Food & Nutrition

The 6 Best Grocery Stores for Free Food Samples

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Warehouse stores definitely have great food samples, but they’re not the only ones serving up tasty and conveniently free bites.

Free food samples are the best part of shopping

Salesman Holding Cutting Board With Assorted CheeseTyler Olson/Shutterstock

It’s a bad idea to go grocery shopping hungry. Some people believe that doing so makes you more likely to deviate from your shopping list. And if you’re hangry, you might do these rude things at the grocery store. That’s why free food samples are such a blessing. Here are the stores with the best free food samples.

Costco

costco storefrontLm Otero/AP/Shutterstock

The warehouse is well known for its awesome free food samples. Costco’s free samples are so great that people aren’t ashamed to go back for seconds. And yes, one Costco free sample employee secret is that they do notice when people come back for another serving—but it’s OK. In fact, Costco’s free samples are unofficially unlimited. The store doesn’t let employees enforce a limit on samples, per anonymous employee and consumer reports. Jenna Coleman, a consumer behavior analyst in the grocery sector and founder of Particular Pantry, says she’s guilty of bringing her kids to Costco on a Friday night and letting them try so many things that it counts as dinner. The people giving out the samples to Coleman and her kids work for Club Demonstrative Services. Other big stores also use similar services, so many free samples don’t come directly from the store.

Sam’s Club

sam's club exteriorBy: George Sheldon/Shutterstock

If you prefer Sam’s Club to Costco, don’t worry—there are still some delicious free food samples at this warehouse store. In fact, a few years ago, Sam’s Club gave away double the free samples until Thanksgiving. The weekends usually have a larger variety of food samples. “On busy days, it’s hard to walk 10 feet without encountering a sample cart,” Kristin McGrath, Editor and Shopping Expert at Offers.com, says. Although most warehouse stores have free samples, there are 6 key differences between Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s.

Trader Joe’s

trader joe's exteriorQualityHD/Shutterstock

Trader Joe’s sampling may not be as big-time as the club stores, but something is being sampled every day at pretty much every store. As a bonus, there’s typically no crowds to contend with, according to John Stranger, VP Group Supervisor of the food-focused creative agency EvansHardy+Young. One crew member recommends going to the store towards the end of the night because the team is trying to get rid of more free samples. You’ll have better luck eating more than just a snack-size portion. One of the things Trader Joe’s employees also want you to know is that customers can taste test almost any product that doesn’t need cooking. Let an employee know what you’re up to and limit yourself to sampling one or two products per visit.

Whole Foods

whole foods marketPhilip Arno Photography/Shutterstock

Whole Foods has consistently excellent free food samples. This is great for shoppers because they have such tasty, high-quality foods, according to McGrath. Some stores even have free sampling events on certain days, often weekends. Plus, at the pre-made food counter, employees are usually pretty good about giving you a little sample cup of potato or pasta salad if you ask, McGrath adds. Much like the other stores that give out fantastic food samples, Whole Foods invites vendors to come to Whole Foods and actively do free samples. This means it’s not necessarily Whole Foods pushing the products. As a bonus, one of the best kept Whole Foods employee secrets is the policy allowing customers to try or sample almost any product before buying it.

Walmart

walmart exteriorBCFC/Shutterstock

Walmart doesn’t give free food samples as often as Costco. The store does, however, host special in-store weekend events with free food samples. These vary by location, so search for your local Walmart store and click the news and events page for more information. Sometimes, Walmart gives out free samples for special holidays and events like Mother’s Day or back-to-school season. The samples are usually part of a product demonstration with sampling stations set up throughout the store. You’re probably also not aware of these services you didn’t know you could get at Walmart.

Smaller chains and local grocery stores

Woman shopping at the supermarketMinerva Studio/Shutterstock

Not all grocery stores have traditional food sample stands set up, but most provide samples upon request or for kids to eat during your shopping trip. “I was recently offered a sample of roast beef as I ordered meat from the deli counter at HEB, and my kids always used to look forward to the free bananas and beef sticks they received every time we shop at Hy-Vee,” Coleman says. Don’t forget the good old deli counter at your local supermarket, Stranger adds. “If there’s a cheese or cold cut you want to try, most everyone will give you a sample.”

Other free sampling advice

Grocery-shoppingBodnar Taras/Shutterstock

No matter your grocery store of choice, to taste a wide variety of free food samples, McGrath recommends visiting stores after work or on weekends. Savor as many samples as you want, but don’t go overboard with taking samples home. “Resist the urge, finish your shopping, and then think about whether you really need or want that energy drink, granola, salsa, or cheese spread,” McGrath says. Always ask about coupons and take a break before you automatically toss that product into your shopping cart. There are even as many as 14 major brands that will actually send you coupons for free.

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