Eating From Dumpsters During The Holidays

Posted: December 13, 2011 in Uncategorized
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This video is called Shopping at the Third Hand Store, aka Dumpster Diving. I love these guys. Shopping carts, cell phones, watermelons. Too cute for words.

We have been eating out of dumpsters for a little more than a year now. We have never gone hungry and we have never been sick. In fact, we now eat way better than we ever did when we had money, and our immunity to illness seems to have been bolstered from dumpstering for food.

A while back I received the following comment from Poland on one of my YouTube dumpster videos:

That’s possible only in America!
In Polish dumpsters we have only stinky dump, and i mean it, just dump.
What you have here it’s not dumpster as i know it, just place when people leave useful stuff.
I think i’ll just move to America and live from Dumpster diving, it would higher standard of live than i have right now. 😛

While it is true that America wastes more than any other country, dumpster diving for survival is easier in small and mid-sized towns than it is in large urban areas. The last time I visited Seattle, for example, I noticed that many of the chain-store dumpsters such as Whole Foods have compactors or very large dumpsters that are attached to the store, as is the case with WalMart.

My mother recently told me that a PhD student in Seattle is writing his dissertation on dumpster diving, and he was having a difficult time finding food, other than discarded drinks and fast food near SafeCo Field. I do not doubt this if his boundary is King County proper. However, just a hop, skip and a jump to an outlying area should have brought the student fifty loaves of bread from at least one place.

So, what do we get to eat? Our food is basic-fare and nutritious. We either steam fresh vegetables or compose a salad every day. Our protein is almost always beef or pork, because poultry rarely keeps in a dumpster.

We also always have fresh fruit and potatoes or yams.

What do we have to buy? Coffee and tea. These two commodities (coffee prices are soaring, BTW) are rarely available in the dumpsters. I buy and drink instant tea. Mason claims he cannot choke down instant tea, and so he buys and drinks his WalMart, one dollar and twenty-five cent Strawberry soda that I find to be undrinkable.

We also buy our cleaning supplies (but not our hygiene products). This is our largest expense. The laundromat and the laundry detergent are, in fact, a major expense that many people fail to think of when addressing the plight of the homeless, for example. The fact is that many homeless folks exchange clothing in the dumpsters because laundry is not affordable and/or there is no way to transport laundry.

While the dumpsters almost always offer desserts, I love those dark chocolate Klondike Bars and so I have to buy those. In addition, we buy bird seed for our African Grey Parrot. Even though he eats everything that we do, he also requires seeds. Our bird eats more than both of us combined. For Christmas we have his dumpster treats ready: chocolate and shelled walnuts.

Condiments and staples such as salt, sugar and spice are available from any number of dumpsters at the end of any given month, when residents move out and leave their kitchen supplies behind. In addition, we have a fantastic and varied supply of hygiene products from the dumpsters. The only hygiene product that we buy (and it is expensive) is razor blades, although on glorious occasion we find those as well.

We already have our dumpster Christmas dinner planned: a 4.53 pound prime rib roast, real mashed potatoes, salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and steamed broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini and cauliflower. Our steamed vegetables will be our nighttime and next-day snacks together with oranges, tangerines, pineapples, grapes, and a variety of apples.

Everything that we cook and eat with comes from dumpsters, including our wonderful crock pot and three-tiered vegetable steamer, toaster, microwave, coffeepot, juicer, Cuisinart, blender, mixer and all china, stoneware, flatware, glasses and napkins. Right now, we have an enormous supply of black trash bags from the dumpsters (new, never used).

I will describe the special case of holiday dumpster diving in a separate blog. The best days of the year to dumpster dive are December 26 and January 2. You don’t even have to really even dive a dumpster or leave your vehicle; just drive up and down the streets and alleys and pick stuff up. It is like a solid month of Christmas. Christmas lights for scrap are delivered throughout the spring. This is the best time of the year for cardboard.

Our one-year plus survival dumpstering experiment leads us to this: If and when we ever have money, we will continue to retrieve food that is otherwise destined for the landfill.

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