Posted on May 11, 2021


A Loyal Reader recently called Life in the Boomer Lane’s attention to a movement called Freeganism. Freeganism, she found out, is an ideology of limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources, particularly through recovering wasted goods like food. The word “freegan” is derived from both “free” and “vegan,” although LBL realizes that dumpster diving can reward one with many tasty, non-vegan finds.

Lest you now thing, “Oh wait, I saw dumpster diving on that show about people who are so cheap, they are willing to pay for nothing! They save their urine and all sleep in one bed and have their kids’ birthday parties free-of-charge in nursing homes! ” To that, LBL says “You seriously like that show? You should also try the one about people’s feet.”

But she does have more to say than that. Freeganism isn’t about saving money. It’s about saving the resources of the planet. Few people would argue that we toss infinity-tons of perfectly good food for very little good reason, other than that we simply don’t want it anymore. Or we don’t understand that “Sell By” dates don’t mean that food is unsafe after that date. Sell-by dates don’t mean that the food will be unsafe after that date.  Ground meat and poultry can be used 1-2 days past the date, beef 3-5 days, eggs 3-5 weeks past the date.

LBL’s family lived on very little money. Her mother was a master at using food until the last possible second. She still remembers that, when the bread got stale, Mom simply sprinkled with with water and threw it into the oven for a couple minutes, declaring it “Fresh again!” LBL still remembers the taste of hot, soggy bread.

Anyone who has been to a restaurant in the last 10 years may have noticed that individual portions are now as large as what used to be set in the middle of the table to feed the average family of four. For that reason, tons of food goes uneaten and must be thrown away. As for the cooked food that’s left, shelters aren’t allowed to take it. So all that great food is tossed.

Enter the Freegans. Freegans acknowledge that food is everywhere for the taking, going well beyond the samples distributed at Costco and Whole Foods. Urban foraging (ie dumpster diving) has been taken to a high art. And it’s not limited to food. They go wherever goods are tossed: apartment complexes, construction sites, department stores, etc. Frequently recovered items include clothing, food, furniture, computers, appliances, books, videos, DVDs, office supplies, lumber, tools, toys, umbrellas – just about anything one can buy in a store.

Some years ago LBL was able to furnish a two-bedroom mobile home with brand new furniture, carpeting, dishes, cookware, kitchen and bath towels, and pictures for the walls, all tossed by long-distance investors who had bought investment properties and then dumped them, fully furnished, when the market took a nose dive.

In some areas, Freeganism has gone mainstream. The Freegan Pony restaurant in Paris is run by Freegans who serve all food that has been gotten from dumpsters.

LBL isn’t advocating pulling on a slicker and leaping head first into a dumpster. But she does believe we can all take a hint from the Freegans. Before you toss food, take a look. Does it really have to be tossed? Before you purchase something for your home, can you find it on eBay or other site for pre-owned goods? Have you checked the wealth of kids’ toys offered at yard sales? The amount of goods out there is mind-boggling.

LBL prides herself on her exquisite taste. Some of her most prized pieces of furniture are things that other people were throwing away. Her wedding dress was purchased on eBay for $35. Her pricy refrigerator from New Zealand was purchased on Craigs List, thanks to a young man who ordered it with the door opening in the wrong direction for the way his kitchen was laid out. She just about never buys anything before checking in with websites offering pre-owned goods. She only draws the line at two things: actual dumpster diving and hot, soggy bread.

Posted in: food