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Panera used to be a special, occasional treat for me because while I love their drinks and all the different soups, sandwiches, and treats, the Panera Bread menu prices weren’t friendly to the bank account.
But I’ve discovered how to hack Panera Bread menu prices by maximizing Panera Rewards. It’s possible to get free coffee, free pastries, free bagels, and more — and I’ll show you how. I never head to my Panera without a handful of these hacks in my back pocket.
1. Get a free pastry or sweet when you sign up for Panera Rewards.
You’ll get a free pastry or sweet reward automatically added to your account after you sign up for Panera Rewards and confirm your email address. Members also get a free pastry or bakery sweet for your birthday when you add your birth date to your MyPanera account.
The freebie has a value of up to $4.69 (if you select the popular Kitchen Sink cookie).
That’s just the start of all the birthday freebies that you can get on your special day.
2. You’ll earn a free menu item every six transactions you make at Panera Bread.
Most rewards programs give you points based on how much you spend, but Panera cares about your transactions. MyPanera rewards add up every time you make a purchase and use your MyPanera card or registered phone number.
Every six purchases, you earn your next reward — which is always a surprise, such as a free Panera bagel, free Panera drinks, or even discounted meal deals. More than once, I’ve received a month of free bagels (one per day)!
The most typical rewards are:
- $2 off any order
- Half-priced or free You Pick Two
- A free bagel (reg. $1.39)
- $1 off any salad (reg. $6.39 for a half and $9.29 for a whole)
- A free cookie (reg. up to $2.39)
The longer you’re a member of Panera Rewards, the more personalized the rewards become. If you buy a bunch of cookies, chances are you’ll earn a free cookie in no time. Your receipt will tell you how close you are to your next reward. You can also track your reward progress in the Panera app.
Forgot to give your MyPanera info? You can still get credit; just submit your order number online or in the app to claim those points. The 6-digit order number is located near the top of the receipt (just above the itemized purchases) and also near the very bottom.
3. You can’t stack your Panera Rewards — you can only use one per purchase.
You can earn multiple Panera Rewards, but you can only redeem one free item per purchase. You can get one point every two hours.
If you’re a member of the Panera Sips Club, your drink purchase will count towards your Panera Rewards if you order something else with your free drink.
Rewards are good for 60 days once you earn them, and you can keep track of them all in the Panera app. This free drink won’t count toward your next Panera Rewards.
4. Stop by Panera near closing time — you might be able to get a free pastry (or two).
What does Panera do with all the leftover food at the end of a business day? The bread gets donated to the Day-End Dough-Nation Program which gives nonprofit organizations and charitable causes unsold bread at no charge.
The pastries, however, are fair game for value-hungry customers. Casually ask the cashier if you can have a free cookie or pastry if it’s near closing time, which is typically 9 p.m. Chances are you’ll walk away with a tasty treat at no cost. (I’ve done it often!)
5. The Unlimited Sips Club subscription pays for itself after six drinks.
When you subscribe to the Unlimited Sips Club, you can get some of your favorite Panera drinks every two hours for $10.99/month.
The Unlimited Sips Club subscription pays for itself after five drinks (and you can get up to eight drinks a day). After that, it’s like every eligible Panera drink that you buy is free!
We’ve answered all the questions about the Panera coffee subscription and tell you if it’s worth it.
6. Get Mac & Cheese in a bread bowl for just $6.89.
Ask for your Mac & Cheese to come in a bread bowl. The whole meal will cost just $6.89, which is just $1.10 more than a small Mac & Cheese. You’re saving $1.29 doing it this way (because a bread bowl by itself costs $2.39).
7. Order an empty bread bowl with an actual bowl of soup on the side.
If you love Panera bread bowls, you should know that you’re getting just a cup of soup (eight ounces) inside your bowl of bread. A cup of soup is four ounces less than a bowl.
If you want a full 12-ounce bowl of soup with your bread bowl, simply ask for the bread bowl to be empty with a separate bowl of soup. It’ll cost a couple bucks extra — a cup of soup in a bread bowl costs $6.99, while a bowl of soup ($6.39) and a bread bowl on the side ($2.39) will set you back $8.78 — but you’ll be sure to get the full bowl of soup you’re wanting and you can just pour it in yourself.
8. Skip the “You Pick Two” menu and take advantage of the new “Value Duets” offerings instead.
The extensive You Pick Two menu at Panera Bread is classic, but there’s actually more value to be had with the chain’s new, smaller Value Duets menu.
One Duets option is half a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of creamy tomato soup for $6.29. On the You Pick Two menu, that exact same combination costs $8.98 (although you do get a side item such as an apple or chips with the You Pick Two … but that doesn’t seem worth the extra $2.69).
If you’re watching pennies (and calories, for that matter), the Value Duet is the way to go.
9. Get $4 off a box of bagels on Tuesdays.
Get a baker’s dozen of bagels (that’s 13 bagels) for just $6.99 on Tuesdays. That’s $4 less than the regular $10.99 price for one dozen bagels. One Panera bagel costs $1.34; buying 13 individually would cost $17.42, which means you save more than $16 on Tuesdays!
TIP: Freeze whatever you don’t eat for a future treat. They’ll last for up to four months in the freezer; just make sure to slice them before putting them in there!
10. Veggies and toppings are always free to add to your sandwich or salad.
Adding toppings like apple chips, wontons, olives, cucumbers, and kale, is always free.
Just ask when you’re in a Panera store, or if you’re ordering via the Panera app, tap on the “special instructions” section when you’re ordering a menu item to add the free toppings.
Certain toppings do cost extra, so be sure to ask which ones are offered free if you aren’t sure. Adding a regular side of avocado to a sandwich is $1.29, for example, while a regular portion of parmesan crisps costs $0.99 more.
You can double almost all the toppings in the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich for free (except the feta) to get a sandwich that’s nearly twice the original size.
11. If you’re feeding four people, consider the “group” portions.
Some Panera menu items have “group” portion sizes, which are intended to feed four people. The group soups and pastas come in quarts (32 ounces), which is roughly the equivalent of four small orders.
Panera Bread menu prices for a small Mac & Cheese are $4.99 for 7.75 ounces, or about $0.65/ounce. A group size, meanwhile, costs $22.09, which comes out to $0.69/ounce.
It’s not massive savings, but if you visit Panera with three friends and all four of you are craving Mac & Cheese, why not get a little more for less?
12. If you’re feeding even more people, Panera’s Family Feast options can save you as much as 56%.
There are a bunch of different Family Feast meals at Panera, which can include flatbread pizzas, salads, soups, sandwiches, cookies, and more.
The Family Feast with Soup or Mac & Cookies costs $33 (prices may vary by location) and contains two half sandwiches, two kids’ sandwiches, one whole salad, one quart of soup or family mac & cheese, a French baguette, and four chocolate chipper cookies.
Purchased individually, this deal would cost as much as $75.19, a savings of $42.19 — that’s more than 56% off!
Here’s how much you’ll save with the other Family Feasts, as opposed to buying their items individually:
- Family Feast with Soup or Mac: Costs $30.59, a savings of $35.04 (53%)
- Family Feast with Cookies: Costs $34.79, a savings of $37 (52%)
- Family Feast: Costs $30.59, a savings of $31.64 (51%)
- Premium Family Feast with Cookies: Costs $38.99, a savings of $36.70 (48%)
- Premium Family Feast: Costs $34.79, a savings of $31.34 (47%)
- 3 Flatbread Pizza Family Feast with Vanilla Cinnamon Rolls: Costs $34.79, a savings of $22.02 (39%)
- 2 Flatbread Pizza Family Feast with Vanilla Cinnamon Rolls: Costs $30.59, a savings of $16.53 (35%)
- 2 Flatbread Pizza Family Feast: Costs $24.19, a savings of $10.57 (30%)
- Breakfast Sandwich Feast: Costs $14.69, a savings of $6.07 (29%)
- Fresh Baked Goods Feast: Costs $14.69, a savings of $3.85 (21%)
13. Pay with Apple Card to receive 3% cash back on every Panera purchase.
Customers get unlimited 3% cash back on Apple Card when they use Apple Pay to buy their favorite Panera drinks and food items (all the while earning Rewards points for future freebies).
No other restaurant currently offers this deal, so take advantage if you can.
14. Keep an eye on social media for Panera promo codes and giveaways.
Panera Bread social media accounts mostly talk about new menu items and other promotions, but you don’t care — you’re here for the freebies!
Several times a year, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers are treated to Panera promo codes — such as $5 off an online order of $20 or more (from August 2021) or free unlimited coffee on National Coffee Day (Sept. 29) for parents.
Panera also held a drawing in July 2021 where one lucky customer won free mac & cheese every day for an entire year!
15. Ask for a bagel or croissant sandwich instead of sandwich bread for no extra charge.
Don’t let the pictures on the menu fool you. If you prefer your sandwich to be made on a croissant, bagel, or ciabatta, just ask! There’s no extra charge.
16. Order a whole sandwich and ask for it on a bagel and they’ll give you two.
You need to start replacing your sandwich bread with a bagel. Since one bagel is the equivalent of a half sandwich at Panera, you’ll receive TWO bagel sandwiches when you get a whole sandwich — at no extra cost!
17. Substitute avocado instead of meat for no extra charge.
This lesser-known tip is one of the best Panera hacks available. Who doesn’t love avocado? Most places charge extra, but if you want to take meat off your sandwich or salad and add avocado, Panera will gladly swap it.
18. Get a free pastry or sweet if your order isn’t made correctly.
If your order is wrong, no problem! You’ll likely be offered a free treat on your next visit when you let them know (nicely, of course) how your order was messed up. Not only that, but you can likely keep the order that was made incorrectly because all they do is toss those in the garbage anyway.
When I ordered a turkey sandwich without mayo last week but got mayo on the bread, all I had to do was point out the mistake and I had a fresh replacement within minutes. Better still, I took the one with mayo home in a to-go box for another member of my family to eat.
And if for some reason they don’t make amends for the mistake, let Panera know on Facebook. They respond to every customer service message they get.
19. Use Panera promo codes to save money when you order online.
I recently Googled “Panera coupons” before placing my online order and found a promo code for $3 off my entree (FALL3FORU).
The Panera Bread website even has a dedicated page for Panera promo codes. In November 2021, for example, Panera offered $5 off a flatbread pizza for new MyPanera reward members (on top of the free sweet or pastry for signing up).
20. Have your apple sliced and add a side of honey for no extra charge.
Guess what? For no extra charge, you can ask for the apple you get on the side to be sliced and get a free side of honey for dipping. This is a kid-tested, mother-approved special treat.
21. Buy an 8-ounce tub of cream cheese for $3.09 and take the rest home instead of spending $1.19 for a single serving.
Why spend $1.30 to get 1.75 ounces of cream cheese on one bagel when you can get a whole 8-ounce tub of cream cheese for $3.09?
Not a cream cheese fan? Ask for butter on your bagel instead — it’s free!
23. Use a discounted Panera gift card to save up to 15%.
This is a clever way to avoid paying full Panera Bread menu prices. Discounted Panera gift cards can run as much as 15% off on sites like Raise. That means you pay 15% less than the amount that’s on the card.
Also look for a Panera promo code for a free gift card during the holidays. In 2021, Panera offered a free $10 Panera gift card with every $50 Panera gift card purchase through the end of December. Watch that fine print, though, as the $10 add-on gift card must be redeemed in the month of January 2022.
If you own or manage a business that regularly provides staff lunches or gift cards to employees, you can get a 10% discount on bulk gift card orders of $500 or more.
24. Get dessert for $0.99 when you order a meal plus drink.
Get a salad, a bowl of soup, or a full sandwich plus a drink, and your dessert price will drop to just $0.99. That’s a savings of at least $1.50, depending on which cookie or brownie you select.
25. There’s no difference between a kids’ meal and a half portion of a regular menu item.
Panera Bread menu prices can be tricky. At first blush, one might think that ordering a kids’ meal would provide some sort of calorie or money savings versus “adult” meals, but that isn’t true at Panera.
Kids’ meals range from $4.49 for simple sandwiches like grilled cheese or turkey all the way up to $8.09 for premium sandwiches like steak & white cheddar, but these are all just half sizes of regular menu items. A half-size steak & white cheddar sandwich costs, you guessed it, $8.09.
If you have a foodie child and don’t want to be limited by the kids menu options, just order half sizes from the regular menu. There’s much more variety, and it costs the exact same.
26. Don’t order Panera to be delivered unless you want to pay more for your food.
Panera Bread menu prices for delivery are higher and fees apply, according to the restaurant. So you might be enticed by an offer for “free” delivery but you end up paying more for the food — around 7% – 15%.
You’re much better off going through the drive-thru if you don’t want to step foot in the restaurant but have to have your Panera fix. Or …
27. Skip the restaurant and get Panera food at your grocery store.
At Target, we found 16-ounce containers of Panera soups on sale for $3.69, which amounts to $0.23/ounce. If you were to buy a bowl of creamy chicken and wild rice soup at a Panera location, however, you’d be paying $6.89 for 12 ounces, or $0.57/ounce. That’s 60% less than Panera Bread menu prices!