I don't watch Oprah very often but happened to today and I'm intrigued. Are you familiar with the Freegan lifestyle? The first half of her show was about it. I had never heard of this way of life. It's an environmentally friendly lifestyle that flies in the face of consumerism and materialism. Seriously, I kind of want to try it.
This way of life promotes not only frugality but also decreasing waste. They get things out of dumpsters! Those interviewed mostly get food and products from dumpsters outside grocery stores or retail stores. I was amazed at the quality products that were tossed because of expiration date, damage, bruises etc. One lady interviewed said that a dozen eggs will be thrown away because one is broken. The same lady told about how she found 100-1 lb. bags of coffee beans in a dumpster. The packages were intact but they had expired. As she pointed out - do roasted coffee beans actually expire? And even my mom has commented that companies are forced to put expiration dates on products that don't expire or certainly have a longer shelf life than listed.
The people interviewed are not doing it because they are poor. It seems that it's not uncommon for it to be quite the contrary - in fact, one couple represented are employed as a doctor and engineer. They are working to pay off their mortgage and they donate a fair amount. It seems that freegans choose that lifestyle because they want to avoid the materialism that is so prevelant in our society and conserve the environment. It was mentioned several times about how much waste is generated throughout our country.
It sounds gross to eat things out of a dumpster but it seemed that they were careful to only take things that were still packaged without punctures, still sealed, etc., cleaned fruits & vegetables very well (not necessarily in packages), and were conscious to not endanger themselves. [Side note: After reading the NY times article below, maybe this doesn't fully apply - some found 1/2 eaten jars of peanut butter that they were happy about it.] While it seems the movement may stem from the Vegan lifestyle, I noticed that the people interviewed today had dairy products and didn't necessarily follow a vegan diet.
It totally makes me want to just try it one time to see how it works. The freegans certainly did not seem to be lacking in good quality food and their basic needs were met. Their cost of living is low (they did note that they spend a little per month on what they cannot find). I was amazed at their dedication to this lifestyle. Those interviewed today were humble, simple-living people that are living out their values. As with any movement, there are extremes and some of those are definitely reflected in the article below. And it does sound like there can be legal ramifications if your city or state does not allow dumpster digging or if you are trespassing, of course.
Anyway, as I stated at the beginning, I'm intrigued. It was an interesting program and an interesting idea. Andrew and I are constantly discussing sustainable living - architecture, food, etc. and this certainly relates to those concepts although it is probably a little extreme for us. :) For further information, here are some websites that focus on this way of life: Freegan Kitchen, Freegan.info, and a NY Times article.