When There Is No Food, Even Civilized Societies Will Resort to Dumpster Diving To Survive

In many so-called “civilized” parts of the world, life has taken a dramatic turn. If you have kept up with the news lately, you know that Greece is not the only European nation in trouble. In fact, smaller countries like Lithuania, Italy, and other debt- ridden nations are all rapidly approaching their breaking points. Little by little, the economic toil placed on these nations is hardest felt by its citizens who are doing their very best to provide for their families. For them, their untold story is one involving desolation and feelings of abandonment from their country’s leaders. In every sense of the word survival is the name of the game for our European friends and it will not be long before we are on the same boat. If we’re smart, we can learn from the events taking place across the ocean and prepare before it’s too late.

In some areas of the world, it’s no longer about going to work and earning a living – it’s about going out and finding food to get them through another day. In some of these countries, the shelves in the stores are either empty, or the prices are unreachably high. As a last resort, people have gone back to the days of hunting and gathering in order to make it day to day.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Those who live near forests and natural resources are considered the fortunate ones and spend the entire day in search of food to forage – berries, nuts, edible mushrooms.  In most of these places, weapons are banned, so they are reduced to using common items to make snares in order to catch squirrels or the occasional rabbit.

This can hardly be considered a fortunate existence, but compared to those in the cities, the forest offers up a cornucopia of food.

People in the cities are lining up for food that is being doled out; they are digging through garbage bins for bits of food that were discarded. Some city dwellers have been reduced to catching and consuming small rodents.

Ten years ago, these friends of ours never expected to be spending the day in search of sustenance.  Like us, they were planning vacations, contributing to retirement funds and working towards a promotion at work.

It’s not that great of a stretch of the imagination to foresee that we may be headed in a similar direction.That leaves one question:

What is your plan?

We may be looking at a return to the hunting and gathering lifestyles of our ancestors.  By deciding what foods you can access now, you will be miles ahead of all the people who are trying to wrap their brains around the idea that life as we know it is over.

If you are a city dweller you might be surprised at the foraging opportunities right in your neighborhood.  Start a notebook and mark down addresses of food sources. Some common finds in the city are:

  • Nut trees
  • Edible flowers
  • Poke greens and berries
  • Other leaves can be cooked as greens
  • Wild flowers like sweet peas have edible pods

I’m not suggesting you map out a plan to pillage your neighbor’s yards, however, if you have an older neighbor with an apple tree, for example, they might be willing to split the harvest with a younger person capable of picking the fruit.  City parks can sometimes offer a windfall of nuts or other edible plants. By being aware of the location of these food sources, you can be the early bird.

If you are a country dweller, spend some time on the weekends walking through areas near you to locate food sources.  The forest may be home to berry patches.  You can learn a lot about the whereabouts of local wildlife by being observant during your walks, looking for scat or prints.  Pick up a field guide of the local flora so that you can quickly and easily identify the edible plants if the day comes when that is the only way you can feed your family.

In remote areas, look for:

  • Wild herbs
  • Nuts
  • Seed pods
  • Fruit like berries, wild plums, crab-apples, etc.
  • Signs of deer, pheasant or other game animals
  • Water sources

Other options would be to learn how to use items like paracord to make a snare and how to improvise other forms of fishing or hunting equipment.

Hopefully the day never comes when we have to revert to hunting and gathering.  But if it does, by doing your homework now, you will have the advantage over other people who are just getting the same idea.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published August 29th, 2012
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  • GoneWithTheWind

    When I was a kid in the 40’s and 50’s I would go to the supermarkets to sort through their trash looking for orange crates.  A great building material for kids.  My bookshelves were orange crates and my chair  was too.  I even ised them for cages for my guinea pigs.  The produce section would use the crates as a convenient container for older produce and the outer leaves from lettuce and cabbage etc.  So I would carry the crate home full of produce more then enough to feed the guinea pigs and the rabbits we had.  I assume grocery stores still pick off the out leaves of lettuce and cabbage and discard older produce.  Sadly the orange crates are long gone.  But as I remeber the discarded produce looked quite edible.

    • atasteofcreole

      In many states it is now illegal to Bin Dive. 

  • Spend some time and learn about the edible that are all around you.  There is lots of good information in books and on the web

    • People in the basic living conditions threatening situation, should master the knowledge and skills to survive, that emergency survival skills. Emergency survival skills in war disasters, natural disasters besieged and isolated, strain capacity, the stronger the more chances of survival.
      (a) acquisition and improve the respiratory condition
      In people’s living conditions, the air is the most important. Without air, people can live only a few minutes; There’s no water, people can live 7 days or so, No food, have live 30 ~ 40 days of record. Therefore, the air is first of all to solve the conditions of existence. When the city was the enemy air raid or earthquake, building collapse or basement fire, people will be fireworks surrounded, no air or air rarely, in order to survive, basically has the following methods:
      1. Expand the air source, reduce the oxygen consumption. People were buried coma once awake, avoid by all means is a loud cry, in order to avoid too much oxygen consumption. When feel labored breathing, but close to slit inspiratory, to ensure that the air source.
      2. Ensure that breathing space, avoid gas violations. When people are gas, surrounded by fireworks, try our best to protect a closed room, with partition gas, fireworks effects, reduce or avoid gas to human body poison. Generally speaking, each with 1 cubic meters of free space, can breathe survival 2 hours or so.
      3. Low profile, labored breathing forward, as soon as possible escape from anaerobic environment. In fireworks, high temperature environment, low oxygen content was relatively high. In this case, USES the low position forward, can run out of a few smoke between room or a gas leakage area. Labored breathing time to grow more, but over the individual anaerobic zone more far.
      (2) water saving water, and survive the basic demand
      People per kilogram of body weight every day about 40 ml water. A 60 kg weight, every day approximately 2.5 litres of water, this is the basic conditions of existence. Trapped personnel without clean can water conditions, water to drink, water saving survive skill is very necessary.
      1. Learn to endure thirst, drink a few for many times. People were buried and water conditions, if there is a small amount of water, the water will slow and less. Test proved that a 1000 ml water, 380 ml water the urine. The same 1000 ml water if every time 80 milliliter drink, the total discharge quantity only 80 ml to 90 ml, most of the water in the body can be fully used. The lack of water, even if the food delicious, also should eat less fat, protein, and so easy water consumption of food, in order to reduce the demand for water.
      2. Collect urine, waste water, rain water, expand the source of water. Really is without water, urine can emergency thirst. In addition, in the war or the flood disaster, city water be destroyed or pollution, people can try to emergency homemade drinking water. If it rains, also can use plastic film collection rain, in order to enlarge the source of water.
      (3) protection and looking for food, keep the lowest energy source
      1. Food is the person’s life for the security of metabolism. When the city life function in wartime or sudden accident destroyed, personal emergency save food at least can satisfy the two days of the life needs, the family should have two weeks or longer save quantity.
      2. To make food not be nuclear, chemical agent, and became the direct pollution, don’t let dyeing agent have food for livestock, livestock, don’t let trannsmission of insect bites food. All food as far as possible do seal, points breed small bag packaging, a finish for degrees.
      3. When they were surrounded by the rubble of the bombe buildings collapsed and can’t escape, as far as possible control carry-on food consumption and prolong edible time, waiting for rescue. When existing food depletion and rescue hopelessness, also want to in the possible conditions, looking for some edible things, and prolong survival time.

  • Hey Friend

    There are a few books that I suggest reading. “The Forager’s Harvest” and “Nature’s Garden” by Samual Thayer. The other is “Edible and Medicinal Plants” by Steve Brill. Your eyes will be opened to the feast that surrounds you in nature. Samual Thayer has great color photography that compare and contrast the “edible” versus poisonous “look-alikes”. I am now very comfortable exploring my world for the things that will add great nutrition to my diet during economic collapse. Take the time to study these things and you will be glad you did.

  • lucina

    Squirrels gather their nuts when they are abundant. So it might be wise for us to think about what would happen in the winter when the ‘forage’ might not be available.  And, if your thinking about needing that squirrel for sustenance, don’t harvest all of the nuts.

  • Gil

    “We may be looking at a return to the hunting and gatheringlifestyles of our ancestors.”
    Really?  Centuries of progress down the drain in a matter of months?  The only way that’s possible is if everyone is filled with such a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    • Snowleopard

      There are many ways reduction of survivors to H/G could happen following a collapse of paper money, trade and infrastructure.  The voluntary path you suggest as the only possible way it could happen is actually the least likely.  And while it could happen in a matter of months (nuclear war, etc), decades is more likely.

      That said, the collapse of currency, trade and infrastructure may not be total;  even if it is total, social collapse to H/G level may only be in pockets, with Amish tech level farming and/or fishing villages being more common.   Nonetheless, the ability to walk into the woods with a knife and firesteel or flint and live there indefinately enhances survival potential and reduces fear; it does not cause collapse.

    • Skeeved

      Are you so sure ‘progress’ is the proper term to describe our growing dependency to convenience?  Do you think more or less people today know how to hunt, farm, save or ration?  What good would our progress do us if the power grid went down?  How many would be without money, goods or a means to acquire either?  Technological progress and self sufficiency have nothing to do with each other

    • lucinda

      Dependency is not progress and yes, foraging has been a fact of life for more people worldwide for awhile now. 

  • Lee

    If there is any hope for a hunter gatherer lifestyle you must start right now. It takes years to accumulate the knowledge required to live off the land. I would suggest forget about any large animal hunting as you will expend more calories learning to hunt game than you could gather in other ways. Think grasshoppers, mice, pigeons and similar protein. Knowing where the food plants grow and when to gather them and how to preserve them are the really important skills. If you wait till you really have to forage to eat it will be too late. Your most viable survival skill is cooperation with the people around you, find people who can teach you and make sure you gift them with equal value somehow. Only groups will survive, pick your group wisely.

  • BikeRat

    Gil:  Forget about a “return” to hunting and gathering [H&G].  We [most inclusive “we” you can imagine] remain H&Gs.  An outside salesperson works his/her territory hunting for opportunities.  A factory/office worker does the same at his/her workstation/cubicle.

    Both stop by Wal-Mart or equal on their way home to gather their daily bread.  The only thing that changes is the where and how of our skills. 

    Things can change in an instant.  Think ice storms — I was house camping for 3 weeks not too long ago.   

  • Tess, with 300mil. mouths to feed how long do you think nature’s bounty will last? For instance: I live in Mich. Pop. roughly 10mil. There are 1.7 mil.deer. Do you get my point? When TSHTF there will be stiff competition for every mouthful. When the people were starving in the Ukraine they had what they called the green stain; from eating grass out of desperation. Think locusts and    you will know how long foraging will provide viable sustenance.

    • Great point, Rick. I agree with you. In an extended emergency, the wild game are going to go fast! That’s why I strongly advocate that everyone have an emergency food supply.

      But there are those in the world that were caught off-guard with the economy tanking and were left no choice but to forage. This is their survival story and what they are doing to keep their family fed. It’s very sobering and a subject that I wanted everyone to think about. In all honesty, I believe the U.S. economy is on borrowed time, and it’s only a matter of time before many of families see no other choice but to resort to hunting and gathering to survive. It’s time to prepare now and earnestly.

      That’s just my two cents worth.




    • Shaun

      Rick, last year in Michigan, only 786,880 hunting licenses were sold.  That’s roughly 8% of Michigan’s population.  Many of those I’m sure are out-of-staters.  Many of those hunters never shoot the big game, due to lack of proficiency or what not.  I assume the majority of the population wouldn’t be able to even comprehend how to HOLD a firearm, let alone practice with enough precious ammo to get good enough to shoot big game.  The big cities and surrounding areas are screwed in that respect but rural regions would have plenty of big game.  And farmers will continue to raise livestock and grow food (as will many others in Michigan).  If SHTF, I believe the likely scenario will be 3 months – 2 years (at most) of living old-school, all bringing with it: a vast reduction in human population with an actual increase in game and livestock, but then again – “SHTF” is too broad a statement with too many variables to be sure.

  • countrygirl

    Good story and great comments.
    The last couple of weeks it seems all I’ve done is put up natures harvest. I’ve smoked and canned a dozen salmon about 24 pint jars to go with the ones already frozen, I’ve butchered a moose, processed ten chickens out of my new flock, put up 15 ducks and a goose. Today I canned apple and rhubarb sauce and the potatos are in storage for the winter. I’m exhausted and don’t know how I can spend so much time putting up food. However, maybe it is the season and soon it will be winter and things won’t be as plentiful. Carrots and other root vegtables still need to be put into storage, more wild berries need to be picked. The wood shed is full but that is no reason to stop.

  • Paul M

    // In some areas of the world, it’s no longer about going to work and
    earning a living – it’s about going out and finding food to get them
    through another day. //

    True, but even in Greece there’s still plenty of food available; although plenty of people are struggling to afford anything other than basics – and the price of these has risen. But no, most people in Greece aren’t simply living on a day-to-day subsistence basis, don’t worry 🙂

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