This student reveals how she eats for free by 'rescuing waste food from trash cans'
Although most people will look back with a teary, nostalgic eye at their student days, I can say for sure that if a time traveller offered me a chance to relive my days on university campus, I would absolutely laugh in his face.
Even if you take the copious drinking, partying and general elation that comes with living on your own for the first time, I would throw it all in my hypothetical time traveller's face for one simple reason: student life is usually synonymous with being "broke AF", as the kids nowadays would say.
Even if you're lucky enough to not have the crushing weight of student debt hanging over you, there's a reason there are so many student discounts and free food events at university campuses across the country: nobody has any money. Instant ramen is a common meal for many a student, and it's pretty much the only time it's socially acceptable to go on a date to a Wetherspoon's when there's a two-for-one deal on.
But one student out in Bangor, North Wales, has gone full-student on us, bypassing all the two-for-ones and the discounts and finding an even more cost-effective way of eating while at university. As a whole, we throw away a lot of food every year that probably could still be of use, but Sophie Bridgman has made the most of our wastefulness.
A few years back, the 27-year-old was one of many cash-strapped students out in Manchester, and went dumpster diving on one particularly cash-strapped day. Then, she moved to Bangor in 2017 for her Master's degree, and it was there that she really leaned into her new foraging method.
“I was a student again and despite working a part-time job, I didn’t have much money," Sophie explained.
"We realised we could get a lot of food that would be enough for us all week. We spread the word and more and more people started coming with us, with us all sharing the food between us. I find it really difficult to leave food and have it go to waste. I’ve been able to live almost entirely off bin food at some points. Sometimes I’ve added some more veg or extra bits, if there hasn’t been enough in the bins that week, but usually there’s been plenty."
You may turn your nose up at the idea of eating directly from the garbage, but Sophie says she's been surprised by the amount of good food that would otherwise go to waste.
"It’s terrible to think that all that food would just go to landfill if we didn’t bin-dive. We get such a random selection of stuff. Quite often it’s a load of one thing. Sometimes it’s lots of smoothies and one time there was just a bin full of onions. We found loads of meat one night that had another month of shelf life.”
Even as she comes to the end of her degree, Sophie says she's planning to carry on foraging from dumpsters to save money, and even gave a few tips on how best to dumpster dive. "My tips would be to wait until late in the day and never to go when the supermarket is open," she said.
"It’s worth sussing it out first. Find out what time the supermarket shuts and what time staff leave. I went in and spoke to one of the staff in a subtle way just to figure that out.Don’t make yourself look too obvious, take a head torch and have transport if you can, so you can carry everything. It’s really important to be respectful. Try and leave everything as you found it. If a door was closed, close it again afterwards and don’t leave rubbish all over the place."
It's a little unorthodox, I must admit, but as long as the food isn't past its expiration date and is well-sealed inside the packaging, I don't see why this isn't worth a go! Just remember to thoroughly clean the outside, first.