Teacher who goes dumpster diving lived on food found in bins for two months

Teacher Íde Mhic Gabhann, from Dublin is horrified by food waste.

To tackle the issue, she goes through supermarket dumpsters to rescue fruit, veg, meat, ready meals and even fancy chocolates.

The secondary school teacher says that ‘freeganism’ – the practice of reclaiming and eating discarded food – isn’t just saving the world, but saves her a load of money, too.

The 39-year-old has saved around £700 from just two months of full-on bin diving.

Íde’s husband Ciarán, 38, is comfortable with her dumpster diving – but her late-night foraging caused a bit of a stir in the staff room after she first took it up in 2018.

She said: ‘I talked about it quite openly at work.

‘Sometimes I’d bring in stuff and I’d leave a sign saying, “Free doughnuts – these are dumpster-dived”.

‘Some people were really disgusted about it.’

When she is out dumpster diving, some passersby are also horrified and call her disgusting.

Some think she’s poor, and homeless people have tried to share their food with Íde, not realising she’s digging through the bin by choice.

Íde tells them the truth and shares her findings with them.

Íde started freeganism in 2016 after being shocked by how much waste she and her partner produce.

She said: ‘There’s nothing that disgusting in the bins.

‘The worst thing you might find is a squished yoghurt that has leaked or cocoa powder which has drifted everywhere.

‘You’re not sifting through normal rubbish – it is just supermarket food.’

She and her husband will head out on dumpster-diving missions under the cover of night.

‘Supermarkets will often have their bins in enclosed spaces,’ Íde explained.

‘But we found one where they were putting their bins out for collection on the street at 10pm and we had an hour before the rubbish was picked up.

‘If you’re with someone else, especially on the main street, you just feel more comfortable.’

Through 2018, Íde honed her skills, foraging fresh fruits and vegetables, pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks, and even roast dinner ready meals.

From the start, she decided that she would eat meat she had found on her freegan missions even though she normally eats a mostly plant-based diet.

The veggie treats she had found include near-perfect fruit and vegetables.

The freegan food Íde rescued on her eco raids was supplemented by supplies Ciarán purchased from a package-free store, cut-price yellow-sticker bargains , and a veg box the couple subscribed to.

But in February 2019, Íde and Ciarán only ate food she had rescued from dumpsters for the whole month.

Íde shared what the month was like with her followers on her Instagram page, @tryingtobegreensince2016, to highlight how much food is needlessly thrown away.

‘We ate a lot of fruit and vegetables, pre-cut fruit salads, and basics,’ she said.

‘It was tricky at times because we were only eating salvaged foods so we couldn’t even buy something like soy sauce to eat with a meal of rice and vegetables.’

There were plenty of unwanted Valentine’s chocolates to enjoy after February 14, and Íde said sweets are a regular bonus for freegans all year round.

In February 2020, Íde took on a fully freegan month again – and by this time she had discovered a new dumpster bin that offered lots of pre-packaged food, veggies and drinks.

Keen to feel more in control of what she ate during this second full-on month, Íde changed up her foraged ready meals by adding veg or gravy – or making them into a whole new dish.

She said: ‘Generally, what I did with the ready meals was upcycle them into something more exciting.

‘They had these roast dinner portions and I’d make them into a pie or a cottage pie and maybe add some more gravy.

‘The second year was a lot easier and I was happier with my meals.’

This year, lockdown has forced Íde to give her February challenge a miss.

But she still goes out on her freegan forays whenever she can and is determined to keep showing people how much food is needlessly wasted.

‘Food waste is a problem and it does need to be dealt with,’ she said.

‘We have to accept what is available when it’s available, rather than wanting every vegetable and every type of bread there when we go shopping.’

She hopes that one day, she will go on a freegan hunt and find empty dumpsters, not tasty food that’s gone to waste.

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