Reader Melissa asked a great question recently. I’ve thought about it, too, and think I have an opinion, but I’d love to hear what you all think:

“I want to be generous to those who are less fortunate than me. I really do. I feel that we have a responsibility to care for them. There are lots of web sites out there that point to free or cheap deals (with coupons) at various stores. It’s frequently recommended that you stockpile what your family needs, then give the rest away to those who need it.

“My problem is that, now that I know how many bad things are in most prepackaged products (food and toiletries), I have a REALLY hard time donating things that I don’t consider to be good enough for my own family. I know that ‘beggars can’t be choosers,’ but am I really helping someone by giving them something that has harmful chemicals in it?

“Yet at the same time, I doubt that many homeless folks are able to cook from scratch. I feel badly about not giving more things away, but I would also feel badly about giving people something that I wouldn’t give my own family.”

Is it nobler to pass on buying goods with questionable ingredients, and therefore not affording to give at all? Or do you feel like it’s better to give what’s available, so that those who can’t afford anything at all can have—well, something?

What do you think? Where is that balance between being generous, while not spending money on things you’d rather not?