How to Dumpster Dive

by Free Traveler on August 20, 2012

poor sad kids dumpster diving in sudanWhile dumpster diving doesn’t sound too appealing, and it’s definitely not for germaphobes, it remains one of the best ways to eat for free on the road. It is relatively safe, it helps to reduce waste and you can often find food only a few days past its expiration date. Plus it’s totally free. In the following guide you will find a brief introduction on how to dumpster dive.

History of Dumpster Diving

Throughout history, the homeless, the poor and the wandering nomads have all resorted to dumpster diving when the hunger became unbearable. Similarly, today, in many developing countries, dumpster diving is a means of survival. This is especially true in Africa and much of India. However, in the United States and Europe, Dumpster Diving has actually become a popular sub culture. These dumpster divers refer to themselves as freegans and will often go in groups to find dumpster edibles. Their unofficial motto, one mans trash is another mans treasure.

Where and How to Dumpster Dive

If you’re in the US or Europe, the best place to go dumpster diving is behind any supermarket. Since supermarkets are required throw out perishables you can often find food on a daily basis. Often, many of the items they throw out still have a few days left before their expiration dates. This means that the food is essentially still fresh and safe to eat. Other good places to go dumpster diving include the trash bins near bakeries, the dumpsters behind large hotels, and restaurants and anyplace where food is thrown out regularly.

Is Dumpster Diving Illegal?

Technically, if the dumpster is not located in a public place, then it would be considered trespassing. Unfortunately the dumpsters that yield the most fresh foods are usually located on private property. However, even if you were to be caught, it is unlikely that the police will be called. Usually the owner will simply ask you to leave the property.  Regardless, it is best to do your diving with discretion, and preferably at night.

Is Dumpster Food Safe?

Any food that comes from the garbage is in there for a reason and needs to be critically analyzed. You have to determine why the food was thrown out. Most of the food you will find won’t be inherently bad, but if it is, you should be able to tell by how it looks or smells. Use your best judgment and try to stick to packaged foods when available.


Dumpster diving is probably the easiest way to score free food on the road. There is no hassle or embarrassment unless you get caught, it helps to recycle food, there are dumpsters everywhere, and food can usually be found in abundance. As long as you choose your food wisely, and check expiration dates, you should end up with a clean and semi fresh meal. Although it may be difficult to get used to at fist, it will quickly get easier and you may actually start to enjoy finding dumpster treasures.