Saving Surplus Produce, and Growing Mushrooms in Coffee Grounds

June 3, 2013 at 10:15 am | Posted in Deals | 4 Comments
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A new partnership between supermarkets and a savvy startup is saving consumers lots of cash, making the earth a greener place and keeping good food from becoming landfill. In other words, it’s a scavenger’s triple-decker dream come true.

Andronico’s Community Markets, a group comprising five supermarkets, signed on six months ago with FoodStar, a Bay Area outfit that reduces waste and food costs by selling less-than-perfect produce at extremely low prices. FoodStar locates and acquires bruised, blemished and otherwise second-string fruits and vegetables that would typically be categorized as “surplus,” allowing farmers to receive payment for these goods and allowing the goods to appear in supermarkets at steep discounts. These deals are noted at the FoodStar website and are clearly signposted at the stores; check out these potatoes at Andronico’s in Berkeley:

foodstar potatoes

“While selling from the same open bin of apples that the grower sends to us may seem simple, it actually represents a significant departure from how things are normally done in the grocery business,” explains Andronico’s executive director of marketing Jonathan Packman. “By eliminating the labor cost and case packaging normally involved in merchandising apples, we can offer a much lower retail price to our customers.

Phase two of the partnership involves “flash sales” on surplus produce that is already stocked in stores. Such produce is placed in FoodStar bags and sold for fifty cents a pound, across the board.

“Ron Clark, Food Star’s manager, has had a long-standing relationship in the produce industry in Northern California, and taps into his network to find solid ‘opportunity buys’ when they come up,” Packman explains. “He looks for recently picked crops that might be partially comprised of below-grade produce. This product is perfectly wholesome, but it may not meet the retail food industries standards for aesthetics. This is the type of opportunity that Ron seizes upon.

“Both FoodStar and Andronico’s benefit financially, but aside from them and the consumer the real winner is society and the planet,” Packman adds. “By developing this innovative program, food waste is prevented, and this helps to keep food prices lower, while keeping food out of landfills.

“Landfills are expensive to operate and when they are full they need to be shut down, capped and closed and new landfills need to be sited.  It is in everyone’s best interest to limit the amount of land that has to be dedicated to landfills.  Also, since agriculture tends to be energy intensive, utilizing food that would normally be wasted reduces pollution and climate change by taking advantage of what has been grown.”

FoodStar expects to form partnerships with more supermarkets this year.

The photograph above, showing the FoodStar bargain potatoes, includes yet another scavenging story. At the left of the photo is a rack of Back to the Roots mushroom-growing kits. These kits are the dreamchild of Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora, who were UC Berkeley seniors a few weeks away from graduation when they got the idea of home-growing mushrooms in scavenged coffee grounds.

After growing an experimental bucket of oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds in a frat-house kitchen, the pair raised interest from Whole Foods and Chez Panisse and garnered a $5,000 social-innovation grant from the UC Berkeley chancellor. Their first product was the Grow-at-Home Mushroom Kit that appears in this pic.

Now, That’s a Great Use for Technology

October 14, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Posted in Deals | 5 Comments

cocktail151A blogger in Oakland, California has embarked upon a project that scavengers worldwide — if they have techno skills — might consider adopting for their own regions. The clever guy behind Sweeeeet Oakland has created a Happy Hours and Bottomless Mimosas Google Map pointing out Oakland-area bars and restaurants that offer these irresistible cheap-food-and-drink deals.

One sushi place on his map offers 99-cent draft Sapporo; another offers all-you-can-drink sake for $3.50; another place offers 40 percent off on all cocktails.

Take public transit afterwards, won’t you?

McDonald’s Offers $1 Breakfasts

August 27, 2009 at 11:42 am | Posted in Deals | 3 Comments

sausOkay, so it’s fast food. It’s mega-mondo-monolithic fast food that embodies everything you hate about fast food (if you hate fast food) and corporate America (if you hate corporate America), but McDonald’s is now launching a short-term one-dollar breakfast menu at its Chicago-area restaurants. According to Reuters, the chain is doing this “as morning visits to fast-food chains decline and competition intensifies.

“The breakfast promotion, a first for Chicago-area restaurants, is not intended to become permanent on U.S. menus, and comes on the heels of similar promotions in other markets. … Analysts said McDonald’s new Chicago promotion illustrates how breakfast pricing is becoming more aggressive as unemployment rises.

“Chicago restaurants participating in ‘Build Your Breakfast’ offer six $1 items: two hotcakes, a fruit ‘n’ yogurt parfait, a sausage biscuit, a sausage McMuffin, two hash browns or medium coffee.

“U.S. McDonald’s restaurants, which get roughly a quarter of their sales from morning meals, have long had the option of selling a variety of breakfast items for $1. ‘Markets choose what offerings make sense to suit their customers’ needs. The promotion is going to vary from market to market,’ a McDonald’s spokeswoman said.

“The breakfast promotion and other efforts could suggest that McDonald’s is feeling the breakfast pinch….

“Burger King already has a breakfast value menu, Yum Brands Inc’s Taco Bell is expanding into breakfast and focusing on keeping prices low, and privately held Dunkin’ Donuts has rolled out a 99-cent breakfast sandwich.

“The renewed value push also reflects lower costs for meat, cheese and paper, which make selling $1 items more attractive.

“McDonald’s has been outperforming many of its peers in the weak economy. It gets about 10 percent of sales from its Dollar Menu that features lunch and dinner items.”

Free Rides to Goodwill Stores

July 31, 2009 at 6:57 am | Posted in Deals | 2 Comments

Goodwill Industries is making it even easier to donate to their stores in the San Francisco Bay Area with this new promotion:

“Get a Free Ride to Donate to Goodwill!

“Need more room for spring clothes? That old computer still sitting in your closet? What about those books that you read and promised to give away so that someone else could enjoy them?

“If you have gently used goods that you would like to donate but don’t have a ride, check out the new partnership Goodwill Industries has with City CarShare, a nonprofit that helps people get around in a ecologically responsible way. They even have fuel-efficient trucks for those big donations! Now, City CarShare members can receive a $10 credit toward their vehicle fees when they make a donation to Goodwill. Email or mail a copy of your dated donation receipt to City CarShare Marketing at 1182 Market Street Suite 300, San Francisco CA 94102.

“If you’re not a member yet, you can get $30 in free driving when you sign up for a ShareLocal or SharePlus membership. Simply enter Goodwill as the promo code on your online application at

“Make your next donation the easy way. Let City CarShare give you a break when you drop off your old stuff!”

Free Frozen Treats

July 29, 2009 at 10:34 am | Posted in Deals | Leave a comment

gelatoThe folks at Ciao Bella Gelato have just sent us a heads-up, saying that they’ll be distributing free frozen treats this week in the San Francisco Bay Area! Here’s the schedule:

7/30/2009 Whole Foods Market 1765 California Ave San Francisco – 11am – 2pm
7/30/2009 Whole Foods Market 399 4th St. San Francisco – 4pm – 7pm
7/31/2009 Lucky’s 4055 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland – 11am – 2pm
7/31/2009 Farmer Joe’s 3426 Fruitvale Avenue Oakland – 4pm – 7pm

It’s part of Ciao Bella’s Discover-Savor-Share 2009 summer tour, aimed at handing out 1 million samples of gelato and sorbet. Blood orange sorbet, mango sorbet, lemon sorbet, Tahitian vanilla gelato, and chocolate hazelnut gelato will be offered in the company’s new Single Serve cups.

Ciao Bella’s products have netted many awards, including the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s prize for best dessert. Zagat has named Ciao Bella the “best ice cream in New York.” Yum!

Bentley’s Garage Sale: With Rolls-Royce Parts, Too

July 15, 2009 at 10:37 am | Posted in Deals, News | 3 Comments

pink_bentley_continental_gt_on_asanti_rims_2-568-426It’s not your typical neighborhood sale stocked with natural-childbirth DVDs and dented Hula Hoops. Rather it’s what AutoWeek Magazine calls “a one-of-a-kind garage sale,” in which Britain’s prestigious “Bentley Motors is looking to unload some original and unused parts and accessories.” (Paris Hilton’s pink Bentley is depicted at left, but there is no indication that she will attend the garage sale.)

“The automaker is opening up its headquarters in Cheshire, England, on Sept. 26-27 to pro buyers, owners and enthusiasts. The sale will feature about 7 million items. The list ranges from a V8 engine block to a replacement gearbox to an indicator bulb and an illustrated 1950s handbook. Rolls-Royce parts will also be available.

“Bentley is hosting the sale to clear out space for the upcoming Continental Supersports and the new Bentley that debuts in August.

“Factory-trained experts at the sale will help identify and find the correct parts. Also, the parts will be sold with a manufacturer warranty and branded packaging.

“Interested? You can register for the sale at by Aug. 21.”

Got Gas?

June 9, 2009 at 8:04 am | Posted in Deals | Leave a comment

Looking for good deals on gas these days is like looking for good deals on diamonds. It’s all pretty relative, right? I ask because we, the creators of this blog and the coauthors of The Scavengers’ Manifesto, don’t actually drive. For a variety of reasons (driving is a hassle, driving costs a fortune, cars create pollution, but mostly we’re afraid of killing someone or being killed), we walk and take public transit. But everywhere we go, we hear people lamenting the price of gas. So it must be bad. This morning, a friend sent us this link to GasPriceWatch, an interactive site that lets you compare the prices at gas stations within your area and in other areas nationwide. We’ll be searching for coins on the ground to use toward bus fare, but maybe this link will be useful to all those who are “scavenging” for affordable fuel.

Free Ice Cream

May 24, 2009 at 9:59 am | Posted in Deals | Leave a comment

21Walmart is one of those love-it-or-hate-it things, and I’ve only ever been inside one, once, to buy a garden spade because we’d forgotten to bring one along on a metal-detecting jaunt. (The spade broke within one hour of gentle use; its handle snapped clear off.) But let’s applaud the megachain for having a Free Ice Cream Day! From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Saturday, May 30, participating Walmart stores are giving away free treats including Dibs Snack Bags, Blue Bunny Aspen Frozen Yogurt Granola Bars, and Ben & Jerry’s Flipped Out Cups.

Free Food at Arby’s

May 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Deals | Leave a comment

Arbys1wArby’s fast-food restaurants have instituted “Freebie Wednesdays,” offering free food and special deals every Wednesday — including today!! — throughout this spring and summer.

A Freebie Wednesdays calendar reveals what’s free when:

May 13: Free Roastburger with any soft drink purchase
May 20: Free Chocolate Malt Swirl Shake with any sandwich purchase
May 27: Free Regular Roast Beef with any soft drink purchase
June 3: Free Iced FruiTea with any sandwich purchase
June 10: Free Roast Chicken Club with any soft drink purchase
June 17: Free Regular Sidekickers® with any sandwich purchase
June 24: Free Regular Roast Beef with any soft drink purchase
July 1: Free Regular Beef ‘n Cheddar with any soft drink purchase
July 8: Free Orange Cream Swirl Shake with any sandwich purchase
July 15: Free Regular Roast Beef with any soft drink purchase
July 22: Free Roastburger with any soft drink purchase
July 29: Free Iced FruiTea with any sandwich purchase
August 5: Free Regular Roast Beef with any soft drink purchase
August 12: Free Roast Chicken Club with any soft drink purchase
August 19: Free Iced FruiTea with any sandwich purchase
August 26: Free Regular Beef ‘n Cheddar with any soft drink purchase

Mm, Mm, Good

May 8, 2009 at 5:52 am | Posted in Deals, News | Leave a comment

0000340001601As part of its “Help Grow Your Soup” campaign, the Campbell’s Soup company is giving away free seeds! “At Campbell, we believe quality ingredients are grown from the ground up — and make truly delicious soup,” reads a promo. “That’s why, for over 70 years, we’ve painstakingly cultivated seeds for tomatoes that go into our delicious tomato soup. Now you can get seeds we use for growing tomatoes.” (Order your free seeds online, but for each request you must provide the code number found on the bottom of a Campbell’s Soup can.)

The company is also donating huge numbers of tomato seeds to the Future Farmers of America Association, whose teenage volunteers, in partnership with the Urban Farming nonprofit, are now planting community gardens in urban areas around the country to enhance their agricultural education. One such project, the Frank White Garden in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, includes an Urban Farming Food Chain Edible Wall, which UF describes as “an innovative vertical garden that will produce tomatoes grown from Campbell’s seeds that, along with the other produce grown in the garden, students can harvest and bring home…. It’s a very creative way to grow food with limited space.”

There’s still time to plant those things and get a juicy red harvest that doesn’t cost you a cent.

Blam! Pow! It’s Free Comic Book Day, Batman!

May 1, 2009 at 10:23 am | Posted in Deals | Leave a comment

crimess22maySaturday, May 2, is Free Comic Book Day. This means that comic-book stores all over the nation will literally give books away. The annual promotion, which began in 2001, was launched by comic-book publishers and distributors to bring more people into the stores. Among the freebies at participating stores are titles from the major companies DC (Superman, Batman) and Marvel (Spider Man, X-Men) and from smaller publishers such as Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite and Devil’s Due.

In Berkeley, California, Comic Relief is not only giving away freebies but also offering chances to meet a lot of artists, including Daniel Cooney (Valentine), Joseph Wong and Genevieve Tsai (Islands in the Sky), Daniel Salcido (Doodles of the Drunk), Joey Alison Sayers (I Wish You Were Dead) and Derek McCullough (Displaced Persons, T-Runt, Stagger Lee).

Get ’em while they’re free!

Teachers Eat Free

April 30, 2009 at 7:47 am | Posted in Deals | Leave a comment

fajita-burritoChipotle Mexican Grill restaurants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area will be offering free burritos for Teacher Appreciation Day on Thursday, May 7. Any teacher who brings in ID proving that he or she is a teacher will get a free burrito, burrito bowl, salad or order of tacos at any Bay Area Chipotle location from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

More Earth Day Freebies

April 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Deals | 3 Comments

multiIt’s Christmas in April, as is giving away free LED holiday lights in honor of Earth Day. It’s the e-commerce retailer’s second year of doling out the freebies.

Starting at 10 a.m. EST tomorrow (April 22), will give away one set of solar-powered LED Christmas lights to the first sixty visitors. According to a press release, “The free light sets are a 200 light LED Christmas light set that operates entirely from solar power. Because the super-efficient LEDs draw so little power they can operate using a very small solar panel. Only 60 sets are available and will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis. No purchase is required but participants must pay a shipping charge of $7.99. The solar LED Christmas lights retail for $49.99. In addition to the free solar lights, is offering 25% off all of its LED lighting products.” Company spokesman Nathan Munro says:

“Last year we celebrated Earth Day by giving away free LED icicle lights but we decided we could go one better and give away solar powered LEDs for this year’s celebration…. The free light giveaway is a lot of fun and last year it was a great success but this year we have also planned a company event to celebrate Earth Day.”

Jackson, Michigan-based purchased a hundred white pine seedlings from nearby Porcupine Hollow Farm and will plant them in celebration of Earth Day. Munro says: “We all talked about what we wanted to do as a company for Earth Day and planting trees seemed like a bit of a cliché but it really does make a difference for the environment.”

Scavenge Without Even Standing Up

April 18, 2009 at 6:37 am | Posted in Deals | Leave a comment

imac1People often ask us whether it’s possible to be a scavenger without getting dirty and/or without being seen in public doing “typical” scavenger activities such as thrift-shopping or haunting the 99 Cent Store. Well, these folks should shed some of their unwarranted shame, but the answer to that question is: Of course! Free-sample blogs abound online, with constantly updated posts about companies that are offering deals, coupons and freebies. A super example is Hey, It’s Free, which on any given day typically has links to everything from free coffee coupons to free magazine subscriptions to free laundry-soap samples. Even shut-in scavengers who can’t easily leave home can score interesting surprises every day.

Free Scoops

April 16, 2009 at 9:55 am | Posted in Deals | Leave a comment

ben-jerry-s-ice-cream-456780_275_300Mark your calendars — next Tuesday, April 21, is Ben & Jerry’s annual free-cone day. Click the link to find the participating “scoop shop” nearest you. Lines tend to be long for these things; we’re just warnin’ ya….

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