Dumpster diving: The easiest way to find free food

Dumpsters are full of provisions with passed expiration dates which are all edible. If you’re not afraid.

Hunger is a necessary experience of travel (and life). When blessed with a budget, there is very little fear of hunger.

IT IS COMMONPLACE in a strange land, on a strange form of transportation that might last for days, to wonder when you’ll stop for your next meal.

True, the local markets do provide wonderfully, as with the vendors along the streets and the friendly strangers who invite you in to quench your thirst, and hopefully (cross your fingers), feed you.

Yet there is never a guarantee, and to eat is a necessity. So whip out your wallet of traveler’s checks and foreign currencies and start paying. Or… put it away and enjoy the feast.

Let me tell you something: food comes free in many more ways than one.

Taking The Dive

Olympic diving is a sport. Like swimming.

The type of diving I speak of however, does not require water. And its’ only purpose is food: to satiate that shrinking belly of yours while the traveling road surges forward.

So you dive, and dive deep, often you come up with more than one meal. In fact, it’s possible the smart diver can feed a whole family for several days.

Are you ready my fellow travelers? Are you ready to go dumpster diving?

I have found it to be an art form. There is a method to come away clean, smelling fresh and carrying a bagful of healthy, wholesome, satiating rations. But let me first lay down the definition of dumpster diving.

Within a dumpster, food easily makes up over 50% of the waste.

Dumpster diving is just that. To take the plunge into a dumpster in search of practically anything. But today we focus on foodstuffs, because we’re travelers and we’re hungry.

Everyone must eat, therefore a diver can never be letdown. And with food, there is a certain identification tag that works to benefit all: the expiration date.

Most people in society today live by this expiration date. Their ablutophobia prohibits them from eating a morsel of bread with a speck of mold or a plump pear with an inch of bruising.

This works to our advantage…if our fear is minimal.

The Art of a Full Grocer’s Bag

Dumpsters are full of provisions with passed expiration dates, everything from breads to jars of jams and sauces to fruits and vegetables and boxes of snacks. People throw their things away carelessly to make room for the new.

And the adage-one’s waste is another’s treasure-applies well in this particular circumstance. To sum up, dumpster diving is the art of claiming others’ waste, and free food is an easy source of protein.

Like I said, it is an artform, and to make it an artform there must be a few rules and techniques. The following will help one become a seasoned dumpster diver and benefit from a society obsessed with creating waste:

1. Scout out your dumpster

It is risky to immediately walk up to a dumpster’s plank and dive in. Many times there are cameras on surveillance, or hazardous wastes nearby, therefore causing the goods inside to be potentially unhealthy.

Once outside Marks & Spencer in the UK, a security guard caught a friend and me. We played dumb, told him we were making a project to reveal how much edible food is disgracefully thrown away. He smiled and told us to leave.

2. Go for large supermarkets

They stick to a strict code of tossing food that has passed its’ expiration date. Also, the bakeries inside will often deposit their day-old breads. (At a Tescos in Nottingham, England my backpack was filled with loaves of sandwich and Irish soda bread).

3. Come Around Again

Once the dumpster has been scouted, return to it at an appropriate hour when traffic is minimal.

Walk up to the dumpster with confidence; do not portray any suspicions. But quickly, forage and collect what you can. Also, carrying a grocer’s bag from the market can help conceal your actions.

4. Move Swiftly

With a full bag move out quickly. Back home, check the provisions over and wash carefully. Here is where you can discard any products you feel are not edible.

In the end, it is under your discretion of what to eat and what to toss.

Also, it is good to note whether or not any other divers are at the dumpster. For example, if a community of homeless resides near a source, be respectful and leave it to them.

These are the foundations of dumpster diving, or reaping off what other people call “waste” when, in actuality, it can be spared and used as necessary fuel.

Treat it as an art form and you will soon find yourself with a free meal, and an intriguing way of discovering how to travel, eat and live on a budget.

Put your wallets away, save your traveler’s checks and foreign currencies, and take the dive.

Cameron Karsten writes spiritual and health travel columns for Brave New Traveler. He left his formal classroom studies to indulge in dreams of travel at 19 years old, and has been wandering ever since. Visit his personal website.

Have you ever tried dumpster diving? Share you stories in the comments!

Related Articles

Beginner’s Guide to Dumpster Diving 24

Top 10 ways to stretch your travel dollar – part 2 5

How to travel like royalty on a backpacker budget 5

  • jay

    cool post, everytime i walk past my local supermarket there are people diving, usually deep, i have to say, i have had a few urges myself, mainly out of curiousity but never gone for it, after chattin to some divers in action though i found out that you can get some pretty sweet stuff

    if i were hungry and broke this would defo be an option…ha ha

  • Ken

    My Dumpster diving experience is limited but educational. A few years back Wendy’s had a promotion that if you saved the coupons on their drink cups you could trade them in for a free round trip airline ticket. Needless to say drinking that much soda was out of the question. Enter the dumpster diving scheme for the cups. While collecting the cups I met some people who got their food out of the dumpster. Not the half eaten sandwich you might think of but whole sacks of food not eaten! It seems that if Wendy’s makes a mistake on a order they just toss it and replace the meal. So if I had to dive I would start with fast a food dumpster first.

  • http://www.nerdseyeview.com pam

    I hate that dumpster diving is becoming the domain of hipsters with Internet access. HATE it. While I think it’s tragic that there’s so much wasted food when so many people are hungry, I also think there’s something unseemly in the idea that you should go dumpster diving so you can save your pennies for your RTW ticket or spend three more days on the beach.

    It’s not just the ick factor, it’s the politics of it.Pretending to be post-apocalyptic and then going to yoga class is, well, I don’t have the words to describe how I feel about those choices. If you feel TRULY compelled to stem the waste, you could redistribute what you find to the street people in your area. Or take a little action to work directly with the business that’s dumping food to build relationships with organizations that feed the needy each day.

    There. I’ve said it. I guess I’m prepared for the backlash. I guess.

    • http://www.bravenewtraveler.com Ian MacKenzie

      hi pam – thanks for your comments. i suppose the issue can be viewed a number of ways, depending on where exactly the dumpster diving is taking place. i could see the ethical issue that comes from saving your money in a developing country instead of helping out the local economy. then again, cam does mention to steer clear of dumpsters that have homeless/needy already claimed. plus, as a wandering nomad, taking the time to build long-term relationships when you’ve on the move doesn’t seem possible. a polarizing issue, definitely.

  • Justin

    A friend was recently telling me about a movement called “Freeganism.” I’d never heard of it before and another friend described it with pretty negative overtones as dumpster-diving. I wikipedia’d the term and discovered there’s a whole socio-political movement of anti-consumerism associated with it. I’m not sure it’s the type of activism/lifestyle for me, but it was interesting and you can’t deny that our society wastes a lot of food while other nations starve.

    Anyway, interesting article!

  • http://www.cam2yogi.com cam2yogi

    My first notion of dumpster diving was absurd as well, I mean… how difficult is it to buy a plate of dal bhat for 50 US cents in Nepal, or finding fresh roasted squid-on-a-stick in Thailand to support the locals and their lifestyles. But no doubt, while on the road the traveler finds more and more that one person’s waste is another’s treasure.
    Passing books from traveler to traveler, giving away clothes to locals as the climate changes from sea to mountain, exchanging knowledge about where and when to go – the world works in cycles. And the Tao of it, one could say, is to go with the flow. The snake eats its’ own tail, thus it grows, and the more people become sustainable, learn how to recycle, and share their “waste”, the easier the flow will evolve. There is nothing to fear in this flow of life. Take what you can get, and give back more than you should.
    Ian hit a brilliant notion: it is hard to establish relationships while on the road, and the idea of giving a homeless or street-dweller something one pulled out of a dumpster seems lower than diving itself. Only a fresh Cambodian bowl of noodle soup on Thanksgiving day given to the kids of the street will create that vision of how the world truly goes round and then comes back around.

  • http://www.nerdseyeview.com pam

    I don’t know that I’d advocate handing “trash” food to street people in communities you don’t know, though I’m not sure how to reconcile “it’s good enough for me with my return ticket but not good enough for that guy living in a box with his kid.”

    I might advocate passing the word to street people in those places this: Yo, that dumpster over there is FULL of TOTALLY EDIBLE FOOD. Let me take you there – and passing on it for myself because I can spend three bucks on a meal that supports the local economy.

    And yes, yes, yes, buy the soup, for crying out loud. Absolutely. Yes, pass the books along. Yes to all of those things. Of course. I am not one to argue with that. But I do object to the what seems to be a popular trend of relatively privileged individuals scavenging without participation in stemming the tide of waste at the source. As a beneficiary of the bread place’s waste, are you truly encouraged to find a more appropriate use for that food, or are you just saying “Dude, I totally scored on these day old spelt rolls!” I’m inclined to think that dumpster diving Freegans land on the “Dude I scored!” side.

    Try this related scenario: Regularly around my ‘hood, people set out bags full of stuff for a non profit center to pick up. If I buy that stuff from the second hand store, the money goes into employment training programs for the homeless. If I liberate it from the curb, there’s no benefit. Is that different than dumpster diving? It was trash to the people that put it out for pickup, right?

    Another scenario: The guy living with his kid in a box walks down the alley and sees you, the traveler, diving for dinner in a society that doesn’t provide him with enough to eat. I don’t think I can express how horrible that scenario seems to me.

  • http://www.cam2yogi.com cam2yogi

    Scenario number one is an ideal example of a society of conscious persons giving back to their community. If only there were more neighborhoods voluntarily taking a moment’s thought from their day to place foodstuff and used goods out front their porches. And I’m sure there are more than I’m aware of… I hope so.

    As far as dumpster diving, my experience does not relate within a lesser developed world where (I can only imagine) dumpsters and trash bins can be more… hmmm… unpleasant, and more so, against what is socially acceptable within that culture. There is always a place and a time for everything.

    But take the UK and the US for instance where a market such as Whole Foods or Mark & Spencers are too large, too wasteful (reaching up to a corporate level). What to do? Write a letter to your local newspaper editor? Set up a tent community outside their doors? Walk in and ask to see a manager to present him/her with a petition signed by community members?

    These actions might turn the tide, but with a flow running strong against one’s individual strength – and until more people wake up from their illusions of power and material wealth to learn to take care of one another and the planet in which we all co-exist – the likelihood of changing this tide is slim, but indeed possible. And anyone with the energy to take it to the corporate offices in order to reduce waste, come to understand the ease of recycling and reusing, and therein keeping the dumpsters and waste sites empty; on this day I will rejoice and go volunteer at the local soup kitchen to the end of my days.

  • http://www.nerdseyeview.com pam

    So, what, exactly, is the motivation here? That there’s so much waste or that you’re trying to score free stuff? Because if the concern is genuinely with the waste, then yes, all the actions you list above are appropriate – the visit to the store manager, the petition, the corporate windmill tilting… because the alternatives are to passively let a broken system continue while you continue to reap the “benefits” for yourself, only. If you have the time and inclination to go diving, you can find the time to stop in and have a chat with the store manager. If the concern is only free lunch, there’s no reason to face the issue, just continue to feed off it, literally. Enjoy your meal and the fiction that you’re creating change.

    Dumpster diving comes under the heading of Very Bad Ideas for Travelers. Because:

    Health – A traveler’s health is the one thing not to be skimped on. That dumpster may have been the home of rats, used diapers, used needles, who knows. Do you really want to risk that?

    Economics – there’s a whole tragically under serviced population – everywhere on the planet, even in the US and UK, that make their subsistence on the detritus of others. Do you really want to compete with them for your dinner? Sure, you advise scoping to see if there’s competition, but if you’re just passing through, how would you know?

    Diplomacy – travelers every where are diplomats, like it or no. You’re not just in the world to learn about other places – people you interact with will take your behaviors as representative of your home country. When the humorless owner comes out the back to have a smoke and finds you, Gap Year Traveler, sorting through the leftovers of the restaurant that pays his living, do you think he wants to hear a lecture on institutionalized waste from a foreigner who’s too cheap to pay for dinner?

    Crime – Again, like it or no, in some places,it’s a crime to steal garbage. Idiotic though it is, you run the risk of explaining your actions to a cop who isn’t interested in your hunter gatherer as social commentary choices. Do you know if it’s a crime at your destination?

    Diving in your own community where you can asses the risk AND also work to create change is a better proposition. Diving as a method for finding food while traveling is a terrible idea.

  • Pingback: nerd’s eye view » Blog Archive » Counterpoing: You’re an Effing Hippie

  • http://www.cam2yogi.com cam2yogi

    Choices are abundant in life, and especially they appear ever-so-more present while traveling. The more options on the table (or in the dumpster) of one’s journey, the more creative one can become. The article is merely an option, an idea, a reflection, an expansion upon memory. So whoever finds themselves open to new things, whether with risk or not, dumpster diving is out there. Proceed according to your own guidance. Respect your SELF, most of all, and then dive down the path with your own heart and do not look back. Fear is what plagues the world today, yesterday, and unfortunately… tomorrow.

  • http://www.keepingpaceinjapan.com Turner

    That’s a great argument – agree or disagree, the idea should be brought into the light and discussed. We see a lot of that here.

  • Thadd

    I’m sorry but I have disagree, on many levels. Life and travel is all about personal choices and options. Not everyone feels the social compulsion that you seem to feel. Judging a “hipster” for dumpster diving is no worse than the rich turning up their nose at a homeless man dumpster diving.
    I know from my personal experience working at a grocery store that Cameron is right on. Tens to hundreds of pounds of food are tossed on a daily basis from even the smallest grocery store. I also know that the homeless are quiet aware of this.
    Feeling bad for the homeless is one thing, I’m sure we all do, but why does that mean that all of us should go out and do something about it. If you feel the need to campaign for them, there are plenty of organizations that you can lobby through.
    I’m not sure how many homeless people you’ve spoken to, but I got to tell you that many are paranoid and territorial. Some are truly intelligent well spoken people who have just hit on hard times. Even they tend to find the places where the food is at. I’ll tell you my concern as a Chicagoan is not whether they are eating or not, my concern is what are they going to do with the winter coming up. If you want to campaign for the homeless, come to Chicago and work on getting them indoors for our -20 to -40 degree winters. That claims more homeless lives than lack of food in dumpsters.
    Back to my original point though. If someone feels the need or desire to go dumpster diving, I say go for it. I personally won’t be joining you unless I do hit upon some dire straights. If you find it morally unethical, then please don’t. Go campaign for the homeless, but please don’t try to make my choices for me.

  • http://www.nerdseyeview.com pam

    I want to reiterate something, just to be clear. I think dumpster diving is a bad idea for TRAVELERS. Dumpster diving when you don’t have the time and local insight to asses whether or not you’re poaching a known source of food for people less well off than yourself is, I continue to believe, a bad idea.

  • http://joshkearns.blogspot.com Josh

    What dumpsters in Nepal or Thailand or India? Food doesn’t make it into the dumpster here. There’s loads of people to give first refusal, then the dogs, cows, donkeys, etc. get it.

    Food ends up in the dumpster in countries that can “afford to be wasteful,” like the US.

    Dumpster diving is a patriotic act. Dive away!

  • patricia

    dupster digging is the further for some if things keep going the way they are alot more people will be doing it just to get a meal .look at all the homeless people there is not even a homeless shelter in some state to even help them. we need more help for these people .thats the way this world is no one cares about anyone not even there own family so please find it in your heart to help them .please we are no better then they are so please help the ones that really need it .god loves us all and help your family they real need so one that cares .if i knew any of my family was out there having to live like that i would do anything i could to help them. think twices if you had to live like that .you lost everthing you had worked for never say not me it can happen to anyone.so please help others they need us all.

  • Pingback: Dumpster Diving for Dinner? Freeganism explored | Crunchy Domestic Goddess

  • April

    This is a great debate! – one can def tell who has vacationed and who has done extended travelling with no money just because it is in them to learn and experience life.
    I did a lot of Homeless outreach in a city I decided to settle down in – I was there for 8 years and we def have a huge problem – the one common thing among all homeless people was shelter as an issue – they all plenty of food in all the dumpsters and homeless outreach shelters – the only people suffering were those inflicted with HIV/AIDS becuase they needed a more specialized diet (which one of my programs provided). There are just so many places to get food – not to mention people just giving to them while they panhandle so much food that they must refuse it in some places in the city (not everywhere obviously – but in desperatte times people did know where to travel to for a garenteed hit).

    If you are going to fight for a cause please be educated in – at least a part of it – that way you arent throwing so many misconceptions out there and misrepresenting what so many people are working so hard to combat – this kind of miseducation is doing so much more harm than good – the homeless need a lot of things to flurish in ways that we want to see them flurish – in order to provide the essentials that are desperately needed we must get our prioties straight through education – this is done by actual talking to people on the streets – your opinions might change…

    As for travellers diving – as I am sure you can can tell – when you work for nonprofit organizations and social issues and actually become part of the solution there isnt any money in it – you are stuck nearly on the streets yourself becuase one is barely making it by – this means when it is time to be educated in other parts of the world (this usually occurs when you have been in a place long enough to induce change and give locals the breathe of fresh air and hope that they needed) you dont have tons of money to just get up and leave and the majority of the time the couple hundred that you have is what you live on for a while – this money is needed for to get through borders and other unavioded expenses – you have no money for food or transportation – without hitching and diving many people could see the world and share they very valuable aide and understanding – and lets do clear things up here – one can only dive in a developed city (do you actually think every underdevelloped village out there has multiple dumpster – or even for that matter a whole hoarde of homeless – most villages are in severe poverty but all looking after eachother and content and willing to share all they have which is now when you step in and be concious of the fact that you can just hitch into the town and never deplete anyones resources nor radically change a lifestyle that they are content with (they dont want internet nor yoga lessons nor food from strangers but rather to continue making their hard earned living and surviving in conditions that they dont think are bad (even if we deem them to be horendous becuase we arent use to not showering twice a day) – the only dumpsters that will be used are in cities where all know about them and you do tlak to the locals and see all possible resources and available ways to survive – this is how we truly know whats going on in the world and how we are able to maintain our education about them – not from text books but from experience and the beautiful desire that is in someone to want to help another and truly understand their position so that aide can be delievered.

    Lets open our ears and our eyes and become part of this world – coming from an aide workers perspective and a traveller (and a diver) it is truly sad to see uneducated acitivists distracting from true issues that the people of concern want to have dealt with – not what the ‘activist’ just read about and thinks they should ‘bring into light’

    Lets all live in peace and help one another in what ever way we are capable of – this starts respect and understanding and most of all the ability to truly listen!


  • http://www.laurencarter.ca/blog Lauren Carter

    Back in the late ’90s, my household survived on the dumpster behind the supermarket across the road from our house.

    We stuffed our freezer with delicatessan-style bread and regularly ate fresh fruit (banana with a single black spot, tomatoes actually ripe). I never saw a spot of mould on anything we picked out of there.

    Unfortunately, though, I wrote an essay article about it that was published in a national newspaper and the store’s owner read it and realized that people – other than us, there were lots of students and other hungry folks – were living free from his store. He put a trash compactor in.

    Although I haven’t tried in years, I see a lot fewer dumpsters and way more compactors behind grocery stores these days and am not so sure how easy it would be anymore to actually find a dumpster worth diving. Maybe I should try.

  • http://tinyurl.com/5pul7l cheritycall

    hi, Do something to help the hungry people in Africa or India,
    I added this blog about them:
    in http://tinyurl.com/5qlbzs

  • matt

    well, i gotta say

    i have decent clothing and a place to live, but days go by when I cant buy a meal. I have a great reume as a classical violinist, but no ones hiring around here. with that said, i see no reason why not to dumspter dive even if i have a roof. if i need to eat, i need to eat. I think pam is missing the point. even hipster kids who go home and book concert tickets after dumpster diving are still lessening the absurd amount of waste. perhaps a more open mind would lead to a better life, no?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ianmack ianmack

    Thanks for the story. I'm sure there must be a way to implement a system to share the food – though clearly in this case, even when there's willing workers, it can be a challenge.

  • dumpster diver

    I went to the produce counter to ask for veggies to feed this family of deer, with triplets living in my neighborhood. The guy at the counter gave me a box of apples, turnips ets.

    I took them home, and the apples were better the ones on the tree in my yard.

    Next grocery visit, I told him I ate a couple of the apples, asked him why they did not give them to the homeless.

    Was told they had tried, but the homeless, and even the shelter directors would come to the store and
    fight over them.

    Told me the main reason to rid the store of them was to keep the fruit flies down.
    Makes sense. Fruit flies in a produce dept. turns people off.

    He also told me when they had tried this unkept people would hang around the store and beg for

    I asked the produce mgr. if he ever had taken over ripe produce for his friends and family.

    He said his job would be on the line if he did, though he wished he could.

    Good grief.

  • V. ?.

    I have not enough time to read through all the comments, though I read the first article and the first comments.
    Last year somebody threw in my yard 4 new-born puppies and soon their mother followed them.
    I mean she found them and sat outside my door, waiting.
    Could not get rid of this family and as I had already my own dogs, it became an Odyssey to manage to feed them all, on the top of it the crisis started in the end of 2008.
    It was the first time in my life I had to beg for food and to “dumpster dive” as you say.
    At first I wrote to each and every possible dog food company all over the world for free samples, charity, whatever possible help.
    The one and only company who helped was Mark and Chappell with 2 tubes of health care products.
    Locally, Pedigree offered 4 cans of dog food each one weighing 250 grs, totally 1 kilo of canned dog food, one time.
    Friends and relatives answered with a loud “NO”, as talking about dog feeding sounds to them as an unforgivable eccentricity.
    Some organization for strays offered to me to send them to Germany for adoption but I’d like to be able to check the circumstances of adoption, that is to see the family they’d take them and so.
    Puppies needed to eat though, twice a day and Pedigree puppies’ special food costs 8 euros per 2 kilos, that amount needed approx daily for them.
    I’m not rich obviously, I saw that I could not afford it and one day very soon after they came into my life, I cleaned well all my house, put on clean clothes and took my car to go out and see what I could find to feed them.
    I initially begged in restaurants for food leftovers. Had to put on surgical gloves and pick over the plastic bags they were giving to me, for something useful but then I was afraid they could get sick.
    I started begging the butcher shops for bones they normally get rid of.
    Sometimes they give, other times they claim it is forbidden by the law, who knows, maybe they need somebody to be a client for to give him. That is to purchase meat in a regular basis so that to give him some bones too.
    Also the bakeries for old bread, some shops that sell cheese pies and similar and they get rid of the products of the day that weren’t sold as they must be fresh.
    There are in Greece some shops selling a local specialty “souvlaki” together with other barbecued food, such as chicken, pork, burgers, steaks and so on.
    I was endlessly surprised when I discovered that they get rid of, in the end of the day, enormous quantities of this food, if it wasn’t sold during the day, them too must sell it fresh.
    Sometimes they gave to me several plastic bags full of it, but other times they simply deny, one cannot imagine, why they give or why they do not.
    More than once I had to “dumpster dive” as you say, but I do hate that and try to avoid it as much as I can, cause I’m afraid of illnesses.
    The 3 puppies are now 18 months old, all females, we lost one of the 4 sisters immediately after they came in, because of some kind of typhus the vet said, common to not vaccinated puppies, but that was not due to my kind of feeding.
    This puppy was sick the very first day I took them inside. Had to feed them a lot and clean a lot and be careful a lot as the other three should not get sick and we should wait 3 weeks until to vaccinate them.
    I myself lost 15 kilos during the past year because of the situation but that was a blessing, as I was overweight and could not ever imagine such a method of losing weight.
    This is the situation until now, each night I try to invent some way to find out food for the next day, each morning I miraculously manage to provide our family (that is my dogs) the “daily bread”.
    In the nights when I try the “souvlaki” shops, I saw last month for the first time other people to “dumpster dive” carrying with them as you say, a grocer’s bag from the market.
    When I see them I leave, as I hate already “dumpster diving” all the more to compete with others for doing so.
    I dream about winning the lottery and, entering the supermarkets, that I can afford all the food I’d like, don’t know how someone who could get for him and his beloved ones the necessary things could choose to “dumpster dive” instead.
    For all my life did not know such thing existed, but I was informed about it in my 50’s because I love animals.
    Plse forgive my english as this is not my native language.

  • Lilah

    I went on my first dumpster dive last night. I live in a developed country, and I’m lucky as I don’t think it’s illegal here. Cops even biked past us as we were diving. I have a small roof over my head and (sew my own) clothes, but I don’t have much money and would rather spend it on musical equipment.

    Most importantly, I think there’s something very wrong with encouraging overproduction and overconsumption. Even if I was a millionaire, I don’t see I should consume consume consume (which is what religiously buying non-dumpster food is, in a place where there’s an abundance of good food taken to the landfill).

    Do you think I’m stealing from homeless people? Think again. There is so much food thrown out that it wouldn’t be possible to eat it all. There is plenty for everyone. Know your city.

    In places where people are truly needy for food, there are no dumpsters to dive in the first place (or at least, all the edible food never makes it there).

    Call me a hipster if you like but I would rather save my pita bread (exp date 3 days from now) from the landfill than buy that same pita bread in the store.

    It’s foolish to insult people who have their hearts in the right place when it comes to the environment simply because you feel defensive about our statement that we should not support over-consumption.

    Also making the statement that we’re “not really doing anything” is silly and demoralizing. There is no harm in people choosing to minimize their consumption, whether or not they are “doing something more”. Have you volunteered your time at a homeless shelter lately, or gone on a journey to save the whales? No? Then stop insulting others who seek to minimize their impact on the environment… thanks…

  • http://vark.blogspot.com arbitraryaardvark

    I’ve been freegan since the 70s although I’ve only known the term for a few years.
    Today’s haul included 40 cups of yogurt, a squash, cheese, carpet for a small room, carrots, strawberries, a plasma tv that turned out to be broken.
    My food, clothes, furniture, many of my books and computers,all dumpster dived.
    Other stuff is second hand. I try to live simply, small footprint. I’m not 100% there; I don’t have a windmill and an electric car. I bought this house with money saved dumpster diving, or at least that’s one way to look at it.
    re pam, diving in the third world means extra caution, sure, but it’s a good way to escape tourist traps, meet real people, bring back unique souveneirs, dumpster dive with a camera.

  • V. T.

    I changed system during the summer and this site was bookmarked in the firefox’s favourites of the old system.
    The situation is like this.
    I was surfing through dial-up during the last ten years.
    My 2 systems bought during this time (with credit card instalments, don’t know if I translate right the term) were full of trojans.
    They never let me do what I like, to write, to read, question can’t be made about listening to the radio or seeing videos on-line.
    Yet I can update my personal homepage which is the thing it bothers them most, and eventually to post here and there in the net.
    This place of yrs I struggled very hard in order to achieve to post in, in the first place.
    I was afraid to switch to broadband in case that it would be then completely impossible to surf, since I’m not at all computer informed and I maybe could not manage the broadband settings in order to avoid hackers and trojans.
    But I was obliged to jump in the void as the cost difference between dial-up and broadband is hence huge.
    I bought a third new clean system (credit card instalments again) and tried VERY HARD. I managed to have internet access after some 3 months, but in the exactly same way as before, that is, I only do what hackers, trojan remote users, they allow me to do.
    So I had forgotten about yr site and only dreamt about posting again when I dumpster dive locally.
    I kept my previous system and connected it to the new with some two towers, one screen, one mouse, one keyboard switch, in a way that I can anytime see my old data, nevertheless could not start looking in the past firefox’s favourites for to post here again, if it was for some real emergency maybe I could.
    But today I noticed in my yahoo mail a notification for new posts here, and that was easy to follow the link and meet you again.
    During all this time I discovered little things and tips and I’d like to post them but then again, maybe they are useless for others.
    Given that I live now with 9 dogs and 4 cats (pet people came in and others left us, I mean I lost them, passed away, any how now the total number is as above) my first preoccupation is for meet, which as I said I ask for free from butchers’leftovers, and also use my restricted money for to buy additionnally pets canned food or dry food.
    My permanent repressed desire is for vegetables and dairy products for me.
    Given that I’m 50 now, it is said that this kind of food is critical for to keep one’s good health especially a woman’s good bones situation etc.
    I can only dream about fresh dairy products and vegetables, fruits salads and so on, but then I found some 2 or 3 tips for the second category.
    Each saturday in Greece happen some bazaars in every corner or neighborhood called “?????? ??????”, this translated is something like “public market” where mainly vegetables and fruits are sold, in low prices.
    So accidentally I passed by the nearest public market to me, late in the saturday afternoon and found in the garbadge bins lots of good stuff, fruits and vegetables, more than once.
    The good thing with the public markets’ garbage bins is that they only contain fruits and vegetables, not anything else, and this kind of food even if it is partially hit or sere, in a way that merchants could not sell it, it’s not rotten or dangerous and one can clean it completely well, when washing it.
    As other garbage do not mix with them in those garbage bins it can be relatively safe to dumpster dive there and I was very happy to discover it, cause safety and health have been my main problem that stopped me very often from doing this, even if extremely hungry and my pets starving.
    Cannot risk to get them sick cause vets then ask for astronomical amounts and we lost 2 or 3 pets this summer cause vets denied me some credit of a month or two for their services in an emergency.
    So get sick is not an option neither for me nor for my pet family and this is my main problem with dumpster diving.
    I expanded the fruit and vegetable dumpster diving except for the public markets also to some vegetable shops in the country, I mean outside the Athens center, on the national road’s both sides, at night where I found sometimes, equally good water melons, peaches and other similar paradise goods.
    Whenever I dumpster dive there, I return home and make fruit juices in the blender, as the fruits should rather not be preserved whole. And salads. The juices if I cannot consume instantly (although I can consume 2-3 litres at one gulp cause this is my kind of alcohol), but if there’s more I keep it in the fridge for next day and it is heaven.
    So that is for the vegetarian dumpster diving, it’s safer than others.
    Also there are some big supermarket chains’ subsidiaries in my neighborhood (far outside from Athens center I repeat) where I tried a couple of times at night.
    I did not find lots of things, a rotten german bread into its cellophane, a tomato, but then next night they locked the garbadge bins all of them with padlocks, and another supermarket, they built some bars all over their yard to stop cars enter when they are closed.
    (I was parking the car late at night near their garbadge bins so that I cannot be seen to dumpster dive from the national road).
    I left some time without visiting them and then they had left again the garbadge bins unlocked, they do not have much although inside.
    There is this new built supermarket subsidiary although (a third one) where I was astonished once to discover a whole load of fresh fish!
    I had not eaten fish during the last 10 years more than once.
    And there was lots and lots of them completely fresh and beautiful, I know about fishes as I was taught from my grandpa to fish at our home town in an island, so they were definitely fresh and good and could not guess why they threw them away?
    There I found lots of things, a can with cheese almost empty but there was a big piece left inside, ham, lots of it, fruits etc etc.
    I believe this is the only supermarket in the region where it’s worthwile to dumpster dive, but it’s all new and luxury and maybe that’s why they get rid of so much good food, or maybe it was my lucky day.
    People who were giving me the musty cheese pies are tormeting me each day “come tomorrow in a different time”, “come an hour later” and so on, then they say “I’m sorry, I forgot to keep them”, “nothing had left”, and so on.
    At times I think “never I will go there again”, maybe then I’ll change my mind.
    Sometimes I do not change it, like at some confectionnery where twice they gave us musty cheese pies and we all got diarrhea, me and the pets, I never touched their doorstep again although they gave a lot.
    Some other time I abandonned another cheese pies shop, my main supply source at the time, cause a neighbour of mine, some hostile guy who does anything to ennoy and threaten us, informed me that he knows what I’m doing and maybe the food I get will not be safe enough in the future.
    I was afraid maybe he could go first in the garbadge can where I had arranged with the shop’s guy to leave them next to it (not inside), I was afraid the bad neighbour could go there and put anything inside the food in order to harm me or the pets, depends who could eat of them and changed place, I abandonned this one.
    The dangers one must face when doing this “dumpster dive” as you say are not a cruise in exotic places and who sees them alike is probably not obliged to exercise this.
    As I am concerned I think that dumpster diving is suitable for the rich, who like that, can be assured the poor people can risk their health to full their bellies, instead of uprising and getting them all from those thiefs.
    That’s my opinion.
    Either dreaming of being able to purchase safe and clean food for myself and my beloved ones, or then dreaming of being given safe and clean food for same reason that’s the only rational thing I see.
    The other thing I’m obliged to do is kind of divination. One must guess where he’ll find food for tonight and then he’ll guess (judging from all he sees and feels) that this time he will not get sick or die from what he collects.
    Either he will guess right, or not, in both attempts.
    As per how to oblige rich people and companies to redistribute systematically all the food they get rid of, I don’t know how, I believe high economy is interfering to this and I do not know a thing about economics.
    I’m sorry for my english, that’s my best performance, I cannot do anything more.

  • V. T.

    P. S.
    After I updated my post as above, I went once more for dumpster diving and then, I remembered about swine flu.
    I had not thought that this cannot be while I dumpster dive!
    I will never again dumpster dive at least for the time being.

  • Jonathan Stamos

    So you rather waste perfectly good food then let hipsters follow their pretentious ideology?

  • V. T.

    You mean “waste perfectly good food… thAn let hipsters…”?
    Isn’t it obvious that to me it’s not a question of ideology but of survival?
    Yes I stil can think and speak, but what is on stake is our life here.
    I was angry (very much) and frightened not without a reason, thinking that there is a world-wide pandemic outbreak (we entered too, as a country, it seems) and I dumpster dive!
    I wrote here to express my feelings, not waiting for anything, while local society (friends, relatives) do not want to know anything about it.
    I will also never again write here any more. I should have said id before, as I only answer once more because I did not prevent about it.

  • Robert

    In the last month or so i have taken up dumpster diving for my food. Lets just say i haven’t bought any food in a long time. I don’t even have to go out every night, usaully every third or forth night. I get all sorts of good eats, i’ve gotten, ground beef, steaks, pork loin, turkey tenderloins, chips, soda, cookies, beans, rice, sugar, flour, chicken wings, chicken breasts, chicken wings, salmon, tilapia, yogurt, protien shakes, protein bars, basically every kind of bread and pastry you can imagine, i even found a beer once and thats just a partial list. I also recently found a working digital camera in a dumpster. I am able to feed myself, my roommate and still have food to give away to anyone that is willing to eat food from a dumpster. I have actually food i can eat better out of a dumpster than i can afford to buy at a supermarket. But dumpster diving is about more than just free food, it’s about recycling. Why should i go to a store and buy food when i can just go and get the same products from the dumpster after they close. America is one of the most wasteful countries in the world, my advice is take of advantage of the waste of your fellow citizens.

  • Pingback: Panhandlers: Where Does Your Spare Change Go?

  • Rachel

    Mr. Karsten, recently my friend took on the art of dumpster diving, but not for himself, but for those who are struggling and hungry. He wants to give the food out to these people but doesn’t know if there are any regulations or run ins with the law that he might have. Do you have any insight into this?