Do You Accept Free Food Even if You Do Not Want It?

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Free Food Sign

My friend’s son came home from the grocery store recently, and as they were unloading the groceries she saw a package of store-bought cookies. “What are these?” she said. “They were free,” he replied, “A lady gave me a coupon and I used it.”

That situation got me thinking about the phenomena of free food.

What is it about “free” that makes some of us accept or eat things we never would imagine eating?

I find myself in this situation all the time. It could be that I’m shopping at a store and someone hands me a sample or tries to force me to stop at their demonstration table. Or it might be during a social function and a friend or acquaintance is insisting I take home the rest of the dessert or leftover casserole. Whatever the situation, I’ve got to make a choice.

Sometimes I take the food at the social event just to make the whole encounter less awkward. (Because of my large family, people frequently  try to get me to take leftovers home.) I often get in the car and think, “Why could I not convince them that I really, really did not want this food?” I promise you, I am good at refusing food but there are times when the other person is more persistent than I am! At that point, their persistence becomes uncomfortable and I just take it.

When I get home, I toss it. (Unless it is something we would actually eat.)

My husband John says that he is tempted by the free sample foods that our local Sam’s Club puts out on Friday afternoons. He once told me that he almost feels badly refusing when those nice ladies hold out tempting treats to him as he walks by. He sometimes comes home feeling too full to eat much dinner because he sampled so many goodies.

Now, me? I don’t have one problem refusing the free food at Sam’s because I am a bit of a germ-a-phobe and don’t like to eat food if I don’t know who made it! I just smile politely and keep rolling my cart right on by.

I can understand the temptation to take leftovers home, accept high calorie food gifts from friends, or eat samples at the store. It’s hard to say no because so often the food appeals to you and it can be really hard (if not impossible) to tell friends “No, thanks.”

How do you handle unhealthy free food from friends? From stores? Keep it, toss it, or give it away? Diane

How do you handle free food in stores or from other people? Diane


  1. says

    OMG Diane, this reminds me of all the excuses I have used on people and situations. No Thank You sometimes doesn’t seem to be accepted so I find myself saying ” I have allergic reactions to certain foods”, “I am vegan” , “I don’t eat meat or dairy due to my religious beliefs” and a host of other things just to not sound like a “food prude” but hey it works and it protects my food choices. lol.

  2. Martha G says

    In the past I didn’t handle free food well at all….if it was free I needed it or at least wanted it. Those samples in Costco? Bring ’em on!
    Now I am much more aware of what I’m eating and whether or not I’m hungry. Truthfully those samples aren’t all that good so it’s not hard to pass them up. I will taste one if the sample is something I’m considering buying. But rarely do I overeat the free food.
    One place I used to have real problems with was the bowls of candy or cookies in stores…a little here and a little there all added up. Rarely do I have that now.
    Paying attention to hunger has made a big difference as does remembering that I can always have that food if I really want it.

  3. says

    My husband is so bad at Costco! Any free sample tables and he makes a beeline for them! Me, not so much. If someone tries pushing food on me at a social function, I usually say no thanks, but if they insist, I’ll take it home and toss it. Sometimes I think learning to throw food away is one of the best skills we can learn, even though we’re taught not to waste anything.
    Kyra recently posted…Sugar, SugarMy Profile

  4. says

    What a timely blog Diane! I got a coupon from my local grocery store for a free birthday cake this month (my birthday was the 1st). I just discovered it in my purse when I was cleaning it out a week or so ago. I wish I’d have thrown that coupon out, but I have a hard time turning down free food, even though it is food I should never ever eat. So yesterday I picked up that $13.99 free two-layer frosted white cake from the grocery store bakery, and brought it home for hubby and I. I know my grown son won’t help eat it and will actually be mad at me for bringing it into the house, since he too is “trying to reduce.” That is the phrase my Dad always used, so it’s what son and I say, “We’re trying to reduce.” I’m trying to get off about 25 lbs. I put on late last year, already dropped 7 pounds! My dad was highly successful weight loss maintainer, dropping close to 100 lbs. in his early 60’s and keeping it off until his death at 83. So both son and I try to emulate him. I found some old pictures yesterday, while cleaning out storage boxes, from a vacation my Dad & Mom took and there’s a shot of him on his rowing machine, behind their mobile home. Her took his rowing machine with him ON VACATION! I don’t know if I can emulate that or not.

    After bringing the cake home, I had a small piece last night. I have no idea how I am going to resist the rest of that darned cake now. I’d throw it away but that would upset hubby. I wish I could at least get it out of sight. Sometimes if I don’t see something, it helps me avoid eating it!

    Okay–that being said–I embrace the supermarket samples! I have no germ phobia, and have decided the samples are good way to get rid of my desire for some sweet or fat treat, only in a very small quantity. There’s no left-overs to tempt me and hopefully that one little bit will satisfy any cravings I might have. It works for me.
    Pam recently posted…Turning Back TimeMy Profile

  5. says

    Ahhhh, this is my NY resolution!

    I work at a school where 95% of the kids are on a free or reduced lunch program. So we get a TON of extra lunches because the school gets sent a certain amount, but some of these kids bring in their lunches from home.

    They’re not bad for you. They’re organic meals. But I just EAT them. Not because I didn’t bring a lunch of my own. Not because they look appetizing. But because they’re there. They’re extra. And they’re free.

    So this year, I’ve been telling myself, NO KIDS LUNCHES. I make a perfectly good lunch for myself every day. It’s been successful so far! :)
    Divya @ Eat. Teach. Blog. recently posted…Teacher Tuesday: Always LearningMy Profile

  6. says

    I’m one of those who always passes up the free samples at Sam’s and the grocery store – something about it kind of icks me out!!!
    And, when I worked in a school office, people were constantly bringing in stuff for us – I passed unless it was my favorite and I really was hungry. The sad thing at the holidays, I would get tons of baked stuff and most of it I ended up pitching out.
    Kim recently posted…Thank You, Friends!!!!My Profile

  7. says

    I experienced this at Christmas, when I was leaving my in-laws house. She had specially made a blueberry pie for me, as she knows it’s my favourite and I only eat it at Christmas. Last Christmas, I very easily finished off the whole pie, while this year, I had one slice, enjoyed it fully and then didn’t want anymore. When it was time to leave, I wouldn’t say she forced the leftover pie on me, but she made me feel VERY guilty about not wanting to take it. I ended up taking the pie with me, but threw it out when I got home. Whether that’s right or wrong, I felt like not hurting her feelings was a better way to deal with it. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

    I say all of that to say, I deal with this daily. As always, very thoughtful post Diane.
    Shannon recently posted…Double TroubleMy Profile

  8. Janis says

    I don’t accept it. If I’d wanted it, I’d have been willing to pay for it. I’ve had this issue more with other items than food, though — I still remember going into a Lush store and having one of their floor walkers unable to comprehend that I didn’t want a little lotion bar even if it was free! But it’s free! No, thank you. Free? No, thanks. But freeeeeeeeee … She was ridiculously persistent.

    Again, if I’d wanted it, I’d have been willing to pay for it. I left the store.

  9. says

    This used to be such a big problem for me. But now I’m in a place where if I don’t want it I don’t take it. There is one particular person in my life who is like 200 overweight and she’s the biggest problem. So I put my foot down. Either you respect my choices or I won’t be to any of your events. Simple.

  10. Sheila says

    I take the food then drive to where the homeless are. I would never throw food away, There are so many people out there that need the food.

  11. says

    I used to eat samples at grocery stores when I deemed them “healthy enough.” Then I made a conscious choice to say no to samples. It feels great to have a firm rule and not be tempted anymore. It’s extra food that can add up quickly, and there really is no need for it. Plus, too many different foods often gave me an upset stomach…
    Andrea@WellnessNotes recently posted…Weekly Meal Prep 101My Profile

  12. says

    What I hate is when I host a picnic or reunion at my house and people bring these huge containers of food and want to leave them with me when they depart. Sheesh, how am I supposed to process that much food? I can’t even get it all in my frig. Sometimes, they just slink away, without taking the left overs. My garbage can and compost heap are well fed on these occasions, but it makes me feel like not just a host to my family, but their garbage hauler, too.
    L recently posted…3 Fears I have for my FriendMy Profile

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