When I had my baby, I was devastated to learn that I could not breastfeed. I sincerely cried for days upon days over it. It wasn’t just the disappointment of not being able to do it, but it was also because I knew formula was expensive and there was no way to get formula for free or even cheap.
The average cost of formula ranges from $20 for off-brand to $35+ for speciality, organic, or medically needed formula. My 6 month old goes through a tub of it in about a week or less (a little longer now that she is starting solids). All things considered, we spend roughly $80-100 alone in formula for our grocery budget.
That ain’t cheap!
But luckily, I had a great support group of moms who had experience scoring formula for free or significantly reduced. Their wisdom helped me build a stash and cut our formula bill in half. Here’s how we do it.
5 Ways to Get Formula for Free
Check Facebook Sale and Mom Groups
I’m a HUGE fan of Facebook buy/sell/trade and garage sale groups. I estimate that I’m a member of about 10 of them. And when I’m not selling or buying there, I’m chatting it up with certain Facebook mom groups.
One of the best parts of being on these groups is snatching up free formula samples from moms who don’t need or use them. I estimate that I have scored about a month’s worth of formula (about 10 small, sample canisters).
The trick is being FAST. Formula samples are in such demand that I posted some of mine and received 20 replies in about 15 minutes! While there really is no good absolute how to beat the crowd, my only piece of advice is to make sure you follow these groups on your newsfeed so they come up in real time, instead of you having to check in later for updates.
Sign Up for Samples
Here’s a secret: formula companies WANT to give you samples and coupons for free! However, there are tips and tricks that you must know.
- Sign up for the samples for your LO’s due date or birth date. Don’t try to game the system and sign up early because the samples only come for about 4 months.
- Sign up every member of your family. My mom, sister, husband, and friend all receive samples and coupons for my daughter.
- Call and ask for what you need. I kept receiving Similac Supplementing formula when my daughter only took Similac Advanced. I called and asked if they would send me those samples instead, and got two of them within a week of my call! Now that’s great customer service!
- Have the hospital sign you up. I’m not sure if it is a glitch, but I signed up twice for Enfamil — once at the hospital through the NICU program and once by myself online. Woops. But I still received both samples and coupons. Again, not sure if this always works, but it never hurts to try.
Ask Your Doctor or Hospital
Speaking of the hospital, ask. Seriously, ask. No one is going to think less of you. I think all doctors and nurses know that formula is pricey, even for well-off families.
In fact, the first time I asked my doctor for samples, he said to me, “No one ever asks. I don’t get that! We get this stuff for free. I can’t even give them away!” That day alone, I walked out with over a month of formula and some extra in case she needed a sensitive brand!
Even leaving the hospital, the nurse handed us a bag and said, “Take whatever you can grab.” I was hesitant at first, but then she laughed and threw a case of ready made formula in the sack and said, “It’s yours! You paid for this room after all!”
Participate in an Exchange
Outside of Facebook sales groups, there are even online communities devoted to exchanging formula and coupons among vetted parents.***
This works well because formula isn’t like diapers. Sure, you may have a preference to go with an organic formula or to stick with Enfamil, but the truth is that you cannot predict what your baby will want, need, or like. And because that need and taste can change so frequently, moms are more willing to trade than to give away.
***Never, ever use formula that has been opened or tampered with. And use your best judgement. I only do exchanges via closed groups where each member must know someone to get in. If exchanging coupons, give them your address via a private message only. Don’t give away personal information to a stranger.
Coupon, Coupon, Coupon!
You may have noticed that I keep mentioning coupons. Samples are awesome — basically free food for baby! But here’s the deal: it’s almost impossible to get free formula all the time. Sorry, but unless you’re using food banks, there’s just no guarantee.
Here’s what you can do instead:
- Sign up for coupons via formula companies. It’s the same as signing up for samples. In fact, many of the samples come with a packet of coupons.
- Sign up for store coupons. If you’re not getting coupon mailers from grocery stores or big box stores, do it now. With technology, they probably already now that you’re needing formula now more than ever.
- Shop around! I have found that pharmacies are the most expensive place to buy formula. Stores like Target and Walmart are usually the most consistent in lower prices.
- Get incentives. Here’s how I reduce the price of formula in half. My formula brand was on sale for $25 per carton. I had 3 manufacturer coupons for $5 per carton and 3 store coupons for another $5 off. I also saw that if you buy 2 cartons, you get a $5 gift card for future purchase.
I bought the two cartons at $15 a piece and then had my husband buy the third using the coupons + gift card for $10. Instead of paying $75 for 3 weeks of formula, I got the same amount for $40! And that’s great for someone like me who is not a coupon-er!
Scoring Formula for Free
Formula’s pricey. We all know this. But there are easy ways to stock up safely or to cut your shopping bill in half. Tell us in the comments how you save on infant formula!
How do you save or get formula for free?