Helping Those Less Fortunate

by R. Kellogg


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Interested in engaging your family in aiding a worthy charity? Food pantries are always in need of in-kind donations. If you are a coupon user, you can support your local food pantry at little cost to yourself.

A savvy coupon user can get online research assistance from useful websites that list and analyze store sale prices and match them with current coupons. Such sites include www.thegrocerygame.com and www.cutouthunger.com. The Cut Out Hunger site works on an interesting premise. The philosophy of the site is not to charge visitors a fee for use, but instead to request that readers buy one free or low-cost item with a coupon each week and donate it to a local food pantry.

This is an easy way to get involved in serving the local community. I thought the site's coupon user policy was a great idea, and I decided to take up the challenge.

It was helpful going into this adventure to know up front which items my local food pantry was most interested in receiving. The food pantry in my area publishes a list of its needs, which is updated regularly on its website. Some items are always in demand, such as plastic grocery bags, canned meat and peanut butter. The list also includes personal care items, such as feminine pads, shampoo, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.

Plastic bags are easy to donate and free to me. I retain plastic shopping bags and use them as garbage can liners for my short trash cans, but even with lining my four small trash cans a few times each week, I slowly accumulate a leftover bundle of plastic shopping bags. I was happy to donate these to a good cause.

Watching out for the other items was fairly straightforward as well. Some of the best deals would come up for Suave® shampoo, Johnson & Johnson bath bars, Pasta Roni®, and toothbrushes and toothpaste. Often these would go for free or for less than fifty cents each after sale and coupon. What a deal! Here the Cut Out Hunger website came in very handy. I knew going in which items would be on sale that week and could watch for them.

It took a little retraining at first to buy a tube of toothpaste with a coupon even if I already had a stash at home. I had to remind myself it was for charity. Once I got the hang of it though, I fell into the routine of looking for an extra item or two each week that I could purchase on sale with a coupon and a little spare change.

I let my boys help me find the sales tags on the shelf. After a while, we started to recognize the patterns and knew which goods were likely to offer the best deals regularly.

The food and personal items accumulated steadily over several months. Finally, I had enough to justify a run across town to the food pantry.

I packed up the food, bags, and personal care items we had accumulated over the past months into the trunk of my car and took my boys with me down to the food pantry. We had enough in our trunk to fill two shopping carts when we arrived.

The food pantry attendant wanted to know which organization we represented. He thought we had organized a food drive. I told him it was just from our family. He was impressed and thought that we were very generous.

We really hadn't spent much money at all, but I was glad to have the chance to contribute to the community on a small scale and let my kids be involved in a worthy project.

The Cut Out Hunger website (www.cutouthunger.com) is a good starting place for discovering low-cost items to donate to your local pantry. Remember that the website bases its lists off of an individual store in each area covered, so you might see some differences between the site's list and the deals you will encounter yourself. Clearance sales and end-cap sales are also good places to look for an occasional great find for charity.

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