Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Got Free Lunch?

We all know the old saying, "There's no such thing as a free lunch", right? Well, I am here to tell you that this, and potentially many other colloquialisms your grandparents threw at you, are in fact 100% false. Some caveats apply here as I am not simply advocating you start beating up school kids for lunch money and am certainly against the practice of dine and dash. First, with my method your proximity to a college campus and other large public building is critical to success. Secondly, while these lunches can be yours 100% free, depending on how your moral compass is calibrated, you may need to invest some of your time in order to secure these glorious free lunches.

So, how does this work you must be asking yourself? Good question, you brilliant reader of our blog. Here's how. On college campuses across America every single day, student organizations, research programs, professors and other related groups are constantly trying to promote their research, agendas and ideas to interested parties. Typically (but not always), these take the form of lunch talks, where someone pontificates in front of a supposedly interested audience about whatever topic gets their motor running and your attendance is bought with promises of free lunch. It's a sound strategy since it's a well known fact that college students are constantly starving and will do anything for free food, including listen to your lecture.

This is where I have taken things to a whole new level. Instead of simply participating in the unstated quid pro quo of free food for lecture attendance, I have begun to game the system. If all you seek is a free meal, then listen up and here is how you can eat like a king with no monetary and minimal time investment.

Phase One: Acquire Targets
First, find the nearest colleges, universities, or public libraries to where you'll generally be during lunch time as this will (literally!) be your feeding ground. All of these places have well publicized events calendars which will give you a road map to all your free food options (for example here is the Harvard Law School event calendar). Looking at today's calendar, there were 4 different events starting at 12pm and this brings us to phase two.

Phase Two: Don't Settle for Hamburger When You Could Have Steak
On almost any given weekday, there will be competing lunch events trying to lure in hungry and potentially engaged audience members. Use this to your dining advantage and make it a point of showing up 10-15 minutes early for these events to scout the food. That is generally when they'll have things delivered anyway to ensure the event can run on time. If door number one is pizza yet again, door number two may be burritos, or door number three may be something even better, like catered BBQ. Never settle for uninspiring free lunch food if you don't have to. You could also choose to differentiate competing lunches by topic of interest, but I already said we weren't sticking around to hear the lecture, so who cares what the topics are?

Phase Three: Attack and Disperse
Once you've selected the food spread you'll be pillaging, make sure to load up your plate with enough food to satisfy your appetite, but not so much as to draw undue attention to yourself. Nothing will draw the ire of event planners more than someone being overly greedy with the food, especially before the event even starts, and that makes the anonymous exit a lot more difficult. Be reasonable, be decisive and then head to the back of the room with your haul. After you've gotten your food, just pause for a second to make sure no one is trying to engage you in conversation or get you to sign up for their damn e-mail list and quietly slip out the door to enjoy your lunch in peace.

You have now successfully had your pick of free lunches and if you've outlined your battle plan properly and executed the phases perfectly the whole operation should take 10 minutes or less.

Pro Level Tip:
If you are still hungry or just want to stock up on non-perishable items that may have been present, circle back to the event right after it's scheduled to end. If you are lucky, there will be some leftovers and you can scoop those up to bring with you to stockpile. My drawer full of potato chips and fridge full of sodas say hello!


  1. Thank you, thank you. Just an update: I am 3-3 this week in getting free lunches and also watched a very cool video series during one of them.