Frugality to the Extreme: Would You Eat Out of the Dumpster?

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When I got online today, one of the first things that caught my eye (after “Pringles can designer buried in his work”) on MSN.com was this headline: “Frugalists find bargains in trash,” and of course I couldn’t help but click on it. I thought at first it was just about people digging up some still usable knick knacks or gadgets, but it turns out there are people, called Extreme Consumerists, who actually dumpster dive to set their dinner tables. And these aren’t homeless and very poor people, but people that have full-time jobs, own their homes, and are quite well off.

One woman interviewed about her unique lifestyle says that despite her affluence, she still worries about not having enough money, and by eating out of the dumpster, she can use her money to splurge on things she really wants like a new laptop computer or a pair of nice sneakers. Everything she eats comes out of the dumpster except for milk and butter.

Now, I am all for frugality, but this to me just seems a little too extreme. Having done a brief stint in the food services industry, I am very wary about food safety and sanitation. On our first day at Togo’s (sandwich shop), we were taught that hot food had to be kept at over 170° F and cold foods under 40° F in order to prevent bacterial growth. Also, if you touch anything other than food or sanitized items, you must wash your hands with antibacterial soap in hot water in order to kill bacteria on your hands.

A dumpster filled with food contains more than just [clean] food. Who knows what it has held in the past even if it looks clean. These large metal containers sit in the sun all day incubating bacteria, and even if it has been recently emptied it is still a hotbed of germs.

Dumpster diving for food is something I hope to never have to do. If for some reason I ever ran out of money, I would find other ways to make money to buy food. In my opinion, it’s not worth it to risk getting food poisoning, E. coli or Salmonella (which can cost you a lot more unless you can also dumpster dive for a doctor and medication too) to save a couple of hundred dollars a month.

Pros and Cons of Eating out of the dumpster
Pros Cons
1. Saves money 1. Could get sick
2. 2. Could get really sick and cost more money (doctor’s bills)
3. 3. Could get really really sick and die
4. 4. It’s gross

There’s a reason “Healthy” comes before “Wealthy” in the famous quote by a very wealthy (and wise) American. (Though maybe “Wise” should have come before “Healthy.”)

What do you think? Would you eat out of the dumpster for a new computer or pair of sneakers?

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7 thoughts on “Frugality to the Extreme: Would You Eat Out of the Dumpster?”

  1. Uh yeah.. I think there’s a line to being Frugal. Eating out of the dumpster crosses that line – and then some.

    Kinda reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when George gets caught eating an ecclair out of the trash :)

  2. Ahh… No.

    I do the coutry girl version, ie – gleaning – when I have the chance, but somehow… I think there is a bit of a difference in me picking up windblown apples after the teams have gone through the orchard for the pretty-pretties and eating a half chewed rueben out of a dumpster. That is one thought thats just shudder worthy.

  3. I haven’t read the article, but dumpster diving probably crosses the line for most of the general public.

    I will say that they probably have on heck of an immune system built up!

  4. I haven’t done it myself, but I know some people who dumpster dive. While some of it is for stuff like produce which I would be wary of eating, a lot of it is something like 20 sealed loaves of bread in a bag by themselves. I wouldn’t consider it unsafe to consume. In fact, I have before! It tasted good and did not make me sick. I don’t know that I would do it myself, most of the time, it’s not as gross as you think!

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