6 Places You Can Go Dumpster Diving For Your Prepper Stockpile

For a long time, dumpster diving carried a stigma. It was looked down upon and considered something only the starving would do because they had no other options.

Bidding sites like eBay and local resale have made dumpster diving into a profitable endeavor for some. For us preppers it can be an effective way to get prepared without incurring the costs.

Dumpster diving might be the preparedness solution you have been looking for.

Let’s Start With Legality

Trash is in the public domain. The problem is where the trash is stored. I found that in 1988 the Supreme Court already went through this issue of dumpster diving in none other than sunny California.

Technically, dumpster diving is legal in all 50 states. In the 1988 Supreme Court case California v Greenwood, it was established that searching through trash is legal as long as it doesn’t interfere with other laws in a given area. (Source)

The biggest issue you have to look out for is trespassing. Many of these retailers have placed the dumpsters on the back of their property, some have put them behind locked or chained metal doors. You cannot break into those, or you will get in trouble with the law.

Preparing To Dumpster Dive Safely

Depending on how involved you are going to get, you need protective gear. If you are climbing all the way into dumpsters then you are going to need protection not just from bacteria but also from sharp broken glass, plastic, and wood.

Dumpster diving can be dangerous, so you have to be very careful. A think pair of hip waders would be a great layer of protection for your lower body. A thick jacket would be great to protect yourself from anything dangerous, too.

Gloves are a must, and you should include some kind of eye protection, too. You cannot be completely sure about what you are going to encounter when you are dumpster diving. There might be treasures and there might be curses!

Don’t wind up critically wounded inside the local Walmart dumpster.


When do these stores take their garbage out to the dumpster? If you just happen by a store on a whim, then there is a good chance that you will not make it there in time. Now, you can conduct a full-scale stakeout if you so desire it.

Related: How To Repurpose Old Items Into New Projects For Your Backyard

I would recommend you take the easy route. Walk into the store and ask customer service when they throw the trash out.

It might be a bit embarrassing, and they may not know but there is a good chance you run into someone who says something like, “At close we take all the trash to the dumpster.”


Walmart is a massive retailer, and the super center offers 142,000 different items in a wide variety of categories.

This massive inventory makes Walmart a perfect place to dumpster dive for preppers. There is really no telling what you are going to find in the Walmart dumpsters.

Do some intel on local Walmart’s to see which one gives you access to their dumpsters. Lots of Walmart’s keep their dumpsters under lock and key. Diving into those could become a legal problem for you.

Walmart is going to move foods off the shelves due to short dates and damages to packaging. Everything must be faced and perfect on the store shelves. If there is damage to that packaging then those foods go to the dump.

Related: What Really Happens When You Only Eat Walmart Cans For 30 Days?

Sometimes whole pallets of items can arrive or be damaged at a location. These things must go! It is so important that the store look great. That is what Walmart wants. Everything that doesn’t fit that mold goes into the trash.

Best Finds At Walmart:

  • Shelf Stable Foods
  • Electronics
  • Outdoor Equipment
  • Fitness Equipment
  • Bedding
  • Automotive
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Medical Supplies
  • Medications
  • Personal Care


6 Places You Can Go Dumpster Diving For Your Prepper StockpileTargets are another great retail location for dumpster diving. They have a wide variety of products, like a Walmart.

You can find food, electronics, clothing, personal care, shoes, and other housewares. Target has a much smaller outdoors and camping section, so those items are harder to come by.

Related: 12 Prepping Items You Should Look For At Target 

Target turns over lots of inventory regularly. Nationwide they are also doing some serious store renovations and this could be a great time to nose around in their dumpsters.

Best Finds At Target:

  • Personal Care
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Medicines
  • Medical Supplies
  • Shelf Stable Foods
  • Housewares
  • Electronics
  • Toys

Home Depot & Lowes

6 Places You Can Go Dumpster Diving For Your Prepper StockpileIt seems like everything at these big box hardware stores has gone up in price.

From the lumber to the nails, we have seen price increases on it all.

Dumpster diving in these stores is almost always going to yield something of value for the average prepper.

If you want to put those tools you find to good use, here you will find 16,000 woodworking projects with already “done-for-you” plans with step-by-step blueprints.

The risks of jumping into a hardware store dumpster are much greater and you have to be aware of that.

There could be splintered lumber, broken glass, metal pipe, and anything else that can pierce your flesh in the hardware store dumpsters so proceed with extreme caution.

Best Finds At Home Depot:

  • Lumber
  • Tools
  • Extension Cords
  • Piping
  • Fixtures
  • Building Materials

Five Below

6 Places You Can Go Dumpster Diving For Your Prepper StockpileWhen you walk around a Five Below store you probably don’t get really excited about the array of prepper items on the shelf.

Well, there are a lot of things that can either be used to better prepare or you can resell or barter items to benefit from a dumpster dive.

One of the best items is socks and clothing. There is also great fitness gear inside a Five Below. There is plenty of food and drink that you can find in the dumpsters at Five Below.

Best Finds At Five Below:

  • Seasonal Items
  • Shelf Stable Foods
  • Drinks
  • Electronics
  • Fitness Equipment
  • Clothing

Pet Stores

6 Places You Can Go Dumpster Diving For Your Prepper StockpilePet stores are great places to dumpster dive.

You are going to find dog food which is an incredible barter item or something that you might need to store yourself.

Pet stores have flea and tick treatments on hand.

You might not worry about fleas and ticks right now but as public services grind to a halt, pests in general will show up in places you are not used to seeing them.

Best Finds At Pet Stores:

  • Pet Food
  • Pet Meds
  • Flea and Pest Management
  • Cages
  • Heat Lamps

Amazon Warehouse

6 Places You Can Go Dumpster Diving For Your Prepper StockpileThese warehouses are cropping up all over the nation. Amazon does a lot of trashing and discounting. If you have a local Amazon warehouse in your area it is certainly worth taking a ride there and having a look at the dumpster access.

Amazon has the wildest breadth of products you can imagine.

Jumping into an Amazon warehouse dumpster could yield almost anything! So, come prepared for that.

Best Finds At Amazon:

Don’t Forget The Barter

Of the hundreds of thousands of products that could potentially find their way into the dumpsters at these retailers, most of them will not be tactical products or items that you might want to store away in an emergency kit.

I recommend opening your mind to the fact that almost anything could hold some value as a barter item. Dumpster diving is a premier opportunity to gather some high-profile barter items that you could use in SHTF or even right here and now!

We are living through tremendous inflation right now and the U.S dollar is in tremendous trouble. Bartering is coming back, and you are going to see it. You should get ahead of it all now and start your own bartering community.

Dumpster diving can become a true source of prepping gear and even bartering items to get the things you need to better survive this radically changed world.

There was a time when dumpster diving was something only the homeless and destitute would consider. I think the fact that we are having this conversation speaks to just how far we have fallen as a nation, despite the statistics.

That said, if you plan well and follow the rules, dumpster diving will put quality preps in your possession for no cost. In the times that are ahead, they could be preps that mean the difference between life and death.

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