Jean Wilson is an artist, farmer and urban forager in Detroit.
ZAK: Today on The Best Advice Show, I'm dipping into my archives. 13 years ago I got some advice from Detroit farmer and artist, Jean Wilson. She taught me a super effective way to pare down my grocery bills. It's Food Friday.
ZAK: It's about 9 o'clock, I just pulled up to a westside, organic market. I'm here with Jean Wilson. So, what are we about to do?
JEAN: We're about to dive in a dumpster and look for some fresh produce.
ZAK: Are you diving just for yourself?
JEAN: I do end up feeding myself and then also my mother who's on an income of $500 dollars/month social security and my friends and then end up cooking large meals for sometimes hundreds of people.
ZAK: You're cooking for hundreds of people you just said? Just random people you find on the street?
JEAN: Well, like last weekend we cooked up as much food as we could and we took it down to the lower, Cass Corridor area and served people over there. When I see a lot of food, I find a way to get rid of it. I just can't see this food going to waste.
ZAK: Let's go.
JEAN: This particular place doesn't waste very much at all.
ZAK: We're looking inside a big, metal dumpster. It's about a third of the way full, there are probably 10 garbage bags.
JEAN: Light ones we toss aside. When it's heavy it's a good sign. I'm gonna hop up inside. Keeps me inside.
ZAK: Jean's in the dumpster. I'm gonna stay outside. You just ripped open that bag. I see some Cliff Bars. Empty, though. Jean, you've done this before. You are moving like a super-human right now. You've already gone through 4 bags. What constitutes what's take-able and what isn't?
JEAN: I just take stuff that's good. Like, this whole onion looks good. This apple looks entirely good.
ZAK: When was the last time you went into a grocery story and paid for food.
JEAN: I've probably spent 50 dollars in the last five years. Seriously.
ZAK: Whereas most people spend on themselves, maybe 200/month would be a modest estimate?
JEAN: My mother spends six or seven dollars a week because she's particular. I'll eat anything. I just pick out the healthiest stuff and I pick out what I have. Sometimes there was just cheese and crackers for a few days, well, that's ok but as long as I continue to dumpster for food the quality and freshness and quantity and choices have been amazing. We should be getting together and making sure that this food doesn't go to waste. We all should be eating all the food.
ZAK: What is that a mango?
JEAN:Yeah, that's a really good mango. There's a couple good apples.
ZAK: How about them apples? Jean, what is garbage?
JEAN: Something that can't be used at all. Something that can't be eaten or fed to the worm box in the kitchen or the compost in the backyard.
ZAK: But what we just put in my trunk, that's not garbage?
JEAN: What do you think? Wanna come over for dinner tomorrow?