I had never heard of a food holiday with free food. That was until one year I wrote a piece on National Coffee Day for Parade Magazine. National Coffee Day is a national food day occurring each September. I knew I’d struck a nerve with that story. My editor told me that more than 150,000 people visited the online version of that story in a single day.
Ever since then I’ve been keeping track of food holidays throughout the year. I’ve also covered national holidays that dovetailed with free food offers, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Veterans Day.
Up until now I would write a single post for each holiday, each year. That’s a lot of posts. But I’ve decided to compile all of the food holidays into this single post. This way I can update it as the holidays come around and better deals get announced. This saves you from searching all over for information on the latest food holiday. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve organized holidays by month.
- New Year’s Day: Many people are known to stay up late on December 31. That’s likely why coffee shops often offer free coffee on New Year’s Day. Be sure to look out for those deals before you ring in the New Year. Rumor has it that if you’re flying on Southwest Airlines on New Year’s Day, you can ask–and get–a free drink.
- National Spaghetti Day: Italian restaurants are usually the ones offering free food for National Spaghetti Day. For example, Spaghetti Warehouse celebrated with Sunday dinner.
- National Pancake Day: Look for free pancake deals at pancake restaurants on National Pancake Day. In the past it has been a free short stack when you buy a short stack–something like that.
- Valentine’s Day: Krispy Kreme often offers up some sort of free offer for Valentine’s Day. And Southwest Airlines, the “LUV” airline, gives out free drinks.
- National Bagel Day: Most bagel freebies are BOGO–buy one, get one free–offers.
- Groundhog Day: Some restaurants will give you free food on Groundhog Day. This happens if Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow. So it’s Phil’s fault if there are no freebies this year.
- Leap Day: Leap Day or February 29 happens only once every four years. On past Leap Days, restaurants Caribou Coffee, McDonald’s and Subway offered free food. Here are some of the freebies and deals for the 2016 Leap Year, which I covered for Parade Magazine.
- IHOP National Pancake Day: Even though National Pancake Day happens in February, the IHOP chain has created its own holiday. It is dedicated to this breakfast staple, with IHOP National Pancake Day this month. In addition to deals on pancakes, IHOP uses this food holiday to raise money for good causes.
- St. Patrick’s Day: It doesn’t just have to be green food that you can get for free on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve see free breakfast and fast food on St. Patrick’s Day. Sadly, though, never a free Shamrock Shake!
- First Day of Spring: Not a national food holidays, per se, but Rita’s Water Ice always gives away free Italian ice on the first day of spring!
- National Cheese Fondue Day: If you’re a fondue fan, then you’ll want to keep tabs on this holiday. Check out if the Melting Pot chain will be offering its free fondue deal on National Cheese Fondue Day. That day, by the way, is April 11.
- Tax Day, April 15: You can take a bit of the sting out of doing your taxes by taking advantage of tax day freebies. In the past you could get free food at California Tortilla and the Great American Cookies.
- Earth Day: Look for free cups of fair trade coffee at some of your favorite restaurants and retailers, for example. That’s because Earth Day freebies always have some sort of green angle to them.
- National Pretzel Day: I’m not sure what time of the year is ideal for eating pretzels, but National Pretzel Day happen in April. Look for free pretzel offers from companies with pretzel in their name–Pretzelmaker, Philly Pretzel Factory, etc.
- Teacher Appreciate Day: Educators get a day all to themselves at the beginning of May with lots of freebie offers. There’s usually free food at Chipotle. You can find lots of non-food freebies, such as free massages and other pampering services.
- Cinco de Mayo: Not surprisingly Mexican restaurants often end up having some sort of freebie for Cinco de Mayo. In recent years I’ve heard about cinco free deals at Moe’s, Taco Bell, Chili’s, Baja Fresh and On the Border.
- National Pet Month: Sometimes retailers that cater to pet owners will give free food to your pet when you visit on a certain day. Something to keep in mind if you’re heading out to PetSmart or Petco this month.
- Mother’s Day: Many restaurants will pick up part of the tab of taking mom out to eat on Mother’s Day–the most popular day of the year to eat out! In the past restaurants treated mom to a free dessert. If mom happens to be flying on Mother’s Day, Southwest Airlines will give her a free drink.
- National Nurses Week: Nurses deserve way more recognition than they probably get in the medical profession. Once a year, during National Nurses Week, restaurants show their appreciation by giving away free food and free drink to nurses.
- National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day: DoubleTree By Hilton Hotels has really made a name for its brand with chocolate chips cookies. That’s because guests get them for free when they check in. On National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, don’t be surprised if DoubleTree employees surprise you on the street or in the airport with free cookies. (Note: in 2016 DoubleTree is also celebrating this holiday in August.)
- Memorial Day: Twice a year restaurants roll out freebies for veterans and military members. These happen on Memorial Day weekend and Veteran’s Day in November. Usually, these freebies are a free appetizer or free entree.
- Frozen Yogurt Day: Last year on June 4, Frozen Yogurt Day, Orange Leaf Yogurt had an awesome coupon on its Facebook page for a fro-yo BOGO. (Some companies have Frozen Yogurt Day in February, too–BRRR!!!!)
- National Doughnut Day: June 5 is National Doughnut Day. Every year someone is giving away free donuts. This past year I found free donut offers at Cumberland Farms, Krispy Kreme, and Dunkin Donuts. Even doughnut manufacturer and brand Entenmann’s had a freebie.
- National Dairy Month: June is National Dairy Month. This is when you’ll likely find deals at the supermarket on all kinds of dairy products. Want to save even more? Add in coupons from your Sunday paper (or online at Coupons.com). And don’t forget to use the free Ibotta app. I’ve gotten cash back for buying milk.
- Father’s Day: Manly restaurants, if you will, usually have some sort of free food offer for dad on Father’s Day. Some of those with freebies in the past include Smoky Bones.
- 4th of July: If you don’t have any plans to head to someone’s house for a cookout–or you’re not hosting one yourself–you can check out 4th of July freebies. I’ve seen them at Outback Steakhouse and Pei Wei Asian cuisine.
- 7-11 Day: I’ll give you one guess when this food holiday falls. What company do you think founded it? Did you say 7-Eleven stores, on July 11, and a free Slurpee? Well, you’re right!
- Cow Appreciation Day: Chick Fil A created Cow Appreciation Day to get customers through the door. And if you show up at a location dressed as a cow, you get free food.
- Iced Tea Day: McAllister’s Deli celebrates Iced Tea Day in late July by giving away a free 32-ounce glass of McAllister’s Tea. That’s a big honking glass of iced tea!
- National Hot Dog Day: Also in late July is a day for the dogs–hot dogs, that is. In the past you could count on Sonic Drive-In and other restaurants known for their hot dogs to have a free food offer or a really cheap one, like the $1 hot dogs at Sonic in 2015.
- National Ice Cream Day: I know that one of the reasons that Baskin-Robbins likes to celebrate National Ice Cream Day on July 31 is that it plays into its 31 flavors brand. But other companies give away free ice cream, too, including Carvel and Friendly’s. Heck, even PetSmart gets into the act, offering free vanilla ice cream to dogs who visited a location with their human that day! Here are the free and cheap ice cream deals for #NationalIceCreamDay 2016, from my Parade Magazine article. Note: there is also National Ice Cream Cone Day, which Ben & Jerry’s celebrates in April and Haagen-Dazs celebrates in May, all with free ice cream.
- National Lemonade Day: This past year I did a story for Parade.com on where you could go for free lemonade on National Lemonade Day. There were six national chains participating, including Penn State East Coast Subs and Red Robin restaurants, plus a couple of hotel chains, too!
- National S’Mores Day: While there probably isn’t a restaurant known for its S’Mores, there are some brands that are and which celebrate on National S’Mores Day–including Jet Puff Marshmallows and Hershey Chocolate. So look for coupons in your Sunday paper (or online at Coupons.com) for ways to save on your favorite S’Mores supplies, possibly getting them for free.
- National Waffle Day: A wonderful way to get a free or cheap breakfast is to go out on National Waffle Day. I suggest heading to a restaurant with waffle in its name, such as Waffle House, which is likely to have some sort of offer to celebrate this delicious day.
- Back to School: Believe it or not, restaurants want to help families have an easier time with dinner during Back to School and often promote kids eat free offers. This is my Parade.com roundup on this topic for this year.
- Labor Day: In the past, besides going to a holiday BBQ, you could expect free food offers or insanely cheap prices from the likes of Baskin-Robbins and Firehouse Subs on Labor Day.
- Free Queso Day: If you took Spanish in school, then you know that queso means cheese in Spanish. And on Free Queso Day, you can expect restaurants that serve food con queso will have free offers, such as Moe’s Southwest Grill and On the Border.
- Talk Like a Pirate Day: Even though National Doughnut Day falls in June, you have an opportunity to get free doughnuts from Krispy Kreme on National Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19. Usually, saying something like, “Argh, matey” will get you a free donut whereas showing up at your local Krispy Kreme in full pirate regalia will net you a free dozen. In 2015 Long John Silver’s restaurants joined in on this food holiday, giving away free fish to customers who also decided to get their pirate on.
- National Coffee Day: Another big September food holiday is National Coffee Day. Every year you can find at least one restaurant or businesses that is giving away free coffee to celebrate. Some thrown in free food, too. Here’s my latest Parade magazine article on National Coffee Day 2015 deals–there are 11 in all.
- National Cookie Month: Even though chocolate chip cookies are celebrated with a special day in May, all kinds of cookies are the guests of honor this month. Look for free cookie giveaways at mall-located cookie shops and local bakeries–even at some online baked goods companies, too.
- National Pizza Month: Did you know that the most popular day for families to order pizza is Halloween? Considering October is National Pizza Month, that’s just perfect. I’ve found that when it comes to free pizza for National Pizza Month, it is usually local restaurants that jump on the freebie bandwagon, not the national chains.
- Halloween: So what’s Halloween doing as part of a food holiday roundup? Well, in addition to getting free candy from trick or treating, a handful of restaurants have free food offers on October 31 each year–usually kids eat free offers. Last year this included Olive Garden, Sbarro pizza and IHOP.
- Election Day: Usually during a presidential election year, you can score free food on Election Day. Back in 2012 there was free guacamole, free coffee and free donuts to be had. Watch out for what will be offered on Election Day 2016! (Here’s my piece for Parade.com on 11 Election Day freebies!)
- National Sandwich Day: The Earl of Sandwich gets his own holiday on November 3 each year, National Sandwich Day, and in return you get free sandwiches.
- Veteran’s Day: Usually each year current and retired military and veterans can eat for free in celebration of Veteran’s Day. Last year there were 19 places offering this deal, ranging from Applebee’s to Wayback Burger. You had to show military ID or come in uniform in order to take advantage of, what in many instances, worked out to be a free lunch to thank you for your service!
- Black Friday: Since Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November, if that fourth Thursday is really late in the month, Black Friday could be in December. But for as long as I can remember, it is usually in November. Anyhoo, when you head out on Black Friday to grab your deals, you might be able to grab free food, too. In the past IKEA and McDonald’s each offered free breakfast to hungry shoppers. And some stores gave Black Friday workers free coffee to get their (very long) day started.
- National Cookie Day: This food holiday in early December is overshadowed by National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. That food holidays is in May and August. With National Cookie Day happens in December, you may not see as many free food offers.
- National Maple Syrup Day: Food trucks often get in on this esoteric food holiday. With National Maple Syrup Day you expect freebies in Canada or Vermont. Last year it was celebrated big time, via food trucks, in New York City.