The post of a month ago I suggested being prepared by keeping and emergency bag packed and how I have used them as gifts, especially for anyone anticipating a hospital stay.
I am going to reiterate many of the suggestions plus food suggestions for those who travel for work or research, those in the armed services, in the Peace Corp, on mission, students in college or boarding schools, personnel with limited funds or away from cities, indeed, anyone who is away from home and could use a boost or some hard-to–find items.
Care packages for those serving overseas can make quite a difference to those especially in isolated or dangerous spots. Thank Heaven for flat-rate U.S. Postal boxes! It makes this sort of package affordable. When my son was in Iraq, I sent many boxes to him filled with foodstuffs,(just before the flat rates took effect!). He liked to volunteer at the hospital on base and would be there odd hours, or when his guard shift was late. The closest mess hall would close early and the trek to the open one made for much less sleep-time, so he would nosh on the parcels from home. I also sent personal items to a young female medic serving in Afghanistan, and helped with a church group that sent packages to service personnel. We sent boxes to a priest friend in Guatemala.Here are some ideas for any and all away from home. After all, even President Jimmy Carter sent ‘care packages’ to his mother when she was serving as a nurse in India with the Peace Corps, and a friend of mine had daughters in college and then in a convent. Their request was always for their mom to send my Chocolate Drop Cookies.(Recipe :January 2013 archive.)
Foodstuffs generally need to be non-liquid, non-perishable, (that is, do not need refrigeration before or after opening). Depending on the taste of the recipient, (or a good guess), drink mixes are a good bet,(instant tea, pre-sweetened “Koolaid”, lemonade or Tang). Local and purified water can be, well, yucky. Depending on the weather, hot chocolate mix, Ovaltine, or instant coffees are good, as well as some powdered, flavored creamers and water-enhancers,(Crystal Light), and powdered milk. Unlike when I was trying to find them for my son’s boxes, sugar packets or small containers,(including coconut sugar) are more easily found these days, along with many other small or single-serving size condiments.(Hot sauces, picante sauce, mustard, mayo, ketchup are big hits.) Herb blends,(Mrs. Dash or mixed herbs), pepper and regular and flavored salts go a long way to help bring flavor to bland foods.Cheese powders are also good and available through some stores and mail order , such as King Arthur Flour.[King Arthur Flour]
Here is a limited list to mix and match in the boxes. Try to give a variety in each package, even if you plan on sending more than one box.
Chips, Pretzels (of any kind)
Flavored crackers,(peanut butter, cheese, herbed)
[* Unless you know the recipient’s taste, stick with comfort/basics. Animal crackers are surprisingly popular. Homemade cookies can easily become moldy, as my mother found out when shipping goodies to my brother in Viet Nam. My uncle sent them by the slowest mail; it was a waste and a disappointment. Please make sure cookies and crackers do not get squashed or crushed]
Dried fruits: raisins, Crasins, cherries, pineapple… there are many kinds in every market; for the most varieties, check the “Natural Food” aisles; Fruit in squeeze pouches
Instant oatmeal or grits
Corn nuts and Mixed snacks
Nuts, of all types,including sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Hard candies [No chocolate for hot climates, it melts too easily. Go for butterscotch, mints, hard caramels, “Smarties”, hard wafers, Tic-Tacs, jaw breakers, “Nips”, “Red Vines”/”Twizzlers”, etc. individually wrapped. Any gum sent to a hot climate should be candy-coated: Gumballs or “Chiklets”]
Granola and cereal bars
Tuna ,Salmon , Chicken in foil packets, including prepared filets and salads
Individual canned vegetables, fruits and ready-to-eat meat, dishes, (enchiladas, hash, stews)
Canned cooked beef and chicken, ‘deviled’ or spread and Vienna sausages (all available in chicken)
[Please note that in Muslim-run countries and territories, pork products,( such as Deviled ham and mixed Vienna sausages), are not allowed to be imported, nor are any products containing alcohol,(which would be a bad idea anyway). Even if the recipient is not in the military, Armed Services sites are a wealth of information for do’s and don’ts. When in doubt in areas not covered by the US military sites ,please contact the country’s embassy/consulate or check with the individual school or institution.Some do not allow nut or peanut products. You would not want for your recipient to lose all of their goodies and possibly lose other priviledges.
NOTE: Overseas packages must contain a list of all items on a form from the Post Office. PLEASE fill it out as you pack.Add lines and write clearly, but small,if necessary.
Peanut or tree nut butters, with or without chocolate or jelly mixed in them, preferably in plastic jars
Beef or Turkey jerky
Use your imagination and good sense. The needs of a young person away at school or a Marine in Iraq would be quite different, as would the needs of a nurse serving in a village in Africa or a teacher on an Indian reservation. Take into consideration the weather, food-knowledge and equipment available to the recipient. A college student with a refrigerator and microwave can receive more than a missionary on the move through jungle climates.
Leave all foods in their original, sealed packaging,(you may remove the outside boxes to save space.) Please include zipper-close plastic bags for un-finished chips, cookies, etc.
Person items are very much appreciated by all who are away from home, especially in a distant land. Here are some suggestions for both sexes:
Decent disposable razors
Pre-moistened, (or dry, impregnated with cleanser), facial cloths
Flavored floss picks
Ointments or creams in tubes, (such as Vitamin A&D,)
Gold Bond, Lanacaine or other anti-chafing gel or sticks
Stick or towelette insect repellant
Coco butter sticks
Cake or push-tube moisturizer,( available through “Faith, Soaps and Love” [Faith , Soaps and Love
these can also be taken on-board an airplane in carry-on luggage; they are an excellent idea)
Slipper socks/thick socks/booties…for sheer comfort
Eye mask (sleep mask)
nail files and clippers, large and small
One possible ‘liquid’ would be single-use eye drops
Other items that are helpful are puzzle and game books, card games, note paper and envelopes, mechanical pencils and pens, prepaid phone cards. G or PG type books, (informative are good, as are clean joke books; “Garfield”,”Wizard of Id”, etc.) General interest stickers are huge with kids everywhere.
Anyone around children would appreciate crayons and coloring books or non-aggressive paperback coloring books.(Avoid sending any particular type of religious unless you are certain it is acceptable.)
Pack as tightly as possible to avoid shifting and breakage,(without crushing foods). Open bags of candy and individual packets of cocoa or oatmeal to fill in spots and scatter small candy into crevasses.
Please feel free to make any additional suggestions that you can think of in the comment section so others can use them, too.
I hope you will consider sending some comfort to someone who is away from home and could use a little support. I have found that care packages do as much, if not more, for the soul as for the body.