Care Packages: Thanks that Costs Less

I got a letter today from a soldier in Bagdad. She’s bored. She ranted about the perpetuality of her job, and the things she “always” does, and my first instinct is to send her another package. She suggested we send her microwavable add-hot-water foods, and movies. If it wasn’t for the cost of shipping the last package, I’d jump on it instantly. I’m definitely feeling the financial pressure of having a loved one in Iraq, and she wasn’t even a breadwinner for my family.

I send packages with snacks, packages with games, packages with CDs and skin care items. I send letters and drawings from the kids. And I could spend a fortune doing this. I feel I have a responsibility to my soldier, to keep her happy, to alleviate her boredom. Whether or not you or I agree with why our soldiers are there, we should agree that we want our soldiers in top condition. I started accumulating some ideas, and here’s a starter list:

Shipping: Though you must fill out a customs form, shipping to bases overseas is domestic rate, so flat rate boxes are the best bet. For packing material, I’ve noticed 100 calorie packs work pretty well, since they’re usually air cushiony.

Snacks: See above about 100 calorie packs, and I found some at Sam’s club for a pretty good deal. If I bake cookies with the kids, I’ll put half-a-dozen in the next package. Maybe some granola bars.

Games: I started sending her some old new games I had lying around un-played. We didn’t like our double-fifteen set, it just made games take too long. As for cards, we had a few rpg and a couple poker decks lying around; one is all that’s necessary when we play when we do get around to playing. I had a few word game and puzzle books I had bought when I was pregnant years ago and never finished.

Media: TV series were her request, and she can sign up for Blockbuster Online, but there have to be other options. I can scrounge the $5 bins, freecycle, or go to pawn shop dollar sales, yet I’m not having any remarkable brainstorms on that front. I had a couple of duplicate CDs, replacements for disks I later found, and a couple sample DVDs, like from HBO with some promotional pilot episodes, but that’s all I came up with.

Reading: Your old subscription magazines. State related, travel related, fashion related; things about home and everyday, non-deployed life. Not that they aren’t proud and happy to be deployed, it’s just they live the same day every day. And books. I have an affinity for children’s books, so I’m thinking nostalgia. I could collect the Sunday comics, some funny stories from off the internet.

Personal Care: I have lots of hotel samples from the past few years, and the small size means she’s onto the next scent quickly. A nice break in routine, especially for someone with the dry dustiness of the desert. I can also transfer lotions to sample bottles, and again, in small containers so she has a surprising rotation. I also imagine it’s like being in a hotel, which is somewhere she definitely is not going anytime soon, and somewhere nearly synonymous with vacation.

Letters: It’s easy to be frugal with letters. All they have to do is be written. So, I write about everything. I include sketches and photos and poems and stories, quotes from what is going on around me and maybe some lyrics from a song. A puzzle, a quiz, a riddle. Something to keep her looking forward to the next one. I like postcards for my letters; I can cut a greeting card in half (3 1/2 x 5 to 4×6 is the size for a 26 cent stamp) and send it off. That’s kind of a puzzle too, because she can look forward to the other half of the card.

Letters back: Send stickers, the rest of your package of holiday or thank you cards, maybe some interesting papers and stationery. Send envelopes. But don’t send stamps: our soldiers get free postage.

Kid’s Art: Well, my kids are little drawing factories, so I just save a few and drop them in. I don’t ask them to make anything on any particular day, I just collect them and include them.

Ask! When I did, she asked for a big fluffy pillow. I’d have never thought of a pillow. Also, I gave my soldier’s address to the congregation of my grandmother’s church. American’s are a community, and everyone helps. It’s nice to remember I’m not alone.

And after two or three afternoons of brainstorming, I feel much more comfortable about my every-ten-day package I send to her, and I discover I can indeed go out an buy some add-hot-water meals without having my devotion to her become a burden on my budget. Everything doesn’t have to be new and shiny, it just has to remind her of home, and remind her that we think of her every day.

Now, if I could only figure out how to send her a hot steak dinner.

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18 Responses to Care Packages: Thanks that Costs Less

  1. Cortni Marrazzo says:

    Next time you write her a letter, you can tell her that despite the many people in this country that don’t care, there are many more who are very thankful to her for her service and sacrifice for our country and we pray for her and her fellow soldiers every day. 🙂

  2. Homebody says:

    I always use the priority mail flat package rate. They can hold 6-8 bags of chocolate candy (which I only ship in the winter). I keep the boxes and forms here at home so I have them filled and ready for the post office. I get a lot of joy out of sending packages. I watch the ads for things to send and used my Costco coupons to buy candy, jerky, etc when they are something that would be good to send. I also (gasp) bought a carton of cigarettes to send in the last box I sent. I get names/addresses off, but right now my BF’s son and stepson are both there, so I send to them now.

    The flatter type box is perfect for filling with magazines.

  3. baselle says:

    Media: My local library system (Seattle Public Library) has a clearance sale every 6 months or so. In addition to books, they sell CDs and DVDs. ($1 to $3 range) They sell as-is, so you probably want to play them first to see if they skip or are weird.

  4. Lori says:

    Please see if she is able to sign up at this is a great website that connects citizens with soldiers that need letters and care packages. She, or someone with her, will have to accept responsibility of taking care of the packages for the group.

  5. Another Soldier says:

    A cost nothing approach to fill boxes or for packaging: Old newspapers. Most people will give you their old ones no problem, especially if you tell them what they are being used for. If not, I know my Dad recycles at these a month’s worth of papers at a time so if you’re not too proud, recycyling bins make sense. I believe it is from (Google for assurance) that you can go on there and request one new free year’s subscription per person that signs up and have the choice of many magazines. If each person in her squad or platoon do this, they should have plenty to trade around and keep occupied.

    That is just a little 2 cents from another deployed soldier.

  6. Devildogwife says:

    I’m sure that you already know about the bigger flat rate box. Military (apo/fpo addresses) receive a lower rate of $10.95. They are probably twice the size of the older flat rate box and only cost $2.00 more to ship.

    I use protein bars and other health bars for my “filler” in packages as that is what my hubby likes. I tend to buy things in bulk as it’s a bit cheaper. Don’t discount places like Amazon for getting groceries/snacks for the care packages.

    I also send away for lots and lots of samples. I send those his way. If he can’t use them, he’ll pass them along to someone who can.

    Oh, and don’t forget about things like individual packages of drink mixes.

  7. patt says:

    I was surprized when my son told me that over half of the service people NEVER recieved a letter or a package from home while serving in Iraq. He said that many service people were from disfunctional homes and they join the service seeking some place to belong. SEND PACKAGES!!!

    COOKIE KITS. No matter how carefully I wrapped them or when I sent them the icing melted into the cookies. I started sending cookie kits. Enclude homemade sugar cookies, tubs of store bought icing, sprinkles in shapes like hearts, pumkins or shamrocks and of course plastic knives. It brought back memories of making cookies with mom, made memories of a fun time with their buddies in the middle of hell and of course the cookies.

    I write cute of funny sayings on the outside of the packages and tape copies of “Humor in Uniform” from the Readers Digest.

  8. Jessica says:

    I like to go to the dollar store for most of my care package stuff. Every holiday they rotate their stock and I like to send my friends boxes filled with things for that holiday so they get to celebrate it too. On Easter I sent plastic eggs with stickers to decorate and bags of candy so they could full them up and pass them out. On Valentines Day I sent valentines cards to fill out and pass out to friends. They always have a great variety of candy that won’t melt, and they have little puzzle games and books that you can send. If they don’t use it odds are they’ll just give it to someone else that will.

  9. Becky Bevins says:

    I have a brother inlaw in Iraq and at night they sit around citronella candles to keep from getting bit from the bugs over there.We came up with an idea and now it is going great.We send these out in care packages.Its called skeetereez it keeps the bugs off from them.We only send the desert camo though.

  10. Stephanie says:

    I appreciate all your ideas. My dh is leaving in Oct. this is his first tour overseas. He has been stateside in supporting the war her in the US. I know there are a lot of changes coming up and with our three young children I want to keep them involved in the packages. Thank you for your ideas.

  11. Jen says:

    My husband is staying behind this tour but our two best friends are leaving next week for Iraq. One of them really doesn’t have much family support, so I am planning on sending him lots of packages and am looking for ideas. These are some great ones, thanks!

  12. Lori says:

    Again, check They have tons of ideas on what to send and how to send it. The forums are great too. They can answer your questions. And please tell your friends to consider becoming recipients and signing up for the site.

  13. Kaitlin says:

    Anyone who finds shipping to be a bit pricey should try the USPS APO/FPO flat rate boxes. It costs only 11.95 to ship it to any APO/FPO address, regardless of weight. I’ve sent my boyfriend tons of packages and while the boxes seem small, it’s amazing what you can all fit in there. They’re free to pick up at any post office or even on the usps website they’ll ship them to you for free!

  14. Tina says:

    I am opening a new visitors information center and I would like to see if maybe anyone out there can tell me how I can obtain free welcome packages with things like coupons and trial sized shampoos and such as that. Thank you for your help

  15. Paula says:

    The us postal service offers a free of charge care kit pack…you can find more information and order it online at under shipping supplies and request the care kit # 4 or you can call (800) 610-8734. In this care kit they include everything you will need to ship to anyone serving overseas or to a base. They were specially created for the military and although you still have to pay the shipping it helps to keep the cost of shipping down a little.

  16. Sue says:

    I really appreciate you posting your ideas! Very helpful… I love sending my husband stuff while he is overseas but I have never been that good at it or at least I don’t think I am that good! It is nice to read that someone seems to be soooo in love with their significant other like this!! Makes me happy!! Thanks again for this!!

  17. Luann says:

    You can order free packaging supplies from the Post Office by calling: (800)610-8734. Ask for Care Kit 4. They will assign you a customer number to make it easier to order the next time.
    God Bless our Troops

  18. George says:

    Ann agree with you as you said that” I feel I have a responsibility to my soldier, to keep her happy”, Sending a care package for soldiers according to her requirement is good. It’s our responsibility to make soldiers always happy at that situation by sending a care package with things that soldiers want in that situation.

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