again I'd go into aero and target private space oriented companies like Virgin Galactic. Just send resumes to all entries on this list:

flightycrafter (author)2008-12-23

"Hillel" is actually Jewish, not Christian. It's a nation wide campus foundation for Jewish students. Otherwise, great idea! I definitely think this would work at my college!

AGetzler (author)flightycrafter2011-06-12

Don't forget to ask for the free Bris kit!

mgalyean (author)AGetzler2011-07-31


wafflehousel (author)2011-07-27

I love this... "What they don't know is that you hate working." LOL

Gr3at_Whit3_North_Guy (author)2011-07-10

I will have to remember this for when i got to university

ARJOON (author)2011-05-13

that is so serious. never knew that. Won't it be a bit tooo abusive

Broom (author)ARJOON2011-06-17

Abusive of what or whom? He's not costing anyone anything. There's ALWAYS more food than the audience will eat at these things, so he's not depriving anyone.

jofuji (author)2011-05-15

Do you never get sprung?? Surely someone must notice you're an 'outsider'?!! :)

Broom (author)jofuji2011-06-17

The purpose of the food is to attract students; once it's purchased, it doesn't cost them anything if there are "extras" in the receiving line. So, in general, why would they care?

Shippygirl (author)jofuji2011-06-12

Food is used as motivation for students to show up to events at my comm. college. If I attended every event, I could get 2 or 3 free meals a week.

drusilla (author)jofuji2011-06-12

Most university events welcome 'outsiders.' Religious groups especially. You're always free to go to any presentation or lecture, thought I always feel obligated to stay of course if I take food.

Once my friend organized forty pizzas for an international EE masters student welcome presentation, but it conflicted with the university's general masters student welcome presentation. So we had about 35 pizzas left. It was awesome.

When USC inducted President Nikias in December they literally had tables all around campus filled with breakfast stuff like muffins and bread. They even had attendants there. I walked by on the way to a final and they were more than happy to feed me.

University free food is awesome!!! But you have to get used to eating a lot of pizza, sandwiches, coffee/cookies/fruit, and muffins.

dfc849 (author)2011-06-15

At many pre-prepared food places, they will often throw out food at the end of the night. For example, Dunkin Donuts throws away a LOT of pastries before closing. Ask first about taking samples. If they won't give you any freebies, ask about a deal. 2 dozen donuts for $0.99 isn't bad at all. Resale value the next morning in your dorm can buy you a real breakfast :)

At local (or regional) food distributors like Pepsi or Coke for example, they discard some goods for various reasons. Usually a distributor will take product back if the "sell by" or "use by" is within 1 week of the delivery. A decrease in demand or a surplus also ends up with leftover product. Watch for seasonal products too. Any of these only go as far back as the distributor. The only thing left to do with leftover product is to let employees take them. Since most beverages (as in the example) aren't notably considered perishable goods, the date shouldn't affect any quality. Call and ask about scheduling a pick up of some assorted goods. Again, ask first about sampling. Appearing curious is probably better than appearing greedy.

d1ndian (author)2011-06-03

the craziest idea i have ever heard :)

xfirexstarzx (author)2011-01-11

As an Aeronautical Engineering student myself, I have to say I fully endorse this plan!

Off to make a google calender and spread this around campus.

Thanks so much for the idea!

cwix09 (author)xfirexstarzx2011-01-11

lol oh xfirexstarzx.. youre so crazy

sprockette (author)2010-04-08

you're my hero

hjfast (author)2010-02-08

Hey. I'm a MECH-E senior at CU. You should send me an add to your calender ( There is a Lockheed info sessions with food on 2/9 at 6:00 in ECCR 265. and a Raytheon one on 2/10 at 6 in Koelbel S130.

imrobot (author)2010-01-17

Hillel is a jewish kosher food service and hang out sorta thing 

arduinoe (author)2009-06-03

" jesus is delicious " ahhh nothing like rampant abuse of religious catering in the morning

skeletor (author)2009-05-23

I just graduated from CU Boulder this May. I wish I saw this instructable sooner!

extrordinary1 (author)2009-05-15

also watch for grilling competitions. I got into one as a judge, we ate 2 pounds of sample meat from all the competitors. Only one made me spit it out and the other 11 judges were scared to try it, but they had to try it, like me, it got spit out, lol. Then we divided up what food was left to take home! County fairs usually have competitions like this, or special events.

unbentcrayfish (author)2009-04-29

Only if they had thai food...

americangeiko (author)2009-04-25

Sadly, my college is a public college with no money.

JamesW (author)2009-04-12

Let me be the first to say, THIS WORKS FOR HIGH SCHOOL TOO. I've been sneaking into Visions and all sorts of special events and the like since I started high school (senior now). The best time ever was when I jumped on the "Accelerated Reading" reward trip, went to Memphis, we ate (all expenses paid!) at Burger King, but that's another story. Moral of my dithering rant is - FREE FOOD IS EVERYWHERE. And, air-sealed dumpsterdived food is top-notch stuff.

nobody394 (author)2009-04-06

I live in fort collins and wow that sounds like the greatest idea i've ever heard i'm totally going to have to do this all through college just to scrape by. great instructable.

sepedigo (author)2009-03-29

I go to CU Boulder. Seems like I need to get in on this free food.

Toulouse (author)2009-01-01

This. is. awesome. I will have to try this.... have noticed the catering flowing around my school, but haven't investigated into it too much... Will do! thank you!

AidanG (author)2008-10-23

This is hilarious - I'm a CU grad (still in Boulder!), from the Religious Studies dept. :) Small world!

collard41 (author)2008-10-16

by the way you spelt Religious Studies wrong in the intro. good instructable and I cant wait to try that some day.

shooby (author)collard412008-10-16

Haha yeah, and Hillel is Jewish, not Christian. Someone didn't take religious studies did they? Good man.

DanAdamKOF (author)shooby2008-10-18

Yeah that's what I was gonna say. LOL I'm actually in Hillel Dallas, and yes they indeed treat you well :)

Weissensteinburg (author)2008-10-16

Jesus is delicious =]

ve2vfd (author)2008-10-16

Less money on food, more for beer? :) It is a pretty good idea, specially since I've noticed that often half the food at catered school events gets wasted (I teach part time at the fire college here and at catered teachers meetings, half the food doesn't get eaten).

T3h_Muffinator (author)2008-10-16

Hehehe - I'm a freshman over @ MIT. I've been doing the same thing - but some of my predecessors have created a website that uses the campus's rss events feed and searches for keywords such as "refreshments", "food", etc. to find the food-ed events. You might want to try the same, if your university has such an "e-list" of upcoming events.

shooby (author)T3h_Muffinator2008-10-16

This is amazing

That looks awesome. I can't think of an e-list that would encompass everything, but maybe looking through multiple databases is a good idea. I'll get my CS friends on it.

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