Sunday, November 7, 2010

31 days later - a recap of our free food month

Oct 1 we kicked off an experiment, to see if is possible to live an entire month without paying for food. The answer, YES!
  • The Experience
    • The first two days were legitimately terrifying. With no food reserves and the traditional (supermarket’s, restaurants, etc.) ways of acquiring food out the window, I legitimately felt fear that I would not eat.
    • It was a whole new type of fear, not the kind of thing that comes from watching a scary movie or that nervous feeling before speaking in public, this was a different beast all together.
    • Something carnal kicked in. “Find food”, my body screamed and by day two I was getting anxious. Frustrated, I went for a walk. After a few minutes of stampeding around aimlessly I spotted an attractive girl standing on top of a dumpster. Half joking I asked, “Anything good in there?” “There sure is” she answered. Turns out her friends work in the store and every Sunday they set aside food for her that’s perfectly edible but is deemed, “waste”.
    • W grabbed cardboard boxes out of the nearby recycling bins and filled them to the brim. As soon as I got home, cleaned off the food and took a bite I felt SATISFACTION: deep, uncanny and unparalleled satisfaction. It spread from my center and soon my entire body was tingling. This must be a drop in the well of what our scavenger ancestors felt when eating after after a long fast. It was an incredible transition, to go from the fear of not knowing how you’re going to eat to finding some discarded treasure and satisfying that carnal hunger. The difference of course being that our ancestors could easily have starved to death and all I had to do was go behind a Trader Joes.
    • Once I got on a roll things became easier, I built up a stock of food and started bartering & trading for with found items & skills.
  • Free food, how to get it
    • Tell EVERYONE what you’re doing - at the beginning of this experiment I sent out letters to my facebook friends, work colleges and freegan groups in the area. My message was simple, “I’m going a month without paying for food, if you have any going to waste or need a service (dog walked, help moving, etc.) I’m happy to swing by and help out in exchange for food.
    • Facebook friends were a great source of free food. About 1/3 of my meals came from bartering services with friends. The unexpected pleasure of this was that in every case it brought us closer. I’d help a friend move and we’d get dinner afterwards, I’d trade surfing lessons for coffee or walk a dog for veggies that would have gone in the trash. All in all, it was more fun than work.
    • Freegan groups. Another 1/3 of my meals came from freegan groups. You’d be surprised how many people are interested in free food. Most major cities have some form of freegan meet up groups where you can find like minded folks looking for creative ways to not pay for food & keep food from going to waste. I was happy to learn my eployer had an internal freegan group, it even had it’s own internal email address & newsletter, “”. Anyone in the company can subscribe to the newsletter or post if they’ve found free food around our corporate campus. From my perspective,this was a great way to eat delicious banquet/conference leftovers. From the companies perspective, this reduces their overall waste footprint.
    • Finding food - The last 1/3 of my meals came from finding food, which really means... Dumpster Diving (DD). Now, before you say, “GROSS!” or think you’d never DD, consider that not all Dumpsters are created equally. While yes, most Dumpsters are horrible cess pits of smelly doom, there are quite a few that are orderless containers of fresh, delicious packaged goods. When DD you quickly learn to focus on places that either exclusively sell packaged goods (think Trader Joes) or places that have 1 type of item with a short selling shelf life but a long cabinet shelf life (think Bakeries).
  • Philosophy - there are 2 major philosophical themes that came out of this experiment: Community & Conservation
    • Community - without spending money on food we’re forced to be creative & interact with community. I found that by telling people what you’re doing (without asking for help), most people inherently want to help you. Further, by not accepting gifts but instead bartering and trying to give more than you get, 2 things happen. 1 - you end up making a memory with a friend and your connection grows stronger. 2 - they share the experience with their friends who in turn reach out to participate. Through the 31 days of not paying for food I was brought significantly closer to people and learned to appreciate community, because without it, this would have been much more difficult.
    • Conservation - America is amazingly talented at wasting food. Estimates bring the number to over 100 billion pounds of food wasted in America every year. Being a freegan helps take a bite out of that massive number and does it’s part to mitigate America’s out of hand consumer culture. During this month of not paying for food I mostly ate things that would have been thrown away. I felt good about that and so did the people who helped me obtain it. I suspect that if it wasn’t for America’s liability laws more companies would reduce their food wastes by giving it to people who need it instead of topping off landfills.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

October: Free food or bust!

You ever wake up and ask yourself... why am I going to work? Why am I trading my time and talents for money? Is it to pay bills, buy more stuff, survive???

I asked this question every day and one day a new question popped into my head... hey, what if I didn’t have to work? Is there an alternative? What would we have to give up? And the really big question... without spending money, does the quality of your life go down... or up?

After learning about Freegans, people who live completely for free. I decided to start an experiment, to see what would happen to if I'd slowly weened away my expenses down to $0. Would I be happier, would my friends & colleagues think I'd become a crazed drifter, what would life really be like? This blog chronicles the journey to living without expenses and the effect it has on quality of life.

Every month I’ll try giving up one new major expense: Food, entertainment, travel, etc. There are only two rules: I can’t accept gifts and no mooching.

So... a bit about my income situation
I have a fantastic job at a fortune 50 company and all the cushy perks that come with corporate gig. I’ve always worked because I thought I had to, now I’d like to work because I want to.