Don't say there's no such thing as a free meal.
Plenty of restaurants offer free food to those who pay attention to the calendar. Evo's recently offered a free milkshake on Earth Day. Dunkin' Donuts recently celebrated Free Iced Coffee Day.
And if you've got a birthday coming up, you can gorge yourself all day. Restaurants offer all kinds of promotions for people willing to join a club, sign up for a newsletter or simply tell the waiter it's their B-day.
It's always a smart idea to call and double-check a restaurant's promotions before you leave home. That said, here are some quality ways to score free grub the next time you go out.
1. Go shorty, it's your birthday At Texas Cattle Company, you get a free steak on your birthday. Fuddruckers (the nearest one is in Orlando) gives birthday boys and girls a free hamburger. Sign up for "Moe's Neighborhood," and you'll receive a coupon for a free birthday entree at Moe's Southwest Grill. And at Taco Bell, you can sign up for something called the GenXmex Birthday Club, and you'll get a free birthday combo meal.
2. Use your kids First, bookmark KidsEatFree.com, which tells you when and where your kids can eat free (usually with purchase of an adult entree). At California Pizza Kitchen, you can get a free kids' meal during the month of your child's birthday by signing him or her up for the CPKids Club. Same deal at Bob Evans. At Denny's, sign your tyke up for the Denny's Kids' Birthday Club, and not only will you get a coupon for a free kids' meal and sundae on their birthday, you'll get the thrill of knowing you've made every child's dream come true — a meal at Denny's.
3. Leap to it Don't feel bad for people born on Leap Day. This year, several Morton's Steakhouse locations offered a free meal to anyone born on Feb. 29 who celebrated at their restaurant. Boston Market and Papa John's have offered similar promotions. (None of this info will do you any good until 2012, but hey — getting free stuff takes patience.)
4. Free ice cream! Ben & Jerry's, of course, celebrates Free Cone Day each April. Cold Stone Creamery has a Birthday Club by signing up online (coldstonecreamery.com) to get a coupon for a free mixed-in creation on your special day. Baskin-Robbins also has an online birthday club — not only do you get a free cone, but you get a discount on your birthday cake, too. Marble Slab offers a free cone to any child who signs up for their "Kid's Club." And Rita's Water Ice gives away a free Italian ice on the first day of spring.
5. Let's go, Rays! Start checking those box scores. If the Tampa Bay Rays strike out 10 opponents in a game, you win a coupon for a free Papa John's Pizza. Visit KanesStrikeout.com within 24 hours of the game, then redeem the online coupon or your ticket stub for a free pizza coupon at any Kane's Furniture Store. Did you also know that you get a free Dunkin' Donuts donut the day after any Rays win? All you have to do is mention that the Rays won. This season, that means a lot of free donuts.
6. Mmm ... free goo Planning to celebrate your B-day at a chain restaurant? Applebee's, Bennigan's, Macaroni Grill, P.F. Chang's, the Cheesecake Factory and Outback are among the chains that offer free mini-desserts on your birthday. Ask before you order to make sure they know they're not dealing with a chump. Of course, in most cases the desserts are nothing you'd actually order for yourself — TGI Friday's offers a small vanilla sundae, which is more of a punishment than a prize — and they come with a side of annoying song. So really, no one wins.
7. Or, you know, just lie about it Tell the restaurant you're celebrating your honeymoon. Or you just passed your MCATs. Or you're celebrating your 10th anniversary of beating lupus. Whether it's true or not, some high-class places will offer you a free dessert or appetizer or something. And all you have to do is live with the guilt of what you've done for the rest of your life. Are you cheap enough to try it?