That’s when John stepped off the plane and onto the Bagram tarmac during his year-long deployment. June and it was already blazingly hot.
Another service member was there to greet him… with a care package I had sent that beat him to Afghanistan. (It was this one!)
I’m not joking.
I had sent it two weeks before he deployed, sure that it would take at least a month for him to get something from me. Turns out, the mail was running exceptionally fast. And the care package that I had diligently sharpied “I love you!” onto the sides had been there, waiting for him. The service members John’s group was relieving had kept it and waited for the moment they could give it to John.
Thank goodness there was no chocolate or meltable items in that care package– what a disgusting mess they could have had on their hands.
But let’s be real: it’s not just Afghanistan, Kuwait, or Iraq that are hot places service members are sent to. If you’re sending a care package to someone in Okinawa, Twentynine Palms, or Fort Hood (or pretty much anywhere else during the summer), chances are, those packages are going to get hot–really, really hot– at some point of their journey.
Chances are, too, that some of what you’re sending may melt, warp, or otherwise get gross during shipping.
Weirdly enough, when John was in Afghanistan, we only had one mishap with melted stuff. Luckily, John had access to a refrigerator and was able to cool down the entire heat-sealed package. It melted into a gigantic blob, but he was happy with it anyway.
But you don’t want your recipient to have to deal with a surprise a la goo in a care package you send them. Here are some candy alternatives that won’t melt in your care package:
Ah yes, nature’s candy. There’s no question that dried fruit is a lovely addition to a care package– it is a shelf-stable, healthier choice than a lot of other options. When John was deployed, I sent him dried mango and pineapple in nearly every box I could. When it comes to dried fruit, there are a lot of options– including those with preservatives (like sulfates) to keep colors more robust and those without. And if you don’t want to send processed dried fruit, try sending your own dried fruit. Here’s how you can easily dry blueberries.
If your loved one loves candy bars, granola bars are a snack swap that will keep them (mostly) satisfied. (Because, let’s be real, Hershey bars are delicious.) If you’re very worried about the melt factor, send granola bars that aren’t loaded with chocolate, white chocolate, or peanut butter chips. If your recipient doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, try Kind Bars, which have varieties without chocolate, like these caramel drizzle ones. And if you’re feeling super adventurous, try my homemade granola bars, which were a favorite of John’s when he deployed. They’re easy to make, you get to choose exactly which mix-ins to include, and they ship well.
And talking about granola, if bars aren’t you’re thing (or you just want to mix it up), sending a granola mix works too. If you’re purchasing, you can buy loose granola mixes in single-serving pouches. Most of these varieties have little or no chocolate included and are available in single-serve pouches as well as large containers. Want to make your own? Try my tried-and-true blueberry super foods granola recipe.
While other candies can (and do) melt in extreme heat, there are quite a few kinds that are fairly heat-resistant and should ship well. Hard candies– especially those that are individually wrapped like peppermints, strawberry buds, fruit drops, sour balls, and Jawbreakers— should keep exceptionally well and not create a mess in your care package. Other sugary candies like Lick-n-Dips and Pixie Sticks should not melt either… however, consider sending them in their original bagged packaging or, if you’re sending individual candies, put them in a Ziplock bag in case they break and the powder goes everywhere. Avoid chocolate candies and ones that are stickier– like caramels and soft butterscotches.
Kettle corn is a fairly low-calorie treat with a salty/sweet zip. While sending bags of it might be more challenging–especially if your loved one is deployed overseas– there are varieties of microwavable kettle corn that can easily be shipped. And if you’re sending stateside, you can always directly Amazon Prime Boom Chicka Pop kettle corn to your loved one so you don’t have to worry about stuffing it in boxes.
Gum is a great care package stuffer. Not only can you pack a lot so your loved one can share it with others, it is shelf-stable, won’t melt, is individually wrapped, and can be chewed for a variety of reasons– replacing dessert, boredom, quitting smoking… you get the idea.
How about some Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, or Cookie Crisp? These are available in large boxes or single-serve ones, so you can send just the right amount to your loved one. (True story, John’s sister sent him an entire box filled with boxes of Cheerios when he was in Afghanistan. He said it was an awesome care package– and the funniest– he received.)
If you can’t send chocolaty goodness, try sending things that can satisfy that chocolate craving without melting. Send a shaker of cinnamon sugar , flavored dairy-free creamers, or cocoa powder with a high fat content that can be added to coffee, yogurt, cereal, milk, or really anything else.
With a variety of dessert-inspired flavors, like chocolate peanut butter, strawberry cream, and banana cream, a jar of protein powder may be a great alternative for your work-out loving recipient.
Looking for more care package tips? Try these articles:
- 40 Ways to Save Money on Care Packages
- The Gigantic List of Free Care Packages for Deployed Service Members
- Here’s What Troops Really Want in a Care Package