You’ll be familiar with the saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But it would seem that this isn’t strictly true. A TikTok influencer called Noah Wille has revealed how he gets free food every single day of the year. Though while his hack is no doubt clever, it does involve a degree of deception.
Wille has some 89,000 followers and five million likes on his profile at the time of writing. So it would be fair to say that he is somewhat of a TikTok influencer. And a quick scan through his videos on the social-media platform reveals the teen is usually all about creating hilarious content for his fans. But in September 2020 he went viral for an altogether different reason.
In late August 2020 Wille posted a video to TikTok called “Free food year-round.” That said, the influencer added a disclaimer before revealing his so-called “life-hack.” Because while his trick was effective in feeding him 365 days of the year, it was also ethically questionable – to say the least.
So before revealing how he got free food all year-round, Wille tells his viewers on TikTok that his trick is a “life hack that’s also kind of terrible.” He continues, “I get free food or dessert from a restaurant every single day.” It seems that Wille isn’t exactly proud of his feat, yet he does add that it was “well worth it.”
It would seem – with a little knowhow anyway – that getting free food isn’t as hard as you might have thought. That’s because there are a whole bunch of ways to fill your stomach without emptying the contents of your wallet. And all you need is a few tricks up your hungry little sleeves.
One age-old way of eating for free is to forage the land around us. Yes, nature can truly become your pantry once you’ve mastered sorting which foods are edible from those you should avoid. That’s because there’s food growing wild all around us – from fruit and vegetables to fungi and nuts.
In the past, foraging was key to our species’ survival. But the practice was mostly abandoned after grocery stores made sourcing our food much easier. That’s being said, gathering ingredients from the wild has seen a resurgence in recent years. And this is partly due to an increasing desire to reconnect with what we eat.
There are, in fact, a number of organizations across the country offering wild-food tours to show you the ropes. Even in the most urban of environments, it’s possible to cash in on the trend. You can even go foraging in places like New York’s Central Park, for instance.
If nature’s not your thing but you like the idea of gathering food with your own hands, you could always try freeganism. The name “freegan” appears to have been coined in the mid-1990s by blending the words “free” and “vegan.” At first, it was used to describe people who would only eat meat if it was destined for the trash. But the term is used much more broadly today.
These days, freeganism refers to a wider movement. It rejects consumerism by scavenging not only food but often clothes, furniture and other household items for free by turning trash into treasure. In simple terms, they are seasoned dumpster divers. And those most dedicated to the cause will even have sussed out which dumpsters to visit on any given day.
Though before you sign up, it’s worth bearing in mind that the legality of freeganism is somewhat unclear. It’s against the law to venture beyond “no trespassing,” though a 1988 Supreme Court ruling gave tacit approval to the practice. That being said, some cities have their own anti-scavenging laws – meaning people can be fined for dumpster diving.
Though if skirting the law isn’t your thing, you could always source cheap food the traditional way – by growing your own. Sure, establishing your own veg patch will no doubt require some investment at first. But you could continually reap what you sow after that. After all, if you plant perennials, they will continue to bear fruits – so to speak – every year.
Even if you’re not the most green-fingered person, you could still enjoy free, locally grown food by joining the Gardeners’ Network. Growers will often produce more crops than they could possibly use on their own. And some are regularly on the lookout for people to share their harvest with.
But vegetable patches and gardens aren’t the only places to find freebies. In order to win over customers, grocery stores and food brands also hand out food for free – often in return for coupons. Traditionally, these were little paper cut-outs that were exchanged in person. Yet they can also take the form of discount codes found online.
Another way to score free food at the supermarket is to eat as you browse. That’s because many stores offer customers free tasters of various products. Take advantage of these by stopping at every sample station and all of a sudden you’ve turned the store into a bountiful buffet table. You might even be able to skip a meal if you fill your boots enough.
There are, of course, more official ways to get your hands on free food. For instance, you could sign up to become a mystery shopper. There are several websites that let you sign up to do this job, which will see you paid to pose as a customer at a restaurant and eat for free in the process. In return, all you need to do is report back on the service you experienced.
Alternatively, you could sign yourself up for a consumer test panel. This involves trying out samples from food manafacturers before they become available in supermarkets. Often, you’ll get full-sized freebies to try, as well as a gift card or money in exchange for your thoughts on the product.
Another way to receive free food is to win it. One way of doing this is to enter food sweepstakes which boast groceries, candy or restaurant meals as a prize. A quick search online will through up tons of options, if you’re feeling lucky. You may have to enter a whole bunch before you win something. But for the sake of a few minutes of your day, it’s definitely worth a try.
You can also win food by filling out those little surveys you sometimes find lurking beneath the total on your restaurant receipts. Just by answering a few questions about your meal you could put yourself in the running to win a prize. For most eateries, as you might expect, these often take the form of food.
These days, you can even bag food for nothing without leaving the house. The internet is awash with offers of freebies, and there are websites which neatly gather all these in one place, so you don’t have to trawl search engines yourself. Just keep an eye on these key deal sights for any edible goods that are up for grabs.
But if the idea of getting something for nothing doesn’t sit well with you, why not offer your services in return for food? Depending on your skills, you could complete menial tasks for friends and family – such as D.I.Y. or fixing a car – in exchange for a homecooked meal or a freshly baked cake. And working for your spoils is bound to make them all the sweeter.
If you’re on the hunt for some new friends, you could kill two birds with one stone by combining social events with your quest to fill your belly for free. Many festivals and events include food for their guests. Even if it’s just hors d’oeuvres that are up for grabs, you can always go back for another round.
So even before TikTok sensation Noah Wille went viral with his own method of getting fed without exchanging a dime, it seems that there was plenty of food up for grabs if you knew where to look. But what seemingly made the self-professed content creator’s trick so intriguing is that it was a shameless as it was shrewd. Yet that didn’t stop Wille from sharing his hack with the world.
Wille proclaims in his August 2020 TikTok video that he has a “life hack that is also kind of terrible.” Revealing the trick in question, the influencer explains, “Once upon a time, I made this fake email account that I still use. I get free food or dessert from a restaurant every single day.”
Wille goes on to detail exactly how his free food hack works. He says, “I made this fake email and I found a list of a bunch of restaurants that offered birthday freebies.” But the real genius in the TikTok star’s hack lies with his organizational skills, which saw him assign a restaurant deal to each and every day of the year.
In his video, Wille reveals an Excel document filled with names of restaurants. Some popular eateries on his list include Chick-fil-A, Denny’s and Dairy Queen. The names each correspond to a date, and they seem to be placed in alphabetical order – kicking off with Applebees on January 1.
Wille explains how he’d placed the names of all the restaurants he found that offered free birthday food onto the spreadsheet before registering a different date of birth for each one. He reveals, “I put them all in here, and I put my birthday on each website for a different day of the year. So I have 365 days of free food.”
By scanning the Excel document, Wille then observes, “Tomorrow I have a free meal from Benihana’s.” He looks happy at that thought, but in the next instance, the influencer seems to have second thoughts about his sneaky plot. With that, Wille adds, “I really hope I’m not the only person who is crazy enough to do this.”
That thought seems to force Wille into reflecting on his devious trick. He acknowledges, “I’m really that person who went through and signed up for 365 different restaurant things with a different birthday for one so I could get free s***.” That being said, he admits that the hack was “well worth it.”
It didn’t take long for Wille’s free food hack video to take off on TikTok. At the time of writing, it has clocked up almost 250,000 likes and over 2,000 comments. And the reaction to the influencer’s controversial trick appeared to be varied online. Some wondered how he managed to pull the scheme off, while others just wanted access to his spreadsheet.
Naturally, those who thought Wille’s trick was nothing short of genius wanted all the details. One TikTok user urged, “Don’t be shy, drop the spreadsheet.” Another added, “I think I just fell in love.” Elsewhere, one more said of Wille, “Crazy? No. The future leader of the world? 100 percent.”
But there were also a flurry of commenters who questioned how Wille managed to pull his grand scheme off. One such user asked, “Don’t they ask to see your driver’s license?” Another person queried, “Who even knows 365 restaurants?” And someone else complained, “But why make a TikTok? Everyone else is going to do this now and they’re going to ban free birthday meals!”
Some were clearly quick to criticize Wille’s trick, but others pointed out that there was a specific group of people it could benefit in a major way. On this subject, one user commented to say, “This would be genius for homeless people, bro.” Seemingly in agreement, another person wrote, “This is so important for people who can’t afford food, this could help them get at least one meal a day!”
Even so, Wille faced his fair share of criticism after his free food hack went viral. Though there was at least one TikTok user who attempted to defend the influencer’s actions. They wrote, “It’s actually not that bad because every restaurant is anticipating on giving you one free birthday meal per year. You’re not getting more than promised.”
While the jury was clearly still out on Wille’s trick online, he later explained that he’d had a genuine reason for seeking out free food at first. It had to do with what he called “food security.” And while Wille was still only a teenager, it appeared that he knows more about the issue than most.
In September 2020 Wille told BuzzFeed, “A few years ago when I was in high school, I had started my own nonprofit organization to help the homeless community in central Iowa. We would fundraise tons of money and put together care packages to help them out for a few weeks.”
But in recent times, Wille had experienced a change in circumstances, which left him wondering where his next meal was coming from. He explained, “About two months ago, I moved out to Los Angeles without the support of my parents. And [I] ended up finding myself in a similar spot to many of the people I usually helped out with – lacking food security.”
Seemingly without anyone to turn to for help, in his new city, Wille had to get creative if he wanted to keep his hunger at bay. What’s more, he had to find a way to stay fed “without plunging [himself] into even more debt.” So the cheaper the food he could get his hands on, the better.
It was then that Wille’s birthday freebies scheme was born. The TikTok star told BuzzFeed, “One day, I woke up and the birthday scheme popped into my head. In total, I would say the spreadsheet took me about three weeks to make and sign up for everything, but in the end, the effort has been totally worth it.”
Clearly, Wille’s restaurant freebies trick won’t be for everyone, though it’s certainly helped to highlight the issue of food insecurity. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get your hands on free or cheap food if you know where to find it. What’s more, most of them won’t require you to fake your birthday 364 days of the year.