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A close friend got me into dumpster diving a couple months ago and since then almost everything I eat comes from grocery store dumspters and trash bags. Not only does it save me money, and reduce the amount of food and recyclables going into landfills, but it’s exciting to get my groceries by chance and then have to figure out what to cook with them. Like being on “Iron Chef” or “Chopped”. And to suddenly have access to randomly selected luxury goods: the sort of food the rich are told they must eat or they will get cancer, and the poor are told that if they eat it too that their frivolous spending is the cause of their poverty and therefore they deserve to die of cancer.

We try to make sure anybody else who comes by while we’re picking through the food gets what they need, too, but there actually aren’t that many other people who do it and they are usually pretty picky about what they take. There’s plenty to go around. But I don’t want to publicize exactly where our food comes from, because sometimes stores will start guarding their garbage, slashing bags, or pouring bleach on food, if too many people come and that ruins it for everybody. And we make sure we don’t leave a mess, too.

About a third of the produce we grow in the US winds up in the trash. Retail stores actually make up a fairly small percentage of that waste. Regardless, the food I find is often in perfect condition. Stores take food off the shelf for stuff like cosmetic damage to the packaging, or because it’s opened, or because they need that shelf space for a newer product. We once found eight dozen eggs thrown out only because each box had one or two broken eggs in it. Dozens of lemons, apples, and oranges that were thrown out because the packaging did not allow rotting fruit to be removed. I’ve found full cases of chips and cereal, bags of flour, aged Gouda that kept in my fridge for months. Food safety is of course a concern when it comes to meat because it’s impossible to know how long it has been sitting out at room temperature before being thrown out, but I have have never gotten sick from it. Food that is thrown out because it is actually bad is typically bad in an obvious way. I have found chicken sausage, crab, cultured butter, raw honey, Greek yogurt, ricotta, marinated olives, ginger ice cream, pecan pies, cashews, walnuts, almonds, dried figs and dates. I’ve found live plants, bouquets of roses, and glass terrariums.

I find a lot of prepared foods like frozen entrees and sandwiches and soups and desserts but I’ve also found a lot of raw ingredients with which I’ve been able to make dishes like salmon cooked in truffle butter, raspberry chocolate cheesecake with an almond crust, a caramelized garlic tart and various other pastries and breads, pickles and preserved fruit, yogurt, and obscure fermented drinks. All from trash.