If there’s a rite of passage for loving someone in the military, it’s probably creating a care package. And going to at least one mandatory fun picnic where the self-proclaimed grillmaster is definitely going to make everyone sick with food poisoning, so you don’t eat anything and end up leaving very sweaty and hangry.
Oh, wait. Maybe that was just my rite of passage.
But I digress. Back to care packages.
I sent a care package to John while he was deployed before he even was deployed. (It was a whole thing. I regret nothing now. But I definitely did accidentally make John stand out the minute he stepped off the plane. He said he didn’t care and it made him happier than it caused trouble. Still. Whoops.)
It doesn’t matter if you recipient is in the military and on the other side of the world, a missionary away for years on end, or a college student trying to make it to finals week– a care package is a hug. It’s a way of showing love when you’re nowhere near to be able to.
So obviously, you want to send the best care package.
If you’re not sure where to start, need a little inspiration, or are looking for help when it comes to shopping for, creating, and sending care packages, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy (and, let’s be honest, money) on care packages. Let’s go.
Use free care package supplies
So, let’s start off with the basics. You don’t need to spend extra money on care packages, because it is possible to get these items for free. Yes, free! If you don’t know about this extremely useful hack, you need to now.
Stir up something delicious
There is nothing like something made from scratch at home. When John was deployed, I’d regularly send him uncut brownies and cookies that I would shrink wrap with the help of a Food Saver vacuum sealer. It was easy and the goodies always arrived fresh (even if they were a tiny bit smooshed).
Sending cookies and treats through the mail to loved ones serving far away is a time-honored tradition. If you’re not sure where to start (or are a little nervous about what will travel and ship well), these 27 recipes are ones that military spouses swear by. And if you’re worried about what will and won’t keep in the heat, these swaps will work just fine!
Involve the kids
If you have children, make care packages a family activity. Not only will it be something fun that you can bond over, but your kids will be able to have that same satisfaction you do of creating something for your loved one and sending it to them. These kid-friendly care package crafts are a great place to start.
Make it healthy (or healthier)
For a long spate of time during his deployment, canned peas were the only veggie available in the DFAC when John was able to grab dinner. When he told me that, I did my best to include more healthy foods in care packages to him. (Once I even sent an entire box full of canned carrots because he had been craving them. Hey, if it fits, it ships! Including a few healthy options in a care package is always a good idea; after all, there are usually plenty of not-so-healthy options available to your loved one while they’re on deployment.
Choose a theme
Of course, you don’t need a theme… but a theme always makes it a little more fun (and a little easier to think of ideas for decorating the box!). And when it comes to care package themes, there’s truly nothing new under the sun. Make sure that you take a look at Pinterest— you can even score free printables– before you get started.
These care package themes are sure to please (and if I do say so myself, they’re some of the best care package ideas you’ll come across):
- Coffee – Help your loved one to stay wide-eyed and bushy-tailed with a box of coffee, non-dairy creamers, and other necessary supplies to make their mornings (and days… and nights) a little brighter.
- Smores – I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows?
- Chocolate Lovers’ – Mmmm.
- Face Care Kit – Everyone needs to take care of their skin– even (and especially) those who are out in the field.
- Good Morning – Sending this care package will help them start the day off on the right foot!
- Squeaky Clean – Your care package recipient will need a restock of their favorites at some point.
- A Night at the Movies – Got a cinephile on your hands? A box of movies, popcorn, and other goodies might be a welcome diversion.
- Star Wars – If your recipient is a Star Wars superfan, you’ll want to send them one of these at the speed of hyperdrive.
- Pokemon – Sending to a gamer or someone who loves the 90s and early 00s? A Pokemon package is sure to please.
- Super Heroes – Your hero might need a reminder of just how super they are.
- Harry Potter – Calling all Harry Potter fanatics!
- Treat Yo Self – It’s exactly what it says it is.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Booyashaka!
- Despicable Me Minions – This is just too cute.
- New Year’s – Ring out the old and ring in the new.
- Super Bowl – No matter who’s going to the big game, it’s always fun to send a care package, especially during the doldrums of winter.
- Valentine’s Day – You weren’t going to skip February 14, were you?
- St. Patrick’s Day – Send a little extra luck.
- Easter – There are so many cute ways to incorporate Easter aesthetics into your springtime boxes.
- Mother’s Day – The same goes for moms!
- Father’s Day – Don’t miss sending a Father’s Day care package if your recipient is a dad!
- 4th of July – Send a box full of Independence Day!
- Summertime – Send a summer-themed care package during the summer… or brighten someone’s day with one in the winter.
- Beat the Heat – The summer (and sometimes spring and fall) is hot for many of the places military folks deploy to. Cool off your loved one with these ideas.
- College Football – The fall is always a great time to send a football-themed care package, especially if your loved one will be missing out on the big games this year.
- Autumn – Send some cozy.
- Halloween – Time to get spooky.
- Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season and can be a very lonely time for people far away from their families.
- Christmas – There are so many ways to send a little bit of home to someone far away during Christmas time.
- Anniversary – You can’t be together, but you can let your spouse or significant other know you’re thinking of them by sending an anniversary care package.
- Birthday Box – And of course, you have to celebrate their birthday in style.
- No Place Like Home – Send a box of goodies from your area– you know, the ones that your loved one can’t buy at the PX or NEX.
- Origami Stars – Give your care package recipient the gift of time and sweet thoughts.
- Mail Call – Go vintage and send letter-writing supplies.
- Halfway There – Not that anyone’s counting… but, HALFWAY THROUGH!
- See You Later – Because it’s not goodbye.
- The ABCs of You and Me – Love this.
Even the packing materials you use can be part of the care package! Not sure what I mean? These 37 alternative packing materials for your care package will help you start to think about filling the crevices in your care package differently.
In a rut?
Not sure what your next care package is going to be? Not feeling like shopping and creating? That’s okay. Try these five alternative care package ideas that are easy and make sure your recipient feels loved. And if you’re super burnt out, these 10 care package hacks can help you too.
Looking for more care package ideas? Try these:
- 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