If you’re planning to send holiday care packages to the troops, now is the time to gather supplies and materials.
But before you pack your box, check the holiday mailing deadlines. They are coming up soon.
Visit the U.S. Postal Service website at www.usps.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the “newsroom tab.” Then look for “current news.”
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension also offers a few tips to follow:
- Consider the weather conditions where the recipient is located and how the food item you are shipping will hold up.
- Commercially packed cakes and cookies in tins, fruitcakes and dry cookies like ginger snaps and crackers do well in many places and weather conditions.
- Dry beef, such as beef jerky or beef slims, is safe to ship.
- Commercially processed, durable foods such as canned foods with pop-top lids like tuna, chicken and franks and beans are options.
- Military personnel often request microwavable soups, macaroni and cheese, brownie mix and popcorn.
- Raisins, apricots and other dried fruits, canned nuts and fruit and commercially prepared and packaged trail mix as well as shelf-stable pudding cups are wise choices.
- Individually wrapped cereal, protein, granola, energy bars, chips and cakes are great as food gifts.
Foods suitable for mailing
- Pound cakes, bar cookies, brownies and fudge.
- Shortbread and sugar cookies and nut bars. Avoid cookies with perishable fillings such as cream or custard. Fruit and nut fillings work best.
- Coffee blends are easy to pack into decorative plastic or metal containers.
- Dried foods, nuts and dry mixes (spiced teas, herb blends, and party mixes of cereals and nuts) are easy to find at discount stores.
Prepare for safe shipping
- Allow plenty of packing material on all sides.
- Fill the box with a layer of packing material such as newspaper, foam pieces or plastic bubble wrap. Center the gift in the middle. Then overfill the box with cushioning material, making sure no air space is left.
- Don’t use popped corn or puffed cereal as packing material. They attract insects.
- Place food in clean boxes, metal food tins or plastic boxes or bags.
- For cakes: Use a container only slightly larger than the cake.
- Don’t frost a cake before mailing. Include a package of dry frosting mix or commercially canned frosting in the package.
- If packaging cookies, wrap flat cookies in pairs (back to back) with waxed paper between them and foil or plastic wrap around them.
- For cookies that aren’t flat, wrap individually. Crumpled wax paper or padding in the bottom of the container can provide a cushion.
- Bar cookies and brownies are best packed uncut in a baking pan, or a box the size of the pan.
Foods to avoid shipping
- Don’t pack food in glass containers or place glass items in with food. Aerosols aren’t allowed.
- Don’t send fresh, cured or smoked meat, pork or pork by-products and poultry.
- Don’t send soft, moist cookies. They will mold quickly in humid climates.
- Delicate cakes that crumb easily, pies and yeast breads are fragile and spoil easily.
Sandra Stringer is a nutrition educator with the UGA Extension office in Hall County. Call her at 770-535-8290. Her column appears biweekly on Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.