1. One thing that bothers me with the drive to “make sure food stamps are used responsibly and not for junk” is the last point you mentioned. What if there is a family birthday or other special milestone? What if the family chooses to have a few days of beans and oatmeal so that they can have a little steak or cake on a special day? Is that really irresponsible? Shouldn’t the family have that option?
    And great point about the spices! They add a lot more flavor and variety.

  2. Shannon

    You have some of my favorite posts.

    I’ve thought about donating spices before, but never pet food or birthday type treats. I’ll add those to my next shopping list for donations.

    • That’s so kind of you to say, Shannon. You made my day! You definitely will want to check on the pet food – I’m not sure it’s universally accepted. But I think it totally should be. Those Boy Scouts definitely gave me something to think about!

  3. When I used the food bank, there was always a lot of excitement when there was a small dessert or other non-pasta item. Not that we didn’t appreciate the food provided, but still…

    Don’t forget that women’s and homeless shelters can always use basic things like deodorant, toothbrushes, etc. Most of which, if you’re into couponing, you can get almost free or actually free. Women’s shelters are usually desperate for diapers, too. And around school time, school supplies and backpacks are a huge help for most food banks.

    • That’s really helpful to hear that it is appreciated. That always motivates me to give more! I love couponing for a good cause. My husband teased me relentlessly when I came home with a trunk full of toilet paper – but it was too good of a deal to pass up. And our food pantry sent out a special request for TP and paper towels. Great point about the school supplies, too!

  4. Depending on the community that it serves, tampons, pads or diapers may be appreciated. Check with your community bank on the preferred feminine hygiene products as these are shockingly culturally sensitive.

    Some food banks don’t do personal care products though, so check first.

    • That’s an awesome reminder, Hannah! Our food pantry definitely accepts them, and I try to donate at least every other month. I’ve never seen them voice a preference for type of product, but that’s something I never thought of. I’ll be more mindful when I shop now.

  5. Women’s and family shelters really need pads and tampons, and our local shelter really appreciates diapers, too. People don’t think of these disposables, frequently, so we’re being mindful of those things that are missed.

    Our local homeless shelter helps families with a place to stay and also gets them set up once they’re on their feet, so they can be self sufficient again and one thing they appreciate is housewares like small household appliances and new sheets for beds. We were thrilled to get a great deal on some new cookware that we could donate, new in box, recently.

    • Awesome reminder! I donate those every fall during a neighborhood drive and my husband always teases me that I’m embarrassing the kiddos who volunteer to collect the boxes. My response? Too bad. Feminine hygine products are crazy expensive!

  6. I love that you’ve given this some thought and are concerned about the dignity of people who will receive your donations. My wife volunteers at the local food bank and they are always grateful for the donations, including the ones you’ve mentioned. If you really want your donation to go far, a cash donation is always a good option because the food bank can acquire the food at much lower prices than it sells for at the supermarket. Another overlooked thing to donate that doesn’t cost a thing is your plastic shopping bags (the ones that are still in good shape) which the food bank uses to distribute food to clients. These donations may not feel as personal, but the most important part is not what you donate, but just that you help in some way.

    • The plastic bags suggestion is brilliant. And you’re spot on with the cash giving. I do that separately (usually at the end of every month) because I try to buy these items with my grocery money. It forces me to get creative with coupons and is a gentle reminder of how good I have it every time I shop. All of your wonderful comments motivated me to write a post or two on my giving strategies. Thanks, Gary!

  7. I love giving bags of cookies and candies, especially holiday ones. I know that so many people give the necessities and that if I was a kid and there were candy canes in the bags coming from the food pantry, my day would be SO much happier. Love this post Penny! Great ideas. I never would have thought of the pet food especially!

  8. This is such a fabulous post!! Successful healthy finances should include giving. It’s great to see a post dedicated to encouraging others how to give well. 🙂

    My daughter and I were just filling a bag for the food bank the other day. It was more of a last minute thing so we “shopped” from our own pantry.
    I threw in a few cans of coconut milk and gluten free stuff because I’m sure there are some food bank clients who have food allergies. My daughter was eager to include juice boxes and toothbrushes so I thought “why not!”.

    I love your more fun suggestions as well as the pet food.

    Like other commenters said feminine hygiene and diaper products are usually in need.

    Money is also a fantastic way to give to your local food bank. This allows them to buy perishable things like butter, fresh meat, milk and produce for their clients. I know it’s not as “fun” to give money, but the workers there really know how to put it to the best use.


    • We are definitely trying to support our food bank with monetary donations more often now, too. I love the idea to shop your own pantry AND to donate things for food sensitivities!

  9. Jane

    I’ve started donating pads and tampons (Aussie here so you may call them something slightly different?). I hear it’s near the bottom of the essential list when you are just surviving week to week.

    • Yes, agreed! Our food pantry actually started requesting them on mailings and such. I think it’s so fantastic to put that out in the open. It can be so costly, and yet, it’s an essential!

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