5 Ways to Rescue Food (without diving in the dumpster)

Dumpster diving is just not your thing. We get it. It takes a special kind of weirdo to stick their head (or body) in a stinky, grimy refuse bin and pull out something to eat. We love being that kind of weirdo, but we also know that if dumpster diving was the only way to rescue food, our food waste problem would never be solved. Luckily, there are other (more proactive) options.

Reduced for Quick Sale Bins

We love the fact that almost all of the grocers around us (and even Walmart) have a rack for day-old breads, pastries, and other baked goods. Some grocers, like Kroger, take that concept a step further and have a quick-sale bin for produce. These areas are our first stop when shopping. On almost every occasion, we’ve been able to find just what we were looking for to fill our weekly shopping list – be it lettuce, apples, bananas, potatoes, or more – on the quick-sale rack.

Clearance Sales

Unlike the quick-sale bin, which usually only offers fresh produce and/or baked goods, your grocer’s clearance rack may have needed pantry items at a drastically reduced price. Kroger, Food Lion, and Walmart (in our area) all have clearance areas for food items. In fact, right now our Walmart is undergoing a remodel and they have an entire clearance end-cap. Items that are no longer going to be carried by the store but are in perfectly good condition are placed here. This week, we were able to stock up on PAM cooking spray (50 cents a can), banana flour ($1 a bag), unsweetened almond milk ($1 for 1/2 gallon), baking powder (25 cents a can), dried cherries ($1 a bag), and more.


On the way home from my mom’s house yesterday, we saw a tangerine on the side of the road. I assume it fell out of a grocery bag or a kid’s backpack and it probably would have rotted there if we had not picked it up and eaten it. Yes, technically that’s not true “foraging” but how often do tangerines just jump out in front of you? Not very often, I would guess. But you’re probably passing perfectly edible foods every day and you don’t even know it. Learn what’s edible in the wild. Pick berries on your walk through the woods. Gather nuts off the ground. Pick apples hanging over a fence row (on public property, of course).


Gleaning is similar to foraging but with permission from the garden owner (in most cases). We have several neighbors who have old fruit trees in their yards. Since they didn’t plant them, most have little to no interest in harvesting the fruit. By simply asking for permission, we’ve harvested buckets full of pears, apples, and peaches. And a few years ago, my mom’s next-door-neighbor completely abandoned his garden and allowed us to glean everything we could get our hands on.

Closeout Stores

Though not my first choice, closeout stores are still a viable option for rescuing food. Many of these stores obtain their inventory from other stores that have gone out of business or purchased too much of a particular item to sell themselves. The foods found here are generally packaged goods – dried fruits, nuts, canned goods, spices, and pastas – and most are at or close to expiration. They are typically 1/2 the price of the same item in the grocery store and most will still be good long past the date on the package.

Food Waste Update
We took a break from dumpster diving this week to go to the mountains for a short vacation.

  • Wasted Food this week: 0 ounces
  • Total Wasted Food in 2018: 38 ounces
  • Rescued Food this week:  .25 US pounds
  • Total Food Rescued this year:  99.17 US pounds

Keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.

Spring Fever & Feeding the Fam on Found Foods

Yesterday I looked outside to see my neighbor in the building next door curled up on her chaise lounge beneath a blanket. She was taking a nap right on her deck. In the few seconds that I stood there watching her, I could feel my body relaxing and my mind going into “sleepy” mode. I wanted to grab my own blanket and take a nap outside too.

Almost every morning when I open the window of my bedroom/office, I see this neighbor on her deck with a cup of coffee (or maybe tea), reading a book. She’s one of the few folks that live here that actually uses the deck for more than just a staging area for patio furniture. Come to think of it, she’s one of the few folks in this entire town that uses her outdoor space. We drive by all of these beautifully decorated patios and decks all the time – spring, summer, fall and winter – and no one is ever out there using them.

Inspired by my napping neighbor, we spent several hours cleaning up our patio and getting our planters ready for the container garden we’re planning to start this spring. We had been on the lookout for large flower pots for a while…and by on the lookout, I mean we were trying to find ones that people had discarded. We succeeded in scoring 2 good size ones from recycling and 2 really huge ones (quite by accident) for a dime at Lowe’s. The 2 pots from Lowe’s were marked down to $1 each due to some minor damage. Because they wouldn’t ring up properly (and because the associate-in-training was not that nice about it), the manager gave us one for a dime and the other for free. When we get back from our vacation in March, I plan to start some seedlings inside and transfer some to the pots and some to our 8′ x 8′ garden spot at my mom’s house.

Inside our apartment, we’re prepping for spring as well by trying to finish off last year’s veggies from the freezer. We have 3 quarts of tomatoes, 2 quarts of blackberries, a handful of peppers, some pears, and a bag of pecans left. In recent weeks we’ve added a couple packs of apples and 6 cups of pureed bananas to the freezer from our “food finding” walks. (I thought that moniker sounded a little less icky than dumpster diving). The pureed bananas make a great substitute for oil in baking dense cakes, muffins, or as Angie found out this weekend, oatmeal cookies.

Speaking of food finding walks, we continue to be in shock and awe at the amount of food our neighboring grocer is still tossing out. It’s been a little more than 2 weeks since we discovered this secret and here’s just a sample of the good food we’ve rescued.

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We’re still sharing our bounty with friends but we also hosted our first “dumpster dinner” on Valentine’s Day. While not all of the ingredients were free, the majority were rescued from becoming food waste. The few items we purchased were all from the “last chance” rack at various grocery stores. We prepared a 2 pound Nature’s Place pork roast (marked down to $2.90); a succotash made with rescued corn, broccoli, and asparagus; rice; yeast rolls (marked down to $1); and miniature cheesecakes for dessert (marked down from $5.99 to $1.50). The dinner was a smashing success. My uncle, who is visiting with my mom from NC, ate like he was starving – even after saying that he didn’t really like broccoli.

veggiecrateA few days later, Angie was sitting outside painting a veggie crate that we’re going to use as storage for our garden shoes, gloves, etc., when my uncle asked her where we got the crate. “Dumpster,” she answered; to which he replied by telling us a story about a time in his life when he and his then-girlfriend used to salvage furniture and household goods from the dumpster and sell them to pay the rent. This particular uncle now owns several businesses and touts his wealth almost as much as our current President so I was completely surprised at this admission. He ended his story by saying, “but I’ve never eaten out of the dumpster”. Angie and I looked at each other and almost burst out laughing. It was all I could do not to say, “oh but yes you have!”.

I figure, a little humor at my uncle’s expense is okay. He’s been picking on me most of my life. In fact, he still calls me Egghead – a name he tagged me with when I was a child because my head was buried in a book all the time. Which doesn’t sound like such a bad idea right now. It’s 75 degrees outside so perhaps it’s time to grab a cup of tea, a blanket, and the great book I just bought about food and foraging (called The Feast Nearby) and head to the patio. I might also grab a handful of Angie’s sugar-free oatmeal raisin cookies on the way out – the ones made with 50% found ingredients.

Weekly Progress to Happiness Goals Report (week ending 2/18)

    • No Spend Days = 4
      YTD = 27/200
    • Meatless Days = 3
      YTD = 21.5/144
    • Miles Walked/Hiked = 0/0
      YTD = 87.4/1,000 and 3.6/100
    • Decluttered Items = 0
      YTD = 217/2017
    • Side Hustle Income = $10.95
      YTD = $189.08/$1,825