Category: Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

Saving Money on Hygiene Kits by Ordering in Bulk

As I have shared a bit with you on Facebook, I recently reached out to members of my (new-to-me) community on a local FB page. I asked if anyone wanted to join me in packing hygiene kits for the homeless. To my amazement, people said yes – and our little group now numbers over 300! We pack hygiene kits monthly, and once to twice a month, I go downtown and join forces with a wonderful catering company. They feed the homeless, and they allow me to set up a table with toiletry kits (and whatever other donations we can gather). What a blessing this has been to me!

Hygiene kits and other donations for the homeless

As we have gathered donations, we have found that there are some items that we can often get for free (shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion). There are other items that we can get sporadically (vanity kits, bags, toothbrushes, toothpaste). And then there are items that we like to purchase to make our hygiene kits more … well, awesome. Many of the people who we serve live and sleep on the streets. Many more live in shelters and transitional housing. And almost without fail, they are grateful for whatever we can give them. And so every month, we try our best to give whatever we can. Before we meet, I do inventory of what we have already, I share what we need with my group members, I include links to order online, and we buy whatever we can. I spend a lot of time researching the very best deals I can find so we can maximize our budgets.

I quickly learned that shopping for items in bulk online was almost always MUCH cheaper than buying them at the grocery store or drug store, even with a coupon. So that’s what we’ve been doing for the last several months – gathering the items that we have been able to get donated, then filling in the gaps with bulk orders.

A few months ago, I started noticing articles about MDSupplies.com. They were all written by people who pack hundreds (or thousands!) of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and who have found that they can save a lot of money by ordering in bulk through this company. I didn’t bother even looking at first – I will be packing 33 shoeboxes this year, and I don’t need to buy toiletry items in the hundreds for them.

Then it hit me: HYGIENE KITS!

I looked at their website and realized that their prices were almost all cheaper than what I had been paying elsewhere. But I was hesitant to ask my group to purchase something in bulk when I had never seen any of their products. So I found them on Facebook, sent them a message, and they generously arranged for me to receive samples of many of the items that I was interested in. So on behalf of my group, and any of you who might also be interested in packing large amounts of shoeboxes or blessing bags, I wanted to share these products with you. (Note: I am listing the prices that are current as of the date of publication. They can, of course, change at any time, so double-check before ordering. I also wanted to mention that I am not being paid for this review and I will receive no commission if you make a purchase – I am just really excited to have found a source that will allow us to do so much more with our money.)

 
MDSupplies samples

  • Dukal emergency blankets. This is the most expensive item I received to review, and the one that has the greatest potential to be life-saving. If you are in an area with a lot of snow, as I am, these are a huge gift to those who are sleeping outside. They’re heavy duty and water resistant. 50 of them cost $101.49; $2.029 each.
  • Dukal zip bags. I will use the 3×5 bags to hold Q-tips and floss samples – I have been buying snack-sized bags, but these are significantly cheaper at $6.99 per thousand, or $.0069 cents each. And the 9×6 bags are large enough to hold a complete hygiene kit; they cost $33.67 for 1000, or $.033 each. (These are wider than a sandwich bag, so they can hold full-sized toothbrushes. The cheaper, bulk toothbrushes that we buy are a bit shorter, so for most of our kits, we could use the smaller and less expensive 5×8 bags, which are $.016 each.) Price-wise, I can’t find anything cheaper than the 3×5 bags or the 9×6 bags elsewhere. The 5×8 bags are roughly the same cost as generic sandwich bags, but they’re a bit bigger.
  • Dukal combs. These are small but are the perfect size for our hygiene kits, and are as sturdy as the other combs that we have bought in bulk. This is one of my favorite deals: $34.23 for a case of 2160, or $.015 cents per comb.
  • Dukal toothbrush cap. These toothbrush caps were the reason that I decided to look seriously into MDSupplies.com. I know that many times, the simple bag that we give out the hygiene kits in is the same bag that will store all of these toiletries once they’ve been used… meaning the used soap and razor will be hanging out with a toothbrush. I’m not a big germaphobe, but that creeps me out a little bit. These caps fit perfectly with the bulk toothbrushes we buy, and the price is amazing: $72.73 for 1400, or just $.05 per cap.
  • Dukal fingernail clippers. Nail clippers are one of my favorite items to add to hygiene kits. I used to buy them at the dollar store; then I realized that I could purchase them cheaper on bulk online. But these nail clippers are even cheaper than the best price I’d found previously: a case of 288 is $69.88, making these $.242 each. (Goodbye, dollar store nail clippers!)
  • Dynarex twin blade razors. These razors are simple, but they will get the job done. Many men ask for these on our distributions, and we rarely have them, so I’m excited to stock up. They are $23.76 for 300, or $.079 each.
  • Dawn Mist brushless shave cream by Dukal. This is a great way to add shaving cream to our kits – previously the best deal I had found was $1 for a travel-sized tube. And while that is certainly a great gift because it can be used several times, since we are making hundreds of kits at a time, it wasn’t something that has been in my budget. These small packets are $59.56 for 1000, or $.059 each. This means that, by buying in bulk, we can provide a razor and a single-use shave cream for less than 14 cents in each kit. Amazing!
  • Dukal clear soap box, unhinged. As I mentioned above with the toothbrush caps, I love the idea of something that will allow used soap to stay contained, rather than sliming around inside the bag. These soap boxes are large enough to fit a standard bar of soap, or a few smaller hotel-sized bars. It’s very easy to open, but has enough grip that when I hold the box by the top, the bottom piece will not slide loose. These are $18.74 for 144, or $.13 each.
  • Dynarex roll-on deodorant. This is the only sample that I decided to remove from my shopping list. It is a liquid deodorant, and the second ingredient is alcohol. Every agency I have worked with has strongly advised me to avoid products with a strong alcohol content, even sanitizer or mouthwash, so this won’t work for my group. At some point, I might look into the other deodorant options that MDSupplies offers – their Dukal stick deodorant, for instance, comes to under 50 cents each. This is an item that I am asked for frequently but never have enough of, so I’d love to find an inexpensive source for this.

Hygiene kit for the homeless

If you are interested in ordering any of the above items for your own hygiene kits or shoeboxes, I have some good news. First of all, everything above ships for FREE, no minimum purchase required. And second, the awesome people at MDSupplies brainstormed with me to come up with a list that I could share with my packing group to make ordering for the homeless simple, and they linked us to a second list that has been put together for ordering shoebox supplies. So if you’d like to check out anything that they offer, you can go right here. Again, I am not affiliated with MDSupplies and I do not get paid for any orders placed through this link; I am just truly excited to share this to help others maximize their money so that more people can be blessed.

Thanks so much for reading – and if you have any questions, you can comment here, or go directly to the MDSupplies & Service Facebook page. They have been incredibly helpful and have answered all of my questions quickly and kindly.

Happy shopping!

How I packed 100 School Supply Kits for $100

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know how much I love Operation Christmas Child. This year, for my 32nd birthday, I will be packing 32 shoeboxes to donate. And since I am lucky enough to live near a processing center, I will be able to volunteer as a shoebox inspector. Which sounds boring, but it is honestly one of the highlights of the holiday season for me. A room full of people, who love the same thing I love, all united to serve children we have never even met … it’s magical.

Last year, I learned something new. Many of the shoeboxes that are donated have items that need to be removed because they are not on the approved list. (Mostly things that might leak or delay the boxes as they go through cutoms, like liquids and food items.) And since it would be really sad for a kid to open their shoebox gift and find it half empty, the processing centers accept donations of “filler items” – things that the volunteers can quickly grab to add to the boxes to make sure that they’re all full. So this year, I had a crazy idea. Why not make some extra school supply kits? Specifically, in addition to the 32 I was making for my own boxes, I wanted to make 68 more, for a grand total of 100. It was a huge goal, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it. But I was … and I did it for $100!

Now, this isn’t going to be a post that you can read and say, “I can go to that right this minute!” This project was many months in the making. But I’m hoping that I will give you some ideas that can benefit you for next year … and maybe even an idea or two that you can use to donate a little bit extra this holiday season!

100-school-supply-kits-for-100

So here are my frugal shopping tips:

  • Clearance. Seriously, this is my #1 tip. Learn where the clearance racks are at every store that you shop at, and use them! I have learned, among the 4 Walgreens stores near my home, which one has a manager that often marks things down 90%. I have bought cute pencils for 2 cents, hilighters for a nickel, 9-packs of fun erasers for 20 cents, and much more. When my local Target stores hit their best school supply clearance of the year – 90% off, including many Dollar Spot items that were selling for a dime – I went to three different stores and I stocked up. (I do this after every holiday when they’re marking down their seasonal items.) And randomly in the spring, I was at Office Max when I noticed that they had boxes of 60 pens marked down to 52 cents! That’s less than a penny per pen!

Packing 100 school supply kits for $100

  • Supplement your budget by earning gift cards. If you have a little bit of free time, try mystery shoppingShopkick, or Swagbucks. These are all programs that I use regularly, a few minutes at a time, that allow me to earn gift cards to stretch my budget. I often cash in for Target gift cards since that’s where I do a lot of my clearance shopping.
  • Shop the sales. This seems pretty obvious, but it’s worth a reminder. I often hear people say that they get the best deals by just going to Walmart and the Dollar Tree. And if you’re in a hurry, go for it! But it is definitely not the cheapest way to shop. During back to school time, I carefully watch the store ads, and I am able to beat Walmart and Dollar Tree prices on almost everything. I had awesome luck with the penny deals at Office Max this year, and there were lots of great sales at Staples and Walgreens as well. And there were times when I could earn rewards for buying things I needed to purchase for my family anyway (like ink and copy paper). I would purchase those items, then use some of the rewards I got back for my school supply stash (such as good kid scissors for a quarter, and the penny items like packs of pencils and glue sticks).
  • Ask for help. To be honest, I am new in this area and don’t know a ton of people yet. But I reached out to a few families and invited them to come join me to assemble these school supply kits. They were happy to help, and we all had a fantastic time. I had all of the supplies purchased anyway, but if you are just starting out, feel free to ask people to bring a few items! People typically want to help, and this is a great way to make more than you’d be able to on your own.
  • Get creative. I really like having some kind of container or pencil case for each shoebox. I was able to get some pencil boxes for a penny at Office Max, and I found some “slider boxes” on clearance at Target, but I didn’t have anywhere close to 100. So I got a bunch of Hefty slider bags (free, with a rebate), scoured clearance racks for Duct tape, and my helpers and I made all of the bags we needed!Packing 100 school supply kits for $100

So that’s it – and look at this beautiful pile of school supply kits. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be able to give a small gift to 100 kids that will hopefully be both helpful and fun, and to have been able to stick to my budget. This has been so much fun to do! Now time to move on the the next stage – shoebox wrapping. Wish me luck!
100 school supply kits for $100

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

Okay. Maybe it isn’t ACTUALLY the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s one of my favorites? Why?

SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE ON SALE!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This girl is really weird.” Well, yes/ I am. But mostly, I’m thrifty. I love being able to donate items to people in need. School supplies are needed by SO many different people and organizations. And this is the time of year to stock up!

I have already been hitting the sales for Operation Christmas Child. This year I’m packing 32 shoeboxes, so I need to stock up. But as I have been shopping, I’ve been picking up extras. Pens on the clearance rack for less than a penny each? Bought hundreds. (Okay. Over a thousand. Ahem.) “Penny deals” at Office Max? I shopped the sales for my kids’ school supplies, then bought items at a penny apiece for my shoeboxes. And always, I felt the need to grab more. I just wasn’t sure why.

But this week, someone reached out for help on my neighborhood’s Facebook page. Her husband’s work is arranging a school supply drive for an elementary school in an underprivileged area. It immediately caught my eye, so I offered to help a bit. And as I researched the school, it caught my heart.

Y’all, there are over 40 languages spoken at this school. 40!! Can you imagine sitting in a classroom where no one else speaks your language? Can you imagine being a teacher, knowing that you cannot communicate with your students (or their parents)? Can you a school where 95% of the students are receiving government assistance, and likely cannot afford the very basic list of supplies that the school has asked for?

Within 30 minutes of my home, kids know that they are going to be headed back to school empty-handed.

That is not okay with me.

And suddenly, I knew why I’d had the feeling to buy extras.

I bargain shopped a bit more. I price matched. I told managers what I was shopping for and politely asked if I could go over their “item limit”. And this … this is what I was able to do with $35.

Donating School Supplies on a Budget

 

This isn’t extreme couponing. This didn’t even take me that much time. I just shopped smart, I kept my eyes open for clearance deals and great sales. And hopefully, this labor of love will be a blessing to dozens of kids.

As I was pulling together my donations, I thought of the teachers who taught in this tough enviroment. And suddenly, I wanted to do something for them. And although it’s simple, this made me so happy to do. I looked on the school’s website and counted the faculty and staff (because those aides and those specialists and those secretaries – they deserve our thanks, too). Then I bundled up my school supplies into little gifts. Such a small thing, but hopefully enough to let these wonderful people know how much they are appreciated. These little bundles, along with homemade cards that my kids and I put together, will be waiting for them in the teacher’s lounge.

Simple gifts for teachers

Whatever your circumstances, can I encourage you to consider joining in my school supply challenge? Whether that means picking up an extra package of glue sticks on sale, or hopping from store to store to stock up – whatever you have the time and the means to do – there is always, always going to be someone who needs your help.

So get out there and do some good today.

Serving with School Supplies

 

Kindness Matters Monday: Packed With Love

So I realize that many of my posts lately have been about Operation Christmas Child. This week is packing week, so I promise that they’ll slow down soon. But I had to share this story with you today, in honor of Kindness Matters Monday.

I teach preschool music, and I often spend the first minute or two of class asking kids a question about their weekend, what fun things they’re doing, etc. Today, I told one of my classes that I’d be having a shoebox packing party this weekend. None of them had ever heard of Operation Christmas Child (well, except for my son), and they listened attentively.

” … And then I pack them with things like a toothbrush and toothpaste, school supplies, and toys. Oh, and candy!”

And then came a little voice. “And love?”

I froze. I choked up. And I smiled.

“Yes, sweetie. And so, so much love.”

Your one box? It matters.

(I’ve watched a lot of these videos, y’all. But 20 seconds in, and my heart … oh.)

It’s packing week!

If you’ve been reading here for long, you know that I LOVE packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. This next week (November 16th-23rd) is drop-off week! Just take your gift-filled shoebox to a drop-off location near you … and let the magic begin. 🙂 Seriously, this is one of the most exciting parts of the year for me.

This next week I’ll be packing 31 shoeboxes for my 31st birthday. Some churches and other groups join together and pack thousands. Many families gather together to pack one. And every single shoebox counts. Every one matters.

This week, will you join me and my family?

Family packing time

For ideas, check out our Operation Christmas Child database. And as always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions – I LOVE to help.

Because here’s the thing. This writing business? It takes a lot of time, and it even costs money to do. And sometimes I get a bit worn out.

But when I get a comment like “Thanks for sharing! I’m going to pack a shoebox!”

That, friends, is my payday as a writer.

It’s Shoebox Time!

It’s that time of year.

And I am SO excited!

Packing a Shoebox

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that Operation Christmas Child is a program that has captured my heart. Because … this.

And in two and a half weeks, collection time will be begin! People from all over will be dropping off their shoeboxes full of gifts to drop-off centers. Those boxes will head to a processing center for inspection. And then they will be delivered all over the world to children in need.

I have been hitting up clearance racks and rejoicing in back-to-school sales and using coupons of all kinds to prepare for shoebox week, and my shopping is nearly done. By shopping ahead, I am able to maximize my budget and pack many more boxes than I’d normally be able to do. But if you haven’t done any of this – there’s still time!

Shoebox pile

Just grab a box and start shopping!

If you’d like tips to get started, please look through our Operation Christmas Child database for ideas and FAQs. Or feel free to leave a comment here or on our Facebook page – if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who will!

Remember, here are the basics:

  • Choose an age group (2-4, 5-9, and 10-14) for each box. If you’re undecided, the age group with the least number of shoeboxes is 10-14-year-old boys, followed by 2-4-year-old boys.
  • Fill up the box! Remember nothing perishable or breakable. In my boxes, I include school supplies, hygiene items (double-bagged), candy (double-bagged), a stuffed animal, an article of clothing, a small sewing kit, and whatever else I can fit in there! Balls, toy cars, stickers, dolls … it’s so much fun!
  • Drop off your shoebox between November 16th and 23rd. They ask for a $7 donation per box to cover shipping. You can use cash, or (my very favorite) donate online. You will be able to print a unique barcode to attach to each box, and you will get an e-mail letting you know what country your shoebox ended up in.

Family packing time

And remember, don’t be shy about asking for help! I have friends save shoeboxes, toothbrushes (from the dentist), Happy Meal toys, tote bags, and all kinds of things for me! And a few days after Halloween, I always ask my friends for any extra candy that they’re ready to get rid of. Fortunately, the candy that’s usually leftover is the stuff that’s PERFECT for shoeboxes! I made a little picture to share on my FB page – you’re welcome to use it, too! I’ll post it November 1st.

Leftover Halloween Candy

Okay – get out there and shop! Are you in?

CVS Clearance – Bargain Shopper Alert!

If you have a CVS nearby – today is a great time to stop in, if you want to serve on a budget!

At both of the CVS stores near my house, many of their summer-ish dollar items are on clearance for 75% off. And neither store had any kind of signs up, so there was a ton of stuff on the shelves! Everything pictured here was just 25 cents. If you see these items at your store, check them out at the red “price check” machine. (And make sure to scan your CVS card at that machine, too. It prints coupons!!)

25 cent deals at CVS

* The sunglasses, hair accessories, and stickers are all great for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. That’s probably what I’ll use them for. But they are also a great donation item for a local shelter!
* The sandwich sized Ziploc bags are also great for shoeboxes – I always double-bag my candy and my soap, in the hopes of (somewhat) preventing the candy from tasting soapy. The quart-sized bags are perfect for making blessing bags!
* I had a few minutes, so I scanned a lot of the summer items and found about half of them were on clearance. I bought a jump rope for 74 cents, and my son got a fishing game for $1.49. It kept him busy for half an hour. Priceless. 🙂
* If you’re ready to really put on your bargain-shopping brain on, there’s another great deal at CVS this week. If you spend $10 on CVS toothbrushes or toothpaste, you get back $8 in Extra Bucks (which can be turned around and used immediately). So if you are planning on spending some money at CVS anyway, buy some toothbrushes (I stocked up for shoeboxes and blessing bags), get your $8, and then turn around and use that $8 coupon to buy your clearance items! The deal has a limit of 2, so I bought $20 of toothbrushes and got $16 back.

Please feel free to leave any questions for me!

School Supply deals – updated

If you’re participating in this week’s “Serving with School Supplies” challenge, I wanted to pass on a great resource. One of my favorite websites (and Facebook pages) is Clip with Purpose. These ladies are huge Operation Christmas Child shoebox packers, and all year long, they find the best deals on items that would be a good fit for shoeboxes. This week, they’ve put together a list of the best school supply sales that they could find. I’ll be hitting up Walgreens for the 39 cent scissors, and Walmart for the Dixon pencils priced at 20 for $1.

If you’d like to check up their great roundup, here it is.

Happy shopping!

Serving With School Supplies … Continued

Happy Service Thursday, everyone! This week, we will be repeating a previous challenge. Normally we wait several months before repeating a service challenge, but this one … well, we’re running out of time.

Serving with School SuppliesThis week, once again, we’re going to serve by buying a few school supplies to donate. If you haven’t read our first challenge, please check it out here.

For those of you in the US, I wanted to share a few of the best deals I’ve spotted this week:

* If you shop at Target, text SCHOOL to the number 827438. You will be sent a mobile coupon: if you spend $25 on school supplies, hand the cashier this coupon to scan, and you’ll get a free $5 Target gift card. A great way to stretch your budget!

* At Walgreens this week, Papermate pens are 29 cents for a 10 pack! This is about as low as I see pens. I stocked up this week! You can also get packs of erasers (15 caps erasers or 2 pink erasers) at 4/$1, compasses or pencil sharpeners for $.39, and protractors or index cards for $.29. (There are lots of other good deals this week, but these are my favorites.)

* Crayola crayons are on sale for $.25 this week at Kmart! This is as cheap as I ever see these. Limit 3 – bring a friend with you. 🙂

* Remember, you can price match at Walmart. But keep in mind that the brands have to match. If Crayola crayons are advertised on sale somewhere, you can match those; if a store brand of crayons are on sale, you won’t be able to.

So for a dollar or two, you can easily pick up a few extra school supplies to donate to a local organization … or to stick in your shoebox stash. My closet, once again, is getting full. And I love it. 🙂

What have you done to participate in our school supply challenge? What are you planning on doing this week?

 

It’s Shoebox Time!

It’s Service Thursday! And today, we’re going to be starting one of my FAVORITE challenges over again. It’s time to start thinking about Christmas!

(Um, Kimber? It’s May.)

I know.

But May or not … take a look at this.

Joyful, isn’t it?

And you and I? We’re going to make that happen.

Candy

Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite programs. I’ve written about it in the past, but if you’re new to Let’s Do Some Good Today (welcome!), here’s a summary. Samaritan’s Purse collects gift-filled shoeboxes in November and ships them all over the world to children in poverty as part of their Christmas ministry. If you’d like to participate, you just need to pack a shoebox with small gifts, label the age group (2-4, 5-9, or 10-14) and the gender that it’s been packed for, and drop it off at a collection center. They ask for a $7 per box donation to cover the cost of shipping. And if you pay that donation online, you can print off a unique barcode. When your shoebox arrives at its destinaton, you’ll get an e-mail telling you where it went. Last year, my boxes ended up in Mexico, Ghana, Indonesia, and the Ukraine. It was SO exciting to get those e-mails!

In case you’re not positive you want to participate …

If you can’t tell, I LOVE PACKING SHOEBOXES. And I’d love to have you join me this year.

Shoebox pile

Of course, you could just wait until November to pack your shoebox. But I’d like you to start collecting items now. This will make it SO much easier – and hopefully cheaper! As you have OCC on your mind through the next six months, you’ll catch little items on sale and pick them up. If you plan it right, you’ll never have to pay full price for anything.

006

As an example, in my closet right now, I have Christmas cups and Pez dispenser that I found on clearance at Winco, toy trains and stuffed animals that I found on clearance at Walgreens, toothpaste that I got for free with coupons at CVS, toothbrushes that were donated to me by the dentist, board books and puzzles I got on clearance at Target, needles and thread that I found on clearance at Walmart … and many, many boxes full of other treasures. I pick up these items at rock-bottom prices, tuck them away in my closet, and then in November, I don’t have to buy very much. I can just get together with my friends and have a packing party!

Candy in the water bottles

So this week, your assignment is simple: get a shoebox. (Or a shoebox-sized plastic bin.) That’s it. Just get your box. And then every few weeks, if you pick up one small item, you’ll have a wonderful shoebox ready to ship in November! If you need some ideas, you can see the original challenge here, or you can check out our Operation Christmas Child category. I’ll also be sharing more tips with you as the time gets closer.

So that’s this week’s service challenge. Are you in?

Please let me know if you have ANY questions! I would truly love to help.