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Independence Day reflections - coupons for military families

Fireworks. BBQs. Parades. Uncle Jack having one too many margaritas and dancing around with a bucket on his head. AGAIN. The old standbys of July 4th weekend.

But it's near impossible to get through the entire holiday weekend without reflecting on the benefactors of our freedom, as much as it's impossible to watch the news without hearing something about those serving our country overseas. In this election year, the war in the middle east will likely be a pivotal point in the decision making process...the men and women serving in the military are front and center in our minds now more than ever.

I can't do a whole lot to help the human face of the bigger "MILITARY". I donate items for care packages. I have dropped a buck on a sticker, ribbon or button here and there. But I got really excited when I heard about the Overseas Coupon Program.

Military personnel and their families living on base generally shop at the base commissaries - they struggle as much as we do to keep their budgets in line, and the commissaries aren't exactly discounted because they have to ship in the goods from the states. But we can help by mailing our coupons - current AND recently expired - to the bases, as the commissaries will accept coupons up to 6 months past their expiration date. In that way, we are not just helping those serving overseas, but also the families who uproot their lives to support their loved one who is serving. We sometimes forget those faces behind the scenes.

Guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Coupons should be no more than 2 months past their expiration date when mailed (there has to be time for the package of coupons to reach the base, be sorted, distributed, and used before the 6 month cutoff)
  • Manufacturer's coupons ONLY. No store-specific coupons, food stamps, or restaurant coupons
  • Clip the coupons neatly (not only to make it easier on those receiving them, but also to save postage...all that extra paper adds weight!
  • Separate into "Food" and "Non-Food" items. The bases have a "Commissary" - a grocery store selling food items, and "BX" or "PX" which is more like a department store. "Food" items are anything consumable by humans that provides calories. Pet food is a "non-food" item, as are vitamins, but things like Ensure are considered "Food".
  • Bag and label the coupons along with a total value of coupons for each type being donated. No staples, rubber bands or paper clips. For example, one package may have 2 ziploc bags in them - one marked "Food - $100" and the other "non-food - $75.00"
  • Mail directly to the base. Cheapest form of mailing will be "parcel post". Use a customs certificate when mailing that states you are mailing a "gift" and the value is 0.00. If the post office says you need a name of a person - tell them it is "official mail" and being sent to a position, not a person.

The Overseas Coupon Program provides a list of bases that are accepting coupons, there is no minimum donation amount so you can send something whether you are an individual or a group. Since most of that excess paper will just end up in the recycling bin, why not send it where it can be put to good use? If you'd be interested in starting a group with me, leave a comment!

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