By Tui Benjamin
A savvy nurse bought a £615,000 ($1 million AUD) apartment after eating out of BINS for four years to save more than £18,000 ($30,000) on groceries.
Dumpster diver Mel Humphreys trawls garbage bins outside supermarkets, caterers and bakeries three or four times a week for fresh meat, fish, cheese, fruit, vegetables and bread.
Eating rubbish allowed the super saver, 34, to slash her weekly food bill from up to £123 ($200) to just £25 ($40) and buy a two-bedroom apartment in Sydney’s Inner West.
Emergency and oncology nurse Mel enjoys cooking up gourmet meals for friends, family and colleagues with the free produce she finds and said her alternative lifestyle leaves her ‘disgusted’ by the vast quantities of edible food thrown away.
Mel said: “I first heard of dumpster diving four years ago and started looking out of the back of shops for the bins and going out to see what was there.
“When I started doing it I couldn’t believe I could get all this food for free from a bin – it was amazing.
“The more and more places I found, the bigger the hauls and the more stable it could be as a lifestyle – now I’d say 75 per cent of what I eat comes from a bin.
“I never have to shop and am really reticent to buy things now, because I know if I wait long enough I will just find it in a bin.
“I do find it’s very beneficial for my income and spending – food is probably the thing we spend the most money on, so I’ve saved heaps of money.
“The average weekly food budget might have been $150 to $200 and now my whole spend will be about $40, including going out for meals.
“It means I don’t have to worry if I want to go out and have a nice meal, because I know the rest of the week I will be eating from the bins.
“I just don’t have to budget at all and I never have to think about how much I’m spending on food.”
Mel first discovered dumpster diving four years ago while living in Western Sydney and now has a circuit of four bins in Sydney which she visits about three times a week.
She regularly searches through rubbish and waste left outside large chain supermarkets, catering companies and smaller independent bakeries.
Photographs show her amazing hauls of fresh bread, meats, fish, cheese, vegetables and dips and the gourmet meals she turns them into.
In the past, she has even picked up large quantities of rice, sugar, sausage rolls and croissants as well as household staples like washing powder and butter.
And she regularly cooks up delicious meals for her friends, family and hospital colleagues – but admits their reactions to knowing where the food came from can be mixed.
Previously, Mel’s average weekly budget for food shopping and meals out was between £92 ($150) and £123 ($200) per week – but she now spends just £25 ($40).
This has allowed her to save a staggering £4300 ($7020) a year – almost £18,500 ($30,000) in the four years she has been bin diving.
With the money she saved, savvy Mel could afford a deposit on a two-bedroom unit in Sydney’s Inner West worth more than £615,000 ($1 million).
Mel said: “Often there is just more than you can do anything with. Sometimes you won’t find things, but when you do find things you don’t have enough hands to carry it all.
“So I take things to work, give them to my family and my friends.
“I like nice food as much as the next person and it’s really nice to be able to share good food with people.
“People are always surprised when I tell them the food is from bins, and some of them might be a bit grossed out. Others can’t believe it came from a bin, and want to know where I go.
“My freezer is absolutely chock full of meat, so now I take it over to my mum’s place.
“When you see all these beautiful meats and fish shrink wrapped and still cold going into the bin – it does make me feel disgusted.
“Food will just be wrapped in plastic and chucked in the garbage.
“There is not a lot I can do as an individual to change that, so I might as well just reap the rewards.
“If this is what capitalism is serving me up then I am just going to make the best of it and certainly I will keep doing it.”
Mel said she has never yet been ill as a result of eating food from a bin but does make sure meat and fish is still cold with the plastic sealing unbroken to ensure it is safe to eat.
She never eats food which is unwrapped and has been left loose in the bin or which has puffy plastic sealing and avoids fruit and vegetables which have gone soft.
Mel has now starred in new feature-length documentary The Dumpster Gods which explores the dumpster diving subculture in Australia.
British filmmaker Ryland Pearson-McManus, 23, spent two months travelling up Australia’s east coast following three sets of dumpster divers to put together the film.
TV production worker Ryland, who is from Camden, London, but lives in Sydney, said: “Before I came across the dumpster diving community, I just thought it was people something did only in desperation, and that the food would be garbage.
“But it was fresh and fantastic to eat – and people have been doing this since the dawn of supermarkets.
“Really, it is no different to going to the supermarket and using money to buy groceries, people are getting their food from the other side of the supermarket and are eating really well and really healthily.”
For more on The Dumpster Gods go to https://www.facebook.com/TheDumpsterGods