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Care package do's & don'ts

Discussion in 'United We Stand' started by live4christp1, Jan 13, 2011.

  1. live4christp1

    live4christp1 DIS Veteran

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    Please share your care package tips with me. Will be sending to DH in the near future. Also have many friends asking me how they can help and I think our church is going to put together some for the unit so that every soldier is getting something on a regular basis.

    Favorite items

    Easiest to ship

    Recipes for any baked goods you have had good experience with

    Needs

    No - no's

    Best way to ship

    Of course, myself and the kids will be sending to DH regularly but also want to help with any other efforts that go to other soldiers in the unit. This is our first deployment so I need all the tips you can think of.

    Thanks!
    Cristy
     
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  3. live4christp1

    live4christp1 DIS Veteran

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    some of the things I can think of are:

    drink mix powders to add to water

    beef jerky/slim jims

    sunflower seeds/nuts

    pocket hand sanitizers (DH hasn't been gone a week and already purchased two)

    disposable razors

    magazines




    Can we send them cases of bottled water? or do they have access to bottled water?
     
  4. lovemygoofy

    lovemygoofy DIS Veteran

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    okay I'm going to answer the questions in no particular order before listing things for boxes.

    1. No don't mail water. They have an endless amount of it.
    2. Order a flat rate box supply at post office website. The APO flat rate boxes are a good size and hold a good amount and shipped for under $15. The only catch is the box has to retain it's shape. No trying to fudge the lid closed.
    3. I suggest you wait at least a month or so until your husband gets to theater before you send anything. Chances are he will move more than once when he gets there.
    4. Pack everything in its own ziploc bags. You never know what will melt or explode and the ziploc bags come in very handy. My husband had everything he owned in some form of a ziploc bag I think and still managed to have sand in most of the stuff.

    As for the church and people wanting to send boxes, talk to the FRG leader and your husband. I would let them get settled and see what they need wherever they are. Some places have good shoppettes/PX and some have squat. Once you get an idea that helps you tell people what to put in the boxes.

    Suggestions:
    Food/Snack Items
    Beef/turkey jerky
    Ham, chicken or tuna salad lunch kits (includes the can of meat, crackers, mayo, relish, and little spoon)
    Cans/sealed packages of chicken, ham, or tuna in a bag (little packets of mayo can be found at gas stations to send along)
    Crackers including soda, salad, and Ritz
    Small summer sausage
    Pasta buckets
    Cans of soup with pop tops
    Tabasco sauce or bbq sauce
    Hard candy
    Little Debbie snacks
    Cans of chips such as Torengos or Pringles
    Plastic bowls or cans of dips including salsa, cheese dip, and bean dip
    Granola/cereal bars
    Lunch box sized packets of cookies, cheese nips, cheese &cracker/breadsticks
    Good coffee or cocoa
    Juice boxes off the shelf not the cold section
    Pre-sweetened drink mix like kool-aid, tea, lemonade, or Gatorade

    General Items
    Boxes of holiday greeting cards unsigned
    Envelopes, paper, and pens
    DVD’s—blank and with programs
    Cd’s—blank and recorded
    AA batteries
    Int’l phone cards (best found at post office)
    Magazines and local news papers
    Disposable cameras if applicable
    White athletic socks
    Good toilet paper
    Deck of cards
    Handheld/travel size games
    Frisbees
    Athletic equipment like basketball, football, and soccer
    Board games
    Books/books on cd

    “Theme Boxes”
    Holiday boxes including funny or cute decorations
    Stocking filled in a box
    Coffee/cocoa box (include things like biscotti, cookies, or flavorings with the coffee)
    Birthday box
    Movie night box (sweets, a dvd movie, microwave popcorn and whatever else sounds good)
     
  5. jsmith

    jsmith <font color=darkorchid>And now I am off to get my

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    Absolutely use the APO flat rate boxes-generally even if you have to send two its cheaper than one of the others-additionally they are a nice uniform size so they pack on palettes easier and get there faster. Priority mail does matter-they do get there faster.

    Fill your customs forms out at home-before you leave for the post office-its a courtesy to the others in line-especially if you are sending mulitple boxes.

    No pork products of any kind, no pornography and no alcohol. Confine sending chocolate to the time between thanksgiving and valentines day-other wise it arrives a melted icky mess.

    vacuum seal home baked goods-stick to crisp cookies not soft things which will mold easily. While most things get there in 8 to 14 days i did have one box take 5 weeks this summer and another case were i was a bit slow and the recipient came home on leave so they too 13 days to arrive and then sat for 20 days while he was away.

    Agree about waiting to see what the PX is like-my husband has always been lucky to be where he could buy most of the snacky stuff he wanted. but i have a friend in one of 4th ids armor units who has been stuck in BFE four times. He always wants tons of M and Ms-lol.

    Edited to add-a word about disposable razors-my husband prefers to use a rechargeable electric razor when he is deployed. Its the only time he uses one. The shower situation-particularly on his first trip was iffy and water usage limited. His skin is sensitive and he hates to dry shave. so-electric is the answer for him.
     
  6. live4christp1

    live4christp1 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for the great tips!

    I meant to ask about cereal too. Maybe the little individual bowls that you just pop the top and add milk or eat dry or the small boxes. Have also seen some $1.00 boxes of several varieties at Wal-mart - a little bigger than the single serving box but should fit into on of those boxes nicely. Also, oatmeal comes in the individual bowls too and ramen noodles. DH loves ramen noodles (don't know why as I think they are yuck :rotfl: ) I guess those are okay to send as well?

    Thanks again!

    You both are a huge help!!!!!
     
  7. WeDisney4

    WeDisney4 Mouseketeer

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    Care Package Don't...

    DDs love Peanut Butter & Fluff (that marshmallows whip in a jar) Sandwiches however only get them as a treat (school's out, vacations, etc.) so they thought it would be awesome to send some in their care package.

    The Fluff exploded all over everything!! :scared1: Luckily they were able to salvage their goodies while having fun figuring out what the sticky stuff was and then a good :laughing: !!

    Don’t send Fluff. :thumbsup2

    P.S. I also saw Hickory Farms was having a sale with free shipping to APO and FPO addresses. :woohoo:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
  8. live4christp1

    live4christp1 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks!
     
  9. Stephanie218

    Stephanie218 DIS Veteran

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    Haha, my in-laws had a similar story this last deployment. I'm not sure how they made it through the first deployment sending care packages without bubble-wrapping/putting things in plastic baggies, but this time they shipped salsa. It took a good 8 weeks to get over there, broke on the way, and the box arrived wet & full of mold. My husband had to throw EVERYTHING in the box out, which just seems like such a waste of the time & money spent buying everything.

    So - morale of the story - wrap everything very well! I usually try to save the packing materials I get in things shipped to me for a few months before deployments and then reuse it.

    You already got a bunch of great ideas for care package items, but here is a link for cake that will stay good in a canning jar. I sent it over for my husband's birthday last year, and it was a big hit.

    http://awtr.blogspot.com/2007/09/cake-in-jar.html

    I sent the oatmeal packs and cans of soup (my husband's not a ramen fan). I tried sending the small packs of cereal the first time, but he said they were not "man-sized" and did nothing to fill him up lol.
     
  10. jsmith

    jsmith <font color=darkorchid>And now I am off to get my

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    These are hugely popular and according to good food science extremely risky. I have baked and sent them and mike loved them and i know a girl who did enough pint jars for her husbands entire platoon but be aware baking a cake does not get hot enough to kill botulism spores and the sealing process traps moisture -an anerobic enviroment with moisture is botulism heaven. So if you are going to do this make sure your jars are absolutely sterile and still hot when you pour you batter in. (Botuslism toxin is the worst type of food poisining and can be fatal-its not a very large risk but there is one. botulism is the reason you home can in sterile glass jars and that you process them for 15 minutes after sealing).
    After i got this lecture from my food scientist mother i slighly modified the bacardi cake recipe and started sending those-they seem to get there just fine too. Mike loved the jar cakes but now im scared of poisioning him.
     
  11. live4christp1

    live4christp1 DIS Veteran

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    I had read that about the cakes in a jar on one of the military boards too. :scared1:
     
  12. Stephanie218

    Stephanie218 DIS Veteran

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    Wow, thanks for the information! I wasn't aware of that. I'll have to pass it on to my friends who have deployed husbands right now, they are constantly sending the cakes over there.
     
  13. momrek06

    momrek06 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for that list, Tina! :goodvibes

    I wanted to add, MAGAZINES even if they are USED. If you have any used magazines at all, they LOVE them. My DBro is a Col/Army and is in Afghanistan for his 4th deployment right now. Hoping to return summer 2011. I send over all my USED women's magazines to DBro and he takes them to the Commissary and gives them to all his women soldiers. They love reading all the articles even if they are a few months old. :goodvibes

    It is so much cheaper today to subscribe to magazines than to walk into CVS and buy just one. So, this has been great (when I am done reading) being able to send them off and I also include treats/snacks in the boxes for DBro.

    Also, it seems like the boxes are all getting over there pretty quickly. PO is supposed to tell you 2 weeks. My DBro appears to be getting them within 5-7 days as he emails me every time they arrive. :thumbsup2
     
  14. funkychunkymonkey

    funkychunkymonkey DIS Veteran

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    Mallomars (with the fluffy inside) make a reall mess in shipping too. I adopted a army lady a few years back and ruined a care package this way. One thing she loved was when I send her a mini nerf football. They had tons of fun using it in there off time. She and I still talk after 8 years!
     
  15. effervescent

    effervescent Mouseketeer

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    The things I most often sent were:

    ~socks
    ~gel insoles
    ~chapstick
    ~eye drops
    ~nuts and sunflower seeds
    ~trail mix
    ~jerky
    ~tuna pouches
    ~dried fruits
    ~olives and pickles (DH loves them as a snack...lol)
    ~peanut butter
    ~plastic bottles of jelly
    ~books
    ~movies
    ~video games (DH took a DS with him and his roomie had a PS2)
    ~specific toiletries (the things DH couldn't find at the PX)
    ~pictures in little frames - like the wallet sized ones
    ~drawings from the kids

    I would recommend seeing what he requests once he gets to his base. For instance, during DH's second deployment he was about as far as he could possibly get from the DFAC, so he really appreciated packs of tuna and boxes of crackers for the nights he just didn't feel like walking down there. Also find out if there are any unit specific things that he cannot have - this last deployment DH wasn't allowed flash drives for anything while my friend's DH's unit had no problem with them. Check to find out what he's got easily accessible to him - one time DH had a microwave and one time he did not.

    I liked to do themed packages too - Christmas box with miniature decorations, Cinco de Mayo box (tortillas, refried beans, velveeta, salsa, chips, non alcoholic margarita mix, decorations from the kids), etc. It was really fun coming up with ideas. I think I did one themed package a month and one regular package, plus anything else he asked for. One thing that helped me was to take a walk down every aisle at the grocery and look specifically for small things packaged in non breakable packaging. That's how I found green olives in a pouch - I would have never thought to look for them but they are one of DH's favorite snacks and he was very happy to get them.

    I definitely agree with ziplocks - put everything in a separate ziplock. It will help protect against damage and the guys can almost always use ziplocks. For baked goods, stick a slice of plain white bread into the container with the cookies/brownies/whatever and it will help to keep them moist.

    While I was typing this I was asking my DH what he liked in his packages....he named off a few things but then said that it really didn't matter to most of the guys what was in them, it was just that they got something at mail call. On that note, send lots of random "I Love You" cards too. ;) And remember that the guys do a lot of passing things around, so anything you send will get put to good use by someone.

    My DH's favorite thing for me to make was German Chocolate Brownies. They are super moist so they were still moist by the time they made it over there. I'd be glad to share the recipe if it's something you're interested in.
     
  16. live4christp1

    live4christp1 DIS Veteran

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    Thanks everyone for all the great tips!

    Kendra - I'd love to have the recipe you mentioned.

    Cristy :goodvibes
     
  17. Database

    Database <font color=darkorchid>Hey! I'm stalking you today

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    1.Dunkin Donut Coffee is a big hit. I stock up when they have 4 lbs for 19.99. Even the flavored coffee is a hit with the fellas.

    2.Bath and Body hand soap. (I used to keep my hands from getting raw with repeated washing between patients. Clean Cotton, Tangerine...) Can't tell you how many times the patients would mention how nice the room smelled? Go figure. Look for the semi-annual sales, order online and send directly to the APO.

    We even started putting the soaps at each sink in the "shared" locker room style bathrooms. It was a hit. I was surprised when one of the guys wanted one. Said it reminded him of home.
     
  18. MattsPrincess

    MattsPrincess Mouseketeer

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    I never had to send DH the basic things, like toiletries and that sort, as he was at a base that had all those sort of things available at the BX. and the only restriction I has was no alcohol because he was at a dry base, but that's not always the case. So, I just tried to keep the boxes fun, and fill them with things that would make him happy and not as homesick. I mostly did themes, as has been mentioned already. Lets see....I did...

    Christmas Theme- baked brownies with red and green sprinkles, cocoa mix, packaged christmas cookies, and a few "presents" like a little nerf ball to toss around and some puzzle books.

    Valentines Theme- baked cherry chip mini cupcakes, a can of cherry frosting, plastic knife to ice with, two valentines themed pairs of boxers, heart peeps, valentines m&ms, a card, and then topped it all with heart confetti.

    St. Pattys Theme- a single serve cup of lucky charms, a small ireland flag to hang in his room, bags of all green m&ms (they sell these around valentines with the girl m&m on the bag, grab them then and hang onto them), baked irish cream shortbread, boxers with clovers and beers, and topped the box with clover confetti.

    Easter Theme- peeps, baked cookies with pastel sugar, cadbury eggs, jelly beans, m&m eggs, reese pieces in a carrot shaped bag, egg shaped deck of cards, and other typical easter candy. This one was really fun to do, because instead of just packing everything into the box, I filled the box with that green easter basket grass, then put all the candy into those little plastic eggs and "hid" them in all the grass. That way, he got to do a little egg hunt, lol. It was his "easter box-sket".

    Summer Theme- summer flavored candies, like tropical starbursts and skittles, ice cream flavored jelly beans, ICEE squeeze candy, squirt guns, water balloons, a water grenade, lemonade flavor kool aid, etc. They all got a kick out of this one and used the balloons and guns the rest of the time.

    Also, there was a period in between the Valentines and St. Pattys boxes where he was really down. I wanted to send him something that would really cheer him up but couldn't think of anything. I was walking down the toy aisle and saw those Mr. Man (i think) stuffed toys, and one was just a giant yellow smiley face. I put him in a box alone, sprayed with some of my perfume. I put in a note explaining that this was a box of happiness. He really loved that, still has it, and is planning to take it with him this summer when he goes back. Goofy, and maybe not every guy would like it, but it really did the trick for DH.

    I always just tried to send things he missed and always included a letter too. I also sent cards in between the boxes. All his friends were always jealous because Dh's packages were always so "cool" lol.

    * also, a tip about sending home baked things. no matter what i sent, be it cookies, brownies, whatever...they always got there still soft and fresh. I used glad disposable tupperware, then wrapped that in the "press and seal" wrap. Seemed to really do the trick. *
     

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