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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dumpster Diving II--How nasty is the food?

Second post today. Read the previous post--Well, knock me down with a chicken
Also see:
Dumpster Diving I: why I do it

Free and nasty?
I have several rules to assure that free food does not cause me to be ill. It is one thing to eat cheaply; it quite another thing to take chances on becoming ill. Frugality does not have to have a high price!

If you smelled the dumpster, you would be grossed out, especially in the high heat of summer. That's the best time of the year to take a rest from dumpster diving for food. However, I have collected my bounty in mid-summer. None of what I keep and eat is nasty. Once out of the dumpster, there is no smell on the food.

Do me a favor--let's call this a safari, the way I usually refer to my exploits. Also, the dumpster is an ASC (alternative storage container). Now that we have cleaned up our language, the food will be more palatable.

Friends and family friendly
Mostly, I have done this alone, the way I prefer to shop the asc. However, two different men have helped me when they were here. One was reluctant. The other, present exbf but bf then, was excited to shop there. Then, there was a friend and her grandchildren, three- and four-years-old.

My friend and I would drive around a large city with her two grandchildren. As we passed shopping centers or grocery stores, we would cruise behind, looking for ripe dumpsters. In order for her grandchildren not to know and repeat to others what we did, we were always "looking for boxes." "going on safari" or "asc" could easily be explained away to an adult who questioned what the children were talking about. Actually, she was packing her house, so they did see us use boxes. Occasionally we would actually get a box to satisfy the children.

When either of us saw a good pile of garbage on the side walk or an asc, that person would shout, "Safari!" No other explanation was needed. That is where we found a Polo shirt in size 8, the little boy's size. I priced it at $55 or $35 in the store and online. It appeared to be new, never worn.

I digress--back to nastiness or cleanliness.

Rules so I won't die from germs
I have rules and methods for my safari bounty from the asc.
*never take food that is lying on the asc floor or leaning on the walls. Verboten.
*okay, that was about

Everything is fair game. If I can find a box not deliberately tipped, I try my best to pull it out without spilling anything. That assures me the fruit is fairly clean. Mostly, employees turn boxes over to thwart shoppers in the asc.

Contamination from pests
I do not want anything flies have been on, so broken-open fruit is out. One day, there were ants, I left. Then, there was the day some birds frightened me as they flew out in my face when I went during the day. They were scattering lettuces all over the pavement. I decided I did not want to shop for produce that day. (Once I adopted four hens, mushed produce in boxes was good for them."

My daughter from NYC shrieked, "But, rats probably walked on the food." Another person wrote that the fear of rats having been on the produce is what stopped her. My answer is simple. How can you be assured that a rat did not run across the bell peppers you pick up at the grocery store in the produce department. These peppers could have encountered a rogue rat as the peppers sat waiting to be loaded onto the truck? What about warehouses where packing is done? How can you be sure that a rat did not live on the truck during transport? You cannot. Maybe a roach crawled across the bananas? the grapes?

Washing up the bounty
When I come home from my safari, all the boxes are carried in to the kitchen floor. I run warm (not hot) water in the sink or a large bowl. I put Dawn and vinegar in the water. Everything gets a quick dunk/bath and a rinse! Bananas, bags of lettuce, everything. (I wash the bags.) Then, I dry it quickly and refrigerate what needs the refrigerator.

This safari experience and thinking about all the things we don't know about our food's cleanliness and the hands that handled it prior to my bringing it home to my kitchen have brought a new level of cleanliness to my kitchen. I started washing all produce that entered my home--wrapped or bagged or unwrapped produce.

Oh, yuck
Some days, despite my best intentions, my fingers go into rotten fruit. Some days, I just have to wipe it on my clothing. Usually, I have to rest my arms on the opening for the asc door. Wearing long sleeves keeps the grossness down and assures me I am not picking up contagious diseases. LOL I have denim jacket/shirt that I can wear in the summer and shed before I get into the car. For winter shopping, I wear a coat with only one snap left. I am all about being clean. The clothes I wear are put in the wash since I do touch the outside of the asc with chest and stomach or legs, just in the course of my sometimes strenuous shopping experience.

There are days when I find huge bloody bags of meat drippings and scraps that have been deliberately laid on top of the produce. That finding stops me cold. First, I retch.  I go to a different side of the asc/dumpster or to the second asc a few feet away.

If my hair is clean, I put on a hat or hood. Some days, I grab my longish hair and twist it into a French twist of sorts and secure it with one long pin.  If I forget to cover my hair or put it up, it will always touch the door or inside of the asc as I lean in or reach to the side. That night is the night I wash my hair, even if I washed it in the afternoon.

Luckily, there has never been the odor of mold or a sighting of mold. That would probably turn me off immediately.

So, how nasty is the food?
After I wash it, it may be cleaner than the food you pick up inside and handle.

Your turn
Am I convincing you? (remember, I will not answer question in the comment section, but I will address them in a post.) I really do want questions!  Also, I would love to hear your reaction.

Next: Dumpster Diving III--equipment and timing and location


  1. Practical, I'll probably think of you from here on out when I hear of anyone "going on safari." ;)
    (When Hubby takes his daily walk on these country roads, I send him on his way with a kiss and say 'Bring me a present.' He often brings something home that he found on the roadside...stuff that falls off people's truck beds I guess. Most recently he found a fairly new pair of mens' gloves.)

  2. Thanks for sharing that story with me. Trucks do lose lots from their beds. That is a sweet story about your ritual with your husband. It would be interesting to keep a list of "presents" you receive from his walks. My head is clearing up some, and I believe the fever is gone. So, maybe I will go on safari tonight and post results tomorrow. Linda

  3. durn sinus infections...I take sinus meds daily just to avoid them. look forward to hearing what you "bag" tonight, Linda!

  4. Dmarie, I may start taking a daily does of Claritin or Pseudophedrine or this other allergy med I already have. When my children were little, the three of them lined up each morning for their med...grape stuff, liquid, my over heated brain cannot think of the name. Otherwise, I had three children ill with sinus problems, sore throats, ear infections, pnuemonia...some combniation.

    I cannot handle this heat and illness. I think I have not had a fever today. But, I have been so hot and sweaty from the heat, I am not sure. LOL With 99 degree and 58% humidity, I am not sure.

  5. So I noticed on your blog list it says I posted over a week ago. I posted two today. Weird!

  6. Linda
    I posted a comment but I guess it didn't go through. You mentioned rogue rats and things. Believe me, corn fields ( and my own humble garden) are filled with all kinds of undesirable critters. Always wash food, no matter where it came from.
    We dumpster dive for objects but not food. Not many dumpsters out in the country. I don't think what you're doing is in any way gross. I think its great actually.

  7. I am amazed that people forget that their food comes from the natural world, a world full of nasty animals that come and go as they please sometimes, despite our best efforts to control them.


For the present, I am taking comment moderation off the blog.