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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dumpster Diving--why I do it (1st in series)

On Friday, August 19, 2011, I posted Eating free with thrown-out food.  Frugal Down Under added a comment to my post about you tube videos of freegans. That is exactly what got me started dumpster diving for food--a video of freegans in a dumpster. Now, I want you all to hear how and why I did it. The thrown-out food from last Friday never saw the dark of a dumpster. The tomatoes had been placed on top of the dumpster moments before because I was not expected.

First of all: I do not get in the dumpster. I reach in.

I dumpster dive for the thrill, because I am cheap, because it is free, because it's there, because it is wasteful to trash all I find, because I find things I cannot afford, because I find things I will not buy.

Let me say that I have gotten boxes for packing for years by looking in clean dumpsters or retrieving them from behind stores. I never get boxes that have garbage thrown on top of them. Boxes that have had rain on them, even if they have dried, are left behind. Technically, if retrieving boxes is dumpster diving, many of us are guilty. Okay, let's leave collecting boxes for collecting food and eating it.

Several years ago, someone posted a YouTube video of professionals, doctors in Nashville, I believe, dumpster diving for food. I was intrigued. I read and heard and watched more. One day, in broad daylight, I decided to check out the dumpsters behind a store I was passing in another town. A man was going through the dumpster, or so I thought. His new Chrysler, his wife, and an open trunk waited.  He was well-dressed. He did not really go through anything. Several boxes of produce had been left for his retrieval. This was an inside job. I told him I knew that someone who worked in the store left this just for him.

My issue: someone in the store was breaking all store policies. Yes, I was irritated I could not be the

Yes, I was mean. I actually saw the boxes, all neat, clean, organized, left on top of the gross insides of the dumpster. He told me to shut quickly left. It's a good thing that he drove on pavement. If the surface had been gravel, I would have been thoroughly sprayed with rocks. Yes, he was in a hurry. Nothing else in the dumpster was organized, laid out in boxes. All had been just upturned so the produce landed in nasty places.

Nighttime would be my time, I decided. Why? 1) I knew people who worked in the businesses that were facing or in view of  the dumpster. 2) I really have no strong desire to have the police chase me away.

Next time, I will talk of germs and nasty, gross dumpsters, and how I overcome this issue: How Nasty is the Food?

Your turn
Have you collected and eaten food from a dumpster?

Any questions? I will answer all questions in one of the half dozen posts I have planned. I won't answer in comments sections, because I would be putting full posts in comments.  Any comments that are not questions? It will be interested to see if people around the world are gagging or reading in morbid fascination.

If you live in another country other than a First World country, please comment on the dumpster diving attitudes where you live.


  1. Love it - waiting to read your next posts.

    Ecologically and Human Rights wise the waste in the developed world in dumpsters while the developing world is starving is just not right.

    I had a friend who dumpster dived a bakery in Melbourne and gave us bags of gorgeous bakery items in big clean brown paper bags.

    I think the bakery threw stuff out carefully wrapped with the thought that people jumped in regularly.

    I haven't dived for food - I'm too shame... but that shame may peel away as I change day by day in my mind set about the world we live in.

  2. I have never dumpster dived, but I did tell my hubby about your story. If it was something we ever had to do, it's nice to know others do as well.

  3. When I get through telling you the finer points, the two of you should try it. I don't do it because I have to do it. When you have to do it, you may have company at the dumpster because they have to do it, too.

  4. too many stores will not give away their discards and I hate to see good, healthy food wasted! more power to you, Practical!

  5. Dmarie, there is some foolish "store policy" about someone suing the store if the food is bad.

    tlc, I assume your husband was not appalled.

  6. I've never done it personally, though I am intrigued. I had a whole houseful of friends that nightly drove to Little Caesars to retrieve boxed pizzas from the dumpster. Hey, young, creative hippies gotta eat and the price is right!

  7. And, you ate it? Good for you young hippies. Food is food. Free is great.

  8. I have not dumpster dived for food. I don't know that I would, at least not in my small town, where everyone would know that is "so and so's wife" since my husband is known by many people in town because of his profession. In a big city, where I could be anonymous, I think I would go on a nighttime run with freegans, just to see what it's like.

    You may have already answered this question in another post, but the one thing I wonder about is how do you know that a food hasn't been thrown out because of a serious recall?

  9. Good for you. Yes, the embarrassment is the worst part of anyone seeing me.

    That is a good question. Usually, we all hear about recalls. Now, during the spinach recall, I would not have touched a piece of spinach from a grocery store that had gone to the dumpster. I try not to be completely foolhardy.

    However, we were all buying things during recalls if we did not hear about it in time. I suppose I would have treated the food just like if I had bought it. I would have tossed

    What it is like? Shocking to see so much good food going to waste. Thanks for asking that important question. Maybe we will be in the same city and can go out some to bars or to eat or movies, but to go on safari. Yeah, let's drag home trash.

  10. GV, I meant to say I would not touch spinach from the grocery store shelves or the dumpster. I remember there was no spinach on the shelves. So, if I had found it out back, it would not have come home with me.

  11. I worked for a major food company for 18 years. I did my share of food recalls. I can't speak for other companies but our policy was to pick up anything that was on recall. Generally when a store was notified of a recall they would box and set aside the product for us to take care of. Even then we had to personally check the shelves, cooler and storage areas. After pickup, depending on the problem, we either handed it in to the company company or we were required to follow instructions that would render the food inedible. Food recalls in the United States are taken very seriously. You most likely would NOT find a recalled item in a dumpster.

    That being said I can tell you that much of the food that is thrown out is simply close to/out of code or damaged packaging.

  12. Janet,
    Thanks for that information. I always wondered exactly what happened to recalled food.

    Those of us who are outside the industry make assumptions. I found produce that had never been unpacked because fresh produce came in before the older, still fresh produce was put on the shelves.


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