How to Save Money at Panera Bread

Did you know that Panera Bread bakes its bread on-site every day?

I knew their bread was good but I thought perhaps they were like half-baked elsewhere, frozen, and delivered on site for the final baking. Kind of like the over rolls you get at the grocery store.

It turns out fresh dough is delivered to each store every night and the bread is baked fresh every single day. And anything that is left over is donated through their Day-End Dough-Nation program.

If you’re a fan like we are, here are a few ways you can enjoy Panera for less:

Table of Contents
  1. Sign up for MyPanera Rewards
  2. Refer friends to MyPanera
  3. Don’t forget your birthday!
  4. Buy discounted Panera gift cards
  5. Sign up for the Panera email newsletter
  6. Go late
  7. Buy the meal deals
  8. Go small
  9. Pinpoint the free add-ons
  10. Buy Panera products at the grocery store
  11. Get your carb fix on Bagel Tuesdays
  12. Don’t order inside Panera
  13. Look for promo codes online
  14. Use smart substitutions
  15. Mention if your order is incorrect

Sign up for MyPanera Rewards

The best way to earn free food at Panera is to sign up for their MyPanera rewards program. Use your phone number or Panera app to track your orders and score personalized rewards.

And when you sign up for the first time, you get a Free Pastry or Sweet Welcome Reward valid for about 2 months.

You must be at least 13 years of age to sign up for the app, which is free. Best of all, you get a free reward when you join!

Keep in mind that you’ll earn rewards based on the number of purchases you make, not the total of those purchases. So, you would earn the same amount of rewards with five $3 purchases as you would with five $20 purchases.

If you’re camping out at Panera Bread to study, space your purchases out by 2-4 hours for them to count towards your rewards.

Panera’s reward app is great because they allow you to stack rewards. You can use more than one reward at a time, shaving even more off of your bill.

Forgot to scan your app at the register? No biggie. You can scan your receipt after the fact to earn the points.

Refer friends to MyPanera

If you and your friends are total Panera nerds, try referring your pals to the MyPanera program. You’ll earn a $5 referral reward good towards your next order.

Plus, your friends will get in on the money-saving fun, too.

Don’t forget your birthday!

Don’t forget to add your birthday!

There’s a place to add your birthday in the MyPanera app and when you do, Panera will send you a free sweet treat to celebrate every year.

Here are a few other places that will give you free food on your birthday!

Buy discounted Panera gift cards

I’m new to the discounted gift card game, but I love it already! Visit sites like Raise, Card Cash, GiftCards.com, and plenty more to find discounted Panera gift cards.

People sell their unwanted gift cards at a discount on these exchanges, where you can get a modest discount on the card’s face value. Average savings are in the 2-5% range, but occasionally you can save as much as 20%.

For example, you could buy a $10 Panera gift card for just $8. You won’t get rich doing this, but if you know you’ll be eating at Panera in the future, why not?

Sign up for the Panera email newsletter

Want to hear from Panera while scoring sweet deals? Sign up for their email newsletter to get special offers. These are separate from MyPanera rewards and often feature free delivery or catering specials.

Go late

Most Panera locations close at 9 pm. If you go around 8 or 8:30 pm, you might be able to score a day-old pastry for free.

Although many Paneras donate their leftover baked goods to shelters, sometimes they’ll toss an extra muffin your way if you’re nice to them.

Buy the meal deals

I’ve got a sweet tooth, which is perfect for the Panera meal deal. If you buy a salad, a bowl of soup, or a sandwich with a drink, you can get dessert for 99 cents.

Again, this won’t make you rich, but if you’re hankering for a gooey chocolate cookie, it’s not half bad. Plus, you can combine the meal deal with Panera rewards or gift cards to save more.

Go small

This is an old trick that works at many quick-service restaurants. Panera drinks come with free refills. However, Panera charges more if you buy a larger cup size. If you’re eating inside the restaurant, just get a small drink and refill as needed.

Pinpoint the free add-ons

Want to beef up your sandwich? Panera lets you add plenty of veggies without extra cost. This is not only delicious but it makes your meal far more filling.

Of course, some veggie options, like avocado, will cost you extra. But if you want cucumbers on your sandwich, feel free to load up because there’s no extra charge.

If you aren’t sure which add-ons are free, pull up your Panera app or the Panera website and start an order. You’ll be able to see in the app which options are free and which will cost you extra.

Buy Panera products at the grocery store

When I come down with a cold, all I want is a warm bowl of Panera’s creamy tomato soup. Fortunately for me and other Panera aficionados, you can buy some Panera foods at the grocery store.

Depending on your location, you can buy Panera soup, coffee, mac and cheese, dressing, or chili in-store.

These products are often cheaper at the grocery store than they are at Panera. If you really need a Panera fix on a budget, see if you can bring Panera into your home.

See if Panera products are in a store near you.

Get your carb fix on Bagel Tuesdays

I love me some carbs. Panera has answered my gluten-loving prayers with their Bagel Tuesdays deal.

Every Tuesday Panera sells their baker’s dozen of bagels for $3 off. In most places, that means you can pick up 13 bagels for $7.99.

I like to buy the baker’s dozen, slice them in half, and freeze them for later for homemade avocado toast. This is also a good option if you know you’ll need to feed a crowd.

Don’t order inside Panera

Restaurants are designed to make us buy more stuff. And I know that the second I walk in and smell Panera’s hot soups and bread, I want to buy even more food.

That’s why it’s smarter to order ahead of time from the Panera app. Panera’s Rapid Pick-Up option means you walk in, grab your order off the shelf, and leave. You don’t need to speak to anyone or wait in a line.

I love to do Rapid Pick-Up during business trips because I can pick up food quickly.

And hey, there’s less temptation to add on a cookie, so it’s a win-win.

Look for promo codes online

If you know you’re about to place an order on the Panera site or app, take two minutes to search for deal codes. I like using the Honey browser extension to do this automatically for me, but a simple Google search works, too.

Why not shave a few bucks off your order with a quick search?

Use smart substitutions

Use simple substitutions to game the Panera menu board.

I love the Chipotle Chicken Avocado melt, but I’ve always been more of a croissant-sandwich person. I ask Panera to put the sandwich on a croissant instead, which is free. You can always change the bread to either ciabatta or a croissant without an extra charge.

It’s a touch more expensive to order a readymade bread bowl off the menu. Build your own to save a little money. Just get an empty bread bowl and a bowl of soup on the side. The readymade bowls only come with a cup of soup, so this way you get way more food.

Love bagels? Me too! But I don’t like the $1 or so it costs for cream cheese. Instead of cream cheese, I get a slathering of butter for free. Also, Panera’s tub of cream cheese is, like, $2. If you’re getting a single serving of cream cheese for $1 or so, you might as well pay a little extra to get the huge tub.

Mention if your order is incorrect

Panera wants to give customers a good experience. If anything is incorrect with your order, don’t trudge through and eat what you didn’t order. Let the employees know!

If you politely tell Panera your order is incorrect, they’ll make it right by correcting the order.

They might even give you a freebie to make up for it.

This is making me hungry!

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About Makenzi Wood

Makenzi Wood is a full-stack marketer turned blogger who aspires to retire early. She writes about living the good life while paying off $250,000 of debt.

She has a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies from Trinity University.

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