I can imagine a few eyebrows being raised when reading the words ‘grocery’ and ‘dumpster’ in one sentence. Give this article a chance though! Although I can understand it will perhaps not inspire you to do the same, it might at least give a good thought on consumerism and combating food waste. For those not familiar with dumpster diving or ‘skipping’, it can roughly be defined as going through the garbage bins or dumpsters near supermarkets in order to search for food that they have thrown away, because it does no longer meet high standards needed to sell it in the stores itself.
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Table of Contents
Why on earth would you do that?
A fair question. Isn’t it disgusting? Why would you search for food that has neared or passed its due date? For some people it is simply a reality that they need it to get by. For others (and a lot in Belgium and in the Netherlands), it is also out of a sort of activism. They resent the high amount of food being thrown away. It is their way to reduce their environmental footprint. It is also important to note that this does not necessarily mean the food is no longer healthy or tasteful!
A lot of the items being thrown away are just done so because they have become ‘unsellable’. Think for instance the packaging that has been slightly damaged, or a set of drinks that is sold by six and in which one became damaged (but it can only be sold in the store by its full amount, so hence it is thrown away). A lot of vegetables are still in a very good state, but due to one or two spots on there the shop chooses to throw it away.
Note that just because it is in the dumpster, it does not mean the product has passed its expiration date! A lot of shops throw out their goods when the date is one or two days in the future as a precaution. This means it can still be of great use if you consume it quickly or if you have the option to put it in the freezer for later use!
Code of conduct
People active in dumpster diving usually follow these unwritten rules:
- It takes place after closing hours (makes sense!)
- You leave behind the place in a proper way (no trash scattered around)
- You leave behind the place in the same state as you found in. Don’t scatter around any plastic and so on. The idea is not to put an extra burden on anyone.
What does it save?
That is a good question. Depending a bit on how much you go skipping, it can significantly reduce your grocery bill. A lot of people that go dumper diving, only have to go to the shop for stuff they can’t take or find in a dumpster! Food is almost completely excluded from their bills. Think for instance items like shampoo, toilet paper and so on. With the food they find, they can easily cook enough meals. Planning of course becomes a bit harder (as you don’t know what you will find). It massively helps to have a big freezer ready!
Very often, goods that can be found are there in large quantities. It can hence mean you can suddenly come back with 10 (perfectly fine) peppers or eggplants. A lot of people active in the community (who often refer to themselves as freegans), share what they don’t need with others. The goal is simple: to reduce waste!
When to do it?
Good moments to head out are the days before the shop closes, or around the new years period when there are a lot of (very nice) products that have to be thrown away! Of course, the winter helps as well. Dumpster diving during the heat of the summer has…obvious drawbacks.
Some frequent goods that can be found frequently when dumpster diving:
- Vegetables & fruits
- Green beans
- Candy & snacks
- Bacon (very often two packs tied together, with only one having ripped)
From time to time, you can also come across some more…’special’ findings:
- Potting soil
There you go, we hope you learned something new today! While dumpster diving is certainly not something for everyone (and certainly not for the faint hearted), it has already saved loads of food from vanishing to benefit no one. On top of that, it can also be beneficial for your wallet. Looking for more (and less obscure) tips to save money? Visit this page. Happy to hear your thoughts and feedback!
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