My work holds an annual food drive for the Salvation Army, like most works do. They set out a couple of big boxes in our lobby under the huge Christmas tree for employees to fill with food and toys. It’s wonderful and I always bring at least a bag of food and a toy or two, just so I can feel good about myself at least until I call someone a stupid douchbag idiot driver on the way home and remember that maybe I’m not all that great. Even though they totally deserve it for being so stupid and douchy and idiotic whilst driving.
The only thing is, they usually don’t set out the boxes until mid-December. They’re missing at least two weeks of prime donating time. Must fix.
Unrelated: we recently renovated our powder room. Fresh paint, new mirror and art work, and a new vanity.
Related: I brought in the giant vanity-sized box from home, wrapped with Christmas paper from last year, made up a cute sign on Word (I even coined the phrase “Donation Station”; copyright pending), and voila! We’re in the food collection business. I sent an email to the person who normally runs it to let them know that we were starting early in our department (so I wouldn’t be stepping on any toes). Cost so far? FREE.
An empty food donation box is just an empty box, but I didn’t really have the extra money to buy anything. But what I did have, in droves, was clutter in my kitchen. So I scoured the cupboards for unwanted food – stuff we had purchased when we were hungry (never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry) and now look less appealing, stuff we hadn’t gotten around to using, stuff we no longer needed (baby food). I came up with two very, very full bags of groceries.
This step was a two-fer. On one hand, my kitchen cupboards have never been cleaner. On the other, someone in need can use what I no longer want. Cost so far? FREE.
I sent an email to my coworkers letting them know what I had done, suggesting they do the same. After two weeks, the box is half full. I would estimate well over 150 lbs of food (I can’t even come close to lifting it). Cost so far? FREE.
Today, while I was being all anal retentive and OCD, sorting the donations by food group, size and package material, I remembered that I had a $20 bill in my wallet, which I was going to spend on probably something for myself like lunch or whatever. Instead, I took that twenty dollars across the street to the IDA, where they often have canned and boxed foods at a huge discount. I came away with two more bags filled with non-perishables, and another few hours of self-worth before I mentally cuss-out a stranger for their inability to follow the right-of-way rule (it’s simple, people; you get there first, you go first. Gah!).
Grand total for my entire year’s worth of do-gooding*? $19.22. My wallet can stomach that.
What have you done to be charitable this year? I must hang with a charitable bunch, because many of my friends are also organizing their own food/toy/hamper collections.
So, what are you doing? Do you need help deciding? ‘Cause I have all kinds of help to give.
Tips for Giving On A Budget
- As mentioned, clean out your own cupboards of unwanted, non-perishable food. You may not want it, but someone does.
- Scan the flyers and store shelves for buy one, get one’s. Then buy one for yourself and donate the free one. That way, you’re not spending any more than you had planned on.
- Use your Shopper’s Drug Mart reward points to purchase items. Most SDM’s have at least a small grocery section, stocked with canned and boxed goods; if you use your points, then you’re essentially spending no money.
- Buy your groceries, paying special attention to sales and store brands, even if for just one week (if you’re a brand-whore like we are). Add up what you saved and use that amount of money to buy a few more items. Again, you’re not spending any more money than you would have, had you not bought the less expensive brands.
Do you have any other tips for ways to donate on a budget? Please share.
Everyone, especially this time of year, especially this year, is in some sort of need. I don’t know anyone who isn’t cutting back somehow. Giving fewer gifts, hunting for sales when it was never an issue before, presents for the kids only. But there are still ways we can give, even with little or no money.
If you don’t work at a place that runs their own food drive, nearly every fire station has drop boxes, every church accepts donations, nearly every grocery store has a box near the exit. There’s always somewhere to donate.
As a parent, I can only imagine the feeling of not being able to provide enough food for my children. I can only imagine how helpless and desperate I would be if I couldn’t afford breakfast for my child, or if their meal portions left them still hungry.
Do you have $5? Campbell’s Chunky Soup (the soup that eats like a meal) is on sale this week, 3 for $5.
If you can give, please do. If you don’t think you’re able, think harder. Every can helps.