Anna (Foldvary) De Sousa is so good at couponing—clipping coupons to find local bargains—that she's gotten an $800 grocery bill down to just $7, and she regularly fills her basement or living room with items she got.
"This is what makes me happy," she said. "I'm helping people. It keeps me going after losing my husband."
It was De Sousa's husband, Thomas, who first urged her to start clipping coupons to save money at the store. About 21 years ago he presented her a challenge: For every dollar she saved with coupons, he would match it and increase the grocery allowance.
The Valley Cottage, NY resident became so effective that her husband stopped the deal, but she continued it as a hobby. As the home filled up with the bargain items, she ealized she could use her skill for good.
"I can’t use 200 tubes of toothpaste and soups and all this stuff," she said. "So I found some charities."
Her story is known well locally, where she is referred to as the "Coupon Queen," but De Sousa said she hopes she can get national attention and perhaps even inspire people in other communities to do similar work.
For over two decades she's helped load mail trucks full of groceries that have been sent overseas for use by U.S. troops. She also sends goods to charities such as hospitals, soup kitchens and food pantries, among others.
Now she gets calls from strangers thanking her for putting food on their table. The most incredible call she received was from the Army, which reported that after someone was shot they clogged the bullet wound with a donated Tampax.
“They said, ‘Anna that was in your pile, you might have saved somebody’s life,”’ she said.
Rockland County Legislature member Ed Day, R-New City, has worked with De Sousa before and said he knows how big of a help these donations can be, as he's had two sons in the Army.
“I don’t think people understand how important these routine items are to those folks serving overseas,” Day said in a previous Patch article. “My own son was by a riverbed for a month, trying to recover two of this troopers (and) they had no supplies. So these things are godsends to them."
After De Sousa's husband died suddenly in 2000, she felt lost. But continuing the coupon tradition, which he first urged her to do, has helped her find meaning.
"This is just an outlet for me to honor him since he died," De Sousa said.
For people looking to replicate this work in their communities, De Sousa said they should know it's a lot of work. She clips coupons every day, researches the deals and spends hours going up and down aisles at local stores. Check out Couponing.com to learn more about how to get started locally.