Chef Has Earned Nearly $20k In Six Months As A Full-Time 'Dumpster Diver' After Ditching Her Day Job
A chef who has netted booty worth more than $19,750 since she started 'dumpster diving' in commercial waste bins six months ago now says her ideal boyfriend would be a cameraman who can film her doing it.
April Smith, 35, claims she has saved $4008 on food bills and has acquired beauty products and household goodies worth another $20,050, by diving into giant dumpsters used by businesses like supermarkets, and turning other people's trash into treasure.
Currently taking a year-long break from her 20-year career in the restaurant business and living back at home with her parents, Nathan and Vivian, in Illinois single April took up the controversial activity after watching back-to-back online videos of influential dumpster divers at work.
Admitting she was terrified at first, she is now so hooked she gets withdrawals, experiencing anxiety if she skips a day and is left wondering what booty she has missed.
“I'm lucky because I live close to a tonne of stores, so I rarely drive more than 10 miles for a dive. At first, I was really nervous, then I gave it a go, thinking, 'What's the worst thing that can happen to me?'"
“I was scared when I went out to do my first dive back in March, but I came home with $1,000 worth of beauty products, which had been marked down for clearance but not sold, so the store just chucked them out. I was hooked from that very first dive."
April began dumpster diving around six months agoPA Real Life/Collect
While dumpster diving is not illegal in Illinois, the authorities do not encourage it but, so far, April has not encountered any problems.
“I think some people frown upon it, but I don't think I'm doing any harm and I haven't had any trouble, as I'm always discreet."
April drives her haul home in a big truck but, to protect her territory, she is secretive about precisely where she dives and when.
A dinner April cooked up using food salvaged from dumpstersPA Real Life/Collect
“I tend to dive in the mornings, between 9.30am and 1pm – although Sunday night is also a good time to go out."
“Stores do their inventory on a Monday, so they often chuck a load of stuff out on a Sunday night."
Whereas some divers target IT stores, where they rummage for high end goods, like iPads, iPhones and even laptops, April sticks to household and beauty products.
A haul of health and beauty products April salvaged from dumpstersPA Real Life/Collect
“These are the products I want."
“I have started to sell on some of the unspoiled beauty products I've rescued – packaging them up into a 'mystery box' of goodies."
“But I usually give most of the stuff I get away. I donated a lot of the make-up from that first haul to a women's shelter 20 miles away."
“It makes me angry that stores throw good stuff away instead of donating it, and I thought maybe the women at the shelter would appreciate having something nice."
A haul April salvaged from dumpstersPA Real Life/Collect
With a degree in culinary arts, April is a whizz at creating delicious dishes from dumpster food she has recovered, and is expecting to increase the value of her food hauls over the winter, as food will stay fresher for longer.
Still, despite fresh produce going off more quickly in the hotter summer months, she still thinks she has saved $4008 in grocery bills since March.
And her all-time favorite dumpster find is food related.
“My mum bought me a top-of-the-line kitchen mixer for my 18th birthday, so I couldn't believe it when I found all the attachments for it just chucked in a dumpster."
Ingredients April salvaged from a dumpster and used to make a stir fry PA Real Life/Collect
“They would have cost $800 brand new. I would never have spent that kind of money, but with my background in cooking, I will definitely be using all of them and so it's my favorite find so far."
Raised in a family that never wasted anything, as both her parents had grown up in households which were cash poor, they passed on their values to April, who cannot stand seeing perfectly good produce being thrown away.
“Growing up, nothing in our home ever went to waste."
“It makes my soul sick when I see how much stuff people throw away, especially because I've visited countries where poverty is everywhere."
Snacks that April found in a dumpsterPA Real Life/Collect
But April, who lives in a nice house, dresses well and drives a decent car, says she does not fit most people's preconceptions of a dumpster diver.
“People think you have to be homeless and look disheveled to be a dumpster diver, but you don't."
“We're not hoarders either. I donate everything that I am not keeping. I don't like stuff lying about the place, so I have converted a small closet into a storage facility at my parents' home, but if it's not in there, then I'm giving it away."
Having noticed a number of followers from the Philippines on her social media channels, April is planning a trip there next month and, unless she can find one in a dumpster, she is buying a light-weight duffle bag to fill with goodies she has dived for to take with her and give away to people she meets.
April on a dumpster diving expeditionPA Real Life/Collect
“I suppose I'm thinking of them as goodie bags."
“I'll be taking make-up that the stores here have just thrown away. All women like to feel beautiful and so that will be my gift to the women I meet when I'm traveling over there.
“I can't wait to see their faces light up."
Follow April on Instagram at @dumpstircrazy