How to Safely Dumpster Dive

Dumpster diving is an activity that many people turn their noses up at -- perhaps for good reason.  The basic premise: you find a dumpster full of food (or other items, but generally edibles) still contained in its original wrappings, and then collect it and take it home to eat.  Sound a little weird or gross?  It's really a safe practice if you do it correctly, and since restaurants and stores throw out food long before it actually goes bad, it's not like you'll be eating garbage.

A woman collecting some left overs

Start by dressing properly.  You might be getting a little nasty, so pick clothes you don't care about and wear them proudly.  You'll also want to dress in darker colors, since dumpster diving is a nighttime activity.  Make sure most of your skin is covered; if there are sharp edges inside the dumpster, you don't want to cut yourself on accident.  Wear closed-toed shoes so you don't harm your feet or have to squish them around in yucky food.

 Bring along bags to carry the food in, and make use of them.  Don't just throw a bunch of food in your car -- sort your pickings into bags and get that out of the way before you even make it home.  You should also bring along a flashlight to help you peruse the dumpster, as well as a first-aid kit, just in case.  Treat your dumpster diving expedition like a hiking trip -- you need something to carry everything in and some items for safety.

 Check all the expiration dates on items before you snatch them up.  Sure, that salad may look tasty in the dark of the dumpster, but when you get back to find it expired two weeks ago, you might feel a little turned off to all the food you've gathered.  Granted, stores toss food before the food is actually bad -- the expiration date rarely marks the actual go-bad date -- but you should still make sure it still looks good before you take it home.

 Never take food that isn't in its original packaging.  Even if you are dumpster diving at a bakery, and the only thing in the dumpster is bread, don't take any if it isn't still wrapped tightly in its paper.  Just think about all the other people who may have come through and touched all the items in a search for their own dumpster diving bounty, and then decide if you want something no longer secured in wrapping.

 Dumpster diving is not for everyone, and you should be careful when you attempt it -- don't jump into dumpsters you can't see, don't send your kids in, don't close the lid, and don't attempt to dumpster dive if there are clearly posted signs that discourage you from doing so (that means you've been warned, and if you got caught, it would hold up in court).  Good luck!

 Dumpster diving not your thing?  How about garage saling for all your frugal needs?  Come check out for some awesome free resources.


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