Writing a check is not the only way to give to charity. Your pocket change can go a long way to help those in need. These are a few simple, easy ways to help your local community while still being smart about your funds.
One solution is collecting grocery coupons and donating these items to charity. The value of coupons adds up quickly — it is easy to turn them into $10 worth of food and personal care items that shelters and food pantries need desperately. You can find out what your local food pantry needs most and collect those specific coupons. Soup kitchens or organizations feeding the homeless most accept soups and stews, canned tuna, canned fruits and vegetables, cereals, oatmeal, etc.
You can also gradually work your donations into your shopping every week. Add a couple of inexpensive, nonperishable items to your grocery list. Start collecting these items in a box and take it to your local food pantry when it's full. This can be a fun way to involve your children in the process.
Combining discounts from regular grocery store sales and coupons is a clever way to purchase high-quality foods without sacrificing your wallet. Teri Gault of The Grocery Game is the queen of coupons. She routinely cuts as much as 70 percent of her total grocery cost by using coupons on top of store sales This immense saving helps your budget but also frees you up to buy extra groceries for donations. This approach will cut costs but make you feel like a million bucks. Stephanie Nelson, known as the Coupon Mom, started the Cut Out Hunger Program after visiting her local food pantry and discovering that the shelves were empty. She began teaching friends how to buy food with coupons for charity. Today, thousands of shoppers are using this method to fight hunger across the country. You can even involve your kids with the Kids Cut Out Hunger Program.
Here are a few ways to locate and get involved with donations: Call local churches, as they often hold food drives or keep food pantries to distribute goods. If there are none, start a food pantry at your church or community center
Many schools have food drives. Call schools in your district and ask where they send their donations. See if you can contribute to their collection, or send your donations directly to the organization they use. You can also visit the Feeding America website to locate the closest food bank or distribution center.
Oftentimes, grocery stores donate day-old bread to a local food pantry. Ask a grocery store manager to place a year-round food collection bin in the store, as shoppers are more likely to donate food if there is a collection bin on-site.
Create a carpool with your friends and volunteer to deliver collections of food to the distribution site once a month.
If 1,000 people in your community each donated a few items per week, this small act of generosity will make a big impact for those in need. Start now with what's in your pocket. Your contribution is priceless.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture