Care package for a Marine
My 22 year old nephew is in the Marines and currently deployed to Afghanistan. I would like to send him and his friends a care package or two. It can take anywhere from one week to a month for them to receive packages.
I want to send home made cookies. Choco chip, cookie bars, brownies and oatmeal raisin.(These are his favorites) I also thought I would buy some trail mixes from Trader Joe.
What is the best way for me to pack the cookies so that will be somewhat fresh when they arrive? Would you use freezer bags? Would you use plastic containers? Would you put bread in the containers to keep moisture in the cookies or will the bread get moldy?
Or should I just buy name brand cookies from Costco?
A dear friend of mine spent time overseas in Afghanistan as well and a lot of the posters have offered many suggestions that he echoed during his stay. Another thing he always enjoyed were lemon drops to help stave off some of the dryness of being in such an arid climate, plus the local children were great fans of them. One thing he also craved - albeit not a food item - was the smell of fresh mowed grass. So we sealed/labeled some of that up in one of his last care packages before he came home, safely. Many thanks to your Nephew for his service.
I remember my family packing a large care package for my cousin who was a combat engineer in Vietnam. I remember asking him about the package a few years later (as a young kid I enthusiastically chose stuff to go into it). He said he doesn't remember getting it and that an REMF probably stole it.
I can't speak to the home made cookies, but this is what I sent to my brother when he was in Afghanistan last year. Everything arrived in good shape:
canned chocolate frosting (he loves it straight from the can, I don't even ask why)
gummi candies (you can get gummi soldiers and planes, these were a big hit)
crunchy granola bars
It took 3 weeks for the pacakge to get to him, so even thought I would have loved to send him home made cookies and brownies, I'm sure they would not have arrived in the best shape.The canned frosting took care of his chocolate craving and survived the trip.
The item he most loved? The baby wipes. He wasn't able to shower every day so they came in handy. And I'm sure he needed them to wipe all the yucky chocolate frosting off his fingers.
I hope your nephew and his fellow soldiers all return home safely :)
I know this isn't on topic so much, and I promise I'm not trying to pick on you, it's a really common mistake, but DivaMari's nephew is a marine, not a soldier. My husband was an airman, not a soldier. People in the Army are soldiers.
DivaMari, IME, while homemade cookies seem nice, they never got to my husband 1. in tact or 2. still good. He only wanted practical things, he didn't want homemade because of the uncertainty of how long a package would take to arrive. Being deployed and receiving a box of moldy food is a big disappointment. I recommend packaged, honestly.
Whatever you do decide, pack it well. Some of those packages get really beat up once the military post office gets them.
I'm not sure if this is still the case, but when my nephew was based in Afghanistan a few years ago, you could go to the post office and request a military kit, which they will provide and ship free of charge. Not sure if this is still the case, as a brief search of the usps site did not reveal any details, but this link provides some (albeit old) info. http://forums.military.com/eve/forums... It may be worth asking\calling for info.
My nephew was stationed at Bagram AFB, so his experience probably isn't the same as others stationed out in the field, as I was always amazed at how quickly he got his packages. I made peanut butter cookies and oatmeal cookies and brownies, stored in glad storage boxes separated by wax paper. He and his buddies also always appreciated magazines (sports and auto) and books. They also like pretzels, popcorn (again, on a base, so access to a microwave), jerky, trail mix and powdered drink mixes. And yes, using local papers to fill the box is a great two-fold use.
Also, Hickory Farms ships some items free to APOs and they were a BIG hit with the guys.
When travelling we were struck by how generous local merchants were. We were in a retro candy store in Virginia and thought it would be nice to send him a package from there. Lots of old-fashioned (not chocolate) candies and gums (oh yeah, they also LOVED getting gum). When we gave the merchant the address to ship to, she went around the store adding another dozen or so items "on her" and took care of shipping.
When we were in a pretzel store in Lititz, PA, we ordered a pretzel sampler and again, when they saw it was going to Afghanistan, they upgraded the order.
Whatever you send, be assured it will be greatly appreciated by your nephew and his buddies. Especially the homemade stuff which is apparently scarfed up in a matter of minutes.
Hot sauce can help with bland food. I would send him some packets of hot sauce from Taco Bell. Some BBQ sauce packets from McDonald's. Some mustard and ketchup packets. If he doesn't use them he can "trade" with some friends. As some have said..... crunchy cookies, not the moist oily ones.
Commercial made granola bars in packets
Also voting for high quality beef jerky
I've put together care packages for a cousin who has so far done 3 tours in Afghanistan and in Iraq. His requests for summer were pop tarts and single serve drink mix packets (Gatorade, crystal light). He was usually in pretty remote places that were not well supplied, so he also always wanted unscented lotion, socks, sheets, paper/pencils for drawing, and magazines.
A lot of sites warn against sending homemade treats - this is mostly to protect personnel receiving packages from volunteers/strangers. Your nephew should be able to trust things you send directly to him, so homemade is OK. If you do ever decide to send a package to someone other than your nephew, store bought is best.
Do not send anything chocolate this time of year. The chocolate will melt. Same goes for most high-fat candies (white chocolate, peanut butter). Similarly, if he is still overseas during the winter months, avoid sending things that will expand when frozen then leak when liquid again.
Pack the cookies in ziploc bags with wax paper between each layer, and squeeze out as much air as possible (or use a vacuum sealer if you can). Pack the box so there is some cushion around the cookies. The USPS flat rate boxes are great - you pay the same flat rate as a domestic shipment, doesn't matter how much the package weighs.
I agree with mpjmph and have to add a few things.
If you're sending food, go for the pre-packaged stuff in individual servings. Like goldfish, trail mixes, cookies etc. If possible, pack the smaller packages into gallon size zip top bags so they can reuse the zip top bags.
Personal sized packages of wipes (baby, moist towelettes...you get my drift) are nice too so they can carry them for a quick clean up/cool off.
Books and magazines are always welcome. Pack local newspapers as your stuffer matieral so they can keep up on local news.
DivaMari, you may want to re-think the chocolate chip. It's a hot ride over there, and they most likely be a gooey mess by the time your nephew gets them. I'd make crunchy cookies, rather than moist, to avoid the mold issue. Think about what cookies you'd want to eat after you'd left them in a steel box in your sunny back yard for a month, then make that. Oatmeal raisin sounds good, or shortbread. Or a chocolate crackle cookie.
I'd love to hear a follow up on this. My stepson is in Afghanistan, too, and if this works for you, I may try it too!