I originally wrote this for the folks over at The Canadian Prepper Network. Since I am without home internet till spring, I thought I would cut and paste this for you folks while I am at the library. Sorry I wont be able to answer questions. enjoy
The Survival Science Of Dumpster Diving For FOOD
Let me tell you the story of the USELESS PREPPER "EXPERT". A popular Youtube prepper with many viewers, put out a video to his subscribers. He said," Sorry but I cant do any more 'Prepper' videos for you. I lost my job last month and I cant buy any more GUNS to show you. We are going to lose the house in a few weeks (behind him was the suburban Barbie dream house)." his head dropped and in a little lower voice said," I guess they are going to repossess the truck too.(to his side was flashy Mondo truck that has no usefulness other than out Alfa maleing others narcissist males). I cant afford the gas anyhow."
In Canada, Food wastage is about 40%. Of that, 18% is lost at the point of processing and packaging, 11% at retail, …and this is why I am going to break a huge social Taboo and drag you kicking and screaming into a dumpster. OK, all you prissy tough guys that think you are too good for this. Look. You are willing to blow the head off Bugs Bunny. You might even be willing to sit in the dirt and eat worms. The truly iron stomachs will even eat C Rations…Yet, your classism will make you turn with disgust at the thousands of pounds of good healthy, recognisable, calorie packed food within a few miles from your house.
Wait. I cant start there. Before Mrs C5, I was partnered with Australia’s first female Boy Scout. Her Instructor had been SAS. Mine had been Canadian Airborne. When we had the usual relationship fights, I’d turn to her and say, “OK, Princess, You and Me, outside in the snow, One Match Fire Competition.”She’d roll her eyes and the relationship balance would be restored. Then, the final week before she had to return home, she said, “you’re on”. I let her go first. It was clear to me her fire wouldn’t start. I had the home field advantage. Then it was my turn. To fully piss in her cornflakes, I said, “Hold this for me” and handed her the paper match. I lit mine off a tiny ember she had left behind. “Take that SAS. Making a flame doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t make a working fire each and every time. I never met New Zealander I didn’t like”.(a common joke I make to Aussies). Later she said to me. ”I don’t know why you had to humiliate me so much”. I replied, ”You are about to head back to the other side of the planet and we will never see each other again. I want you, when you look back and remember me, to know that it wasn’t all a line to get into your shapely panties. I wanted you to know that I was the person I told you I was.” To this day, an Aussie accent still gets me...all bothered.
A year and a half later, Me and Mrs C5 hooked up.We got together for one reason alone. We saw a dark future approaching. Both of us had seen it coming for along time and had built our life around staring that uncomfortable fact directly in the face. The two of us together would be stronger than the sum of our parts. I’d told her about my unusual skill set but, like Aussie Scout before her, I wanted to really show her the value of this skill and test her a bit to see how she responded. I scoped out a YUPPIE mini mall. It met my parameters of a likely place to find food. Mom and Pop bakery, Mini chain specialty foods and produce , independent Butcher, No back ally traffic. It deserved further scouting. Mrs C5 went into the store for some Free Trade coffee and localy grown sausage for me. I decided to walk the perimeter. (subnote- walking your dog is always good for this job. No body pays too much attention to the dog walker trying to let them find a place to pee and sniff around.. Even predators will pass you up as a victim. Its subliminal. A dog is a threat even if it’s a toy poodle. They might be able to control you but the dog is a wild card and they will move on to an easier target. Cops will leave you alone, even at 3 AM, because you have a reason to be there. You are a responsible dog owner taking care of your dogs needs) The first dumpster behind the produce place was locked up behind a chain link fence. Problem, but not insurmountable. The most likely climbing spot had a bent fence top. Subtle, but a god sign. Someone had been there before for a reason. I could come back another time at night. Security camera...noted. Wear a hoody. The next batch of dumpsters were easy access and un lockable. Nice. They were also in clear view of shoppers. Not so nice. People sort of suck. You’d be surprised just how angry people get when confronted with that someone might be getting something for free. “Those Damn social rule breakers. They need to be just as miserable as us at go nowhere slave labour to pay for stuff like everyone else for the rest of their lives”. You do not want to ruin it for someone else and if you find a gold mine, you don’t want the owners or bitchy citizens to take that away in the future. Not wanting to be thwarted, I go all spycraft. I pick up a piece of garbage off the street, and like a good Samaritan, go to drop it in the dumpster. Quick check in side. Bingo. Clear food sign. I wander off. I’ll be back around closing time.
As the evening fell, the last of the shoppers disappeared, I brought Mrs C5 back for a second look. I pulled out a bag filled. with artisan breads. Nice quality. I handed it to the mrs. “We don’t need all this”. ”That’s what a freezer is for”, I replied. Next one, had a third filled, sealed, clear plastic garbage bag of chicken backs. The quality cuts were taken off and the rest of the chicken discarded. Now I wouldn’t usually go after meat but I was making a point. The bag was clean and sitting on top so I knew it hadn’t been there long. I judged the days temperature and realised it had been nippily cold all day so it had been refrigerated, did a sniff test, and visually were clean as if they just came off the butchers food safe chopping board. I remembered my Boy Scout Training. ”Cooking Generally Makes food safe”. If it were questionable, it would still get cooked and the dogs would be overjoyed with their feast. Turning to MrsC5, I said, ”Well, It looks like we are making a really big pot of soup tonight.”. (We are having a little argument at the moment about which one recommended soup. Its my post so I am saying “ME”) She replied, You do understand that the house is filled with food and we have no shortage of money, don’t you?”. “ Yup. It’s the Principle of it. C5 rule of survival. NEVER PASS UP FREE FOOD. It will be in short supply soon enough.” Part two of that rule is,”…but always remember there is no such thing as a free lunch”.
The truth is, its nowhere close to free. There is a lot of time investment involved. There is the hunting and hauling. There is cleaning and processing, canning and dehydrating, bagging and freezing, cutting out the small imperfections in vegies that got them tossed because they were not visually appealing to the consumer. The amount of tossed veggies is staggering. Its mind numbingly huge. If its not the picture perfect shape…gone. Bruised in shipping, bye bye . Not big enough, done. Not ripe enough, see ya. Too ripe, You’re out of here.
OK. About this point, the dimmer preppers begin to faze out. Let me point out their first dumb question before they even ask it. Its some version of this. “ What does this have to do with prepping. This is why we prep, so we don’t have to do this. When the balloon goes up, I grab my gun and my bug out bag and head to the forest where animals never go extinct and nuts and berries rain down like manna from the heavens all year round.” or ,” My house is packed to the ta tas with freeze dried soups to nuts and enough gold and bullets to keep my wealth safe till Jesus returns to help move it all to the new mansion.” And last but not least…wait for it…wait for it…” If the SHTF, every thing stops. including the garbage. You have a week at best before everything rots. I’ll be dinning on deer and would rather die than eat that disease ridden Salvation Army bread”. (a montage of actual quotes I’ve read)
Well, before I go all Monty Pythons ‘Dead Parrot’ on your a$$, lets start with the more obvious short answer.
HURRICANE SANDY! . Did I say enough?! Probably not ...
One thing that can be learned from my own tragic personal story is that you can lose every thing in the blink of an eye…several times over…simply because the gods are bored. A storm can take your home. Your loved ones. Your preps. Your job. Your company. Your social standing. Zombies can overwhelm your bunker. Your devout, holiness bun wearing wife may leave you for her gynecologist with the really big fingers then come after you for 3 thousand a month child support, forcing you to live in your car, having to work in the frozen oil fields, simply to stay out of jail for court ordered payments. I met a number of those guys up north.
Me, I’m long, long pasts the “angry prepper” phase. That’s for amateurs and narcissists. I’m even far past the more philosophical, “I see dead people” phase of prepping. I think I am about ready to slap anyone who uses the term “Red Pill” or “Socialists’, with an over sized clown shoe .Ah, The acceptance phase. I have long since moved on to the John Cleese, Monty Python phase of prepping.
I’ve read, recently, someome ask,’ What it your sign that it is,”ON”, grab your gear and go’. At times like this, I usually quote Ran Prier from The Slow Crash. “the end of cheap energy, the decline of industrial agriculture, economic collapse, wars, famines, infrastructure failures, and extreme weather.- I suggest we're already in the fall of civilization. In 2004 the price of oil doubled, bankruptcies and foreclosures accelerated, global food stockpiles fell to record lows despite high harvests, and we had record numbers of hurricanes and tornadoes -- and a big tsunami to top it off. If every year from here to 2020 is half as eventful, we'll be living in railroad cars, eating grass, and still waiting for the big crash we've been led to expect from watching movies designed to push our emotional buttons and be over in two hours.
Or, I’ll quote Howard Kunstler, “People ask me,’What is the time frame for this Long Emergency?’ I tell them we’ve entered The Zone.”
Or, Dmitry Orlov, “So that's what we have now. The ship is on the rocks, water is rising, and the captain is shouting "Full steam ahead! We are sailing to Afghanistan!" Do you listen to Ahab up on the bridge, or do you desert your post in the engine room and go help deploy the lifeboats? If you thought that the previous episode of uncontrolled debt expansion, globalized Ponzi schemes, and economic hollowing-out was silly, then I predict that you will find this next episode of feckless grasping at macroeconomic straws even sillier. Except that it won't be funny: what is crashing now is our life support system: all the systems and institutions that are keeping us alive. And so I don't recommend passively standing around (With your bug out bag. Emphasise mine) and watching the show unless you happen to have a death wish.”
But from now on, I’m going to skip all that and go straight to John Cleese. “Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.”
(At which point Sara Palin…er, I mean Michael Palin replies)” No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian (red white and) Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!”
Cleese-“Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.” (This always makes me think of our economy which should of collapsed in the 80s but was nailed in place by the housing bubble, credit and inflation. The world population has almost doubled since then and all the easy energy capital is already gone)
“'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker!
'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies!
'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig!
'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!!
THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!”
OK, Enough pontificating from His Holiness.
If you lose your food storage, this is where to begin. If your food stores are nothing more than a couple boxes of MRE and some bottle water, its time for an upgrade. If all of your money is consumed by debts. If you are raising a family on minimum wage and are panicking about being able feed yourself wile building up food stores. If you are already on EI or welfare and are coming to grips with that it is not enough to survive on without turning to crime…here is your way out. Get your bike out and get busy.
Put the money you save on food into long term food stores or process this food into long tem stores, yourself.
When people think of diving for food, their first thought is usually restaurants. This is the worst place to start. This is where you would get all of those nasty food poisoning diseases you fear. It’s a festering bacterial disease ridden soup . Next would be the super store chains and that’s a big ol waist o’ bicycling energy. Those places are locked up tighter than my second ex wife’s thighs and designed to keep you out. So where to start?
Lets START with a WARNING. Your biggest danger is…a big steel dumpster lid dropping on your head or spine. I’m an interesting person. I collect interesting friends,… from people that have protected presidents, to people that feed the homeless from the back of their truck, from crime reporters, where serial killers called the house regularly, to circus sideshow performers that placed skewers through their bodies or performed auto filatio on themselves for crowds, true Chris McCandles type people that hop trains and live free to Bujinkan Ninjutsu instructors. One of the best human beings I have ever had the privilege to call my friend…had a dumpster lid fall on his spine wile leaning into a bin. It could have cut him in half. Instead, after several surgeries, he was left addicted to opiates eventually leading to heroin. In spite of a life turned to disaster, He was a remarkably caring, resourceful and adaptive person. A true survivor and he taught me a lot about pre conceives attitudes. He is also not the only person I met with a permanent dumpster related accident. Wearing a bike helmet doesn’t hurt. Ive had a couple close calls myself that have taught me the importance of having a healthy respect for that big steel lid.
Also, always wear gloves. An unseen pieces of broken glass (in an unhygienic environment) can interrupt your bountiful harvest and send you off for stiches and antibiotics..
Your next big danger is… the police. Recycling is often illegal. Its one of the reasons I have little respect for the law. I choose to follow my conscience instead and find it has a far higher standard. Look, some cops are life experienced public servants that know what laws to ignore for the greater good. Others are emotionally unstable THUGS that are untouchable by law. Any time you deal with one, it’s a crap shoot. They are dangerous. Avoid them. When I recycle, My mind set is that of a ninja. Once I find what I want, It becomes a military operation. I want to be unremarkable and forgettable when scoping. Once it’s a go, I want it to be stealthfull and fast. My exit statagy is already planned. Once its done, I leave the area immediately and completely. If someone freaks about my life choices, I want to be gone before someone decides to respond. When dealing with police, be polite. Half the time, they just want to know that you are not breaking in to homes or business. Use the socially responsible term, Recycling, not Dumpster diving, which may make you seem week and trigger bullying response.
Well, enough of warnings. Its still safer than driving .
The places you want to hit are small businesses, preferably in the better parts of town. Small grocers, specialty food shops, Mom and Pop bakeries. Organic produce stores are always a gold mine and a good source for recycling your own Heirloom Seeds directly from discarded vegetables. These places are far less likely to be locked up.
There is rarely any need to actually climb into a dumpster…unless you find a gold mine and want to farm every ounce out of it. Most times, the freshest produce is sitting right at the top and was tossed earlier that same day. If its half bad, that means its half good. Rarely is it half bad. Most times, it only has a cosmetic blemish or is just going over its full ripeness. You will also find a lot of processed products where the packaging has been damage and unsellable. When they open a box with a box cutter, sometimes they slash the product by accident and chuck. Nothing a little tape or re packaging cant solve. A visual examination solves most safety concerns. If its contaminated, discard. If its just dirty…wash it. If you are worried about bacterial contamination, you can wash it in a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution…but its way easier to just wash it and PEEL the outer skin off it. Natures packaging. You are willing to drink pond water as long as you boil it, right? That’s what Soup is once you boil your vegies. What else? Canned goods past there sell by dates. A can is a can. Nothing is alive inside of it. They are edible decades past sell by dates. Dairy products . Cheeses and yogurts last long beyond there sell by dates…especially if you get them during the cold parts of the year. MrsC5 recently ate a sealed container of yogurt that had been in the back of the fridge for almost six months. A spot of mold on cheese? Cut it off and re package. Freeze it for cooking later if you don’t plan on using it immediately.
Moving on. Grocery chains in smaller towns are less tight arsed about making their garbage Fort Knox. You may have to climb over a fence. Many use green bins now days. It’s a good source of animal feed for chickens, pigs, rabbits, goats, etc.
Industrial areas. You are usually on private property so go ninja. Don’t go over board. You wont be the first dumpster diver they have ever seen. Use a bike. DO NOT drive your car up to the bin. This creates insult to the hard working joes and it is a Heat Score. These places are out of the way so feel free to drive to the area but then park the car in a safe area and hop on the bike. As a bonus, security cameras wont be recording your licence plate.
If it is headed to a store front distributer, it means it first comes into the city through a truck to a warehouse. If a forklift dings a box of ,say canned tomato sauce, one break spoils the packaging of the entire box. Expect to do some washing in the bath tub and re mark with a felt pen. If you find one of these, Holy Grail places, it is a gold mine. Protect it as such. Keep it secret. Do not try to re sell it. Do not be seen. If someone else has been there and made a mess, Clean the place up! Always leave a place cleaner than you found it. This may be a limited time offer so do not assume it will always be there for you.
Dealing with a locked bin. Most bins are locked at night, not to keep you out, but to keep illegal dumpers from filling them. Do not be tempted to leave your own garbage behind. I lost a goldmine once for doing so. Embarrassing lesson learned. I have no qualms with picking the locks if you have the skill but if a cop searches you and finds lock picks, you are in a world of hurt. Some bins can be popped buy lifting the unlocked side. Most cant without damaging them. If you ruin it, you lose it. I usually take a two by four block that can be wedged into a lifted corner after prying it up. Two blocks are better incase one slips. In some cases a small car jack can help give you more reaching room.(Just remember my warning about steel lids crashing down). In these cases a stick with a coat hanger tied to it or a folding ski pole, is good for pulling stuff towards you or ripping open garbage bags for examination. A head lamp is also useful. A lighter will do on the fly. A multi tool or vice grips is also useful for grasping sharp or soiled objects. A few extra plastic bags is also useful if something is dirty and you don’t want to soil your packs. Speaking of kit, I’ve seen many DDers wearing a reflective vest. Hiding in plain sight. It says to anyone that sees them, they are not doing anything sneaky. You might even be confused with a worker. It also doesn’t hurt, choosing to be well seen when riding a bike around at night.
There is much more, but like any other survival skill, it must be practiced. There is a learning curve to it.
Back to Hurricane Sandy. In the after affects, News reporters were showing alarming reports of Americans Dumpster Diving For food. Oh the humanity. Stores were dumping their frozen goods. Across the Survivalist web, They were mirroring these reports. They would say, “See. This is what we said would happen. Americans refused to prepare and this is their fate. Woe is Babylon…yada yada. Etc.” and went off smug in their self righteousness, with self assurance that God had made them special and untouchable…totally missing a valuable survival lesson that the same God was likely trying to teach them. Go figure. .
I remember the video reports. I watched the guy pulling stuff out of the bin. He knew what he was doing. He’d done it before. He was not traumatised by it. He had a carefully subdued grin. I knew what he was thinking, “Can you believe the incredible score of food I just pounced on.I’ll be eating better than usual. The spoiled, self righteous can starve for all I care. Let the rich eat cake.”
I don’t dive for food anymore. No need. I’ve got a year supply of food and an acre of garden, dozens of fruittrees and grape vines. Deer in the field. Chickens free rangeing. The harvest is packing the place…But the skill is still second nature. Recently wile out shopping, I couldn’t help but poke my head into a Shoppers Drugmart dumpster. Not my usual choice, but low and behold, at least three cases of canned milk. I already had a couple cases at home and didn’t want to climb in so I passed. All the way home and for several days after, It haunted me. I had broken my own rule, “Never pass up free food. It will be gone soon enough.” I eventually went back for it.