For U.S. troops serving overseas, dealing with stress, armed conflicts, separation from family and the harsh realities of military life can take a toll on morale. One way family members and friends can provide a taste of home for the troops is to send baked goods. Not all cookies and muffins are created equal when it comes to shipping, however, as it can take days or weeks for care packages to reach their destination. To make sure the goodies you send arrive intact and are as fresh as possible, there are some tips to keep in mind.


Best Types of Baked Goods to Send

Since butter, margarine, peanut butter and nuts turn rancid in heat, it’s better to use vegetable shortening instead. Use only white sugar, as sweeteners like brown sugar, corn sugar, honey or molasses may allow the goods to become too soft and moldy. Using eggs in the recipe can also prolong the shelf life of the baked goods you create, and it’s also OK to use chocolate and butterscotch, as they’ll stay firm after the cookies or muffins cool. Bar cookies, brownies, fruitcake, pound cake, carrot cake, spice cake or applesauce cake are the safest items to ship. The first two links under References below have recipes that are more “desert proof” for soldiers in hot climates.

One caveat: Beware of cultural restrictions for the country in which your solider is serving. In Muslim countries, you can’t ship products with pork products, alcohol or goods containing allspice or nutmeg.


Packing Instructions

For best results, use a vacuum sealer to seal bags with muffins and cookies. Then, place those bags in larger plastic zip-type bags, blowing extra air into the bigger bags before sealing to make balloon cushions. If you don’t have a sealer, just use the tightest zip-type plastic bags you can find. You can also place pieces of bread inside with the cookies and muffins, which will help the baked goods retain moisture. Use foam packaging material, bubble wrap or popcorn (air popped, no oil) to fill up the box, but avoid Styrofoam peanuts as they can be difficult to clean up.

Packages must weigh less than 70 pounds and be no larger than 130 inches in total length and girth. You can buy special packaging from the U.S. Postal Service, but you should use only strong clear or brown packing tape to seal the boxes, and avoid any duct tape or string.