5 Questions to Ask Before Mailing Food Gifts

updated May 1, 2019
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I make and gift food like it’s going out of style (but you and I know it never will). For me, it’s a compulsion, really, but the sweetest sort. I always say, ’tis better to give away all the chewy cookies and fruit preserves to family and friends before I eat them all up. And if there’s a tray of warm caramels before me, I will eat them all up — promise.

I could stop cooking and baking, but what’s the fun in that? Instead, I just make a beeline for my local post office to ship the food to everyone I know, especially this time of year. I mean, if my next-door neighbor lights up when I present her with a box of homemade booze-infused chocolate truffles, imagine how faraway friends feel to be remembered during the merriest and busiest of seasons.

Because I want to light up faces further afield as often as possible, I became an expert at packing and shipping food gifts through the post – I even wrote a cookbook about it. And I’ve learned that there are very specific ways to wrap and ship all types of food gifts.

So before you put that edible gift in the mail, ask yourself these smart questions.

1. How perishable is your gift?

Whether they expire within a few days or a few weeks, food gifts are perishable items. So prior to shipping, factor in how long your gifts will last and mail them accordingly. If a loaf of bread will only last two or three days, make sure you ship it to arrive as quickly as possible.

2. Is it heat- or cold-sensitive?

Remember, food gifts do not go into homeostasis during their postal journey. In fact, weather conditions could be freezing cold (say, on an airplane) or hot as a jalapeño (heat waves have been known to happen in November!). Always consider the climate through which your food gift will travel and plan accordingly.

3. Is it made of chocolate?

Melted chocolate is a real bummer, so I advise you to avoid shipping chocolate gifts during warmer times without taking extra steps for preservation. For example, I don’t ship chocolate gifts from May to October without adding ice packs to the box, and I always send via expedited shipping (typically overnight).

Also, avoid shipping dairy-based food gifts like curd, cheese, and butter unless you can guarantee a perfectly chilled climate within the box for the entire journey. Unless it’s on my toast, melted butter is a downer.

4. Will it leak?

No one wants to open (and deal with) a box when its contents are completely covered in honey. That’s not to say you can’t ship the stuff you harvested with your own bees — just tape up the seal and pack it properly with plenty of bubble wrap. If it’s in a glass container, you might want to double that bubble wrap.

5. Will it crumble?

Those super-fragile sugar cookies you painstakingly decorated? They’re beautiful! But they might not be so pretty once they’ve been jostled around on a truck for three days. Think about the journey your treats have to go and consider making something strong enough to stand up to the bumps, tosses, and who-knows-what-elses.

After you’ve taped your box closed with two-inch-wide packing tape, write the world “fragile” on the outside of the box — a lot of times. You can’t guarantee that anyone will notice (or care), but the word adds a little extra insurance. Hopefully, the right person takes note and moves your package more gently than the others.

Ready to pack a box? Follow these smart tips: The Best Way to Mail Food Gifts

Buy Maggie’s book: Food Gift Love, $25