Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shop Smart

Okay - since apparently cooking may be a lost cause, I think I should focus my attention on something I do really well - SHOPPING.  I am definitely a last minute shopper, mostly because I love daydreaming of the perfect gift - sometimes it pops into my mind and I am done in November and sometimes I'm braving the crowds on Christmas Eve.  Honestly - I know parking lots and register lines get crazy - but I really enjoy Christmas shopping.  I love thinking about who I am buying for and why they are important in my life and what are some of the things they would enjoy and why I would be the right person to get it for them.  Maybe I'm weird, but I find the whole process kind of magical.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, my family decided that we weren't really going to exchange gifts anymore, we were just going to support some of our favorite charities.  To some extent we still do this and I absolutely love it.  I know Bruce and I are tightly budgeted because I am in school full time, but we really are blessed and have so much.  Alternative giving is a great way to honor someone you love and to live out the Good News, being part of a powerful outreach and ministry.

This is one of my favorite ways to give:

Heifer Project International works with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth.  They work in developing countries all around the world.
1 - Honeybees ($30) help struggling families earn income through the sale of honey, beeswax and pollen.
2 - Trees ($60) can be planted to help families learn how to keep their small plots of land healthy and renew the soil for future generations.
3 - A Flock of Chicks ($20) can help families add nourishing, life-sustaining eggs to their diets.
4 - Sheep ($120), besides being ADORABLE, provide wool and meat for entire communities.  Sheep also give birth twins or trips and they can graze hilly and rocky pastures that other livestock cannot.
5 - A Trio of Rabbits ($60) can provide multiple families with protein.  Rabbits multiply quickly and therefore your gift goes a long way beyond the initial family that you're helping.
6 - Ducks ($20) add protein to a family's menu, as well as provide help in the fields, removing weeds and bugs and adding fertilizer.

What I love about Heifer is that so many of the opportunities are affordable for people who only have a few extra dollars to spare.  There are some more expensive options (Heifers and Water Buffalo and Pigs, OH MY) but - for the most part anybody can take part!!  Click here for more ways to donate.

I know there are people out there (ahem, me) that like to actually GIVE someone something - but still support a good cause.  Here are two of my favorite ways to do that ...

Chances are, you have heard of fair trade coffee.  The proceeds from the coffee go directly back to the bean farmers.  But what about chocolate and tea?  Nuts and berries?  Yes!!  You can buy them all fair trade!!  Here's how:

My favorite fair trade organization is Equal Exchange - I was connected to them through my church (the United Church of Christ works in partnership with Equal Exchange as they encourage their churches to eat and drink fair trade.

(This is ALL organic!!)

1 - Tea ($4-$5/box) - try Earl Grew, English Breakfast, Green Magic, Green, Irish Breakfast and Rooibos.
2 - Cocoa ($7.75/12 oz. canister) - take your pick of either hot cocoa or spicy hot cocoa.
3 - Coffee ($8-$9/bag) - I can taste the difference between good and bad coffee and this is definitely GOOD coffee - try Love Buzz, Breakfast Blend, French Roast, Colombian, French Vanilla, Hazelnut Creme and more!! (Decaf options available as well)
4 - Nuts & Berries ($5-$7/bag) - Cranberries, Almonds and Pecans
5 - Chocolate ($4/bar) - trust me when I say, "YUM."  Lots of different kinds, sizes and packaging.

Okay ... and now for one of my FAVORITE places to shop online - The Hunger Site.  I absolutely adore this site - the price is right, the products are unique, they are artisan made and the money goes back to the communities that produce the products.  If you aren't interested in buying anything, just check out the main page - there is a button to click and for every click their sponsors will donate food to communities in developing countries.  There are also additional tabs for Breast Cancer awareness, Child Health advocacy, Literacy development, Rainforest restoration and Animal Rescue programs.

Here are some of my favorites from the store:

1 - Nepali Sterling & Lapis Mandala Earrings ($21.95)
2 - Silvery Circles Bracelet ($16.95)
3 - Handmade Recycled Kimono Ring ($16.95)
4 - Square Spiral Sodalite Earrings ($18.95)
5 - Recycled Cotton Patchwork Clutch ($14.95)
6 - Open-Square Roman Glass & Sterling Necklace ($32.95)
7 - South African Handwoven Mohair Scarf ($24.00)

The cool thing about shopping at the Hunger Site is that every time you buy something the sponsors of the site will donate food to communities throughout the world.

I love that "alternative gift giving" doesn't just mean picking a charity and sending a check.  There are ways to give within your circle while still giving in a powerful way to those outside.

Let me know if you all have any traditions or ways of giving alternatively around the holidays.  I know several people (in real life and in the blog world) who work with local Ronald McDonald Houses.  My church also supports the Children's Rescue Mission (this is a Christian-based educational mission in Honduras - I have been blessed to be able to visit there twice so far) and the Fuller Center for Housing (similar to Habitat).  A few years ago my sister donated in our honor to St. Jude Children's Hospital.

It definitely doesn't take much to make a big difference!!

Happy (Smart) Shopping!!



  1. They also make fair trade for keurigs - great coffee and you have the ability to help - many products such as tide and top cereal companies are taking procedes from certain products and giving it to charities.

    Also if you don't mind- you can always spend a few dollars and donate to toys for tots and if you can't afford that - a letter to our military is a great thing - cost is less than a dollar and is always appreciated. These are 2 grat ways to help people here at home!!!! God bless our men and women in uniform and their families!!

    Merry Christmas and all my love!!
    Courtney L.

  2. I've heard of a couple of those, but some are new! Thanks for the heads up. We just delivered 76 stockings to two of our Ronald McDonald Houses here in Denver tonight!


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