Over To You: Freeganism, Skipping and Wombling

Food waste

Recently I’ve been reading how to Government’s Benefit cap at £26,000 has been affecting a lot of families to the point that they have been evicted from their homes, split up, or broke their family unit up just to be able to survive on the “breadline”. However for those of us that aren’t affected by this cap, yet struggle and strive day to day to feed our families, this has been the norm for as long as we can remember.

I’m a huge advocate of helping anyone in need. Regularly we will take parcels of food down to our local Trussell Trust Food Bank in order to help some of the less fortunate local community and although I believe the Government should tackle this head on and provide those that are using said Food Banks with enough money to not have to use them, the supermarkets are so keen to make huge profits, they can’t help. If they took the price of their goods down so they were more affordable then maybe, just maybe the obesity crisis would be solved, people would become healthier and perhaps be able to look for a job as they don’t need to worry about paying the bills as the little money that they had left could buy a week’s shopping as well as gas and electricity. I don’t know but what I do know is the practice of Freeganism and Wombling has helped a whole lot of families to make ends meet. But why are these practises so frowned upon by a section of the community?

When my Dad was in waste management during the 1970s (he was a dustman) he would regularly clear waste from Woolworths (when they had physical shops). Each Thursday the Supervisor would bring out a whole trolley full of cakes. These cakes were were just on their sell by date so the policy was to throw them out in the bins. However the Supervisor hated dumping so would take the trolley out to the dustmen and let them have their pick to take home.

We were so poor in the 70s (we lived in a council house, my Mum was a £3 an hour cleaner) that we just survived. We never had treats and so anything extra we were given was welcomed.  As a family that were incredibly frugal (Mum and Dad grew all their own vegetables) buying things in the shops at the end of the day because they were cheaper, getting this treat once a week was sensational. Mum would freeze all the goodies (in her Mum’s freezer since we didn’t have one – my Nan and Granddad lived opposite us) so we had plenty over the next month and so the dustmen would take turns sharing out the goods each week so no one missed out. These days shops and supermarkets throw out £1000s upon £1000s of edible goods each and every day and so Freeganism was born.

But why do people frown upon it so much? Technically my Dad and his workmates were Freegans and its how my family survived, I just don’t see why it’s so bad. I know that we didn’t take anything directly from a bin, but I imagine if we had to, the embarrassment of leaning into a bin to pull out food would make me feel vulnerable but if it’s unspoilt and your family are in need then why not? They do it under the cover of night, generally with like minded people so try not to cause embarrassment to others who may see the act, but still people (mostly supermarket management and the like) hate them doing it. I get that health and safety comes into it, but surely if they have taken the food out of the bins themselves they take the risk away from the supermarkets? I know if my Dad accidentally brought home a cake that was a bit bad we’d throw it away but we wouldn’t have complained to Woolworths that it was bad as we had taken the risk taking it?

wombling, freegan


Which brings me onto my next question. Why do people have so much angst about things they throw away? If you’ve thrown it away but someone else can make use of it, why get possessive about it? I’ve seen this demonstrated with people skipping. Homeowner/Tenant A throws out a set of chairs, then Skipper A takes one of them out and looks at it. Homeowner/Tenant A comes back out of the house and verbally abuses Skipper A for taking it out of their skip even though Skipper A says they want to take it, Homeowner/Tenant A then proceeds to destroy the rest of the chairs and puts them in the skip in pieces. Why?? If you’ve thrown it out, you don’t want it!


Now let’s take Wombling. Wombling is the act of getting use out of something that someone else has discarded or left behind. Again, something that has been thrown away that others can make use of. It’s been around for as long as I remember, but on the radar for around 10 years. Wombling basically involves the act of collecting receipts and claiming money from them to help with your shopping. When you shop at Asda you receive a receipt but how many times have you checked up how much you would have saved shopping elsewhere? Not many, yet Asda (amongst other shops) make it easy for you to check yet the receipt will still be left in the trolley, thrown on the floor or just strewn around the car park. Womblers will pick these receipts up and take them home to check the “APG” in this respect, the Asda Price Guarantee. Once you put the receipt code in, the system will tell you whether or not you saved on your shopping (or in this case the original shopper whose receipt it was) and they will then issue you with a coupon for the difference. Asda Price Guarantee kicks in if you have more than 8 different items on you receipt with at least 1 comparable shop on it (bread, milk, butter etc). Womblers then take the receipt, attach it to the coupon and go back into Asda with it. This is then taken off of your shopping. Some Womblers have made £100s doing this and are able to feed their families better quality goods, and all for something someone else leaves behind. But and it’s a big but, some supermarkets are dead against it. Womblers tend to go early in the morning or late at night just because they don’t get hassled. Managers have banned people just for picking up receipts in their car park on the pretence that it might stop shoppers coming into their shops. WHAT?? I’m sure that seeing someone picking up receipts in a car park wouldn’t stop me shopping there so again, why are they so possessive about it? Surely if the offer is there and people can take advantage of it then why stop them? I think it all boils down to power and policies. Shops that stop Freegans and Womblers are just negative people with nothing better to do. They are filled with such importance that they can’t see the wood for the trees and begrudge anyone getting something for nothing. But I’m sure that if they got free reign to get items for nothing they’d do exactly the same, wouldn’t they??

If you’re interested in making a little extra money Wombling, then there is a fabulous Wombling for Cash Facebook Group for just that with hints and tips, plus videos and all sorts of advice. We all have to do something to survive I guess and I’m never going to be one to judge those who do. Let me know how you cope if you are in the same position. Do you agree with Freeganism and Wombling? Would you do it? It’s over to you…


14 thoughts on “Over To You: Freeganism, Skipping and Wombling

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  2. I don’t see what problem anyone has with any of it! I can’t understand the skip guy at all. We had a skip recently and if anyone wanted anything that would have been fine – more room in the skip after all. I’m not near an ASDA so wonder if Sainsbury’s do anything like that.

  3. Brilliant post! We give away as much as we can to help others out… baby things, clothes, furniture. We have also started to look into helping food banks; it makes me incredbly sad to think of families that struggle every single day.

  4. Jacqui, this is a great post, I have found another way to save money now, it is great to see I am not the only person who recycles furniture etc. Personally I love all the freebie sites too which are great for collecting stocking fillers, you can sometimes get some really nice things. (my comment above was directed to Paolo)

  5. I’m all for Wombling but I never seem to have any joy finding anything lol. We live opposite a little Tesco and often pop across to see what items have been reduced in the evening. We often drop on some bargains. However, they seem to do the reductions very late in the day and end up putting a lot of stuff in the skip. I have seen people climb in to get food from the skips at night. If they only did the reductions a little earlier I reckon they would actually sell it all.

    1. Yep, totally agree Heather. But I did read somewhere that Tesco has started trialling a scheme to donate food that they don’t sell via Fare Share, so it’s looking up for that at least. Let’s hope others follow suit.

  6. I think things like this should be applauded
    We’re living in a very unequal society and people using their initiative to get by should be rewarded for doing this instead of berated by top supermarket bosses etc.

    If the tables were turned I wonder if they’d be so ‘proud’

  7. Is so sad people have to do this things in order to survive. I had no idea what this meant, I even had no idea I can check if I spend more at Asda (I should have a look from now on).

    1. Yep, always check your receipt when you get home as if it was cheaper somewhere else you get the difference back in a voucher. Max I’ve had when I shopped there was £7 in a voucher. You could be throwing money away otherwise.

  8. I think people want to use anything as an excuse to not work and be helped by the goverment. If the goverment didn’t help they would accept absolutly any job to survive!!!


    1. But then some of us don’t have any choice, I have a chronic illness, my husband has a brain tumour – we both worked all our lives, earning a decent living before being hit with these health problems. I would love to have more money but it is impossible. We manage by living within our means and finding ways to save money, have never used foodbanks etc.
      It isn’t fair or realistic to categorise everybody as scroungers.

      1. Please don’t get uptight. I’m not putting everyone in the same group, and situations are situations. I’m not criticizing you and your family. All I said was that when people don’t have a choice they will push through no matter what. That maybe a bad thing because it can make them worst, but also can be a good thing because it makes them stronger.

        I have cancer and been battling it for almost a year now, I’m a recently graduated dietitian, and can’t work yet in my field. That hasn’t stopped me, I have found other ways to exist. And I think we people from better countries are winy (and I mean me too), because if we actually think about it, there are a huge amount of people out there with far worse situation than ours, that survive in their own way, and they still smile. – Which I wouldn’t, but that’s because I didn’t live my whole life in complete misery and sadness.

        It’s all about perspective.
        We can choose to make ourselves be weak by acting as victims, or we can get the example of those people and be strong by acting on pushing yourself to your absolute limit.

        Again, I am not criticizing or pointing fingers or being mean. I’m just giving my point of view, just as you have yours.

        I hope you and your husband can deal with your illnesses and have a good life.

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