The Best Way to Bring Cheer to Soldiers Who Can’t Be Home for the Holidays

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Kitchn)
(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

If there’s anyone who deserves a little present or pick-me-up this time of year, it’s every man and woman in our military who happens to be stationed away from home. Whether you know someone who’s serving our country, or you just want to brighten a stranger’s day, it’s possible to send over a box full of goodies. You just need to know what to send and where to send it. We can help with both of those things.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

A Care Package for the Troops: Good Things to Include

  • Energy bars
  • Beef jerky
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Bubble gum
  • Breath mints
  • Condiments
  • Salt and other seasonings
  • Hot chocolate packets
  • Socks
  • Toothpaste and a toothbrush
  • Other toiletry items
  • Aspirin
  • Lip balm
  • A fun book of crossword puzzles
  • A deck of cards

5 Good Pointers

  1. Use a good box: Military-related organizations agree that the best boxes to use are the USPS Post Office Military Care Kits, which you can get for free. The boxes are sturdy — so you don’t have to worry about your box falling apart at the seams mid-flight — and the kits also include shipping labels, tape, and the appropriate customs forms. And they have a special “America Supports You” logo. They come in a pack of 10 or 25, so get your whole cookbook club in on the gifting with you. Note: The USPS ships boxes to the military at a discounted rate, too.
  2. Include an extra shipping label: Consider including a second address label inside the box, just in case something happens to the label on the outside.
  3. Address your package correctly: Mailing packages overseas can be tricky. Plus, military addresses are extra complicated. The USPS can show you what your label should look like. If you want to send a package to a stranger, check out programs like Hero Box and Operation Gratitude.
  4. Seal everything in baggies: Your box could be going through a lot of rain or very sandy areas. Seal books in zip-top baggies to protect against water damage. And seal food separately to keep flavors from melding together.
  5. Don’t send anything you’re not supposed to: While there are plenty of things you can send, there’s a short (and somewhat obvious) list of no nos. Tobacco, firearms, and fruits are on the list, for example.
(Image credit: Kitchn)