Your 2021 Guide to Food Freebies
Tacos, Chinese food and chocolate cake are even tastier when on the house. Mark your calendar with these food holidays and know where to look for free and cheap eats all year.
What’s better than treating yourself? Treating yourself for free. And thanks to national food holidays and observances, you can do just that every month of the year. Some of these “holidays” are really a marketing strategy in disguise (hello, Cow Appreciation Day), but they’re still a fun way to get your favorite foods, and try new ones, on the cheap.
The pandemic has changed how some food chains and retailers offer deals on these holidays. Some postponed their promotions in 2020 while others found creative ways to give them. So, as with everything nowadays, check your specific restaurants and locations for all the details. Hint: To find the most up-to-date offers, as each holiday nears do a quick search online, using the holiday name and the word “deals.”
Here’s a look at all the ways you can score free and cheap eats in 2021. We’ve even thrown in a few deals on real holidays for you!
January 1-31: If you’re filling your gas tank at one of the 600+ Sheetz locations, step into the convenience store and fill up a cup with fresh-brewed java if you have their app or a MySheetz card. MySheetz cardholders can stop in for one free self-serve coffee every week in January.
January 15: National Bagel Day
Carb fans rejoice. Bagel chains across the country are offering a little extra something with your purchase starting on this day and going through the rest of January. Bruegger’s Bagels is giving away a free bagel with cream cheese, while customers of Einstein Bros. Bagels and Noah’s New York Bagels can score a free egg sandwich. To get your freebie, you must make a purchase through the company’s mobile app.
January 19: National Popcorn Day
Need an incentive to get back in the theaters? Showcase Cinemas is giving all ticket holders one free small popcorn on this day. And Cinemark is offering discounted large popcorn and a chance to win a year of free popcorn.
January 31: National Hot Chocolate Day
What’s better than a warm cup of cocoa on a cold winter’s day? A free one! While they haven’t confirmed they’ll do this in 2021 yet, Dylan’s Candy Bar has offered buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) hot chocolate on this day in previous years.
February 6: National Frozen Yogurt Day
Perhaps the timing of this holiday is meant to help with those New Year's resolutions. In any case, frozen yogurt fans can usually scoop up the sweet treat for free at chains like TCBY, sweetFrog and Yogurtland.
February 9: National Pizza Day
Wherever you buy pizza, you’re likely to find a deal on this day. Pizza chains typically run discounts and promotions, so be sure to check with your favorite pizza place. This year, Showcase Cinemas is joining in with half-price pizza all day (at all locations except SuperLux). You don’t even have to see a movie!
February 12: Chinese New Year
Bring in the Year of the Ox with promotions from Panda Express, Manchu Wok and other Chinese and Asian food chains. In years past, customers have scored free food, merchandise and even trips.
February 14: Valentine’s Day
BOGO deals abound on this day, so bring your boo, bestie and anyone you love along with you. Previous years’ deals include BOGO drinks from Starbucks and BOGO heart-shaped pretzels from Auntie Anne’s.
TBD: IHOP National Pancake Day
Each year, the breakfast chain partners with various charities for this fundraising event. Dine-in guests can get a free short stack of pancakes and are encouraged, but not required, to contribute to one of the selected organizations. You donate to a charity, and IHOP gives you free food. It’s a win-win for everyone.
March 14: International Pi Day
In honor of the mathematical constant, you can feast on all types of pies on this day, many reduced to $3.14. Papa John’s, 7-Eleven and Pieology usually provide deals on Pi Day. Even Boston Market has joined in, offering discounted chicken pot pies.
April 2: National Burrito Day
Many chain restaurants such as Chipotle, El Pollo Loco and Del Taco offer free or discounted burritos and other menu items on this day.
April 22: Earth Day
What better day to eat a little healthier? In previous years, many restaurants like BurgerFi and Farm Burger offered deals on their veggie burgers and other items.
April 26: National Pretzel Day
Look for sweat deals from Auntie Anne’s on this day. In addition to rewarding its loyalty program members with a free treat (with purchase), in 2020 the company gave out over 25,000 free pretzels to frontline workers. Also, look out for promotions from Wetzel’s Pretzels and Philly Pretzel Factory, who have both given away pretzels on this day.
(TBD): Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day
Ben & Jerry’s gives out free cones once a year at its retail locations. The pandemic caused them to postpone last year’s event, but they plan to reschedule it, so be on the lookout for this year’s date.
May 2: Carvel National Cone Day
In honor of its birthday, the ice cream chain usually sells discounted soft-serve cones on this day.
May 5: Cinco de Mayo
On this holiday, look for free menu items and giveaways from your favorite Mexican chains, including Chipotle, Baja Fresh and Moe’s Southwest Grill. Also, expect delivery promotions from food delivery apps and services.
May 28: National Burger Day
May is National Hamburger Month and it wraps up with this special day. Burger King, Chili’s, Smashburger and other fast-food places typically offer discounted meals. As if we need a holiday to enjoy a burger!
June 4: National Donut Day
Krispy Kreme usually goes big on this day. One year they committed to giving away one million donuts. And last year, they extended the holiday to National Donut Week. Look for freebies and deals from Dunkin’ and other donut shops.
June 4: National Cheese Day
It turns out you’ll be able to score free donuts and your favorite cheesy foods on the same day this year. Restaurants like Jack in the Box, Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta and others usually offer freebies and deals.
July 6: National Fried Chicken Day
Look for deals from Popeyes, Church’s Chicken, KFC and other chains that usually celebrate this day with promotions.
TBD: Cow Appreciation Day
This holiday is courtesy of Chick-fil-A, which gives free entrees to customers dressed up like a cow.
July 11: 7-Eleven Day
Slurpee fans look forward to this day every year. To celebrate its birthday, the convenience store chain gives customers free Slurpees. In 2020, the chain altered the giveaway (to help maintain social distancing) by delivering the freebie via their app to its loyalty program members.
July 18: National Ice Cream Day
July is National Ice Cream Month, so look for deals all month long. But expect them to be especially sweet on this day. Baskin-Robbins, Carvel, Dairy Queen, Cold Stone Creamery and Friendly’s usually offer deals on the cold treat. Even Sensodyne, the sensitive toothpaste brand, has given out free ice cream on this day ... I guess to prove their product really does work.
TBD: National Hot Dog Day
July is also National Hot Dog Month, but on this day hot dog lovers can score free and cheap eats at multiple food chains. At Nathan’s Famous, customers will likely be able to grab 5-cent hot dogs as they have in the past. Additionally, Sonic and 7-Eleven usually offer deeply discounted deals.
August 4: National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day
Perhaps the most delicious holiday on the calendar, cookie fans can expect discounts on this treat at Mrs. Fields, Insomnia Cookies and Max & Erma’s. In previous years, Entenmann's has given away over 10,000 boxes of their soft-baked cookies.
August 6: National Root Beer Float Day
Score a free small root beer float at local A&W locations.
August 24: National Waffle Day
Look for deals from Huddle House, IHOP and other breakfast chains.
September 5: National Cheese Pizza Day
Not to be confused with regular National Pizza Day, this day celebrates the cheese variety specifically. Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Little Caesars and more all offer deals and promotions on one of America's favorite foods.
September 18: National Cheeseburger Day
Yay, another day to enjoy burgers! Applebee’s, Burger King, Denny’s and other restaurants usually offer promotions and discounts on this day.
September 29: National Coffee Day
Deals abound on this day from Starbucks, Circle K, Dunkin’, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and wherever you like to get your brew. Also, look for discounts at the supermarket from your favorite brands.
October 4: National Taco Day
You’ll find tons of deals from your favorite taco chains. Last year Taco Bell gave out more than 10,000 tacos.
October 28: National Chocolate Day
Chocolate lovers rejoice! Look out for deals from your favorite restaurants and chocolate retailers. For example, in years past Jack in the Box customers enjoyed free chocolate cake with any purchase.
November 3: National Sandwich Day
Take advantage of deals at your favorite sandwich place. Subway and Jimmy John’s all run promotions on this day.
November 11: Veterans Day
Many cafes and restaurants offer free meals and promotions to active military members and veterans. Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’ and Outback Steakhouse are just a few.
November 16: National Fast-Food Day
There’s no shortage of deals on this day. Score free items from your favorite fast-food chains, such as Arby’s, Burger King, Subway and more.
November 26: Black Friday
Fuel your shopping with some free or cheap food. Many food chains, including Jack in the Box, Del Taco and McAlister’s Deli, run deals for hungry shoppers.
December 4: National Cookie Day
A second day to score free cookies — yay! Look for deals from your favorite cookie stores, including Insomnia Cookies who usually gives each customer one free cookie.
December 12: Day of the Dozens
Krispy Kreme has declared 12/12 the Day of the Dozens ... get it? If you missed it last year, mark your calendars for 2021. Customers who buy one dozen donuts can score a dozen glazed donuts for only $1.
December 25: Christmas Day
If you’re out and about on Christmas Day, head to Cumberland Farms, where customers can get a free coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
December 30: National Bacon Day
Bacon lovers, head to your favorite burger place. Many offer discounted meals or free bacon on your burgers.
December 31: New Year’s Eve
End the year the way you began it with a free drink at Cumberland Farms. Once again, the chain will offer complimentary coffee, tea and hot chocolate starting New Years’ Eve afternoon and ending early morning New Year’s Day.