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Package to a soldier

We have been thinking about sending boxes to some soldiers that we know of that are now serving in Iraq. But, I have no clue about what would be desired or needed other than candy or gum. Any suggestions?

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  1. Speaking from personal experience (retired 20 year Air Force) -
    Any thing that can survive the shipping and delays.

    Homemade cookies
    hard cheeses
    Sausages (to go with the cheese)
    Crackers (to go with the sausage and cheese)

    Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen are always happy to receive anything from home that is sent with love and caring.
    "Care Packages" are often the first mail opened and will usually be shared among all members of the unit (so send large packages).

    Thank you from a former military member for your thoughts of those serving their country.

    1. Check this site for a list. They also have a list of what not to send

      Also know, if the address you are sending it to is in the US - you can use those flat rate boxes the post office has - about $9 that way you don't have to worry about the weight.

      I sent the following items to my cousin
      Toilet paper
      Sweetened Drink Mixes
      packets of hot sauce
      Pouches of Tuna/Salmon
      Packaged rice krispie treats
      Fruit leather
      Hand sanitizer
      Wet wipes
      lip balm

      If you don't want to run around to all different stores to get the stuff, you could order from http://www.minimus.biz/ - they have individual sizes of sauces, cereals etc. Have it shipped to you and then pack the stuff in your box

      1 Reply
      1. re: LisaN

        LisaN's list is good. While my son was in Iraq he begged us for "real food" not snacks. And since I knew the guys he was with all shared out their goodie boxes I would send him meals that would feed at least 4. He had access to a microwave but no real cooking facilities.

        One meal I sent him was a Taco dinner: Vacuum sealed packages of already spiced hamburger, boxes of ready shaped tortillas, bottles of the chunkiest salsa and hot sauce, a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, I opted for Cheez-Whiz because I knew it would travel without a problem.

        Another meal I sent was vacuum sealed foil packets of lemon pepper salmon, a bottle of lemon juice, a bottle of squeezy margarine, several cans of asparagus.

        And... pouched chicken, a jar of alfredo, a can of parmesan, dried spinach pasta and a microwave gadget for cooking the pasta. We also did a variation on this with canned clams and shrimp.

        Included were instructions of how to put the meals together. We sent him several other meals that we were able to assemble out of the array of precooked stuff on the market.

        I believe it's Zatarain's that puts out a number of rice concotions already cooked in a boilabag type of affair.

        There's lots of options out there that will travel well to the guys and we enjoyed exploring the aisles

        Non- refridgerated pudding cups, fruit cups in water, microwave dessert bowls in the flour/baking aisle, dried frut and nuts ("Pleeeze tell Gramma not to send any more raisins!"). Any snack that comes in a can like Pringles.

        Another thing we did for condiments since he didn't have a fridge was to get our local restaurant to order mayo, ketchup, relish and mustard packets for us.
        Son converted these into "hollandaise sauce" with the lemon juice and "Thousand Island dressing" as well as the normal uses. He could open as many packets as he needed and the rest would still be fresh and sealed at room temp (or desert temp).

        Powdered gatorade was a biggie and we sent other powdered drinks as well

        Any kind of dried sausage like beef stick...no pork products! Bridgeford brand traveled well

        Son said he was able to get fresh veggie and fruit stuff in the local markets so while I did send him some canned fruits and veggies he seemed to be able to procur fresh for himself regularly.

        AAA batteries and duct tape were high on his list of non-food items

        We packaged everything quite tightly so it wouldn't shift in transit, tried to send as little glass as possible and jars we did send were wrapped thickly in bubble wrap and positioned in the center surrounded on all sides by the boxed and plastic items. Everything went through without breakage.

      2. The site: http://www.anysoldier.com allows soldiers to post what they'd like to receive, where they're located, and how many men and women in their group. It's a great place to go to see what soldiers are asking for, even if you don't send to the soldiers listed there specifically.

        a number of soldiers ask for jerky/sausages, nuts, and other high-protein items. another common request is for powered drink mix, b/c often soldiers are stationed places where the water isn't palatable.

        I've often sent snacks in tins or cylinders (pringles, etc) that will hold up well if the boxes they're in take some abuse.

        fyi: legal restrictions forbid sending any pork or alcohol products.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nc213

          NC--This might not be the proper place for this question, but can you vouch for the legitimacy of this site?
          My fiance and I have been thinking about sending stuff for some time now, but have been afraid our packages might end up somewhere other than with the soldiers.
          I would love to take the ideas on this board and send a care package. Thanks

        2. All excellent recs. I've sent pork jerky to Iraq no problem. Cigarettes too - even if your soldiers don't smoke, they can be bartered for other goods with the smokers or given as a gift. If they are Marines, send more as our devil dogs always get the crappiest assignment and do more with less equipment! If they are stationed in the Green Zone, they want for nothing.

          For shipping, the Post Office has a Priority Mail, flat rate box: all you can fit into the box for this one economical rate. It's not a huge box, rectangular in shape, not square.
          And you'll need to use the large US Custom forms (white), not the small green one.

          4 Replies
          1. re: scoopG

            That's something I never encountered even though I've been told often others have. I never filled out a customs form for any of the boxes I sent, nobody at the post office told me I had to, I was unaware I had to, and son received them all unopened. Don't know why or how this happened, it just did.

            1. re: morwen

              It may be just a NYC thing! But that's the way at my local P.O. here. In the early years of the Iraq war, the small green customs form was all they required. But around 2005-06 they demanded the larger white form - in which you must list and describe the items enclosed. I surmise that it might have had to do with alcohol being sent over there and they wanted perhaps more accountability on the part of the sender. Plus military inspectors could readily see the list of enclosed items and the form is in triplicate. Happy to hear your son received all his care packages! There is a certain amount of pilfering by the logistics people in Kuwait as some of mine never arrived.

              1. re: scoopG

                We were living in Floyd, VA (extremely rural) at the time (2004) we were sending the packages and we were aware of the pilfering. A box from his wife containing a newly autographed book by one of his favorite writers arrived sans book. I took to emailing him a list of the box contents before I sent it so he would be able to compare it to the contents when it arrived. I also made sure that the box was paper wrapped and then furiously taped so if it arrived without a wrapper he would know it had been opened.

                1. re: morwen

                  I know what you mean! I enclose my own packing list inside the box, tape another one to the outside of the box and then wrap that box up in brown postal wrapping paper. That means no flat rate special price from the USPS though. I think most of any pilfering occurs in Kuwait or at some mail depot in-country, not within the actual unit itself. Marines never steal, they only "acquire" things!

          2. This past holiday season, my workplace decided to send care packages to our friends/family members serving overseas instead of doing the usual door prizes at the holiday luncheon. The wish lists were compiled for everyone to donate. Here's what they requested:

            DVDs and CDs
            Small Flashlights and Multi-tools
            Batteries - AA and AAA
            Games: Dominoes, Playing Cards, Yo-Yos, Electronic Hand-held Games, Brain Teaser or Puzzle Books
            Paperback Books and Magazines
            Writing Paper, Pens, Envelopes
            Pedicure/Manicure Kits (Even guys need nail clippers!)
            AT&T Phone Cards
            Disposable Cameras
            Hand/Foot Warmers
            Warm Socks
            Shoe Insoles
            Foot Powder
            Chapstick, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Eye Drops, Sunscreen, Lotion, Hand Sanitizer, Shaving Cream, Disposable Razors, Deodorant (Be sure to separately package toiletries so that smells and/or leaks will not affect the yummy food in your box.)
            Baby Wipes in Soft-Sided Containers

            Beef or turkey dried sausage or jerkey
            Hot Chocolate
            Instant Coffee (Like International Foods brand)
            Instant Drink Mix (Like Gatorade)
            Hard Candy - Individually Wrapped
            Cookies and Granola Bars
            Trail Mix
            Dry Roasted Peanuts

            1. I sent to a friend's son

              canned tuna
              mac n cheese in a box dried
              razor blades
              sheet sleeping bag

              1. I appreciated (honestly) everything that showed up in the care packages I received while in Iraq, but the real hits from a gastronomic point of view were:

                (1) White Cheddar Popcorn and Caramel Corn;
                (2) Those lunch packets of tuna, crackers, and mayonnaise;
                (3) Sipping cans of Campbell's Soup, for those with access to a microwave;
                (4) Cheddar / other hard or waxy cheeses - shrink-wrapped, these survive;
                (5) Big tins of Dean and DeLuca Rugelach. Oh, wow, those were a hit;
                (6) Nuts - cashews, pistachios, macadamias, almonds.;
                (7) Walker's Shortbread - well, any shortbread, well-wrapped;
                (8) Hot chocolate mix (in winter - it can get cold there);
                (9) Dried apricots, cranberries, apples, prunes, pears, etc.;
                (10) Nutella, peanut butter, good jam, etc., with cookies/wafers/crackers;
                (11) Wasabi peas.

                If your soldier friends have access to a hotplate (you'd be surprised; some people get pretty creative), let me know - I have a wealth of recipes that can be cooked on a one-burner Iraqi hotplate using packaged foods sent in by mail, a saucepan and lid, a cast iron skillet, a grater, a can opener, a knife, and a wooden spoon, including a killer wild rice, cranberry, and almond salad with balsamic-orange dressing I made once by reducing little cartons of long-life orange juice pilfered from the chow hall:)

                1. Coming up with that list made me...well, nostalgic wouldn't be the right word, but it made me remember the possible utility of passing on shopping lists for the friends and family of eager cooks serving in Iraq who've rigged a hotplate to a generator (or whatever; there are infinite variants).

                  Reality: anyone serving in Iraq, regardless of electricity supply, has little time to cook. But I remember that the once-a-month I did manage to find the time had a great effect my and everyone else's morale, especially during the holidays.

                  So just in case this is useful: here are shopping lists for a number of meals that can be cooked with a one-burner hotplate and the (very) basic cooking equipment described in the previous post. (All assume you've prepped your cook by sending (1) those small supermarket salt-and-pepper grinders, and (2) a carton or tin of olive oil.

                  Penne with Marinara, Black Olives, and Feta: Pomi Marinara Sauce (Carton), Dried Penne or other Pasta, Shrink-Wrapped Parmesan, Dried Oregano, Fresh Garlic, Black Olives, Feta Preserved in Olive Oil

                  Spaghetti with Chili-Tuna Sauce: Canned Chopped Tomatoes, Dried Spaghetti or other Pasta, Tinned Tuna, Dried Fennel Seeds, Dried Red Chili Flakes, Fresh Garlic, Clam Juice (Canned), Anchovies (Tinned and Optional)

                  White Beans with Sundried Tomatoes and Chorizo*: Canned Canellini or other White Beans, (Dried Spanish, like Palacios) Chorizo, Fresh Garlic, Dried Fennel Seeds, Sundried Tomatoes (Dried), White Wine or Sherry Vinegar (*also great with tinned Tuna instead of Chorizo)

                  Mushroom Risotto*: Risotto Rice, Chicken Stock (Carton), Fresh Shallots or Onion, Dried Porcini Mushrooms, Saffron, Shrink-Wrapped Parmesan, Grater (*requires a microwave if your Iraqi hotplate is one-burner. If your Iraqi hotplate is two-burner, you're good to go with no nuke)

                  Wild Rice Salad: Wild Rice, Dried Apricots and Cranberries, Slivered Almonds, Chicken Stock (Carton), Balsamic Vinegar, Fresh Shallots or Onion, Dried Bay Leaves, Shelf-Stable Orange Juice

                  Lentils with Mustard Vinaigrette: Puy or Beluga Lentils, Chicken Stock (Carton), Fresh Shallots or Onion, Fresh Garlic, Dried Bay Leaves, Dried Thyme, Mustard, White Wine or Sherry Vinegar. To serve alongside: Gruyere or other similar Cheese, Crackers or Flatbread

                  Jacked-Up Crack and Cheese: Annie's Pasta and Shells with White Cheddar, Fresh Sharp Cheddar (Shrink-Wrapped or Wax-Wrapped), Grain Mustard, Hot Sauce.

                  Recipes on request. And for meals requiring a hefty credit card bill but no recipe...

                  The Best Cold Cuts Ever: There are a lot of reasons you're probably not supposed to do this, legal and health included. But heck. One Christmas, friends and family sent out a Niman Ranch Jamon Royal, a Smoked (smoked is key) Turkey Breast, and several Andouille Sausages. (The meat was frozen before shipping, put into small USPS Flat Rate boxes - which travel fastest - and shipped in mid-winter.) They also threw in cheddar, gruyere, leyden, murcia al vino, and goat cheddar. Plus mustard and pickled onions, and some (a lot of) cocktail rye. And cornichons. Oh yes, and See's chocolates (again, winter). Mindful that there are very few people anywhere who get Christmas dinners of that caliber (we woke up at 0400 after an 0100 bedtime to cook the wild rice salad and the lentils as accompaniments), let alone folks serving in Iraq, we spread the wealth as far as we could. And it was awesome.

                  1. My brother is in the Navy and his ship is currently deployed. Around Christmas, my mom went to Costco and bought a bunch of the individually packaged snacks, candy and gum. Sometimes the packages take a long time to get there, so if you want to send food, it's best to send things with very distant expiration dates and in small packages.

                    I have a friend who was deployed to Iraq 5 years ago. I would go to used bookstores and garage sales and pick up cheap paperbacks to send him. Some of them have a lot of downtime and books are a inexpensive form of entertainment. You might be able to send them via Media Mail, too.

                    It is very nice of you to do that for those who have volunteered to serve our country. I know from my experiences that the service personnel appreciate the thought and generosity.

                    1. I really like your request. I feel that something that reminds them of thier home state is best. For example, A package to a soldier from California might include some jam from Knott's and some candy from See's.

                      From the Chesapeake Bay area maybe some Crab House Nuts


                      Link: http://www.sees.com/