How Can I Safely Send Food in the Mail?

Is there anything more delicious than eating food prepared by someone who loves you, for you? and food can transport us to different moments of our lives, with people we love and care about; it can remind us of stories and good memories; it can make us feel like we’re home, even when we’re not.

jo often asks me, oh my god! readers on how to send food in care packages. if you’ve never done it, it can be a bit intimidating. after all, badly handled food can make someone sick. And it can also have financial implications: You don’t want to spend a ton of money on a care package, only to have the contents be inedible for your recipient.

The good news is that you can definitely send food safely, even food you prepare in your kitchen, to the recipient of your relief package. here’s everything you need to know:

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can i send food by mail?

short answer: yes. Longer answer: Some foods are considered perishable items if they “create a health hazard or cause an unpleasant odor, discomfort, or discomfort, under normal mailing conditions.”

While there is no hard and fast chart of what is and what is non-perishable, I have always erred on the side of caution. If I am shipping food that is pre-packaged, non-perishable and produced in a food facility, then I do not consider it perishable. if it’s something I’ve made, even if I know it will be shelf stable for quite some time, because it has no preservatives and because I made it without the help of industry, food production or packaging, I consider it as perishable and label it as such when send. This is my own working definition based on USPS instructions. I prefer to be safe than sorry.

if you ship perishable food, you should also know that it is at your own risk and it is not the responsibility of the postal service if the food spoils before it reaches its recipient.

how much shipping time should i plan?

This is a tough question! shipping time depends on where you ship and where your recipient is. if you are in the usa uu. shipping to an address within the usa In the US, this should be pretty easy to figure out, especially if you’re sending a three-day priority mail box. (because it should be there in three days). not sure or nervous? check with your local post office for estimates on delivery times.

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It gets a bit complicated when talking about apo/fpo/dpo addresses. when john was posted to afghanistan and i lived in baltimore, a priority mail box could take anywhere from three days (no i’m not kidding!) to two weeks. in fact, a letter once took six months (not an exaggeration either!) to get from baltimore to afghanistan…it had a guantanamo bay postmark when john finally received it.

however, the dod and usps have an estimate of transit time for mail, broken down by apo/fpo zip code:

Not sure how long it will take your #carepackage to get to your #deployed loved one? The United States Postal Service has estimates based on location and mail service. Keep this handy for your reference. #mail #military #happymail #army #airforce #navy #coastguard #marines #arng #nationalguard #reserves #militaryspouse #milspouse #milso #miltaryfamily #milfam

which recipes are best to mail?

While I’d err on the side of foods you know are safe to eat (like packaged and shelf-stable), I also know there’s nothing like getting homemade goodness. you’ll want to stay away from recipes that are moist and opt for ones that naturally have a long shelf life. think crispy crackers and homemade granola. stay away from things you think should be refrigerated (like baked cheesecake bars) or aren’t sure how long they’ll keep (like fruit leather). Also remember that these packages will likely be in extreme weather conditions, either very, very cold or very, very hot (or both), during transit. The last thing you want to send is a big old box of food poisoning to the one you love.

That said, there are plenty of tried-and-true care package recipes out there. I’ve written about plenty of them and even turned to other military spouses for their greatest hits. you can start with these 27 recipes that are great for care packages.

I will note that john loved my homemade granola bars and my homemade blueberry granola. it’s super easy to make and it holds and ships extremely well. is a good place to start if you are a newbie.

what is the best way to package and ship food?

There are many different ways to safely send food to your recipient. Of course, the first is to ship purchased items pre-packaged and non-perishable. this is the best way to ensure that the food you want to ship arrives with as little damage as possible. after all, mass-produced foods are already made to travel from the facility to a warehouse and then to you. and it doesn’t have to be the same, either, boring granola bars. Consider these microwavable options or these healthy, shelf-stable alternatives that work great in care packages.

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If you want to ship a lot of homemade food in your care package, you may want to invest in a food grade vacuum sealer. I am a fan of the foodsaver brand; it has served me well. just be careful: to seal your food as well as possible, you’ll want to suck in as much air as possible without completely flattening the product…and you’ll reduce your chocolate chip cookies to crumbs and dust if you suck out all the air. Of course, for other things like granola and granola bars, that’s not a problem at all.

If you choose not to get a vacuum sealer, that’s fine too. I’ve had great success wrapping homemade foods multiple times in plastic wrap and then placing them in a ziploc bag or two, squeezing out as much air as possible, and closing tightly.

what about mason jar cakes?

I know a lot of military spouses swear by mason jar cakes. that’s not me… not because I’ve had a bad experience with them, but because I’ve never tried them. I was too afraid of doing it wrong and accidentally sending a lot of mold and yuck to john. (Honestly, it’s more about me than the sweet idea of ​​a cake in a cup.) If you’re not ready to try jarred cakes but your recipient has access to a microwave, consider sending cake mixes in a microwaveable cup instead. they usually only need water to be added to the mix and just a few minutes in a microwave. (and some mixes even come with shelf-stable frosting, too!)

What other considerations should I have when shipping food?

It is very important to take into account the weather and the season where your recipient is deployed. They may love chocolate bars, but sending a box to Afghanistan in mid-July can be a horrible disaster for them. (especially if you don’t have access to a refrigerator or freezer!) these treats are perfect and won’t melt in transit.

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If you’re sending gifts, you may want to send enough for your loved one to share with their friends. that is not a postal requirement. it’s just a nice gesture, especially since some service members don’t get care packages from home.

Is there a service that sends food to my loved one?

absolutely! If care packages aren’t your thing, there are companies and organizations ready to do it for you.

consider troops. Founded by a veteran who is also a military spouse, Soldiers’ mission is to send incredible care packages to military members. With affordable prices, full-size products, and boxes packed with items, it’s a great option. The Troop offers a variety of care package options when it comes to food: keto, vegetarian, and vegan boxes are available. (Honestly, I don’t know of another care package company that does that.) There’s also a subscription option for care packages – just set it and forget it, and care packages are still delivered to their recipient every month via the troop.

Depending on your recipient’s apo/fpo zip code and the products you’re shipping, you can ship food and beverages directly from amazon to your recipient. doing so avoids the need to repackage or ship yourself. Amazon also offers non-perishable food care packages, some of which can be shipped to apo/fpo/dpo addresses.

Do you want to submit an experience? Swatara Coffee Co. is a traditional veteran owned coffee shop that ships to apo/fpo/dpo addresses no matter where they are located. send bags of coffee (whole bean and ground options) or consider the coffee shop in a gift box set that includes coffee and snacks to go with it. (Full disclosure: I am part owner of Swatara Coffee. Co. The other owner is John!)

Looking for more care package tips? try these items:

  • 40 ways to save money on care packages
  • the gigantic list of free care packages for deployed service members
  • here’s what the troops really want in a care package
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