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Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Dumpster Diet - One Month Without Paying for Food

Near the beginning of October I attended the vipassana meditation centre in Merritt for 10 days, volunteering in the kitchen during one of their courses, in exchange for food and accommodation. When I got back to Vancouver, I hit the local dumpster for my fruits and vegetables.

By then I was already nearly halfway through the month without yet having paid for food. My kitchen was already generously stocked with non-perishables such as oatmeal and rice. So I decided to take up the challenge to not pay for food this month.

I continued to dumpster dive religiously at my spot, which is about a 15 minute bicycle ride. And just 5 minutes away by bike is the local Sikh Temple, which offers free dinners 4 days a week. This experience has actually become one of my favourites in Vancouver, a sign that I may be starting to go crazy. But not only is the food good, they fill your tupperware with leftovers, and it is always attended by young hipsters and hippies, usually around 40 or so others. So it really is something unique.

The dumpster provided just about everything I needed - I scrounged staples such as greens, eggplants, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, bread, apples and bananas. On top of that were occasional surprises - cheese, eggs, mushrooms and avocados, as well as sweets and baked goods such as croissants, muffins and even birthday cakes. There was almost always something new and different to add variety to my monthly no-budget cuisine.

While I dumpster dive to spotlight the issue of food waste and to reduce the demand on the industrial food system, I also do it for my own benefits. The most obvious is that I am saving lots of money on food. But on the other hand, instead of eating out all the time, I am spending time at home cooking, which I enjoy. The food is in surprisingly good shape, some without any defects at all, neither visual nor physical, and I believe it is just as nutritious (if not just slightly less) as food purchased in-store.

I feel like I came out of this month with a more humble relationship with food. I don't eat excessively, yet I don't feel hungry or develop cravings like I used to. I take what comes to me, not what I desire. I somewhat cheated, counting my time at the vipassana centre, but even there I ate humbly and practiced a bit of fasting.

Now that October is over though, I am a bit relieved that I can go back to the grocery store, and eat at restaurants again. Time for sushi!

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