I received an e-mail from a reader with a great idea about how to share couponing expertise for the good of our communities:
"I enjoy reading your articles in my paper every week. I would love to [read] an article encouraging people to use these ideas to shop for local food banks! If someone doesn't need more cereal to stockpile or doesn't use a particular brand of something, encourage them to use the coupons to make deals and then donate those products to the food bank."
I agree 100 percent. I am a big believer in supporting our food pantries and food banks, especially in the current economy. It's rare that a week or two goes by without me visiting and bringing bags of groceries to our local food pantry. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, but as the reader notes above, the reality is that once we start coupon shopping and improving our Super-Couponing skills, we do reach a point where we may acquire more supplies than we need to support a single household.
I have held off discussing the many ways our local food banks and pantries can benefit from Super-Couponing until now, and I shouldn't have waited so long. I am quite aware of how many people truly are hurting right now and having difficulty putting food on their tables. For some, the prospect of having not just enough but actually a surplus of food might be hard to imagine. Yet, when you become a proficient coupon user, matching your coupons to your stores' lowest-priced sales, you indeed may find that you reach a point where you're able to pick up even more things very inexpensively and pass them along to others in need.
Many of my Super-Couponers have written to share their stories of "scoring" food for their local food pantries. One reader wrote to tell me of a $1 yogurt sale at her store ... and right in the coupon dispenser in front of the yogurt were $1 coupons for the same yogurt! She bought what she needed for her family, and then went on to buy more for her local food pantry, too ... and none of it cost a thing. Another reader told of a juice sale in which the bottles of juice were $2.29 ... and each bottle had $2 peel-off coupons attached to the labels. He stocked up and picked some up for his local food bank, too.
I've had some memorable runs for my local pantry. Recently, a name-brand manufacturer of bratwurst offered a printable coupon on its web site for $5 off the purchase of three packages. It was an unlimited printable -- rare, but not unheard of. (I always hit the back button in my web browser to try to print coupons until I receive the message that the print limit has been reached, because some coupons do have higher print limits and, occasionally, you may run across an unlimited printable.)
This was a very valuable coupon, since one of my area stores was also having a sale on the same brand of bratwurst: three packages for $5. With a coupon for $5 off the purchase of three, all of the packages were free. And with an unlimited printable, I could print as many as I'd use.
Early in the week, I bought as many packages as our family would use before the expiration date. On the last day of the sale, I printed 15 more of those coupons and purchased 45 more packages of bratwurst. (Note that I never clean out a store of a product -- the store had a huge supply on hand for this sale.) Then, I took all those brats to our food pantry. The volunteers and I giggled as we stuffed packages of brats into every available inch of their refrigerator.
A week later, I returned to the pantry to drop off some other items, and I peeked in their fridge to see how many brats were inside. Not a single package of brats was left. That's when I realized just how many people are utilizing our local food pantry every day. It's a similar story at food banks all over the country.
If you've reached the point in your couponing journey where you're able to feed your household for less and pass along surplus items to your local food banks, I guarantee you'll find it incredibly rewarding to do so.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon-workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your couponing coups and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.