News, Culture & Society

Scientist slams family of dumpster divers saving $10,400 a year foraging for food

Mother-of-two Mandy Hodges has been dumpster diving with her 11-year-old child for a year now – barely having to visit a regular supermarket for essentials.

She believes the Brisbane-based family have saved up to $200 a week by collecting food from the bin and they’ve never been sick, trusting their ‘common sense’ to avoid being contaminated.

But microbiologist Glen Pinna told Today Tonight Adelaide that they were ‘crazy’ for championing this kind of practice. 

But microbiologist Glen Pinna told Today Tonight Adelaide that they were ‘crazy’ for championing this kind of practice

‘You’re taking some unbelievable chances as far as food poisoning goes,’ he said.

What is dumpster diving? 

Dumpster diving is the practice of sifting through commercial or residential waste to find items that have been discarded by their owners, but that may prove useful to the picker.

‘There are two groups. Foods that are raw that you’re going to cook and foods that are ready to eat – and if we look at the last group because that’s certainly the highest risk – all of that food is only good right up to its expiry date.

‘It’s not proven [to be safe] well past it or if there has been temperature abuse.’ 

Previously, FEMAIL spoke to Mandy, 38, – who has worked in convenience stores and supermarkets for almost a decade – about the amount of waste she saw thrown out.

‘The supermarkets might have enough room to store 100 boxes of chocolate on the shelf… which means 80 per cent of their stock gets thrown out, often before the used by date,’ she said.

Mother-of-two Mandy Hodges worked in both convenience stores and supermarkets for almost a decade before she started dumpster diving with her son Ethan (both pictured)

Mother-of-two Mandy Hodges worked in both convenience stores and supermarkets for almost a decade before she started dumpster diving with her son Ethan (both pictured)

In a bid to waste less and save more money, Mandy told her husband of eighteen years, Brad, 38, that she was going to take a look in their local supermarket bins

In a bid to waste less and save more money, Mandy told her husband of eighteen years, Brad, 38, that she was going to take a look in their local supermarket bins

‘If they’re selling a “limited edition” product, for example, it’s only on the shelf for a certain amount of time before it just gets thrown out.’ 

In a bid to waste less and save more money, Mandy told her husband of eighteen years, Brad, 38, that she was going to take a look in their local supermarket bins.

He was initially very skeptical about the idea, even joking he’d stay at home with her bail money just in case she got caught, but supported her decision.

He was initially very skeptical about the idea, even joking he'd stay at home with her bail money just in case she got caught, but supported her decision

He was initially very skeptical about the idea, even joking he’d stay at home with her bail money just in case she got caught, but supported her decision

It was their 11-year-old son Ethan who was immediately on board and came on the first expedition to find a bin.  

‘We don’t trespass on property or break any locks to get to the bins but the rules around dumpster diving are a grey area… it’s technically stealing but varies from state to state,’ she explained. 

The duo go out roughly an hour after staff have left for the day and they only look through two local bins.

It was their 11-year-old son Ethan (pictured) who was immediately on board and came on the first expedition to find a bin

It was their 11-year-old son Ethan (pictured) who was immediately on board and came on the first expedition to find a bin

'We don't trespass on property or break any locks to get to the bins but the rules around dumpster diving are a grey area... it's technically stealing but varies from state to state,' she explained

‘We don’t trespass on property or break any locks to get to the bins but the rules around dumpster diving are a grey area… it’s technically stealing but varies from state to state,’ she explained

‘We generally go once a week. There are better nights to go than others. I think they empty the bins on Monday, Wednesday and Friday so I don’t really find much in there on those days,’ Mandy said.

Their hauls consist of cans, jars, cereals, bread and even steaks – with loads of fruit and vegetables still in good condition.

‘We’ve found a 150-box of chocolate bars, 32 bottles of water, 50 juicy mangoes after Christmas, a 24-pack of Coca Cola, 11 kilos of carrots and 10-15 bags of beans just to name a few,’ she said.

Their hauls consist of cans, jars, cereals, bread and even steaks - with loads of fruit and vegetables still in good condition

Their hauls consist of cans, jars, cereals, bread and even steaks – with loads of fruit and vegetables still in good condition

'We've found a 150-box of chocolate bars, 32 bottles of water, 50 juicy mangoes after Christmas, a 24-pack of Coca Cola, 11 kilos of carrots and 10-15 bags of beans just to name a few,' she said

‘We’ve found a 150-box of chocolate bars, 32 bottles of water, 50 juicy mangoes after Christmas, a 24-pack of Coca Cola, 11 kilos of carrots and 10-15 bags of beans just to name a few,’ she said

It wasn’t until Mandy was able to make a full lamb roast from produce she’d found in the bin that her husband Brad came around to the idea.

‘I’d put kiwi fruit from our hauls in his bag for work and he’ll eat them too,’ she admitted.

Now that the entire family – including Brad, Ethan and her daughter, 14 –  are happy to eat what’s served from the bin finds, Mandy barely has to shop at the supermarket.

Last night, one bins worth, plus a crate of bananas on the back seat. Over 20 kilos of apples there

Last night, one bins worth, plus a crate of bananas on the back seat. Over 20 kilos of apples there

One bin included three cartons of different types of sliced hams, one carton of sliced salami, one carton of streaky bacon, all within 4-6 weeks of use by

One bin included three cartons of different types of sliced hams, one carton of sliced salami, one carton of streaky bacon, all within 4-6 weeks of use by

One bin included three cartons of different types of sliced hams, one carton of sliced salami, one carton of streaky bacon, all within 4-6 weeks of use by

Eleven kilos of carrots... What is wrong? The remove-by shelf date was up though the best before date had five more days to go. Fruit and veg shouldn't have used by dates

Eleven kilos of carrots… What is wrong? The remove-by shelf date was up though the best before date had five more days to go. Fruit and veg shouldn’t have used by dates

‘I’ll pick up tinned food for our three cats and school lunchbox snacks for the kids… because if I just served them carrot and lettuce sticks they’d feel a bit out of place,’ she said.

Soap, shampoo, pillowcases, underwear, sheets and laundry detergent have been stock piled from dumpster dive experiences or donated to the local homeless shelter over the past year, which have saved the family $200 a week on their shopping bill.

That’s an incredible saving of $10,400 a year.

Soap, shampoo, pillowcases, underwear, sheets and laundry detergent have been stock piled from dumpster dive experiences

Soap, shampoo, pillowcases, underwear, sheets and laundry detergent have been stock piled from dumpster dive experiences

Soap, shampoo, pillowcases, underwear, sheets and laundry detergent have been stock piled from dumpster dive experiences as well

Oftentimes Mandy and Ethan are able to retrieve so many things they share them with extended family and friends who don't turn their noses up at the concept

Oftentimes Mandy and Ethan are able to retrieve so many things they share them with extended family and friends who don’t turn their noses up at the concept

To reduce waste as a family the Hodges also recycle, op-shop some of their clothes, buy video games from Gumtree and compost in their back garden

To reduce waste as a family the Hodges also recycle, op-shop some of their clothes, buy video games from Gumtree and compost in their back garden

To reduce waste as a family the Hodges also recycle, op-shop some of their clothes, buy video games from Gumtree and compost in their back garden

Mandy Hodges tips for trying dumpster diving yourself 

*Use a head torch to sift through the bin so you can use both your hands. 

*Wear old clothing just in case there are any spillages in the bin.

*I insist Ethan and I wear closed in shoes and I always check for glass before we get inside.

*Take a bottle of water and an old towel in case you need to wipe something down (or your hands).

*Look for bins while you’re out during the day, check locations, locks and security cameras.

*I prefer locations that are small because there is less likely to be security.

Mandy and Ethan are able to retrieve so many things they share them with extended family and friends who don’t turn their noses up at the concept.

‘I always say it’s there if you want it but if you don’t that’s okay too,’ she admitted.

To reduce waste as a family the Hodges also recycle, op-shop some of their clothes, buy video games from Gumtree and compost in their back garden. 

Mandy uses a moon cup for her periods and reusable bees wax wraps for wrapping food in as well.

‘I grew up as one of five kids so very little went to waste. My husband even remembers my dad pouring orange juice from my brother’s glass back into the main container so we didn’t throw any out,’ she said.

‘Growing up that way makes you appreciate what you do have.’  

To reduce waste as a family the Hodges also recycle, op-shop some of their clothes, buy video games from Gumtree and compost in their back garde

To reduce waste as a family the Hodges also recycle, op-shop some of their clothes, buy video games from Gumtree and compost in their back garde

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.