Military.com

Putting Care into Care Packages

Senior Master Sgt. Shevaun McRoberts, 442nd Logistics Readiness Squadron logistics supply manager, lifts care packages at the Warrensburg United Way. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Daniel Phelps.)
Senior Master Sgt. Shevaun McRoberts, 442nd Logistics Readiness Squadron logistics supply manager, lifts care packages at the Warrensburg United Way. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Daniel Phelps.)

Care packages are our only way of getting the comforts of home to our loved ones who are deployed overseas and putting their blood, sweat and tears into our freedom.

And if sending a box jam-packed with junk food is what it takes to keep them going another day, we are up for it. But what is the best stuff to put in a care package? What are some great care package ideas?

We get this question a lot. We crowd-sourced for the best ideas from military spouses, friends, family and military brats. Here is what they said.

Care Packages: Necessities

Sunblock, socks, underwear, flip-flops, ChapStick, baby wipes and powder will make everyone a little more comfortable. Although most bases have extensive collections of this kind of thing sent over by well-meaning Americans, we all know your soldier, Marine, airman or sailor probably has a brand or scent that he or she prefers. Use your care package to send over their favorite products.

Care Packages: Snacks

When it comes to food, think durable and non-perishable. Canned or jarred foods such as Pringles, salsa, nuts and trail mix aren't easily crushed into a million little crumbs. Beef jerky, granola bars, gum and non-melting candy make the trip well, as do foods that come well-packaged like Oreos, Little Debbie snack cakes, Moon Pies and packaged fruit pies.

If you're sending things that might accidentally arrive as pancakes, consider putting them in a small tin to protect them.

Single bottle-sized drink mixes such as Gatorade and Crystal Light also make great additions. But variety is crucial when sending flavored drink mixes. Pink lemonade can get just as old as regular water if your service member drinks it eight times a day.

Care Packages: Homemade Food

The most popular edibles are homemade cookies and other goodies such as cake in a jar.

As with toiletries, make sure to send the cookies or treats that your service member wants. Don't waste postage on something he or she would never eat at home. And, yes, we promise chocolate chip cookies will be fine. Those little chips hold up in a 350-degree oven, so they'll be fine in a desert.

If you're sending soft cookies, toss a piece of bread into the container. It'll keep the cookies soft by releasing moisture that the cookies will absorb.

Care Packages: Fun and Games

Now, the fun stuff! Some of the most popular time-passers are: Rubik's Cube, playing cards/poker chips, Etch-a-Sketch, 20 Questions, practical joke pieces, crosswords or Sudoku puzzles, books, magazines and favorite newspaper section -- we’re guessing Sports.

Care Packages: A Touch of Home

Stationery is a must if you expect to get any of those glorious handwritten letters from your service member. Send it all -- paper, envelopes, address labels and pens, but skip the stamps. They won't need them.

Other suggestions include: holiday décor, pictures, music on a CD or USB or recordings of the Sunday sermon.

Remember to skip the valuables. You may never again see the goodies you send. Your service member can carry only so much on the way home. Also, if you are sending a care package for the holidays, make sure know the current shipping deadlines so that it gets there in time.