Cheap and Free Food on National Food Days

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I had never heard of a food holiday with free food. That was until one year I wrote a piece on National Coffee Day, and my blog blew up.

National Coffee Day is a national food day occurring each September. I knew I’d struck a nerve with that story. 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.
national food days free cheap

Why cover free food on National Food Holidays

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.

Now onto the food holidays and days of the year when you can get free or cheap food or drink. I hope you enjoy these national day freebies.

JANUARY 

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.

Spaghetti twirled on a fork

FEBRUARY

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

There’s a lot of free food–and drink–to be had on Valentine’s Day. First, Krispy Kreme often offers up some sort of free offer for Valentine’s Day. Next, I’ve heard that Southwest Airlines, the “LUV” airline, gives out free drinks. Finally, you might be able to get a free glass of champagne or wine via the cash back app Ibotta.

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 like Caribou Coffee, McDonald’s and Subway offered free food. 

MARCH

free food holiday
The food holiday happening each year on the first day of spring is Free Rita’s Water Ice.

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!

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!

APRIL

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 happens in April. Look for free pretzel offers from companies with pretzel in their name–Pretzelmaker, Philly Pretzel Factory, etc.

MAY

Teacher Appreciation 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.

Here’s my article on clever teacher gift ideas. 

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.

Also, Ibotta, the cash-back shopping app, often has free beer or wine offers on national holidays. Most recently, mom could get a free mimosa on Mother’s Day via Ibotta. If you use this link to sign up for Ibotta, you can get up to $20 cash back just for downloading the app.

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. In 2020 doesn’t it feel like every day was National Nurses Week?

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.

JUNE

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. You might even be able to get cash back on your doughnuts via Ibotta, the cash back app

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? 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. Dad can often use the cash back app Ibotta to get a free beer on Father’s Day.

Here are the restaurants that will give you freebies for your wedding anniversary.

JULY

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!

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.

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!

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.

AUGUST

It’s National Lemonade Day

This past year 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. 

smores marshmallows peapod

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.

SEPTEMBER

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. 

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.

National Cheeseburger Day

National Cheeseburger Day is September 18.

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.

A few years ago, Long John Silver’s restaurants joined in on this food holiday. They were 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 have thrown in free food, too.

save money free coffeeHere are some ways you can save on your coffee on National Coffee Day and any other day of the year:

First, invest in a reusable, refillable coffee pod for your Keurig machine

Or, bring a reusable cup with you to the coffee shop; many places give you a dime or more off your cup of coffee

Finally, purchase gift cards at a discount to use at chain restaurants and retailers

Here are places you can go for freebies on your birthday.

OCTOBER

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. Again, the cash back app Ibotta might help you get cookies for free. 

National Pizza Month

Did you know that the most popular day for families to order pizza is Halloween? So, 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. So for local deals I would recommend checking out Groupon or Restaurant.com. Keep in mind that the last one lets you buy gift cards at a discount.

Hand serving a slice of pizza

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.

FYI, you can buy Olive Garden gift cards at a discount via its parent company Darden.

NOVEMBER

Election Day

Usually during a presidential election year, you can score free food on Election Day. During past presidential election years, you could score free guacamole, free coffee and free donuts.

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. In many instances, that worked out to be a free lunch to thank you for your service!

Veteran saluting the flag.
Marine Veteran Saluting at Memorial Day Ceremony

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.

DECEMBER

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.

Plate of holiday cookies

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.

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