Writing a check is not the only way to give to charity. Your pocket-change can go a long way to help feed people in your community who are going through tough times. And it takes only minutes, not hours of your time.
What is this solution? Use grocery coupons to buy items for charity. With coupons, it is easy to turn $1 or $2 into $10 or more of food and personal care items shelters and food pantries need desperately.
Every week I shop for my own groceries with coupons. As I make my grocery list, it is easy to add a couple of good "charity items." I put them in a box in my garage and when it is full I take the box to a local food pantry. My children enjoy helping deliver the food.
Last week I paid $1.78 for nearly $10 of food by matching coupons with sales. I donated it to help feed people going through desperate situations. It made me feel like a million bucks and I saved $62 on my own groceries at the same time.
You can do this, too. Find out what your local food pantry needs and look for coupons for those items. When the item goes on sale, use the coupon and it will cost only pennies -- sometimes completely free.
Save your charity deals in a box or cupboard. When it gets full, deliver them to the food pantry.
Charities that feed the hungry always need soups and stews, canned beans and tomatoes, canned fruits and vegetables, dried beans, cereals, oatmeal, peanut butter and tuna. It's easy to find coupons for the items they need.
Food pantries are not difficult to locate. Your church may have a food cupboard. Call other churches. If they don't, ask them if they have a food drive and where they take that food.
Many schools have food drives. Call yours and ask where they donate their food. Your grocery store probably donates their day-old bread to a local food pantry. If so, they can tell you more about that organization. Go to www.secondharvest.org to find the closest food bank or large gathering and distribution center. They can give you information about food pantries in your area.
Ask the grocery store manager if the company would place a year-round food collection bin in their store. Other shoppers are more likely to donate food if there is a collection bin in the store. Start a food pantry at your church or community center. Volunteer to deliver the food to the distribution site once a month. Enlist friends and take turns delivering the food to the charity.
If you want, I'll do the hard work for you. Each week I list the Best Deals in supermarkets across the country at my website, www.cutouthunger.org. Click on a store in your state (currently 31 states are represented; expect all 50 by year end) and you'll find a list of what's on sale, which coupons to use and where to get them. I will even mark the items most needed by charity.
Imagine what could happen if 1,000 people in your community donated just a few items each week to the bin. You would multiply your generosity a thousand fold for little monetary cost. But your contribution would be priceless.
If you wait to give until you have a lot of money you probably never will. Start now with what's in your pocket. It will make things better for someone else and change your life, too.
When she's not filling community food pantries, running her website, CutOutHunger.org, or being "The Coupon Mom" on Good Morning America, Stephanie is at home with her husband and kids in Atlanta.