Inspirational

Aussie mum reveals: how I get my groceries for FREE

And her secret method will surprise you!
Supplied

Mandy’s saved thousands and reduced waste.

Here, Mandy Hodges, 38, tells the story in her own words.

My eyes widened as I watched the online video in disbelief.

An environmental activist had managed to fill two empty fridges with food from supermarket bins. And it was all perfectly edible!

I’d always known that big shops threw away heaps of waste, but I didn’t realise it was quite so much. How awful, I thought. It’s just going to end up in landfill.

While doing some research, I discovered that scouring skip bins for products is called dumpster diving. There were locals in my area who headed out several times a week and came home with a haul of goodies.

Feeling inspired, I told my hubby, Brad, 38, all about it. ‘Going through the bins? We can afford to buy food!’ he exclaimed. ‘But it’s just going to waste, we might as well eat it,’ I explained.

Brad didn’t want to get involved, but he said he was happy to support me.

When I told my son Ethan, 11, my plan though, he begged to come with me.‘I might find something cool!’ he said. I couldn’t see why not.

So that Friday evening, my boy and I found a suitable bin to raid. I made sure we weren’t trespassing and that the bin was already open and not locked.

Mum and son
Me and Ethan and our haul of goodies (Credit: Supplied)

Wearing old clothes and a head-torch, I jumped inside, before lifting Ethan in. There were cooked chickens, washing detergent and eggs. All the food had only just passed its sell-by date that day. It will be fine to eat, I grinned.

‘This is amazing, Mum,’ Ethan laughed, as we loaded up the car with our haul.

Back at home, Brad was shocked as he looked at everything we’d got. ‘I’m still not eating any of it,’ he told me. ‘Suit yourself,’ I shrugged.

As I was walking into the kitchen the next day, I heard Ethan giggling. ‘Dad, you’ve just used one of the eggs we got last night to make your shake!’ ‘Oh no, have I really?’ he asked. ‘Yep, fresh out of the bin,’ I teased.

Brad still drank it, but he refused to eat anything else we’d found.

Excited to head out again, Ethan and I soon made it a weekly date. We would come home armed with cans, jars, cereals and bread. There were loads of fresh fruit and vegies too.

Sometimes the only thing wrong with it was that the packaging was slightly damaged or they were a bit misshapen.

mum and son
Ethan and I are regular dumpster divers! (Credit: Supplied)

Using what we’d found, I’d whip up dinners for Ethan, me and my girl, 14. But Brad was still very cautious. ‘I don’t want to get sick,’ he said. ‘If it smells or looks slimy, just throw it,’ I told him.

It took a while of convincing, but eventually he came around to the idea. ‘I’ll have some of the kiwi fruit you found, it’s not going to kill me,’ he said. Now that all of us were eating my dumpster dinners, food shopping was a thing of the past. We even found soap and shampoo. I worked out I was saving $200 a week, as I no longer needed to go to the supermarket.

Most weeks, there was so much left over, I gave it to neighbours and friends. ‘These are for you,’ I said, handing out bags of mandarins and loaves of bread when I met the girls for coffee.

Only a couple of people were sceptical, screwing up their noses because of where the food came from. Everyone else gladly accepted my would-be-waste. Ethan proudly told his mates at school his packed lunch came from the bin too!

Some of the best stashes we’ve found were a huge 150-box of chocolate bars and 32 bottles of water.

food haul
Lots of yummy treats! (Credit: Supplied)
food grab
Ethan grabs some fresh bananas (Credit: Supplied)

Christmas is always a great time to go.We once got 50 juicy mangos that were still good to eat.

Another time our three cats dined on chicken breasts for a week because we found so many!

I’ve also stumbled across brand new packs of pillowcases, sheets and underwear. Anything like that I drop off at the local homeless shelter.

Jumping into a bin may sound a bit disgusting, but it’s never as bad as it sounds. We wear dumpster diving clothes that we don’t mind getting covered in squashed fruit or pasta sauce. I’ll always get in first to check for broken glass too, before letting Ethan join me.

Salad
A fresh salad – all from the dumpster (Credit: Supplied)

I’ve been dumpster diving for a year now, saving thousands at the shops. Even after all this time, I’m still shocked by the huge amount of food thrown away. I like to think I’m doing my bit to help, but there’s still so much that can be done to prevent excessive waste. 

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life!, on sale now.

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