Freeganism: Frugality Run Amok

by Sarah Healthy LivingComments: 18
In a very rare moment of afternoon peace and quiet last week, I plopped down on the couch and turned on “Oprah”.   Mind you, I am not an Oprah fan and I do not watch her show with any regularity.   In fact, this was probably the first time I had turned on the Oprah Show in over a year.

When I tuned in, the show was already about halfway over.  I was about to flip to another channel when I noticed that the guests were called “Freegans”.    Never having heard of these types of folks before, I watched for a few minutes and here’s what I found out:

  • “Freeganism” is an anti-consumerist movement where devotees reuse trash that is still useful.    
  • Freegans are also called “Dumpster Divers” because they fish around in the dumpsters of grocery stores to get their food!  
    Hm... lots of cereal and bottled water.  I thi...
    Image by colorblindPICASO via Flickr
  • Grocery stores typically throw away 2-3% of their stock on a regular basis which totals in the billions of dollars in wasted food each year.
  • Many Freegans are folks with well paying jobs who could easily afford to buy what they need new.   

One married couple on the show particularly intrigued me.   The guy was a doctor and his wife was a civil engineer.   They were both young, somewhere in their late 20’s to early 30’s.    They were certainly not short on funds to buy their food, yet their kitchen was full of cans, produce, and frozen foods that they had fished out of grocery store dumpsters.

Freegans Have the Right Idea with the Wrong Action Plan


My first impulse was to feel very sorry for this couple.   They were obviously very bright and I really related to their disgust and distaste for the “gotta have it NOW” consumerism that has characterized American buying habits in recent decades.

I consider myself an anti-consumer as well, but you won’t be finding me fishing around in the dumpster of grocery stores anytime soon!

Why?   Because eating this food, particularly the canned and frozen foods which seemed to make up the bulk of this young couple’s diet will make you ill and then you won’t be well enough to be an anti-consumer anymore!

What’s the point in that?

People grocery shopping at the local neighborh...
Image by Wonderlane via Flickr

If you are going to be an anti-consumer, be an anti-consumer with PURPOSE.  

Buy from small, local farms and support local businesses that contribute to your community in positive ways.   Eating your food fresh and locally produced will preserve your health and keep you strong to continue promoting the causes that you believe in!

Why is local food healthier?   Because it doesn’t have to be shipped long distances and is hence full of more nutrition.   A conventionally produced cucumber from a local farmer’s market will have more nutrition in it than an organic cucumber from Chile.    Nothing wrong with organic cucumbers from Chile, but if you happen to be on another continent, imagine how early those cukes need to be picked so they arrive on your grocery store shelf  in one piece!  

Organic AND local is the ideal way to go, but if that is not in the cards, then conventional and local is still better than organic shipped across the continent or the world.

Will Freeganism Last?

I empathize with the Freeganism Movement, but I just don’t have a good feeling about its chances of growing and catching on.     Eating canned and frozen grocery store food as the basis of the diet is a surefire recipe for chronic illness.  

Unfortunately, I think these Freegans do not realize what their future has in store for them.   What they do not buy in the way of food will be made up for in spades with lots and lots of dollars spent on pharmaceuticals!

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

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