If you haven’t read it yet, please check out (and share!) my blog How to Bake Mason Jar Cakes for Soldiers. I wrote that how-to tutorial while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan last year. Well, now my little brother is deploying to Afghanistan, and since the Fifty-Two Cakes project is over, I’ve switched to Fifty-Two Cookies. Gotta take care of our soldiers, am I right? So here’s my guide on how to properly package and mail cookies to soldiers deployed overseas in your care packages!
A few military care package restrictions to keep in mind: No pork products, alcohol or exceptionally aromatic spices. All care packages must be mailed to a specific soldier, as generic packages will not be delivered.
Step 1: Bake Care Package Cookies That Stay Fresh During Transit
- Butter, margarine and nut oils have been known to go bad during the shipping process, so some sources say to use vegetable shortening instead.
- Brown sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup and other sticky sweet substances have been known to get moldy during transit, so consider using white sugar instead.
- Do not send cookies with custards, icings or special toppings – just like when I advise not to frost cakes if you’re sending jar cakes – frostings spoil easily. If you’d like to send icing or sprinkles, send a store-bought, unopened package right off the shelf instead.
- If it’s a cookie that normally needs refrigeration, don’t send it to your soldier. There’s no refrigeration in transit for 7,000+ miles, k? Keep in mind the time of year that your package will ship. Melty cookies probably won’t do so great during those 100- to 120-degree summer days, but might be fine during brutal Afghanistan winters.
- Dry, thick, crunchy cookies (think biscotti and gingerbread) ship really well, but don’t let that discourage you from other good chewy stuff (chocolate chip, oatmeal). The latter ship fine, too, with proper care taken during the packing process. If you’re sending chewy cookies and crisp cookies, pack them separately to avoid moisture transfer.
- This is probably a given, but … airtight, people! Make sure you’re packing in airtight containers.
Step 2: How to Pack Cookies in Care Packages
No doubt your soldier will be thrilled to receive your care package regardless of whether your cookies are in pieces are not. It all goes to the same place, right? But we know you expect better and you want those cookies to arrive whole! Here are some packing tips:
- Wrap cookies in resealable plastic bags like ZipLoc Gallon Bags.
- Wrap the sealed plastic bags in bubble wrap and even a bonus layer of newspaper.
- Some people prefer to layer their cookies: bubble wrap on bottom, line container with parchment paper, add cookies in layers with parchment paper between each layer, top with bubble wrap again.
- Pack them snugly in the package, but don’t overcrowd them. Too tight or too loose and you end up with crumbs. Cookie tins are great for packing care package cookies properly.
- Some sources say to include a description of the contents to assure mail reviewers that the package contains no restricted items. Notecards taped to the tin are fine.
Step 3: How to Ship Care Packages with Cookies to Soldiers
I prefer to send my care packages with other goodies, so I send 1-2 per month. I use flat rate shipping boxes and ship priority to the APO. Once nice thing about sending flat rate boxes to APOs is that there’s a $2 discount on flat rate box shipping, so take advantage of that. Write your soldier’s address largely and clearly, and double-check that address before dropping it off at the post office. Shipping time has been as short as 1 week and as long as 2-3 weeks to my husband in a remote province of Afghanistan, but I’m hoping it’ll be quick and easy for my brother who will be in a more populous area/larger city. You will be asked to fill out a customs form.
Regardless of what type of cookies you bake and your preferred method of packing and shipping them overseas, always tell your soldier to be careful, check them out first and proceed with caution – just in case. It’s unlikely that anything bad will happen if you follow these instructions on how to mail cookies to soldiers deployed overseas, but better safe than sorry, and the last thing you want is a soldier with a sick tummy.
We military family members have to stick together! Did you mail cookies to your soldier? Tell us in the comments which cookie recipes you used and share your experience or tips!