What I Ate (For Free) Wednesday

by Sarah on June 8, 2011 · 18 comments

Welcome to another edition of the blogger block party (blocker party?*) called What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by Miss Peas & Crayons every week. Today’s Smart Kitchen version celebrates my favorite kind of food: that which is FREE.
*Would this be a party for goalies? Or would we all gather and construct building block castles (only to knock them down, of course)? Either way, I’m singing “Jenny from the Block”, OK?As a blogger in Austin, I’ve been invited to a lot of incredible events (too many to even link to, here) and sampled an amazing assortment of free food. I also am lucky enough to receive freebies from the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program on occasion. But this is not about the free food you can score from being a blogger. This is about finding freebies for all people, regardless of blogger status or affiliation. [Hallelujah! Let freedom ring!]

So how do you achieve free food glory?
Follow me…I’ll be your Harriet Tubman, leading you to free-food-dom.*

*Disclaimer: I’m totally not making light of slavery. If you know me, you know that it is a subject matter about which I studied a ton and am very passionate about. Therefore, I make light of it in my metaphor, with the understanding that I’m not mocking anything about the institution or it’s history.

1. If you are invited to a backyard BBQ….go! Although any Southerner will tell you that you’ll have to contribute something (and remember, The Smart Kitchen Rules‘ Dinner Party/Potluck Clause: Bring what you would want to eat…if there isn’t a healthy dish available, it’s your own darn fault!) inevitably, you’ll end up with something perhaps more delicious than you could make yourself. For example, on Memorial Day, I took this Yellow Lentil Dip w/ Apricot & Chipotle [recipe to come, don’t worry]……I was fed like the queen that I am, with corn, grilled in its husk and slathered with melted herb butter…
…a delicious “Christmas in July”-style* fruit salad….

*Just made that up. But I like it.…GRILLED PINEAPPLE! [Can I please just say, “Oh…my…goll…”?]And, no lie, some of the best grilled chicken I’ve ever eaten. I was having a moment (or five) with this poultry for sure. I even turned into a food pimp and tried to get everyone to eat it instead of the burgers (which I’m told were also delicious).Here is the recipe for the marinade, straight from the chef’s mouth: “Soy sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger. To taste.” I don’t know how that made this magic…but magical it was. Paired with the pineapple? Um..hold on. I need to take a minute to close my eyes and remember.[Also, as a handy dandy grilling tip: Patrick flattened out the chicken breasts before marinating and grilling them, which I think made all the difference in even cooking and juiciness.]

From juicy breasts to tasty balls…let’s now move on to step #2 in finding free-food-dom:
2. Obtain roommates who either forget about, or like to give away, their food. I give away my baked goods (and occasionally a breakfast here or there), and in return, I often inherit free food. Remember I told you about those rice cakes my roommate left me when she left for Canada? Well, after I made the Peanut Butter Rice’Cake’Balls…I still had some left…so I took them..…and made Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cheese’Cake’ Balls! [Recipe to come. It’s easy. There’s cream cheese involved.]I also stumbled upon this yogurt, left behind and forgotten in the fridge:Turns out it made for a tasty little afternoon snack, topped with a mishmash of cereal……incuding this Safeway Eating Right brand of granola…also given to me by a roommate upon proclaiming it “too sweet.”Clearly I need to partake in Alex‘s Sugar-Free Challenge…as it seemed just fine to me. :)

Speaking of cereal…

3. Take adavantage of coupons. Now, while this normally just gets you a discount, sometimes you can get things for free. Take Kashi‘s Smile Guarantee for example. Remember way back when, I tried the new Kashi Berry Blossoms cereal…and I wasn’t sure that I was all that impressed? Well, my opinion did end up changing, but not before I sent away for a refund on my cereal, according to Kashi‘s Smile Guarantee.So what did I use my free coupon for? Kashi‘s new Indigo Morning.If you’re wondering why you’ve never seen it before, that’s because it’s only available at Whole Foods, with proceeds benefiting the Whole Planet foundation.It’s hard to describe. The cereal itself is a flake, but with the texture of a Honey Smack, yet a WHOLE lot less sweet. There is a berry-free version available, and at first, I thought they’d mixed up the labels on my box…as I couldn’t find a berry.The cereal is OK for snacking, but I’m not sure I’d buy it again. [Ironically, I like the Berry Blossoms better, my general uneasiness over which was the reason I was able to try this–very expensive–box of cereal at all!]It wasn’t until I was packing some to bring with my on the plane to Pennsylvania this week that I found a bite-sized berry!

[Oh Mr. Goldfish…gotta love him.]

All this talk of berries brings me to my next idea on finding food freebies:

#4. Fly Southwest. They not only give you free snacks. They give you really FUN free snacks. This trip I scored a snack pack of Athenos Pita Chips…and the last time I flew Southwest, I walked off the plane with this: Nabisco Newtons Fruit Crisps.
I have been carrying them around ever since, until a snack craving compelled me to wait no longer. As I was at home, I shared with my little sister.
Conveniently packed as two separate crisps, they taste (and look) like a thin Pop-Tart, but at only 50 calories per bar.
As my sister said more eloquently than I, “If you’ve got a hankering for a Pop-Tart, this is a much better caloric bet.” [OK, she only said the word ‘hankering,’ and I filled in the rest.]

Also, flying Southwest is almost like being in a party in the sky. Seriously. Have you ever laughed big old belly laughs while flight attendants were telling you about potentially dying due to lack of oxygen or crash into the ocean?

That’s what I thought.

Southwest starts with S. So does Siggis. And now that I’ve told you how to get to Sesame Street, let’s move on to my next suggestion…

#5. Take advantage of expiration dates. Y’all thought I was good getting 25 cent Siggis last week? Try getting these FOR FREE. It pays to check expiration dates…and catch them on their last day of “sell by.” They were still thick and delicious. And this is my favorite flavor. For which I will NEVER pay full price.

I will also never pay full price for rosemary. Or pay for it at all. Why? Because I’ve learned the next lesson:

#6. Profit from prolific plantings. Does it matter that I had nothing to do with planting these giant rosemary bushes in our front yard?

No, no it does not. But me and my Rosemary & Bleu Cheese Watermelon thank you.*
*You being my landlord.

Lucky me, I’ll be rolling in the free food for months (perhaps years) to come. Why? Well, when I cleaned out my snack drawer at school, I realized the last point on my How to Achieve Free-Food-Dom list:

#7. If free food is offered, take it. If you’re not hungry…save it.
That’s right, y’all…I accumulated all this without ever spending a single dime.
OK, the Z Bar and the two Pop-Secret 100 Calorie-Packs were brought from home.
But the rest? Slowly accumulated at faculty meetings and new teacher meetings and TAKS testing break rooms.
Hey, I thought I might get hungry later.