Personal Care Bags: How Everyday Items Can Make a Huge Impact

Hurricanes and other natural disasters are devastating and leave us wanting to help. Bonus points if we can include our own kids in the process.

San Antonio Food Bank is coordinating local aid for Hurricane Harvey victims, collecting donations including but not limited to: formula, diapers, food, school supplies, maxi pads, cold medicines, and toiletries. Displaced families arrive with little to nothing. They need simple everyday items we take for granted.

Last week, I, along with my son and his homeschooled friends, sorted donations at the SA Food Bank. I learned a few things that day:

  1. If you or your family wouldn’t use it, don’t donate it. People fleeing a hurricane or losing everything to a disaster won’t want it either.
  2. Donate new, sealed/unopened items. I found a half-used donated box of laxatives, closed with yellowed tape. I pictured someone, maybe an older person on a budget, going through their medicine cabinet. They found the box of laxatives and thought, Someone could use these. It’s better than nothing, for a little help getting things moving. Bless their heart—they’re right. However, that box was tossed because it had already been opened and used. I’m a little worried. Sometime, the donor is gonna wish they’d kept that box.
  3. Donate individually packaged items. A package of 30 toothbrushes is great for the Duggars. Not so much for a family of three or an individual. Superstore packages can’t be opened and separated, because ew! My family won’t use toothbrushes touched by my grubby fingers, so why would anyone else?
  4. Consider the simplest things, like items for an overnight stay and things for your purse, diaper bag, or glove compartment. Hand wipes, deodorant, and combs are needed. We ran out of toothbrushes and toothpaste in the first 10 minutes that I was there—the most basic, universal hygiene items for all ages. Well-known author and Houstonian Brenè Brown made a video this week from a Houston shelter discussing the need for underwear. Click here to learn more.

At the Food Bank, a group of women/moms (including myself) made “women’s bags” with feminine hygiene needs. We included various maxi pads for different days of flow, tampons, lip gloss, a bottle of ibuprofen, and a package of Starbucks instant coffee. We tucked this “surprise” between pads and hoped we’d give a knowing smile to a tired woman/mom. Maybe she’d know a group of women made this bag and thought of her.

A Food Bank representative later told me he loves ideas like this. He said they happily accept pre-made useful bags. My brain went to work.

I thought of all kinds of bags: family/individual shower bags, cold/flu bags, children’s bags, etc.

Creating personal care bags is a simple way anyone can help, including kids. You don’t have to make a million bags. One personal bag of everyday, taken-for-granted items can make a mom’s day. It may help her whole world spin more smoothly during a tumultuous time.

If coming up with extra cash or getting out with littles is an issue, look around your house, in your medicine cabinet, and in your bathroom. Here’s what I found in mine:

My finds after “shopping” through the linen closet.

Disclosure: My husband has a thing for buying shampoo and conditioner in bulk. I love hand cream. Also, #nojudgment, we save those small travel-sized bottles of shampoo, toothpaste, etc. from hotels. Those work great in personal care bags.

Here’s what I put together with stuff I had at home:


Later, I went to HEB for items to make more bags. HEB has shown up for Texans affected by disasters. I wanted to show them some love. Turns out, they showed me love with some amazing deals.

First, I went to toothbrushes where I found this sweet deal:

Then, I considered what a family like mine would need for a few showers. HEB rewarded me with some great buys. I bought shampoo and conditioner for adults and children, dental care items, lotion, etc. 

Check out some of these finds at HEB last week:


If you’re shopping for the family, picking up an extra toothbrush, shampoo, etc. is a great way to make a personal care bag without break the bank. At anytime, these bags can be donated to multiple agencies, including the SA Food Bank.

Need more ideas for what to include in your personal care bag? Here are the top 10 requested items to donate:

  1. Dental care items: toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, etc.
  2. Hair care items: shampoo, conditioner, comb, hair ties, clips, barrettes, etc. A two-in-one shampoo/conditioner is ideal.
  3. Band-Aids
  4. Tissues
  5. Hand wipes/anti-bacterial cleanser
  6. Lotion
  7. Bar soap/body wash
  8. Deodorant
  9. Shaving cream/razors
  10. Women’s care items: maxi pads, tampons, panty liners, etc.

Medium-sized and travel-sized items are easiest to pack. Jumbo sizes offered at Costco or Sam’s can be hard to fit into small baggies. Remember: make sure everything is new, sealed, and in date. This small effort will make a HUGE difference. 

Recently, a few families got together—four moms and five kids. We pooled our resources and spent an hour making 120 personal care bags and 107 snack bags for local paramedics traveling all over Texas to render aid to individuals and hospitals affected by Hurricane Harvey. I challenge you and your family to do the same! How many care bags can you and your kids make in a day, and to whom did you donate them? Let us know in the comments. 


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