Saturday, January 31, 2009
We hit the dumpster motherload at Trader Joe's on Thursday. We scored two hefty bags of food, mostly prepared salads, sandwiches, spring rolls, etc. We also got some pre-made chicken parmesan with linguine, a bag of oranges, and a bag of pears. Dumpster diving is a great way to reduce food waste, spend less money on food, feed ourselves and our chickens. Lots of people who've never dumpster dived are concerned about food safety, and with the recent outbreak of salmonella from peanut butter, this is a good opportunity to talk about good dumpstering practices.
1. Most food you will find in a dumpster has been 'spoiled' because it's sell-by date is the following day. For most things, the sell-by date is way ahead of the use-buy date.
2. Other things are spoiled because they get dirty--we once found a case of tangerine juice in the dumpster because, as far as we could tell, one of the bottles had burst and gotten the rest sticky.
3. Winter is better than summer for dumpstering because the food is less likely to get in the "danger zone" of 40 degrees or higher. We will eat meat from the dumpster in the winter, but generally not in the heat of summer. There's no telling how long it's been sitting in an 80 degree dumpster.
4. Learn to recognize the signs of bad food. If it smells bad, don't eat it. Pay attention to FDA food recalls. You can always find a list of recalled products (by vendor) at fda.gov.
5. Etiquette. Don't leave a mess. If you leave a mess, you may return the following week to find a padlock on the dumpster. Be discreet, and don't inconvenience anyone by your presence. Sometimes, you will encounter other dumpster divers at the scene. Share! The food is free and there's plenty to go around.