Thursday, November 29, 2012

Eat your (Dumpster-Fresh) Veggies!

I've been really impressed by all my blog friends who home cook for their dogs. Delicious meals of fresh animal products, veggies, grains (or no grains), fruits--it just seems like the right thing to do!

So I've tried to do it myself, and somehow the trip to the meat counter always discourages me. Looking at all those sad packages of chickens and cows, I just feel terrible buying them even if they are for the good of my own animals and even though I know that cans of dog food are the same stuff, only more processed.

A successful trip to the dumpster solves that whole moral dilemma. What every dumpster-diver knows, and many NPR listeners now know, is that expiration dates are determined based not on safety, but on appearance. 

The date at which something becomes unsafe to consume is significantly later than the date at which it starts to look slightly past its prime, with the result that we throw away nearly 40% of our food in the U.S.--a large percentage of which is food that gets thrown away in stores. That's in the vicinity of 55 million metric tons or $165 billion worth of food. 

When I lived in Portland, I ate a lot of food from the dumpster and my diet was varied, tasty, and high-quality. My dumpster diet plan consisted of things that I would never have thought of purchasing in the store because they were unusual (Japanese frozen custard), seemed frivolous (Wasabi peas) or were out of my budget (organic sundried tomatoes). Lamar found that he loved Southwest-style chicken salad, lettuce and all, which we would never have discovered had we not found them, fresh and in abundance, in the trash.

My kitchen was filled with orchids, and a few of those orchids I liberated from the dumpster in 2003 are still blooming in my mom's dining room.

Now that my economic circumstances are different and I live with someone who loves to shop, I still turn the profligate wastefulness of big stores to my pets' advantage, and that of my local animal shelter. 

I seldom purchase dry dog food, and my dogs and foster dogs enjoy an amazing variety of foods whose packaging was slightly damaged by rodents or a box cutter.  

With our latest score, my dogs are even enjoying those home-cooked meals I always wanted to make for them. One of the things that's so impressed me about my fellow bloggers who cook for their dogs is the quantity of vegetables their dogs consume. 

It just so happened that the latest trip to the dumpster yielded about a dozen packages of raw "Asian Stir Fry" veggies. I cooked them up, along with some of the frozen fish that was thrown away in truly staggering quantities, but found that most of those perfect baby carrots and snap peas were rejected by my discerning canines. 

Into the Vita-Mix they went, along with a bit of that fish and a dollop of slightly-past-expiration milk. 

The result was a yummy doggie smoothie that even my picky canines loved.

I've wanted to write a dumpster post for a while but hesitated because I feared it might make me sound a bit, you know...odd. 

But my excitement over making a nutritious, veggie-packed meal from scratch for Fozzie and Lamar, and watching their little tongues lap it up so eagerly, was just too much for me to contain. 

I encourage everyone to check out your local Petsmart, Trader Joes, and other stores for the bounty that will otherwise molder in a landfill!


  1. I home cook for my two, but I need to be very careful as one has chronic pancreatitis so I really watch what I give her. She loves her veggies and fruit both raw and cooked. My other girl will lick clean her green beans and then spit them out around her dish. A great way to get them their veggies is to do so through babyfood. Be careful with peas as too much can give them the runs.

  2. This one over here is not cooking us nothing
    Benny & Lily

  3. Kirsten, I am in awe of you.

    I saw a doco once on dumpster diving and also eating roadkill. I must admit my mouth stayed open all through the show. I know in my head that what you say about expiry dates is true, yet I can't do it thanks to my ridiculous sensibilities. I also know that a good number of humans on the planet eat exclusively like that and not out of choice. They remain alive and possibly even have stronger guts than the rest of us sanitised eaters LOL!

    You're my hero, truly X

  4. Dogs don't care where it comes from! Yum is yum:D

  5. One of the things I admire most about you is your heart for the earth, your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. I've been thinking a lot about what and where I purchase. I hope to make a change in some of my wasteful habits this year.

  6. You have definitely opened up some possibilities for home cooking that I didn't know about.

  7. Good for you for not being shy about it! Where we live, the major grocery store chain reduces fresh and packaged items by 50% when they are close to the best before date. Gotta cut expenses where you can and it's always better to not waste.

  8. How very resourceful of you! My Mom says she would have a blast goin dumpster divin/treasure huntin with ya :D

    Waggin at ya,

  9. Explain dumpster. Are you actually climbing in a dumpster? I don't know if I would eat food I'd pulled from the dumpster. When I did the food pantry run with my sister, they have an agreement with the local grocery store and someone from the food pantry picks stuff up every day. You can score some good stuff!

  10. I'm glad you're partaking of the abundance of dumpsters. It's criminal what gets thrown away in this country.

    Here in Ithaca, we have a great organization called Friendship Donations Network that keeps usable food out of dumpsters. Of course, it wouldn't help you feed your dogs. :)

  11. Good nutrition is crucial for our pet's health. My Beagle used to have skin allergies but ever since I switched her diet to more healthy options, the allergies cleared up. I make sure I strike a balance between protein, carbohydrates and good fat. If there's macros for humans, then more so for our beloved pets. My vet and I have crafted the optimum amount of nutrients that my dog needs. Add exercise to that and our pet will lead a robust life. See:


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