Adventures in Free Sampling

During my college years, I was frequently on the hunt for free eats and beauty treats. I mean, let’s be honest, isn’t that the case for every cash-strapped student?

During that tightly-budgeted time, I replaced meals with Costco free samples, I visited open houses to scope out how the “wealthy” live, and I relieved midterm stress in a Sharper Image massage chair. I was living in the lap of luxury all at the cost of hearing a sales pitch, wandering through a store where I already shopped, or dreaming and scheming of exactly how I could one day contribute to the economy.

Over the years, while income and career have evolved (thank goodness), I find that I am still drawn to the hunt for deals and freebies. So, when dear husband was out of town on a Saturday, I decided to play nostalgia, bringing back my hunt for FREEdom.

With the goal of spending no more than gasoline on a trip to the mall, I enacted Project: One Mall-filled Afternoon Without Spending One Cent <- Yes, I need to punch up that title a bit, but you get the point, right?

Here’s what I dug up after one Saturday afternoon at the Glendale Galleria and the attached outdoor shopping center, The Americana at Brand

Farmer’s Market treats…*

Olive oil and the most amazing balsamic vinegar with bread – Someday I may be able to afford the $30 bottle.

Vegan cookies – Holy crap. Amazing.

Raw food rolls – Holy crap. Amazing.

Strawberries – …and all other in-season samples. Believe it or not, we frequently buy from the places that give us samples.

Hummus – One of my absolute favorite Farmer’s Market staples in LA, Mom’s Products. I buy things here frequently.

Greek olives – Also from Mom’s. Also my favorite.

*Every Saturday, the Americana hosts a Farmer’s Market. Now normally I patronize this place, but in keeping with my goal of spending nothing this trip, I just sampled. (Oh, the guilt…the guilt…)

Free beauty…

Hair product demonstration at Aveda– Made me smell absolutely fabulous.

Hand scrub and massage with lotion at The Body Shop – I used to love this place, and still buy the Hemp lotion for hubby’s dry hands. However, the scent was a little much for me this time.

Free hand scrub and lotion at Bath and Body Works – Dear Christmas, why did I go here after The Body Shop? I sort of want to die with the scent-sory overload I’m rocking right now.

Facial and makeup application at Bare Escentuals – In the past, I’ve received free makeup applications everywhere from Origins to MAC to Clinique. This was the only store that didn’t pressure me to buy ANYTHING at all. In fact, she was so nice, I went back the next day and bought a lipgloss. <– sucker.

Sample of new line of makeup at Sephora – They were out of the product I was “looking for,” so the nice sales lady gave me sample of a comparable brand. Awesome.

Free relaxation… 

Origins Stress Relief treatment – Can we talk a minute about their Peace of Mind On-the-Spot Relief treatment? It’s heaven in a bottle.

Brookstone 15-minute massage in the Osim space-age massage pod – I’m sure they know I will never buy one of these chairs (this one was on sale for $3293), but when the store is empty, the two salesmen are very eager to entertain a strawberry-blonde. Small price to pay for me.

Free eats…**  

Godiva Chocolate Eclair Truffle – I forgot how good this chocolate can be.

Wetzel’s Pretzel Almond Crunch Bite – Hubby was jealous he missed these. They’re his fave.

Teavana tea – I’m in love with Teavana tea, although they add german rock cane sugar to their samples. I am a bit of a tea purist, so I can only stomach one or two of their sweetened versions.

Aveda Comforting Tea – If you have not tried this tea, you must. This tea alone has made me buy Aveda products. No joke.

Sur La Table Jura J9 Espresso – Okay, look, I’m never going to buy a $2000 home espresso machine (let alone a $4000 one). However, we had our knives sharpened here once (oh crap, that was free too) and we buy our olive oil here. Fine, the nice lady offered an espresso and I couldn’t say no!

Pinkberry Peanut Butter Fro-yo – This was a new flavor that I must say made this peanut butter aficionado very, very happy. If you or anyone in your party is a Pinkberry newbie, they’ll give you samples of all the delicious flavors.

See’s Candy chocolate piece – I wish I loved See’s, but I just don’t. This freebie was literally for the sake of free. I’m feeling a little guilty about it now.

**By the way, these are not calorie-free. I was hungry, so while I avoided the food court, I spared no sample.

And that was that!

Final Verdict

After three hours, my skin was glowing, my eyes were decked out in a fancy new green eyeliner, my belly was stuffed full of sugary goodness, and I smelled a little like a cheap stripper.

Cost: $0

Despite the guilt that I didn’t spend anything at the farmer’s market this week, I’d say the mission was a success. My inner college student is proud.