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I Learned A New Word Today – Freeganism

July 30, 2010 · 98 comments

in Health & Fitness, Personal Finance

Yikes, I am so creeped out.  I just turned on Oprah for a second and she is doing a feature on ‘Freeganism’.  I may be late to the ‘freeganism party’, but I wish I would have been kept in the dark.

Bounty collected from a night of Freeganing in Austria (I made that word up)

For those of you not in the know, the act of ‘freeganism’, is obtaining food or other items via dumpster diving.  This isn’t just an occasional trip to the bagel shop trash can to get some day-old bagels.  This is getting fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, and just about anything else out of dumpsters for your own consumption.

I am sure that many people are homeless and desperate, and this may be their only source of food.  But according to Wikipedia, many ‘freegans’ scour for food in this manner for the following reason:  “The lifestyle involves salvaging discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket dumpsters, known as ‘dumpster diving‘. Freegans salvage the food for political reasons, rather than out of need.”

I personally can think of about a million other ways that I can make a political statement than to feed my family from food that has been stomped all over by vermin.  I will admit that pictures I have seen of some of the bounty collected by some Freegans cannot be differentiated from what you may find at a grocery store.  However, the people that threw this food out probably did it for a reason.  For instance, I tossed a bunch of meat recently because we lost power for 12 hours and I was not comfortable cooking and serving it. I am sure the meat looked perfectly fine to anyone digging through my garbage, but it may not have been safe to eat.

I understand people want to save the earth and some may need to dumpster dive because of economic reasons.  However, I worry about the people that may be eating dangerous food.

Have you ever dumpster dived?  Have you ever scored some good deals?  Keep in mind that freeganism is not limited to food.  It can be just about anything!

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{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Squirrelers July 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

This doesn’t seem like the best way to make a political statement. Sure, there is the shock value that grabs peoples attention, but the risks to their health seem evident. I mean, is their cause really worth hurting themselves and their family through eating spoiled food (even though it not appear spoiled). I’m with you in my assessment of this.


Vicky July 30, 2010 at 9:25 am

Agreed. E-Coli is very dangerous to a child. Not worth risking my child’s health or life.


Budgeting in the Fun Stuff July 30, 2010 at 9:58 am

I know the health risks are crazy, but I just can’t get past the fact that they’d dumpster dive voluntarily – it’s smelly, there are little squeaky mammals and bugs, it smells, there could be gelatinous liquids, and did I mention it smells?

I don’t want to touch my own trash can sometimes…I couldn’t imagine crawling through a big one for FOOD…see that line back there? That’s my line. Kris, if I ever get this politically motivated, please just shoot me, okay?


The Wealth Artisan July 30, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hi Kris,

I read about this a few months ago. You know what the kicker was? The guys that were being interviewed were engineers and computer scientists! They would work for 3 months out of the year to have enough money to get by, then they would go dumpster diving for food and clothes. It was interesting, and while I believe I’m frugal, there are just some things that I can’t picture myself doing. 🙂 Thanks for the great write up.

Wealth Artisan Team Member


Khaleef @ KNS Financial July 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Yeah, I’m with you on this one! I can’t imagine people putting their family’s health at risk like that!

There are more effective ways to make a statement.


Max July 30, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I’ve never dumpster dived officially I suppose from a supermarket or store, but I have taken perfectly good stuff that I’ve seen being thrown away in my neighborhood.

There’s probably a world of difference between taking an old record player or planting pots off the side of the curb and taking a side of beef that’s been sitting in a dumpster all day under the hot sun.

Taking meat just seems way to risky for these people, so I’d probably stick to veggies if I was them.

I think if they really wanted to make a political statement, they would be better off using their finds to cook large meals at homeless shelters to feed the needy and show how this food is going to waste, and then inviting reporters to their meals.

As it is, they would usually have to sneak in after closing, so as not to get caught (as it would be illegal and trespassing in most instances), so I don’t really know how doing something so privately is making a political statement, except to themselves, although they did get the news coverage I suppose.

If the food really is in eating condition, then it should probably be donated to local shelters instead of thrown away, so it would be nice if a donation system was set up between the supermarkets and local shelters.


Money Reasons July 30, 2010 at 7:06 pm

I’ve studied this group for a while, they are a offshoot of Vegans. Many of the Freegan don’t eat meat.

They aren’t poor, many (if not most) do have jobs. They are just pushing the green envelope… Many of the freegans have informal agreement with some of the shops 😉

Would I do it (dumpster diving)? Heck not, I get sick easily enough already… But I do understand there point, but can’t participate…

A group more my speed is freecycle.com recycling free stuff…


Steph July 31, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I have never dumpster dove for food, but the best set if dishware I have ever owned, I scavenged from a dumpster.
My neighborhood is full of dumpster divers. If I need to get rid of something, I just put it on top if the dumpster instead of taking it to goodwill. It’s gone in five minutes.
I would never use consumables from this source.


Sandy L July 31, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I got 2 pairs of perfectly worn in levi’s jeans in college out of a dumpster. It was like Steph said, they were laundered and neatly folded on top of a clean and dry garbage bag (not in the garbage). It looked like it was deliberately put out in the open so someone might take and re-use.

I’ve taken things out of the trash a lot. My one set of neighbors throw all kinds of stuff away that I can’t see going to a landfill. I think the last thing I took out of their pile was a set of stainless steel mixing bowls. It just looked like they were purging their kitchen but too lazy to go to good will.

I’ll at least bring the stuff to a charity shop if I end up not using it. Seems like a waste otherwise.


Leigh August 7, 2010 at 9:04 am

It’s actually the norm in my apartment complex that if you are tossing something that has any possible value for the next person, you set it aside to give others a chance to take it. It’s a rather brilliant, unspoken means of supporting your neighbors. Of course, the goods are often taken by the ragged men who do this for a living, but no one begrudges their haul. Someone, somewhere is using it, and that’s all that matters.

As far as taking food, however, I wouldn’t dare. I toss my dog’s poop bags in those bins. Who knows what else may have hit that food. I do know neighbors, however, who have standing deals with restaurants or other organizations to purchase their leftover food for pennies. That seems a more sanitary option.


Eileen July 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I do not create a great deal of comments, but I glanced through some responses here I Learned A New Word Today – Freeganism | Everyday Tips and Thoughts.
… I do have a few questions for you if you don’t mind. Could it be only me or does it look as if like some of the comments come across like they are left by brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are writing on additional sites, I would like to follow you. Could you post a list of every one of your shared pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?


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