Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She lives happily in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.
How I Ate for Free on My Birthday
I had always heard that restaurants would give free food to people on their birthdays but didn't pay much attention to it because I usually wanted to go to restaurants that didn't offer anything free for a special birthday meal. But a few weeks ago, while researching an article for my blog about getting free food on your birthday, I decided to try an experiment.
My goal was to see if I could eat for free all day long on my birthday
You will have to read below to see if I accomplished my goal, and see pictures of what I had to eat. I had so much fun the whole day, and people in the restaurants were very nice about it.
In case you are thinking that I wasted gas going to a bunch of different restaurants all in one day, I planned ahead and didn't waste any gas at all. You see, not only am I a freelance writer, but I also sell items on eBay and have an eBay store. To keep enough product in my eBay store, I shop one day a week in thrift stores and Goodwill stores in my area. So, I planned to do my thrift store shopping for eBay on this day and combine it with free food. This was one of the most fun birthdays I have ever had! I love getting things for free. I also love going to thrift stores and hunting for treasures at good prices so combining these two adventures was great fun!
It is also important to note that I always drink water when I eat out because; a) it saves money and b) it's healthier for me than soda and other drinks I could purchase. So I did have water with every free meal. This allowed me to get all of my meals for free on my birthday. The only thing I did pay for was tips at appropriate restaurants. But the food itself was totally free!
Free Coffee: Dunkin Donuts
I love coffee. My brain just doesn't kick into gear before I have my morning coffee. I am a night owl, and I think that's part of the issue for me. I don't really feel awake until about 10:00 am, so I really look forward to my morning cup of coffee because it tends to help my brain focus.
I knew from my research that I actually wanted to start my day off with free pancakes from IHOP for breakfast, but to eat totally free there, I couldn't have coffee. So I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts near me and got my free cup of coffee.
I was excited to read on the coupon I had printed out that I could have any size beverage for free. I had a 35-minute drive to my nearest IHOP, so I got a large coffee. The girl at the counter told me they usually scan the coupon on people's cell phones under the Dunkin Donuts app because the paper coupons don't always scan, but mine worked and I enjoyed my free cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee on the drive down to IHOP.
Note: Keep in mind that you may be safer to use your app when redeeming your free cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in case the coupon won't scan.
Free Birthday Pancakes and a Sundae: IHOP
I was excited to go to IHOP to get free pancakes on my birthday. When I arrived, and the waitress greeted me, I immediately showed her the birthday coupon I had printed off. She told me that I didn't need to just order pancakes, but that the coupon entitles the birthday customer to anything on the menu up to $7.49 because that's how much comes off a bill when the coupon is scanned. Had I known that before I arrived, I might have ordered something different but at that point, my heart and my taste buds were yearning for IHOP pancakes!
The coupon stated I had a choice of Rooty Tooty or regular pancakes. I ordered the Rooty Tooty pancakes. These pancakes come with a choice of fruit: strawberries, raspberries or peaches. Since I am from Connecticut, but now live in Georgia, I figured peaches were the best choice since Georgia is famous for its peaches!
When the waitress brought the pancakes to me, she also told me that when a customer comes to IHOP on their actual birthday, they also get a free small hot fudge sundae and a birthday song sung by IHOP staff. I said I would take the sundae and the song, (for the purpose of this article of course!) I agreed to the song because I wanted to see what the experience what it would be like. All I can tell you is that if you go to the IHOP in Canton, Georgia, and you allow them to sing to you on your birthday, be prepared to be a bit embarrassed. The staff starts in the kitchen and sings a very loud and boisterous rendition of a birthday song. Although that was embarrassing, the staff seemed to enjoy it, and the sundae was delicious!
Free Sandwich: Schlotzky's Deli
After doing some thrift store shopping at Goodwill and another thrift store for a few hours, I was ready for lunch.
I had a few choices which included a free burrito at Moe's Southwest Grill, or a free sub at Firehouse Subs, but chose to go to Schlotzky's deli because I was nearest to that from the thrift store. The coupon allowed me to get a free small sandwich.
I walked in and told the girl at the counter that it was my birthday and I was there to get a free birthday sandwich. I thought I was only going to be able to get a free small classic sandwich, but she said I had my choice of any small sandwich. I chose a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and avocado on a sourdough roll. It was very good, and of course tasted better because it was free!
When Katherine delivered the sandwich to me, I asked for a glass of water and explained that I was trying to eat totally free on my birthday. She gave me a cup of ice water and excitedly told me that she had done the same for her birthday the previous year, and had gotten so much free food all day that she ended up sick at night!
Note: if you decide to eat free for your birthday, don't eat so much that you make yourself sick, as that will ruin your birthday!
Free Salad Bar: Ruby Tuesdays
After lunch and more thrift store shopping for eBay, I drove home and met my husband and we went to Ruby Tuesday in a different town for dinner. This town is 30 minutes away and gave us a nice ride and a chance to wind down and discuss our day. At Ruby Tuesdays, the birthday coupon entitles you to a free burger or salad bar. I wasn't clear from the emailed coupon on whether or not the salad bar was a one-time portion, or all-you-can-eat and was delighted when the waitress told me it was an all-you-can-eat salad bar. I opted for that instead of the hamburger since I had already had plenty of calories from earlier in the day when I had the pancakes and the sundae.
I discovered that the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday is new and improved. Not only do they offer the traditional salad bar items such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and the like, but they also have candied nuts, dried cranberries, and other fun toppings. I wanted to get my money's worth of course, so I had one small helping and one larger helping from the salad bar. My husband had to pay for his meal, but mine was totally free and very good.
Free Ice Cream: Coldstone Creamery
Directly across the street from Ruby Tuesday in Dawsonville, GA, is Coldstone Creamery. I signed up for their free birthday treat and received a coupon for a buy 1 get one free ice cream. The choice is one free ice cream of any size and a free one of the same size or smaller. I don't go to Coldstone Creamery very often so didn't know that when you order an ice cream there, you get one free topping. My sweet cream ice cream tasted delicious with bits of cookie dough in it!
A Great Day of Free Birthday Food
All in all, I had a wonderful day of free birthday food. I found all of the servers quite friendly and helpful. I felt as though they were celebrating my birthday with me. This was one of the best birthdays I have ever had.
Next year I will do it all again, and try to go to different restaurants. I might have to head back to IHOP though because those pancakes were delicious! And Dunkin Donuts is my favorite coffee, so except for those two, I will try to find different restaurants. I am already looking forward to it!
Tips & Tricks: How to Eat for Free on Your Brithday
I learned a lot through this experience of eating for free on my birthday, and I wanted to share a few tips with you.
- Sign up for your birthday coupons before your actual birthday. Some of the restaurants that give you free food on your birthday will also send you a coupon for free food each year on the anniversary of your signing up. Spread it out, so you are getting free food for your birthday and another time or two during the year.
- Be prepared to get a lot of emails from restaurants that give you free food. Once you sign up with a restaurant for a free birthday treat, you will also receive a lot of marketing emails from that restaurant. For me, that's a small price to pay for free food, but if it bothers you, create a new email address for free with Yahoo or Gmail that you use specifically for birthday freebies and sweepstakes you might enter. Just remember to check it periodically, so you don't miss your free stuff!
- Plan ahead to save gas. If you plan to do a whole birthday of free meals, plan your day in advance. There are many restaurants that will give you free food and treats on your birthday, but they may not all be in your area. Click on the link below to the Hustler Money Blog to find a comprehensive list of restaurants that give free birthday food, and then click on the locator link on each one to see the closest ones to you.
- Print the coupons out in case your phone dies, Some of the restaurants will scan a code on your phone that you were sent when you signed up for birthday food, and others will ask that you print a coupon that came with your email and they scan the barcode on that when you arrive. I suggest you just print out every birthday message you receive so that you have the information on each item and will be able to have it even if your phone dies or you leave it at home by accident. It also helps to remind you where you are going and for which type of meal or freebie!
- Go for a full meal or just the treats. I planned this birthday experiment around eating totally free all day, but you don't have to. Even if you just take advantage of one or two birthday treats at all your favorite restaurants it will still be a fun day for you.
- Check local family restaurants that may offer birthday treats, too. Most chain restaurants offer free birthday food, and that's what this article is about. But there may be smaller locally owned restaurants in your area that also offer free birthday food. Ask your friends and neighbors if they know of any area restaurants that have birthday specials, so you don't miss out.
Whether you just go for birthday treats or for full meals, please come back and leave a comment below and share what you got for free your birthday. And happy birthday in advance!
© 2017 Karen Hellier