Thursday, April 17, 2008

Would you dumpster-dive to save money?


Mmm, yummy! But would you want to eat it if you knew where it came from?
Times are tough, and the price of EVERYTHING is going up, but would you dive into a dumpster to save some cash?
Some people do.
Apparently, the struggle to live beyond our means has created a new breed in Australian society, the Feegan. Also known as dumpster divers or skip dippers, Feegans are apparently ‘conscientious objectors to consumerism’ to whom saving money is secondary to reducing wastage.
True story.
According to an Australian Institute study, a small but growing group of well-educated city dwellers are regularly going through rubbish bins to get free food, clothes and other products – literally turning other people’s trash into their own dinners. Foragers came from a diverse range of Australians, including teachers, professionals, shop assistants, students, musicians, and families.
Am I fussy, or is this just a little bit gross? (Okay, a lot!) If Kyle came home one night and suggested we all go out cruising for good garbage, I think it would probably be grounds for divorce!
But it’s not just your ordinary, garden-variety bins that appeal to Feegans. Commercial bins and skips are the prizes for these modern-day scavengers.
Apparently, many companies throw out boxes of food, including fruit and tinned food, when they are beyond their use-by date, have been dented or damaged, or are just a little spoiled. In fact, one keen Feegan, who claims to have not needed to buy any food except condiments in five years, insists: “It’s entirely possible for someone with a fridge and freezer to dumpster-dive once a week and do the equivalent of a weekly shop.”
Move over Coles, Woolies, and Aldi.
And it’s not just groceries that are among the treasures buried amongst rotting garbage. Participants in the Australia Institute’s report were also taking home beauty products, light bulbs, electrical goods, magazines, tools and clothing after their scavenger hunts.
It’s happening in restaurants and cafes too, where canny non-diners wait until people have left the table than hoover up whatever has been left on their plates.
Now, I’m as keen to save money as the next person, but I’m afraid I’m not about to turn Feegan just yet.
If like me, your idea of a good time doesn’t involve eating someone else’s leftovers or raiding their garbage bins, read on.

Bronnie’s Budget Busters
Here are some ways we’ve managed to economize at home:

* We’ve given up Foxtel. The kids were watching way too much TV anyway, and apart from the first couple of days where they moaned about it endlessly, they haven’t really missed it.
* I’ve swapped bottled wine and bubbly for cask wine (Sob!) An added benefit is I don’t really enjoy the taste of cask wine, so I drink much less of it – so I’m improving my health too.
* Instead of paying for gym membership or exercise classes, I’m working ‘normal’ exercise into my day – walking, yoga, stretches.
* We eat and entertain at home as much as possible rather than going out. That means the grocery bills are higher, but we’re shelling out less on takeaway and meals.
* We make great coffee at home, so don’t feel the need to buy one when we’re out and about. I’ll often have one before or after shopping, or pour one into a travel cup if I’m going out.
* Cooking dinner, we often make extra and freeze the leftovers – for example, lasagna and spaghetti bolognaise. That way, there’s always something available for those evenings when we’re too tired to cook, so we’re not tempted to reach for the takeaway menus.
* I've stopped buying expensive muesli bars, pre-packaged cheese, and fruit for the kids. I make my own versions, which are healthier anyway. Again, I’ll often freeze muffins and biscuits for lunchbox treats, and I’ll cut normal cheese into dinky shapes for them.
* I also give them juice and milk in reusable containers rather than buying poppers.
* We’ve cut back on driving. For example, we’ll go to our local park rather than a bigger park further away like Southbank or Roma Street Parklands, where we’re also up for parking fees. The kids have just as much fun, we save petrol and traffic time, and reduce our green footprints.
* We shop at markets wherever possible. Brisbane’s Rocklea market on Saturday is great for fruit and vegies, and it's better quality as well as cheaper than what you see in the stores. I also love the Asian shops at Darra for cheap fruit, vegies, rice, noodles, seafood and sauces.
* We only hire DVDs or buy pizzas on Tight-Arse Tuesdays, when you get them two-for-one (and we don’t do it every week).
* I ALWAYS pack snacks and water for the kids every time we go out, even if it’s for a quick shop. Otherwise I just know they’re going to hound me for expensive junk food and fizzy drink. I’m not a completely miserly mother – they still get the occasional treats and snacks while we're out IF they’re good.
*I try to go shopping when the kids are at school. That way I don't end up buying a lot of expensive crap and shouting a lot.
*I've switched to disposable razors instead of my smooth girlie one which needs expensive refills. (That's when I'm not using my husband's instead. Shhh!)
*I've stopped my daily newspaper delivery. I can read most of what I want to read online. Same goes for magazines. And I'm saving trees too!
*We've stopped the admittedly-lovely dog-washing lady from coming by to wash our dogs. Now we do it ourselves. We fill an old kiddie-pool with warm water, and wash them in the front yard. The kids love to get involved, and there have been no complaints from the furry ones either!

These are just a few things that have worked for us. Anyone else got some money-saving tips to share, that doesn't involve 'shopping' in rubbish or eating a complete stranger's leftovers?

3 comments:

Jan said...

I only came across this by chance, but I'll comment anyway. Seems like you're on what I'd call the right track. There are better (cheaper if you wish) ways to live and you've only touched the top of the iceberg. My advice: just question everything. Common sense isn't necessarly good sense.

On the topic of dumspter diving, I've been thinking about it myself a lot lately and you shouldn't be put off merely by the idea it came out of a bin. It's only a bad thing if there's a health risk involved (unpacked, long past the built-in expiry date buffer, ...), it will isolate you socially and limit your chances (but that shouldn't be a problem in the long run as the concept gets spread and accepted more) and, frankly, general laziness. So far, I haven't taken the step yet but I'm researching it.

You've mentioned that the people doing this are well-educated. They aren't doing this out of necessity, the crisis only has a marginal influence. They chose to do so. It's an ethical thing.

Hope you'll at least consider,
Jan

Jan said...

I only came across this by chance, but I'll comment anyway. Seems like you're on what I'd call the right track. There are better (cheaper if you wish) ways to live and you've only touched the top of the iceberg. My advice: just question everything. Common sense isn't necessarly good sense.

On the topic of dumspter diving, I've been thinking about it myself a lot lately and you shouldn't be put off merely by the idea it came out of a bin. It's only a bad thing if there's a health risk involved (unpacked, long past the built-in expiry date buffer, ...), it will isolate you socially and limit your chances (but that shouldn't be a problem in the long run as the concept gets spread and accepted more) and, frankly, general laziness. So far, I haven't taken the step yet but I'm researching it.

You've mentioned that the people doing this are well-educated. They aren't doing this out of necessity, the crisis only has a marginal influence. They chose to do so. It's an ethical thing.

Hope you'll at least consider,
Jan

Sarah said...

hi
I'm very interested in trying this as i believe that its a waste just to let it get put into landfills.

unfortunately i don't have anyone to go with.

i know that you don't really want to try it but if you know anyone that does and lives in northern Brisbane it would be great if you could let me know and if you could ask them if i could tag along.

thanks so much
Sarah