"We've got some goodies for your chickens," our new neighbors said, smiling. The next day, I came home to double boxes crammed full of apples, pears, squash, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant, peppers -- and a boatload of pumpkins.
And if you think the chickens got all that, you're crazy.
It turns out that Jeff and Renee enjoy a rare hobby around here: dumpster diving. Our local grocery stores generally put all their leftovers in composting dumpsters that smash everything flat. But every now and then, the composters break down -- and then people like us (J & R have rabbits) can use the edibles for their animals.
Others do this. Penniless Parenting's blogger makes a regular habit of checking, especially when she's headed to the farmer's market, anyway. You don't even have to look that hard; veggies are sometimes scattered near booths, or near broken crates. Take them home, wash thoroughly, and you'll have nutritious food for no cost.
One day, on a walk with Daughter #1's dog Jack, I found the back of a Panera's...and a garbage can full of bags of bread. I loaded my arms and somehow made it back to her house. She was embarrassed -- some friends had seen this weird lady digging in the garbage bins, and they recognized Jack the dog. Daughter was shocked, shocked, I tell you, that her mom would be rummaging around out there.
But the bread was delicious!
It's not just food. People stupidly throw things away all the time, especially when they're moving. The writer of one fascinating blog, "Things I find in Garbage," is forever finding antiques, furniture, cookware, and even gold and silver jewelry. Plus cash -- many of his posts include a handful or jarful of coins.
He keeps the money and some of the more intriguing things, but sells most items on Ebay or Craigslist. And he has done very, very well for himself.
I don't have Mr. Thing's luck, but I've found a WWII ashtray, some odd medical slides of infections and diseased body parts (yuck- trashed again fast), a decorative metal garden seat (promptly grabbed by Daughter #1), fishing gear, wrapping paper, a frying pan (found in a bag of grass clippings), bouquets of roses, furniture, windows, candy...and a beautiful embroidered quilt, neatly folded on top on the garbage can.
I used to take the girlies out in their red wagon, looking for bags of grass clippings we could use in the compost pile. The girlies had a wonderful time doing this, and called it "Grass Patrol." I called it useful. Occasionally we'd find something else, but more often we'd take the stuff home, thankful there weren't more mosquitoes out.
Daughters #1 and #2 may tease Mom about her predeliction to dig through the garbage, but they've both found good stuff, especially toward the end of school. (They both live near Boulder, Colorado, the home of CU.) Some of the best items: mountain bikes, computer equipment, cooking appliances, even designer clothing. And lots of change too, no doubt. (A high number of CU students grew up in affluence, and aren't apt to stop and roll their money -- let alone get a job. Mom and Dad will replace everything when they get home.)
Heading by a pile of stuff put out for the trash? Take a quick look -- you might find something wonderful. Not only will you be helping your budget -- you'll be preserving something from being thrown away and wasted. And in today's yammering about being more eco-aware and "green," that's important.
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