It’s dinnertime on a Sunday night, and you’re racking your brain, trying to figure out what to eat. Your refrigerator is virtually empty, and your snack stock is at an all-time low. You could order in from Postmates, but you’ve already done that three times this week. You could go to the grocery store, but the idea of shelling out what little money is left in your bank account on organic, locally-sourced produce and over-priced off-brand cereal from Whole Foods seems less than ideal, even if you save a few cents by bringing your own reusable bag (which, let’s be honest, is unlikely). Instead, you turn to the one constant in college students’ lives that never disappoints: free food. The only question that remains is where you’ll find it.
1. Dorm Munchies
Anyone who has lived in a dorm is all too familiar with the many luxuries that come with the cost of room and board: hair in the showers, thin walls that allow you to eavesdrop on your neighbors’ conversations and a janky, ramen-scented microwave in the floor lounge. But dorm munchies make all of the quirks of residential life worthwhile. Some dorms have them every week and others on more sporadic occasions. When they come around, be prepared to see a horde of students swarming around a pile of free Andy’s custard as if they were fighting for supplies in the Hunger Games Cornucopia. If you live in a dorm, getting munchies is an easy, convenient way to score free snacks. Make sure to get there early, though, so you can beat the line. But if you don’t live on campus anymore, pretend that you do. Arrive a few minutes late, in the midst of the chaos. No one will even notice as you join the pack of hungry freshman struggling to grab a free plate of Joy Yee’s fried rice.
2. Free Food at NU Hillel
You don’t have to be Jewish to eat your fill of free bagels and lox, courtesy of NU Hillel. Just fill in your name and number in this form, and you’ll get a text whenever there’s food up for grabs at Hillel. Started in the fall of 2015, the group text is updated by Hillel’s Program Associate Ben Varhula and former Hillel Executive Board Communications Co-Chair Lauren Kandell. “We have a lot of programs at Hillel that involve free food,” Varhula said. “We were excited to have people know, because we always had leftover food that we had to end up throwing away, but now I don’t think that ever happens anymore.”
3. Hang out at Norris Closing Hours
Afters hours of meetings and homework in Norris, there’s no better way to end the day than with some free stale danishes and lukewarm pizza. The key is to stay at the student center late enough that you can catch the dining establishments just at they’re closing. If you put on your best pair of stressed, tired puppy dog eyes and linger by the counter at Starbucks or North Shore Pizza Company, you might just luck out. Communication sophomore Adam Brody said he’s been offered leftover food from Starbucks a few times. “Once they gave me two cake pops when they were closing up,” he said. “But I don’t think they’re supposed to do that; it was sort of under the table.”
4. Join a Northwestern Dining Focus Group
It’s no secret that dining hall cuisine isn’t quite Michelin star quality. But Northwestern Dining is doing its part to make its food a little bit more palatable, and they’re calling on students for help. In the next few weeks, Northwestern Dining will be hosting multiple sessions in dining halls and at Norris where up to 10 students can eat a free meal and give feedback on meal plan choices, food offerings and the overall dining experience at NU. Reserve your spot here.
5. Make Friends
It’s good to know people in high places. Clubs and Greek organizations are always selling food around campus, either at the Rock, the Arch or in front of Kellogg and Tech. But why would you pay five dollars to benefit philanthropy when you can get a mediocre store-bought cupcake for free? Promise you’ll Venmo them back as soon as you get a chance. And then conveniently forget the conversation ever happened…