Dumpster Diving


A few nights ago we made some delicious and spicy veggie curry with rice with our 2 Canadian couchsurfers.  They arrived at the same time we got home from work and immediately asked if we had ever heard of “dumpster diving.”  I said “Yeah, of course,” and they replied that they had just raided a grocery store dumpster, so did we “want to make a feast?”


They had TONS of stuff, all in totally fine condition and safe, clean packaging, that they had picked up from the dumpster behind one of Flagstaff’s smaller grocery stores.  Broccoli, potatoes, squash, onions, celery, canteloupe, strawberries, and even bagels and and unopened package of DONUT HOLES (demonstrating their Canadian taste buds, hahaha). 

We had a great time cooking and getting to know each other, and we picked their brains about dumpster diving since they were clearly experienced and I have always kind of wanted to try it but never felt gutsy enough.

Apparently they never pay for groceries while on the road and two of their best finds were several bottles of wine and a whole crate of unopened boxes of chocolates!!  (WHAAAA????  Who would throw those out!!!)  Here are their tips for successful dumpster diving:

1. Smaller grocery stores are better because they are less secure and care less.

2. Don’t worry about getting caught- most security guards are on your side andwill just “go inspect the other side of the building” while you’re doing your thing.

3. You do have to get in the dumpster and dig around but it’s not that dirty because everything’s still usually in packaging.

I think they convinced me to try it.  I know many people will probably be grossed out to hear me say that, but I think what’s gross is that we live in a country where SO MUCH EDIBLE FOOD is thrown out to rot every single day.  There are starving Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa, people!!!! (Hahaha, we PCVs always said this in Tanzania, but I hope you know I’m just being clever and not making light of world hunger.)

I’ll let you know how it goes.  Would you ever try dumpster diving?  And here’s the kicker:  Considering both health and ethics, which is better: buying organic or dumpster diving for not-necessarily-organic food?


6 responses »

  1. I work for a Sav-Rite. We usually give our slightly past their prime items to the local homeless shelter. The only time we use the dumpster is when something is wrong witht the products– once a sewer back up flooded our produce section– human coliform bacteria is hard to scrub off and the health department doesn’t like it either. Also recalled products, Peter Pan peanut butter, for example, when there was the salmonella scare.

  2. I am in North Carolina doing the same thing (taking perfectly good food out of dumpsters) from groceries and national drug store chains. The drug stores are far worse ‘wasters’. I have yet to buy bread or snacks for my 3 kids for the whole school year (and we bag their lunches).

    ncfreegan.wordpress.com <——- my blog

  3. My name is Lauren and I am journalism student at NAU. I am looking to write a story on people who practice dumpster diving in the Flagstaff. If you are still in the area, I would love to talk to you and get your thoughts on this. Please email me at ldd32@nau.edu.

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