You know when you go to a restaurant with a group of friends and have food in your hands before you even sit down at the table? During the ensuing mass confusion, judgmental glances, and wide eyes of wonder, there’s always one group member that asks and endless spattering of questions about food waste, lowering one’s food budget, and other random questions regarding my unconventional lifestyle. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to understand other people’s thought processes, perspectives, and potentially provide a positive influence in the way they conduct their lives.
So to make it easier, here are some avenues I’ve been fortunate enough to utilize in my quest to displace food from being wasted:
Community and School Gardens
It only takes a couple peaceful hours volunteering at a community or school garden to be permitted to obtain a portion of the yield when the time comes. I spent a decent amount of time at The Ohio State University Student Farm hoeing, planting, and weeding. There actually wasn’t much student involvement and a heck of a lot of crops planted. At the end of the season I ended up with more tomatoes I could ever eat. Plus, I was fortunate enough to get high off the endorphins catalyzed by my little friends. Thanks to the current movement connecting people to their food, community gardens are gaining in popularity and you probably have one in your area. Plenty of resources are available to guide you to the nearest feast.
Landscape Pest Control
Bugs. Eat them. If you like shrimp, if you like reducing pesticide use, if you like protein, you might want to throw back a couple tomato horn worms or Japanese beetles. Whenever I go to my mom’s in MD, I make sure I check the rose bushes and tomato plants for those little critters that thought it was a good idea to defoliate my family’s ornamentals and food plots. They’re pretty much all edible and delicious sautéed in some coconut oil with sea salt and curry.
If you have a few minutes each day to throw some water at your little green pets, home gardens are a great way to grab your own food with very little economic investment.
Everyone’s most appetizing option. There’s a right way to do it. There’s a very wrong way to do it. Make sure you aren’t going for that odiferous bludgeoned carcass writhing with maggots that’s missing most of its hair. This guy knows what’s up with road-side harvesting. Make sure the hair doesn’t fall out when tugged. You shouldn’t smell anything that makes you want to puke. Some lice and ticks are ok, but if maggots beat you to the meal, you might want to keep driving. Cold weather can keep the meat good for up to months, depending on the temp. I usually don’t eat the offal from vehicle casualties and stick to the unmolested muscle meat. Good luck with this one 🙂
While volunteering at OSU’s Student Farm, I was tasked with the duty of pest control via live traps. The rabbit population is very often an issue with agriculture and I was lucky enough to have delicious furry friends on my plate for about 2 years. Talk to farmers you know to find similar opportunities or look up the regulations for trapping with your state’s wildlife department to set one up in your back yard.
Grocery Store Samples
Not sure about you, but when I go to Whole Foods Market, I know I eat more food in the store than I buy… The plethora of samples throughout the aisles and the “spillage” in the bulk foods section are the real reason I go there. The ridiculous price markup and their insistence on using dangerous industrial oils to cook most of their food doesn’t appropriately motivate me to buy my food from them.
Restaurant Table Leftovers
The best meals out include random peoples’ leftovers. I can barely describe the satisfaction and joy when I am able to snag a half-eaten plate of food from a recently departed neighboring table when I go out to eat. The race to beat the wait staff to clean up a table is exhilarating and the payoff can be immense. Probably best to refrain from the soup…
If you start paying attention to it, you’d be amazed at the amount of alcohol left in peoples’ cups when they hop on to another bar. Always scout out the tables when you see a party preparing to depart a bar and check the tables or counters at the door when you enter a club if the city doesn’t permit open-containers.
We’re made to track down, kill, and eat the wildlife. The rifle can cost a bit, but if you’re lucky enough to find a gun aficionado to befriend that’ll let you borrow one, the cost to harvest a decent amount of wild game meat is minimal. The license fees are low and go to important causes like habitat conservation. Get that forest bathing in! For added ecological benefits, focus on invasive species and animals that are currently in a high population density status, historically speaking.
With an even lower barrier to entry, fishing can supply a massive amount of meat for a minimal cost. You also get the benefits of negative ions.
Life is much more fulfilling when you get to know the environment in which you reside. As the majority of people shuttle by in their metal, socially-isolating death traps in a congestion-induced rage, some fortunate individuals can be spotted cycling or meandering about on foot with grins upon their faces. The slow life comes with gifts. Delicious gifts. Next time you have the time, commute by foot or bike and keep an eye peeled for little treats trickled around your feet, in the bushes, and on the trees. There is even an app for that. Most weeds can be eaten.
Help Friends Move Out
Maybe it’s just another aspect of being the luckiest guy ever. Maybe I intentionally make friends with gypsy-type folk… But I’ve been fortunate enough to help multiple friends move from one living space to other. Usually there are heaps of food that they either don’t want to go through the efforts of relocating or decided they don’t enjoy eating. Lend a hand moving furniture and usually you can snatch up a few boxes of edible goods. Just scrape the mold off.
Clean Friends’ Kitchens
An obsessive interest in societal food purchasing habits can lead you to some interesting situations when you get caught snooping in the recesses of strangers’ cabinets and fridges. With a little communicative tact and a receptive kitchen owner, you just may finagle your way into an incredible opportunity to snag some unwanted goods. A lot of foods people considered “expired” are still good to eat.
I decided long ago that there must be a university in the town in which I reside. Listening to an indecipherable asian lament upon the intricacies of critical nonlinear dispersive equations sounds so much more delicious when I have 47 cheese cubes in front of my face chasing each other down my throat. Check out your local university’s events calendar for public seminars, lectures, and community events. There’s always food. At least free coffee. And you know they throw it out. Some compost, but skipping the energy recycling yields the most sustainable outcome.
First, samples for days. Second, if you befriend a local producer, there are many opportunities to help trade some time helping load, unload, or clean the farm stand for some produce to take home.
Food product producers never want to return from an expo with product. The cost to ship it back often exceeds the loss from just giving it away. Next time you hear of an event in your area, bring a duffel bag and ask the producers if they have any opened containers or extra goods they are desperate to rid themselves of.
Couchsurfing is a great way to meet the most interesting people on the planet and have some valuable exploration partners. Not only can you help make the world a better place by providing a welcome environment for fellow global explorers, but most of the guests will insistently pay for your meals out, buy groceries and cook food at your home, or leave edible goods in your fridge when they depart.
I hope these tips are actually useful, the writing style is entertaining, and you have some great material to fuel any judgement regarding my alternative lifestyle!
Keep in mind that it’s about reducing food waste, reducing the money spent on food, and having fun. “Scavenge” isn’t a cool word for “stealing.”
Where do you see food waste that could go to a better cause than the landfill? Who wants to join my food scavenging team? What are some food-rescuing experiences you’ve facilitated?