Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dumpster Diving

Have you ever driven by and seen someone digging trash out of a dumpster filling their shopping cart with stuff you would consider trash and unuseful? Did you feel sorry for them or maybe felt you were too good to do something like that? Did you feel your social status raise a level?  Later on while sipping cocktails with friends did you bring up what you saw and everyone had a good laugh?
At what time does dumpster diving become socially acceptable? Is it when the crunch finally happens and we have to do it to feed our families? Is it acceptable if we were artists and looking for material to work with? Would it be okay if we were using the food found for animals and not human consumption?  

Lets explore the last one. The cost of feed and hay has skyrocketed to a price where only the rich can afford to keep animals. Around here nasty crap hay is going for $120 a round. A fifty pound bag of feed last year was $8.00 and now it is $13.50
There is no way to up the price of the animals you raise to overcome the cost of feeding it. If so, a Laying hen would be sold for around $30.00

The dumpsters in the little town I share a zip code with is a treasure trove for free food. The three little stores throw out several buggies of food a day that are only one day out of date. It is enough food to feed all my animals for weeks.
I have talked with the managers and the policy is the food must hit the dumpster before anyone can get it. They are not allowed to park the buggies out back and let me get it. I have to go into the dumpster and get it out. When told that, I just crinkle my nose and say no thank you.

Being the town I live near is so small, all it would take is one person to recognize me and before the kids get to school the next day it would be all over town that we were so poor that I have to get food out of the trash just to eat. Being unknown to them that I will still be eating my stored food months after they have already starved to death and this food is just for the animals, people will assume the worse and spread it like a wild fire. I have really never cared what "they" say about me but for the kids it would not be fair.

Here is another hypothetical. What if you finally decided in the cover of darkness to get that food and once home you see it is really good food, would you keep it and eat it yourself?

I should not have to worry about this stuff. I should be able to, with pride, dive head first into a dumpster full of box foods, canned goods, packages of pasta or day old bread and know I am saving money, but I don't.    


  1. I live in a very small town too, and you are right...the gossip mill is unforgiving.

  2. Hard question, Bubba, really hard question. But, my answer is yes, if forced to do so in hard times I'd be there.
    You have a good point about the children. They always suffer for our indiscretions. Is it possible to spread the word via the local gossips that you want the food for the animals...? Pave the way, so to speak. Good post.

  3. We should not have to worry about that Stephanie but the whispers and stares would get to me after a while.

    Thanks Stephen, I think we all would if we had to.
    I could let it be known but if the word got out about the amount of food that was being thrown away then there would not be any left for me once everyone jumped on the band wagon, and they would.

  4. Same here on the feed, prices just keep going up. We are a bit cheaper than you though. Layer scratch or mash goes for about $12.50 for a 50 lb bag and round bales are going for about $35 a bale if you go through people you know. You are right about the rich being about the only ones to be able to afford to feed animals. I keep looking at the animals we have and what we want to get and try to see how we can do things to help out. For instance I am looking into getting a new batch of chicks this year and I am researching which ones have the best feed-egg-meat conversion ratios, and growing a extra big garden for supplemental feeding.

    My uncle used to own a golf store next to a Aldis and every night they would go and dump dented cans, and just expired milk and bread which he and others would grab and give to my parents and others.If things got any worse which could very well happen then I think it would definitely take off.

  5. I share the pain. First of all I hate waste. Secondly my wallet feels the pain when buying feed...and especially meat for my dogs which I feed mostly raw meat. Do you know many places have to pour bleach over the meat they throw in the dumpster? Who makes these policies anyhow?

  6. I feel ya. It's a shame there's a stigma attached to common sense sometimes. It's retarded that the stores HAVE to throw the stuff in the dumpster to begin with. Are they locally owned stores or corporation stores? Maybe you could contact someone higher up the chain and ask if there's any way to change the policy.

  7. I lived in Chicago for ten years before rent and cost got ridiculous. Dumpster diving there is a sport and an art. I can't tell you how may dumpsters I've been in there. People will throw out anything.

    I would hit up the colleges and universities at the end of the school year and get some great stuff. Students will throw away anything they can't pack up and fly home with. That includes tvs, gaming systems, stereos, new furniture. Often times, to supplement my income, I would get things and resell them on craigslist. I once found an 1950's metal cabinet with glass doors that I sold for $200. Best alley find ever. There are also scrap metal collectors all over that just drive through alleys picking up scrap.

    I did dumpster dive a few times for food from the natural food store close to home for some organic produce. I knew the owners and would get a call if there was anything good. They'd put it in the dumpster, walk back in, and then I would go over and get it.

    I moved back home to my small town about 3 years ago. Dumpster diving has not left me at all. I have no shame picking up something I think I can use. I picked up a wooden nail keg that I now use for storage for produce with saw dust. I've picked up numerous broom handles to use for tomato stakes.

    We don't have a grocery store in our small town, but I don't think I would hesitate. When people see me doing it here, they ask what I'm doing. I explain, and usually it is something they never thought about doing. Then I eventually see them dumpster diving too.

    Sorry for the long reply.

  8. MDR ...what if you go back to the store manager and offer to BUY the out of date food for half price? If he's smart, he'll recognize that half a pie is better than no pie and he'll take you up on it. No, it won't be FREE but it sure will be cheap. No stigma concerns since you can do a backdoor deal with him before it hits the dumpster. Just a thought. Only caveat I would give him is that you pick and choose what you will buy lock, stock and barrel conditions on his part. Just a thought.

    : )

  9. Coley - Barred Rocks one one the best choices on the ratio you are looking for.
    Most of the time we do have a garden to help out but this has been a crazy year for growing and nothing but the salad beds did any good.
    Pig feed is running $12.50 a bag but our hen scratch is a dollar more. The price of corn is outrageous. I might go to feeding AllStock. It is a 14% feed and is a good all around feed for horses, goats and pigs at just 8 bucks a bag.
    We get most of our bread at the bakery. They call it bird bread and sell it for 3.00 a bag and there is about 20 loafs in each bag. It is old bread that we feed to the chickens and now the pigs.

    Carolyn - Our dogs get whatever is on sell that week.
    No I did not know they poured bleach over the meat. I guess they have been sued because someone died or got sick from eating out of the trash can. I don't know. The policies they make is to protect themselves and do not have any rhyme or reason to the ones that could really use it.

    Kris - If it was a mom and pop store then I could talk to and reason with the owners but being a corporation they have to follow the book or get fired.
    I tried calling the store's main headquarters would not return my call.

    Transfarmer - Wow, you should right a book on urban treasures. Those were some good ideas. I think I have made my mind up and just say to heck with it all and do it. I mean, so what and you are right, if anyone asks I will tell them the truth that there is no reason this good animal food could not be recycled and kept from filling up our dump. That should make some of the green people happy.

    HB - That is the whole problem. The store cannot sell or give away anything that is out of date, not even at 1/2 off. I even asked if they could let me know the day before and I could buy it at a discount and they said then it is not out of date and it is full price.
    the way it was put to me was, they go through and collect all out of date items and take them out of inventory. After that they have two people with one being a manager take the items out to the dumpster. If they were to give of pocket money for the items then they would be fired.
    What they can do is leave the dumpster unlocked for me if I wanted them to.

  10. We have a homeless lady in our area that dives. She makes such a mess that one location as installed locks on all 3 of their dumpsters.

  11. I mentioned eating "different" species and fresh road-kill in one of my posts on preparedness. I think times will have to get a lot tougher before dumpster-diving becomes acceptable. Sinclair Lewis said in his book, "It Can't Happen Here," "Every man is a king who has someone to look down upon."

  12. i asked our local grocer if i could purchase for half price a dozen eggs that were out of date by one day...his answer was absolutely not. and out of the two local grocers he is the one who thinks his groceries are made of gold. yeah right. dumpster dive...been there, done that...and still do. i live in a small community where everyone knows my name..and have lots of relatives too...because of my ideas of being prepared they all think i am crazy as a betsy bug anyway so i just go ahead and go for it. when the doo doo hits the fan i will be ready. and yes, lol, i guess i will share if i have to. caryn in n.e.miss.

  13. Rob - I don't blame them for doing it if she left a huge mess.

    Gorges - And they will be the first to fall.

    Caryn in N. E. Miss - Thank you for commenting. I hope I never have to use my stored food for that reason but I will be ready if I need to.
    I think I made my mind up and will give it a shot.

  14. I'll dumpster dive in a heart beat. I have gotten some real treasures from others throw aways.

    We are fortunate that our small town local grocery meat market will give you the trimming of the day for your dog. Several people other than ourselves stop by and take advantage of it. We are blessed that they still do something like that. I was going to blog about it not long ago but just didn't get around to it yet.

    There is no shame in using something that someone feels is no longer useful. Most times it still is. - Genevieve

  15. both jambaloney and i would dumpster dive in a minute if we had animals and weren't able to feed them. we would also do it to feed ourselves. back in the city jambaloney used to go out in our neighbourhood on garbage day and collect anything useful - plant pots, wood, doors, windows - whatever we could use. we do the same here at the Manor and have gotten about 20 windows for free to build our porch and/or greenhouse.

    MDR - what if you went out at night and got the food for your animals? have you tried going out just to see if anyone is around the dumpsters?

    another great post buddy! your friend,

  16. Thank you G, I agree now.

    Kymber - When I was a City employee years ago, every trash day was shopping day and for the first 1/2 of day we would drive around on the taxpayers dollars and go shopping. I am not proud of it now but I did get a lot of good stuff back then.

  17. My hubby works for a corporation grocery store and they can be fired if they sell or even give away old produce, meat, etc. He said it would just make you sick to see how much is thrown away. They dont even give old produce to the soup kitchens and a lot of it isnt that bad. We used to go to a small farmer's market and they would have all their old stuff boxed up ready for throwing away and my hubby would see if they would either sell it or give it to him for the chickens. They told him to take as many boxes as he wanted to. When we got it home and looked through it there were a lot of green beans, carrots and cabbage that just needed to have the bad cut off and we ate it and gave the rest to the chicks and some was thrown into our compost. It's amazing how much food is thrown away that isnt in perfect shape and is edible. Our grandparents used old produce and just cut off the bad parts. Says something about our society doesnt it? People starving and we throw away food. Sad.

  18. Denise - But isn't that the American way? I know it was not always that way but with all the government regulations and laws that have been voted in plus the sue happy society we live in, it is easier to just throw the stuff away.
    Sad really.

  19. Dive, Dive, Dive!! I used to dive alot. I also knew a guy 'Dumpster Dan", he made a living from pop/beer cans. I would save mine in a bag and put it beside the dumpster for him. He drove a nicer car than I did. Best to you and yours in the new year. T

  20. T - Good story, thank you.
    You and yours have a good one as well.

  21. Hey, pay for my trip down there, and I'll dumpster dive for ya! lol! Problem solved. hehehehehe

  22. SFG - Would love to have ya. That way the wife would have a look out while she is diving.