Ever heard of people who dive into Dumpsters to find food? No, they are not a new breed of dieters or health nuts. Nor are they the people who do it to simply survive.
These people eat from Dumpsters by choice.
I was talking to one of my hippie friends about why she did not wear shoes, and she casually brought up the great food she found in Dumpsters. I discovered another friend who was doing the same thing. The movement even had a name … freeganism. How did I miss this?
Freegans are people who are happy to eat what most of us would consider trash.
How much money did they save? It was worth investigating.
After all, this is not something that many people are willing to do. But freegans feel strongly about limiting waste. Personally, the thought of rummaging through any Dumpster grosses me out.
Why do freegans do this? For one, they save several thousands a year in food.
Each day grocers, coffee shops, and other food retailers throw out tons of perfectly edible food.
So there is plenty of supply at zero cost. The United States Department of Agriculture has estimated that for a family of four with small children, the average monthly range for groceries is $719 to $1,104 . That translates to $8628 to $13,248 a year in a family’s budget.
That’s a lot of money.
That same amount could translate to a semester abroad for a college student. Or it could be a nice bundle in a savings account, or the cost of a reliable used car.
I have to admit the idea of saving thousands of dollars a year eating perfectly good food began to entice me until I considered the freegan lifestyle.
Let’s face it, I’ve watched too many episodes of Bones and Elementary to comfortably jump into a Dumpster and dig through it. Besides me, what other creatures, living or dead, will be inhabiting that space?
I shudder to think about it.
Once you’re in the Dumpster you have to quickly and efficiently dig through at least a day’s worth of trash.
When you’ve picked some choice items, your next challenge is to get out. You have to hope that you don’t get caught by the store’s security because you’re trespassing.
My friend advised me that the most important sense you need when actively pursuing a freegan lifestyle is smell, the ability to be super stealthy, and agile, I'm guessing.
From a financial standpoint, freeganism makes a lot of dollars and sense (pun intended!). Even from a social viewpoint, you can argue that freegans are making a strong statement against waste.
Maybe the food is not picture-perfect — it may have small blemishes or be a bit oddly shaped, but so what?
Big grocers around the world have taken note of this trend. In France, the grocer Intermarche sells weird-looking fruits and vegetables at a deep discount to fight food waste, and help feed lower-income citizens.
In the United States, stores seem to be sensitive to talk of waste, yet are making it difficult for freegans to forage for food.
Ironically, this has drawn more attention to the two issues of cost and waste that freegans highlight through their activism. And there are stores that actively stop Dumpster divers because, by the letter of the law, freegans are trespassing.
I must admit that I considered becoming a freegan for a hot second but changed my mind because: Dumpsters are gross, no one would want to come over for dinner, I don’t want to sniff my food to see if it’s spoiled, and I’m so happy that there are now grocers selling ugly fruit and vegetables instead if I want to save money.
Note to self: Next time my freegan friend invites me over, I must ask where and when she went grocery shopping!