Wouldn’t we all like to have $2,000 of someone else’s money for a shopping spree? But what happens when that money belongs to your local food bank, and some 300 families are counting on you to fill their shelves? That’s the challenge that we have been facing over the past few months, trying to stretch $2,000 with coupons in order to buy as much food as possible.
Brad and I have been involved with the North Gwinnett Co-Op (a.k.a. the Food Bank) for a while now, first donating some of the excess spoils of couponing (before it spoiled), and more recently holding couponing classes at their new Buford location. As Brad put it, “We kept explaining to the volunteers how you could turn $1 into $5 or more of buying power using coupons, and then Maureen called our bluff!” As in Co-Op Executive Director Maureen Kornowa, who called in May with an unusual challenge. In response to a plea for donations, the Co-Op received a generous check for $2,000 from 12Stone Church. Instead of using the money to buy food directly, Maureen had the idea to employ our couponing prowess to leverage the Church’s money as much as possible.
Two grand will normally cover our entire family’s food budget for a year, but for the Food Bank we faced some special constraints. All of the purchases needed to be shelf stable foods. Primary needs were canned meats, peanut butter, jelly, and a few other elements of the couponer’s worst nightmare due to the scarcity of couponing deals in those categories. We agreed that we would provide all coupons and our time as a donation to the Food Bank – every penny of the $2,000 would be spent on food. Furthermore, we added the rule of being a good neighbor, which meant respecting quantity limits on the best sale items, typically 5 per visit at Kroger and 10 at Publix.
“Most of our purchases look like a normal shopper on a typical shopping trip,” explains Brad, “except perhaps for the 300 boxes of mac & cheese that we bought once on clearance!”
As much as our teenage sons hate shopping, they have embraced helping out with the logistics of this project. Clay built a spreadsheet to track purchases and account for every penny while organizing the purchases into boxes. Chip has supplied muscle for carrying food and lifting boxes. That’s Chip in the photo with me in front of the cache of more than 250 boxes of food obtained thus far.
It is our hope that this project inspires other couponers to help their local Food Banks however they can. There are millions of hungry people out there, and couponers have the unique ability to turn $1 into food for a family. The North Gwinnett Co-Op does a great job, but there are countless other organizations ministering to the needs of the hungry in this country that could use your talents!