It’s easy for me to see how people get into the whole ‘freegan’ thing.
Freegans: Driven to dumpster dive not by poverty, but by environmnental politics
(I don’t go for the ‘enviromental politics’ thing, i’ll just go with ‘free food’ thank you.)
By Ben Christopher
“J.J. is the breadwinner of the house. Of all the weekly chores that are divvied up among members of the south Berkeley cooperative, his is the most enviable. While others get stuck scrubbing pots, pans, and bathroom walls to pay their dues, J.J. is to bike over to a nearby bakery under cover of darkness, peek inside the dumpsters, and load up his backpack.
He has agreed to let me tag along on this Thursday night bread run so that I can see dumpster diving in action. We’re accompanied by a handful of other members and friends of the co-op. One, 23-year-old UC Berkeley geography student Brooke Marino, fills me in on a few details. The cooperative doesn’t “dumpster” most of its food, but bakery garbage—almost exclusively day-old bread—is too easy, too tasty, and most importantly, too hideously wasteful to pass up. Hopping over the barbed wire fence that I hadn’t been warned about, sure enough, the bakery’s four dumpsters are all halfway full of loaves, many of them still in their paper sleeves.
J.J. hops inside one with his headlamp lit and closes the lid after him.
“You’re going to want to skip the baguettes,” Marino advises me. “They go stale so quickly.” As for the batards, the rounds, the rolls, the ciabattas—that should all be good for the rest of the week.
These dumpster divers are as frugal as any from the college-aged set, but as far as anyone tells me, they can all afford to buy their daily bread. This isn’t about saving money; it’s about making a political statement. They see it as rejecting the monetary economy with all its perceived inequities, perversities, and environmental costs— and instead living off the profligacy of strangers.
Today 40 percent of all the food in the United States goes uneaten, according to a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s the equivalent of $165 billion dollars, or 20 pounds of food per person per month. It accounts for an astounding 33 million tons of landfill waste—which in turn generates 16 percent of the country’s methane emissions.
And the bulk of the waste occurs at the end of the food chain—tossed out at restaurants, grocery stores, and people’s homes.”
Yep, you betcha, i know about that.
So here’s my take rom the last month:
3/5 – 8 3×5 slices of middle eastern flat bread, still perfectly good. Along w/ some ‘sumac’ spice i don’t know what to do with.
A half filled container of some kind of middle eastern sauce, w/ sour cream, dill, etc. Yummy. A half filled container of pineapple slices, still well within the ‘sell by date’. Another container of strawberries, many are moldy and gone, but a few are still good.
The state of these strawberries brings up another topic altogether – how much fruit and veggies is picked and shipped before it is ripe. The producers hope that it will ripen before it arrives, but this is not always true. One the reasons alot of stuff gets tossed out is that is does NOT ripen in transit, and is tasteless and pulpy on arrival. A strawberry that doesn’t taste much like a strawberry? Yuck.
3/6 – I can always tell when someone is moving out…
An Annie Chungs Microwaveable Vietnamese Pho soup, a good staring point, add more veggies, and probably more hot sauce if these are made for the American market, they will be a ‘watered down’ version.
A silly chocolate turkey, and a ceramic/mosaic bull, latin style. Can’t eat the bull, but it’ll be a nice small addition to my limited chatchis collection. Some pancake mix. I don’t have the energy to make pancakes in the AM, but it will definitely come in handy to make a soup creamier.
Perfectly good saltines, a half finished can of almonds ( ‘best by date’ is april 2016!), and a small packet of BBQ sauce. These small packets given w/ take out meals last forever, I have a big bowl of them in my fridge.
Last but not least a 2 lb bag of Vermicelli pasta. This lasts forever, it should be included in your bomb shelter, or armageddon/ emergency supplies: just boil water and toss some in. If you don’t have water, and can’t boil? forget the whole thing, you’re gonna die soon anyway.
3/11 A 1lb basket of cherry tomatoes, 3 weeks past the ‘best by’ date, which means that afew were a little wrinkled. Wow, BFD. A good way to handle them so they don’t get any more dated? Make some tomato sauce, freeze it in portions 🙂
A 1 lb box of Toblerone swiss milk chocolate bars, w/ honey and almond nougat. It is virtually untouched. I’ll be touching it soon…. Yummy!
A half full can of almonds, and something called ‘inner peas’ a fried pea thing. Pretty healthy, just the peas in the pods, and some canola oil. But i noticed the ‘marketing’ on this one, the pun in the name, Trader Joe’s is very good at this.
Somewhere in there, a 1.75L plastic jar of Valencia OJ,(NOT made from concentrate, the real thing) 1/3 full – best by date? Mar 3… and it is March 13 or 14.
Passes the smell test, goes home to help some vodka 🙂
3/17 Someone’s moving again, I find a slew of condiments, salsas, a tall pale ale beer, chili garlic sauce, mustards, ketchup & ranch dressing(in the back row), chili sauce, horseradish, and 1/3 stick of butter. The habanero and lime salsa is one i would never buy, but if someone gives me a free sample? sounds OK to me.
Also, the’ tomato-less’ salsa = ‘corn and chile’ sounds interesting… and eggs in the AM can become kinda repetitive and bland.
Why people throw stuff like this away?.. is beyond me. I mean, knock on your neighbors door, see if they like any of the stuff. Also… my building is just a few blocks away from some homeless shelters and soup kitchens, take it over there, donate it. It’ll probably make whatever bland food they come up with a whole more interesting.
One thing about all the foods we buy? If they are packaged/processed in some way, they are filled w/ preservatives, loaded, they will save for a long time.
But ask yourself about these unnatural ingredients (additives) – if you find it hard to get some of the words on ingredient labels out of your mouth, why are you putting these substances into your mouth?
I am looking forward to downing the pale ale beer in one sitting 🙂 Probably on a Sat night, while taking in some Richard Pryor on youtube.
Maybe the same household is still emptying their fridge, or several people are moving.
Here’s the take:
Small bottle 1/4 full) of El Tapatio salsa picante jalapeno. Got any idea how much good heat is in this? One drop sets your mouth on fire.
A tub of hummus, Red pepper spread, Spinach dip, Greek yogurt dip, all well within best by dates. The good thing about all the condiments and dips I find is that they will make my bland diet ( rice beans & pasta) a whole lot more interesting.
Last of all, a package of egg roll wraps. These will force me to cook abit, but WTF – i don’t have to go asian w/ them, i can go mexican, use them like burrito wraps.
An 18Oz box of Kix breakfast cereal, opened, mostly full.
A perfectly good apple.
And 3 items that I can really use:
A big white quilt – the black one I’ve been curling up in for a decade is gettin’ a bit old, and white definitely brightens up my small apt.
A big bath towel, blue background with a nice swirly white plant pattern – my bath towels are gettin’ pretty old and threadbare, they don’t dry me much anymore, they deserve to be in the trash.
And, last but not least, a large grey sweatshirt, the size label still attached. I’d been wearing a coat that was just too heavy on the way to work, and by the afternoon it was unnecessary, and a pain to carry. The sweatshirt is not real heavy and thick, it’s light, and just the right weight.
Seems like the world is taking care of me, I’d been thinking about the worn towels, the extra heavy coat and the old worn out quilt for a while now, and suddenly in one day all three wishes were fulfilled.
What used to be a 10lb bag of Thai Jasmine rice had become a 1 lb bag. I’ll take it, Jasmine rice has a different flavor than Ca. grown/Central Valley rice. 🙂 and the price is right.
Later this PM, a 1lb bag of rigatoni, not even opened. A half loaf of wheat bread. A whole cucumber. And 5 or 6 packets of ‘Jenny’s balsamic dressing’, and 1 packet (1 oz) of ‘Jenny’s Lite table syrup’.
I know what to do w/ balsamic dressing, it’ll be good on the cucumber… but the list of ingredients on both these is most interesting.
They are both largely ‘water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar’… and contain little else.
The balsamic dressing does a bit better, adding ‘balsamic vinegar, distilled vinegar, olive oil and red wine vinegar’ after the ‘water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar’, but that’s not much of an improvement is it?
Do you read ‘ingredients’ on the labels of what you buy? I think you should because you are buying a whole of water and hi-fructose corn syrup, at a ridiculously inflated price.
On the way into the apt complex was a big box of ‘I’m moving out’ stuff:
Tahini soy sauce, Gen’l Tsao BBQ sauce, Sriracha sauce… all half finished ( but the glass isn’t half empty, it’s half full)… and a full 4.6OZ bottile of ‘olive merange’ – green and black olives, still w/ seeds inside, Guess you’ve got to do some intelligent chewing, but it’s worth the effort. It’s the ‘mediterrean diet’ isn’t it?
After some 1.5 hrs of pixel pushing, i wandered across the street to the grocery for a few things i knew i needed – some mo’ vodka, some sharp cheddar cheese, a tomato,a shaillot, and maybe something something ‘meaty, beaty, big and bouncy’ for dinner protein.
I got a small piece of swordfish, I cut it into several portions.
On the way back, i checked out the same ‘i’m moving’ box. Whoa! Awesome! Sooo much more added! Here’s the list:
Carrotts: a 1lb bag, mostly full
Garlic, peeled 6 OZ packed in small vacuum sealed portions. The fact that it’s packaged this way is nice – it will keep a long time.
Miso paste, a 1 lb pack – Many days of nutritious soup.
A half finished jar of Marinara sauce – add this to the pasta i found before? Many dinners.
A half finished jar of organic tahini sauce.
The next day?
Apple sauce, half a jar.
Salsa Verde, half a jar.
‘Tomato and red pepper soup’! Besides a good soup, a good ‘sauce’ for pasta.
And some vegetable broth. If you don’t know what to do with that, you’re brain dead.
A lemon, 2 apples, breakfast oatmeal, and a can of tomato bisque soup.
But all this is inspiring me to get much more into cooking. I’ve always been the guy of limited cooking skills, who can boil rice, steam veggies ( i toss them into the rice when it’s about 2/3 cooked), bake meat, fry eggs and bacon, bake potatoes … and then…uh… my imagination and skills sorta run out.
Have you ever heard the old story about ‘stone soup’?
Well, here it is again:
So this is the approach i am taking – what can i do with what i have?
One thing about all the stuff I have found? There is a Goodwill store just 3 blocks away, a homeless soup kitchen a couple of blocks away, and a homeless shelter equally close. Is the word ‘donate’ in anyone’s vocabulary anymore?
By ira Sanger 1/10/2013
“Wasting food is a cultural habit. When I shop, I expect my grocer to have only the freshest, unblemished vegetables and fruits. Supermarket managers do a daily version of my refrigerator-cleansing routine. If you’re in the food-service industry, waste is simply the cost of doing business. The USDA estimates that supermarkets lose $15 billion annually in unsold fruits and vegetables alone. “Freegan” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeganism – movement aside, a growing number of people are living off – http://nypost.com/2011/10/31/brooklyn-hipsters-go-dumpster-diving-for-dinner/ – what supermarkets toss.)”
The world learned some devastating truths about itself this past week. Not only did we learn that 9 out of 10 of us throw away food long before it’s spoiled:
We also found out that all that rotting food is the third largest contributor to climate change.
Essentially, food waste is killing us and the planet.
Unlike other countries, where millions of people (mostly children) go to bed hungry every night, Americans have access to so much food that we’d rather throw it away rather than figure out how to cook with it or preserve it. We’re so surrounded by food that we’ve become obese and diabetic. We’ve got so much food to choose from that we’d literally throw away edible food because it’s ugly. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/the-hidden-food-waste-culprit-what-you-can-do-about-it.html
Feeling nauseous yet? Wait till you find out what this food waste problem is costing us.
More shocking food waste statistics in the infographic below. Thankfully, the graphic also includes some easy ways you can stop the food waste insanity and treat food with the respect it deserves
This is a good one:
There’s something else that contributes to wasting food and it is the way some vegetables and some meats are packaged – in large portions.
That may be great for families, but for a couple or a single guy like me?… this just doesn’t work. Take for example a head of iceberg lettuce, it’s not expensive at $2/head, but for me to finish this before half of it before is ‘gone’ i feel like i might turn into a rabbit.
Yes, the Safeway I shop at has a few bins of loose greens, at inflated prices, but the ‘mix’ just isn’t what i want. How many people buy the whole head, and end up throwing half of it away when it starts turning brown?
And chicken? Always packaged in multiple/huge! quantities – ten legs, ten wings, six breasts. I only have so much freezer space, half my freezer is devoted to water, as ‘earthquake supply’. ( I don’t do much to prepare for the big one that Ca. is ‘sposed to get, but water is basic.)
This sort of packaging just doesn’t work for me.
I have seen it done better in SF, on Clemente St. not too far from where i used to live. (It’s a bit like open air markets in europe and the middle east.) The Chinese market, May Wah, had a meat/fish dept where you could buy what you wanted, in whatever quantity you wanted. The guys behind the counter spoke very little english, but they always understood ‘half’…’more’… ‘less’. And they always, always! smiled and gave a thumbs up after they handed you what they wrapped for you. There was an ice bed bin w/ individual chicken legs and breasts too. You could buy just what you wanted, no more.
Another market a few doors down was a bare bones place – down the center were shelfs w/ all kinds of various goods, all imported from who knows where… but the important part was what was along the two walls – just waist high wooden bins w/ raw veggies, all fresh from the Valley, you could watch the trucks pull up, someone would haul a big cardboard box with a label like (pull from casa de frutas) and dump it in the bins. Buy as much or as little as you like. That’s real food, farm to table and i enjoyed it from ’93-2002 before all this ‘farm to table’ stuff became so ‘in’.
A half of a 1lb bag of Santitos Tortilla chips. “authentico estilo mexicano”. “bolsa grande bag”. The thing i like about Santitos chips? They are the real deal, and nothing else, no extra chemical crapola. Ingredients? Corn vegetable oil, salt. That’s it, that’s all.
Read the ingredients for many other chips – anything ‘dorito, cheeto’, whatever… any of that stuff. This stuff is crapola. There are soooo additives it’s ridiculous, If you have trouble getting the name of the substance OUT of your mouth?, you shouldn’t be putting it INTO your mouth, it’s that simple.
What’s amusing about finding this bag of chips is that Saturday is ‘making soup’ day for me… and after i finished the soup, and stored it for the week (mostly frozen) i thought… golly gosh, it would be nice to have some bread to accompany this… and that’s when the Santitos chips arrived.
The world works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it? 🙂
Recently: a big bag of cheerios! Haven’t eaten them in a long time, it brings back childhood memories, nice ones.
A nice dress shirt, with very colorful stripes! I went to a NE ivy-walled boarding school, always had to wear dress shirt, jacket and tie.
But i like something more colorful. This is it.
Last, but most certainly not least, a very tattered paperback book.
It turns out to be… Darwin’s ‘On the origin of species’. The cover has been torn off, the first page reveals the ‘sell price’ of this paperback.
25 cents for this earthshaking batch of thoughts. What a fucking deal. I have read many of John McPhee’s books about the shaping of the USA/continent…. so now i guess it’s time to go back much, MUCH further…. and read, big time.
A ‘make your own book’ kit is the best way i can put it.
It’s all the materials you would need to make your own book, 20 pages, 8.5×11″, the bound book, printing paper, software( just PC, not Mac, which is where I’m at), an instruction booklet. Retail price, 25$. I scoop it up in a heart beat.
When i check it out further, i can see why someone might toss it out – it requires significant effort to make the book, print the pages. I guess that seemed to be too much for the recipient. What a shame – this is really a well designed and thought out product… but i guess if it requires some work that is more than a few simple clicks on a mouse?….It gets the axe.
I’ve gotten used to seeing pizza boxes – they are always empty. Who the hell throws out perfectly good pizza?
Well, Sat. AM after my morning walk for a smoke, i check out the dumpsters and what is waiting for me but half a large pizza, with all the trimmings/toppings!, still fresh. Also half a dozen eggs, past the stamped date, but we all know the ‘sell by’ dates are BS don’t we?
Also a snap tight container of apple pie/apple crisp, something like that.
My weekend eating is taken care of, thanks to someone’s stupidity.
Thank you, whoever you are.