How to Create a Healthy Care Package in 5 Easy Steps

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Compensation for this post was provided by Starkist Tuna via MSB New Media. All opinions expressed in this piece are my own.

Just a few months into John’s deployment, sequestration went into effect. John’s base’s dining hall cut their hours back… which meant that John, who was working a schedule with weird hours, wasn’t always able to get there when they were open. I ended up sending a lot of care packages with supplementary food. One of those items that always made it into the care package was tuna. But not just any tuna, StarKist® Tuna Creations.

Originally, I picked it up at the grocery store for a few simple reasons:

  • the pouches are easier to pack because they’re flat… which means I could send WAY more food.
  • the pouches are lighter because they’re not in metal cans… which means I could send WAY more food.
  • it was one of the healthiest non-perishables (110 calories or less per serving, Omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein) I could send.

Once I began sending the pouches to John, we found out that there were a lot more reasons why they were awesome for deployment care packages. John didn’t need other flavorings– the tuna already tasted delicious. The pouches are no-drain, easy-open– no can-openers needed and no mess in a cramped living space. And they’re single-serving packages– no need to worry about trying to save it for the future and no wasted food.

Go beyond your contents. Here's how to send a care package that is healthy from the inside out. #militaryfamily #milfam #milspouse #militaryspouse #deployment #deploymentsucks #carepackage #happymail #carepackages

And then I emailed them just for the heck of it. I was hoping they’d send me a 50-cents-off coupon. Through their Tuna for Soldiers program, they sent John a gigantic box of tuna pouches which kept him fed, happy, and healthy for a pretty long time.  (You can read the whole story and my astonishment at their generosity here.) So of course, after that, I bought nothing else when it came to tuna products. (And still do– you can check our pantry for verification!)

And if you’re making care packages, you’ll want to send these– they’re almost twice as large as their regular “civilian” Tuna Creations® packages. And speaking of care packages…

Healthy Care Package Tips

Choose a Healthy Care Package Theme

It’s easy to theme your package– even when you’re sending odds and ends. (Trust me, I’ve done that many times!) Sending care packages with StarKist® tuna, for example, is a fun time to use puns or cute themes.  “You’re the only fish in the sea for me!” or a beach theme both fit really well and are easy to find items for. You could include fish-shaped crackers or (if you’re feeling adventurous) seaweed crisps as well as any non-edibles like sunglasses and sunscreen, foosballs, footballs, or those velcro-gloves-and-tennis-ball sets. If your recipient has a taste for sushi, you might like this sushi ingredients box (StarKist® packages are perfect for it– you’ll see how many I sent!) Check out the F-Words package I sent John, if you’re up for a really dorky package, too.

Be Financially Healthy

If you’re sending to an APO/FPO, make sure that you use USPS priority mail. When you do, you not only can save money on cardboard boxes (because you can pick them up directly from the post office or have them sent to you for free via their website) but because “if it fits, it ships.” That’s right– you don’t pay by weight. That’s huge.

Send Healthy Choices

Check to see what your recipient needs or wants. In John’s case, he had all of the personal care products he could want (like soap and deodorant), thanks to generous donations to the USO, but he was desperately craving healthy, to-go foods. I ended up sending a lot of canned veggies, fruits, air-popped chips, drinkable applesauce, and (you guessed it) StarKist®.

Support Your Emotional Health

Sending care packages against deadlines can be draining and nerve-wracking. Depending on where you’re sending your package, you’ll have to plan backwards to make sure that your packages arrive on time for special days– like holidays and birthdays. For Christmas, the USPS provides a list of shipping deadlines to help you plan. You can also send a “test” package early in the deployment to see generally how long it will take. When John was in Afghanistan, it took only a week for packages to reach him, but I’ve heard of it taking 3-4 weeks for the same mail route. (And that doesn’t touch the 6 months it once took a letter of mine to get to him.)

Support Your Recipient’s Emotional Health

Make sure that your box includes a few mementos of home. Tuck a few letters, cards, or pictures into the box. I used a few cheap SD cards and loaded videos onto them for John. Some of the videos were as simple as filming the rain falling on a summer day or shooting the Christmas tree with the lights on. Those little, familiar details can be so comforting to the recipient as well as a great way to stay connected.

Be Efficient (and Cut Yourself a Break!)

There is a ton (seriously, a ton) of care package information– tips, tricks, hints, and inspiration– all over the internet, if you know where to find it. You do not have to invent the wheel! Pinterest is a particular treasure trove of information. And I’ve got a ton of care package help– including step-by-step directions and shopping lists–here on the blog.

Looking For More Care Package Ideas? Try These:

20 Responses

  1. I love sending beverage enhancers. Hubs drinks a ton of water, but they only had a few flavors at the BX. So I emailed some companies and got 12 (yes!) free product coupons to send him a variety of flavors!
    Plus – Wonderful Pistachios also sent me 6 coupons, half for a free bag, and half for $$ off. Great healthy snack!

    1. Beverage enhancers are awesome too! You can fit them into the nooks and crannies and there are so many flavors to choose from!

  2. Really helpful tips! Also thanks for reminding folks about those free boxes. Shipping care packages is already pricey so saving wherever we can is important.

  3. We love that tuna also! I never thought to send it to my brother in care packages though :( I sent him trail mix for a healthier version of snacks.

    1. Your brother will probably love the flavored tuna– John could eat it alone or would use it for the protein on salads or as sandwich filler. They’re so versatile!

  4. If I sent a care package that was too healthy, it would probably get returned!!! I do leave out chocolate because it melts, which is healthy by omission. We do send tuna pouches and Ritz crackers, though.

  5. Step 1 – Pick healthy items
    Step 2 – Pack items like Airborne tablets, Kleenex Tissues, Yogurt, Granola, Hand Sanitizer
    Step 3 – pack a stuffed animal (beanie baby) with a get well note
    Step 4 – pack a extra set of gloves , hat/cap, scarves
    Step 5- pack a few canned soups and stews and Chicken and Tuna pouches.

    1. Fantastic steps. I love the Airborne tablets, especially! I never thought about that before!

    1. Those are great suggestions. Dry nuts that have no flavorings on them can be used for so many things– mixed into cereal/oatmeal, eaten as a snack, even cooked with!

  6. How do link with Starkist to place a bulk order for their military tuna? The link leads to a blocked access site, and when I searched Starkist site it came up with nothing. Probably just call?

  7. Pingback: Products 2017 Blog

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