Guide to Eating for Free at Work
by Tom Schmidt
The idea of
writing a short guide on how to save money on
food at work came from a lunch time conversation
that I had with Brian one day. Brian
is a 22 year old employee at my company, fresh
from college. Like many young people, Brian is
struggling with balancing a budget on modest pay.
College loans, apartment rent and entertainment
costs have left Brian living from paycheck to
paycheck and saving very little along the way. He
confessed that he buys breakfast at our work
cafeteria and then also has his dinner in the
company cafeteria at noon so that he doesnt
have to cook a big meal at home. But in doing
this, he typically ends up spending $12 to $15
daily at work. This means that he spends $3000
to $3500 annually on meals just at work.
So I gave him
the following advice.
Brian, if you saved that money instead of
spending it on food, you could use it as a
contribution to a 401K retirement plan for
yourself. Doing that over a 40 year career
would allow you to accumulate around $500,000 by
age 62 (assuming a 6% annual return). Sweet
reply came quickly.
but thats impossible to do. I mean,
like I have to eat.
And that is
where this guide comes into play. As you will see,
there are ways that anyone can eat for free at
work if he or she uses some smart planning during
their work day. So what follows is the
Tom Schmidt Guide to Eating for Free at
There is always free food available at work.
I work in a 3 story building in upstate New York.
In my work place, I know of 14 different areas of
our building where free food can often be found. Seriously. 14
different areas. Some of these areas are
break rooms where left over celebration
foods get placed (food left over from various
company team celebrations). Other areas are
personal offices where people have snacks
available on a regular basis. So its
important to know where these food sources are
and when the food often becomes available. Making
a map of your building is a good idea for how to
keep these areas in mind as you search for free
Learn to use scouts in order to stay
aware of when free food is put out.
My building is 517 feet long and has 3 floors. So
watching all 14 food areas for free food is
impossible to do alone. This is where scouts
come in. Partner with people working in the
various areas of your building so that they can
notify you whenever free food becomes available.
Calls to your cell phone or instant messages sent
to your laptop computer are great ways to get
notified of free food occurrences. Just one
warning. If you use your laptop computer to give
project presentations to management, disable the
instant messenger system whenever giving your
presentations or you could be embarrassed when a
message like Dude, cupcakes in the 1st
floor break room comes up during your
Adjust your thinking about the 5 major food
Yes, American education teaches us that the 5
major food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains,
meat and dairy products. But be creative. There
is no reason why your 5 food groups cant be
pretzels, peanuts, chocolate, Twizzlers and
Make friends with all the women in your company.
It doesnt matter if you are a gay man. Make
friends with the women. This isnt about
trying to score a date with Cindy. Its
about getting access to free food. And women
are notorious for being the ones to bring in free
food for birthdays or other social events. Being
friends with the women gives you increased access
to the food. So learn how to discuss make-up,
fashion, chick flicks, and those obnoxious
reality TV shows. It will help with access to
Whenever possible, take on projects being led by
someone who is food supplier.
This one is simple. Doing work for someone who
regularly has food in his or her office is
another no brainer. Lisa in my
company supervises a group that creates software
math for our products. So taking on a project to
update some of the software was an instant
success for me. Gee, you work so hard Tom.
Want some Twizzlers? Damn straight I
want those Twizzlers. Now if I could only
figure out how to get entire bag instead of just
a handful. Still working on that.
Take advantage of team celebrations, even if you
are not a member of the team.
Another no brainer. Team celebrations can be
a gold mine for free food and drink. Dont
pass these up. If possible, find a way to
justify crashing the event. Tell them I did
the early feasibility work on SNP neuroplasticity
that corrected the insular data analysis problems
with the project. They will have no idea
what the hell you just said and will probably be
too embarrassed to ask you about it. Techno-babble
is a great way to get access to free food.
And last of all, dont pass up off site
Social events at the local bar, pub or tavern are
another way to get free food and even free drinks.
To do this, show up fashionably late and put on a
look of distress. Tell the people there that
you had the proverbial week from hell
and are all stressed out. Because
people are sympathetic, they will offer you some
of the chicken wings the group bought and may
even buy you a sympathy beer. Trust me, sympathy
beers taste better than the ones you buy yourself.
So dont go home and drink milk. Instead
milk things as best you can at these
So as you can
see, there are many ways to score free food while
at work or work functions. Take the money
you save using these techniques and contribute
the savings to your 401K retirement plan. And
watch that all that saved money grow and grow