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Oprah Freegan Episode

Oprah and Lisa Ling Go Freegan

If freegan were a Balderdash word, I probably would have scribbled down a definition like 'a dietary group that restricts the consumption of anything that lives freely,' or something else equally insensible because I'd have no idea what it actually meant. But thanks to our mogul friend Oprah, I'll always know the definition of freegan if needed (I can already picture being carried on the shoulders of my teammates at trivia night!) To find out what exactly a freegan is just


Freegans are a subculture of people who purposely live outside wasteful consumer society and act on their beliefs by using only what they need. Lisa Ling ventures with a freegan group on one of the standard practices of freegan culture — she goes on a trash tour where undamaged produce, packaged goods, and discarded dairy and meat items with sell-by dates that haven't yet come are salvaged by the group.

Madeline is one of the people who sits down with Oprah to discuss her freeganism, and the former six-figure earning exec says that she only spends about $10-$20 on food every week for she and her husband by living a freegan lifestyle. A young couple, Daniel and Amanda (a doctor and an engineer), are freegans because they believe in living simply — not because they can't afford to not live that way, but because they think an emphasis on purchasing the newest products is wasting our world's resources.

Join The Conversation
em1282 em1282 9 years
As long as the food is ok and hasn't been sitting out there for too long (could you imagine doing this in the summer? I don't think I'd eat dairy or meat that has been out there for that long, but then again I didn't watch the episode and I don't know what their guidelines are for salvaging dumpster food) then it should be OK to eat. I also understand the idea of "living simply" but IMO food is one of the true "indulgences" in my's not like I buy $400 shoes or anything :)
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
I saw the episode and I was ready to be grossed out but that was some damn good perfectly normal food! The people who were freegans were doctors and and executives who are trying to make a statement and not be so wasteful. They went to bagel shops who threw out like 50 good bagels in a trash bag. It's not mixed with other trash in the bag. They went to supermarkets and the amount of boxed and canned foods was astounding! With the price of foods raising everyday meanwhile your local supermarket is throwing out great food I don't blame people for being freegans.
counterdeuce counterdeuce 9 years
I will be honest, when in college my roommates and I went "dumpster diving" as we called it and never really found a ton of food. we did find bank AOL CD's and ended up throwing them at each other for fun. is that freeganism?
UrbanFrugal UrbanFrugal 9 years
Freeganism is nothing new. It is a new and nicer term for dumpster diving. Although the people who are sorting through the trash can afford to purchase things. We waste too much as a society and people who espouse the freegan lifestyle are rebelling against that. There are things that people throw away that are perfectly usable, it's just that the former owner grew tired of the item. Often near large (nice) apartment buildings you will find usable books, furniture, electronics. I have even found new (in the package) items near the trash because my neighbors discarded them. Now that Oprah has featured this on her show more people will take notice.
sophia_HL sophia_HL 9 years
This sounds depressing ... maybe these people should grow their own food.
Abbigail Abbigail 9 years
I watched the show and really liked the idea. They did say that many times a store won't donate goods like that because they are afraid of lawsuits that might come about if someone were to accidentally get sick. They also said that stores throw away something like 2 billion dollars worth of food each year. I'm almost tempted to try it, but I'm too afraid that rodents will get to the food before I do.
snowysakurasky snowysakurasky 9 years
i caught the episode... definitely applaud them for doing it but don't think the food would be acceptable to feed one's children. Oprah is a hypocrite to talk about this and also air "my favorite things, fashion shows which seem to promote buying certain brand-name's new styles, how to look younger themes promoting buying creams, etc etc...... im not a big oprah fan sorry... her show's kinda boring too
Beauty Beauty 9 years
This cracks me up — freeganism has been around for ages, particularly in the punk/hardcore scene, but now that it's reaching people who look more tv-friendly, it's getting attention. Like Carak says, the term was originally used to describe vegans who would eat meat if it were dumpster-dived.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
When I was little, my father died and my mom was left to raise 4 daughters alone (my picture is of us and her, I am in her lap). We moved to florida from Illinois, had a house built and she had to provide for all of us on her one salary as a nurse. We used to go “Sunday drivin” which meant we went around to the rich neighborhoods and drove very slowly by their garbage bins, since Monday morning was trash pick up day. She would say “run out and grab that….” And one of us (we would take turns) would run out and get it and throw it in the back of our gigantic green station wagon. We got chairs, and tables, dolls, stuffed animals, lamps, clothes, sometimes they were in need of mending, most of the time she refinished the furniture. I thought it was fun. BUT we never grabbed any sort of food because being a nurse she knew about the risk you take with eating spoiled or tainted goods. I still have a doll we “rescued” and to this day I have what I call “stuff-itis” where If I see a stuffed animal being thrown away I have to grab it. makes me a bit teary thinking back on those memories of the five of us.
syako syako 9 years
carak - it's a great book, have you read it? I'd suggest to because I'm sure that one article couldn't have done it justice! :)
cubadog cubadog 9 years
What a nice term for dumpster diving. I think we need to educate people on how to shop to not be wasteful. When I realzied how much money I was wasting by buying too much produce that went bad I started shopping with cash and it forced me to really pay attention to how many apples I was buying. Not only that many cities have laws against going through garbage bins on private property. In a lot of places it is not considered public property until it hits the curb.
renaimarie renaimarie 9 years
My roommate is a freegan... I honestly didn't even know until she told me. Everything she brings home is clean and in 100% eatable condition. Fine by me!
mayara mayara 9 years
We're quite familiar with the concept of freegans here, and have been the ones to explain them to family members and other acquaintances, living in the sort of college town I live in. My basic thoughts on it are a) good to be less wasteful and encourage others to be, b) dangerous to do the trash thing for food, and c) if you can afford to buy food and know where to find safe-to-eat food for free or next to free, you ought to let those who can't afford the basics where to find it. I couldn't do the freegan thing even if I didn't have health-related qualms about it while there are homeless and hungry in the area. And as far as undamaged produce being dumped, locally we're doing good if our produce section doesn't have bugs crawling out of holes in the onions and potatoes -- while they're still for sale in the produce section.
carak carak 9 years
hmm i was wrong in thinking for the last 4 years that Freegans were actually Vegans/Vegetarians that would eat meat & animal products if it was given to them, say someone bought the office a bunch of pizzas that had pepperoni on them or they went to a wedding reception and all the main dishes contained meat or cheese. this definition of Freegan is a little more disturbing. i'd never eat anything out of a dumpster. maybe if they asked grocery stores for things that were about to be thrown out instead of pulling things out of a dumpster. i understand the thought of not wanting to waste, but if you can afford to buy food i don't understand why you'd pull it out of a dumpster. even trying to convince the grocery stores to donate food to homeless shelters. my sister works at a local bakery & they give food that they can no longer sell to the homeless. i think a better topic for the show would have been similar to a article that i read in Domino (which for a second i thought was the same as Freegan, but realized it costs a lot more). It was about eating locally and not shopping in convenience stores. the book was called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" by Barbara Kingsolver.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 9 years
I watched this episode too...and it was very interesting. What was really eye opening was all of the food that was nearing its expiration date, but was completely normal and edible. It was surprising to see all the fruits and vegetables that were perfectly fine, but the expiration date was nearing so it was thrown out. Or some fruits that had dents or dings, so they were deemed "unsellable" and thrown out. Most expiration dates are guidelines...they are usually conservative, and some foods last well beyond those dates. I would be wary of meats and dairy, but packaged foods wouldn't bother me. It's frustrating to hear how wasteful we are as a society, but we have so many people that go to bed hungry. They also talked about supermarkets believing it's easier to discard the food, rather than donate it. Amazes me how indifferent we've become. Bellaressa-the dumpster's the people were going through were behind I don't think they really encourage people to pick through their neighbor's garbage cans :)
Angelica Angelica 9 years
I watched this show and while I completely admire what freegans are trying to accomplish, it came off as too daring and potentially dangerous to do everyday. While we are a tremendously wasteful society and stores often get rid of food far before it's "bad," there is something to be said for monitoring the dates of our food - particularity meat and diary. I could never do it.
syako syako 9 years
While I think this is a bit extreme, being aware of our wasteful ways is a great thing. Imagine how many of our starbucks cups that we get every morning sit in the landfill next to our plastic lids. And imagine how many plastic bags we use each and every time we visit the grocery store (or any store for that matter) and look at how we insist on eating out-of-season produce shipped from half way around the world that tastes like water... I'm glad that this segment could possibly open some peoples' eyes...
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
Very interesting. I heard about them a few years back. I just don't think I could do it. But more power to them for saving money etc.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
my boyfriend read about the freegan thing a while back in a magazine and now seems to think that he's going to live his life like that. it's just interesting to me becuase for some people it could work...i just don't see my bf being like that.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
This sounds interesting. I just have some questions which will probably be answered when I watch the airing of the show tonight. 1. I have seen some of my neighbors garbage and it scares me 2. What if the rats or raccoons beat you to the punch - do you snack on their left overs 3. $ 10-20 a week for food-a good budget
desertbanshee desertbanshee 9 years
I just happened to catch this episode of Oprah. It was actually quite interesting!
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
hmm I don't know about going through trash. seems yucky
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