An old practice that still works

I was so proud of myself. I had bargained the produce agent down to $2 per flat of strawberries. I was beaming with my prize as I gave the order ticket to his clerk so we could load the last of my purchases into our minivan. We were at the a huge farmer’s market in Tampa, Florida buying produce for a Mega CookingTM session. The clerk took one look at the ticket, gave me a smile, and simply said, “You got taken.” I started to explain how I had shopped all over this country and had never gotten such a deal as $2 per flat for strawberries. He politely said, “Well, Ma’am, that may be. That may be. But this here’s a three-day weekend.”

Of course, I knew it was a three-day weekend. That’s why I had scheduled the cooking session for this time. I’d have my dear husband for three uninterrupted days to help me. But God was gentle with me and told me to hush and learn something. So, I listened.

The clerk said, “See all this?” And he pointed all around the holding bay that was filled to the 30-foot ceiling with fresh produce. “I’m starting to haul all this out to the garbage pick-up; it’ll all be bad by Tuesday. If you drive your car around, you can have as much of this as you want for free.”

Though our minivan was just about packed full at that point, we filled it to overflowing with free food. I started asking questions and found out this same waste happened every three-day weekend. The food was in excellent shape, but it wouldn’t last three days without refrigeration.

God got my attention and we’ve been so blessed with this “gleaning” idea. Like a modern-day Ruth, I now ask about products that are bound for the trash (for various reasons). Following are more examples.

Farmer friend

We have made friends with an organic farmer. After her fields are picked for the season, more fruit or vegetables become ripe. She invites our family over to pick the last fruits before she fills the soil for the next crop. We sometimes barter for what we pick or give her a donation for her children’s “future fund.”

Video cases

We needed some video cassette cases. I wanted the hard plastic ones with clear overlays so we could organize our video library (those cardboard covers wear out quickly).

I called the people at our local video rental store because I liked the cases they used. I asked to speak to the manager (I’ve learned to always ask for the manager on any call like this) and inquired about her case supplier so I could order some in bulk.

She told me she had just thrown away about 100 old cases and did so every other Monday. She invited me to come by next time and pick some up.

Scrap paper

Some printers will allow you to come in and go through their scrap paper bin. Many of their jobs won’t use up a whole roll or sheet, so a fresh one has to be loaded.

The old partial ones, if they aren’t big enough to use on other jobs, are often scrapped. I haven’t had to buy craft paper for my children’s art projects for years because I’ve been using printers’ scrap paper.

We also ask for the remnant paper off the whole rolls that the newspapers use. This type of paper has served as our wrapping paper (the children paint, color, stamp, and design it) and project paper for years.

Industrial gleaning

We have supplied much of our ministry’s needs with old filing cabinets, shelves, and furnishings from remodeled offices. Sometimes you have to pay a nominal fee for these furnishings, but sometimes they are free.

For instance, I had been praying for a five drawer vertical file–the kind that sells for $600 new. The Lord provided one, in perfect working condition, at a government rejects sale for $25!  Its only problem was that there was no key for the lock.

By now, you may think I’m dumpster diving, but that’s not the case. I’m simply calling around and picking up items before they go bad or are trashed. This gleaning process is similar to what took place in ancient Israel, where the law commanded farmers to not harvest the corners of their fields. The food that remained in these corners was available for gleaning.

God will supply all our needs, and He is very creative about how He achieves this goal. Pray about this idea of gleaning for your family and allow Him to bless you.

–Jill Bond

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