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College Girl Saves Grocery Money by Digging through Trash

23-year-old Ashley Fields is just one of the thousands of New Yorkers who discovered dumpster-diving for food can really help them save serious cash. Ashley’s not homeless or poor, she’s just doing it because it’s easy.

Fields, a theater-major from Saint Louis, is still in school but also has a theater job that pays between $500 and $600 per week, so the money she saves by eating trash-can food really comes in handy. And she doesn’t even have to get her hands dirty since most of the left-over still packaged food is separated from the rest of the trash, in plastic bags. So while other people pay serious cash for an expensive Starbucks salad, Fields gets the same thing, only leftover, for free. Stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods simply can’t sell their food if it’s left over at the end of the day, so they throw it out, even if it’s not spoiled. A lot of these products have a three-day expiration date, so Ashley knows she can just take anything home and feast on it of fill her fridge. “You never know what’s going to be in these bags on any given night,” Fields says, “like tonight, I found a bunch of great, healthy breakfast sandwiches. They’re totally fine.”

Photo by Chad Rachman/New York Post

Upper West Side Trader Joe’s manager Mason Bly says a lot of the food his store doesn’t sell goes to charity organizations like City Harvest, which collects leftover food from all kinds of food chains, but some of the unsold items that don’t meet City Harvest’s standards goes in dumpsters and ends up in the hands of dumpster divers like Ashley. Apparently there are thousands of educated people who prefer to live off thrown-away food simply because it’s cheaper. They’ve even formed groups on social websites like Meetup where they schedule and coordinate trash food collecting. They are not part of the “freegan” movement, which consists of people who choose to eat grocers’ trashcan leftovers as a statement against corporate waste, they are just people who want to save some money and eat well in the process.

Photo by Chad Rachman/New York Post

The New York Post reports Ashley Fields took home around $160 worth of fresh produce from stores like Starbucks, Gristedes and D’Agostino, on the night one of their reporters accompanied on a dumpster diving session.

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