Want to surprise a long-distance loved one with a care package filled with lovingly baked treats? (Not that you need a reason, but Mother's Day is coming up soon!) Check out these tips for putting together a box with delicious goodies and let them know you're thinking of them.
- The Right Treats
Nothing is worse than having the treats you labored over turn into a crumbly mess en route to their destination. So choose sturdy snacks that can withstand the rigors of shipping and stay fresh for days without refrigeration. Cookies and brownies, loaf cakes, snack mixes and non-fragile candies are all good options. (What's not? Delicate sweets, as they can easily break apart.)
- The Right Size
Bake small-to-medium sized cookies that are at least ¼-inch thick. These will survive rough handling better than large, thin cookies. Shape cookie dough into 1-inch balls with your hands or a small cookie scoop before baking.
- Know Your Ingredients
Along with selecting what types of treats to include, it's also important to consider mix-ins and flavorings, as some work better than others. For instance, cream cheese or custards may spoil during shipping since they require refrigeration. But on the flipside, shortening, alcohol and dried fruit can actually extend the life of sweets (think of that fruitcake that never seems to bite the dust).
- Plan Ahead
Gather all your supplies and ingredients ahead of time, and start baking the night before or the morning of the day you plan to ship.Make sure you factor in time for your baked goods to cool thoroughly (to limit excess moisture, which can cause mold) before wrapping and shipping. Food starts aging the second that it's created so it's best to ship as soon as you can—preferably on the day that it was made.
- It's a Wrap
Pack your treats in zip-top plastic bags or airtight containers. To give your package some extra oomph, try sourcing unique tins or containers such as mason jars and takeout boxes at craft or housewares stores. Wrapping cookies or brownies in clear or colored cellophane paper secured with a ribbon can also transform something ordinary into something special. If you're sending more than one item, pack each type of treat in its own container or packaging to keep moisture content consistent and prevent mingling flavors.
- Include a Note
A care package wouldn't be complete without a personal note! You don't have to write a long message, but just a little something to add a personal touch.
- No Skimping on Stuffing
Cross-country travel can be a traumatic experience for any baked good. Give them a cushier ride by stuffing your packages with plenty of insulation. Choose from crinkle paper, biodegradable peanuts, or old newspapers, or even clothing (who couldn't use a new pack of socks?). Pack at least 2 inches of cushioning around each item and at least 2 inches of cushioning from the wall of the box.
- Box It Up!
Corrugated cardboard boxes are the best containers to ship in because they're lightweight but can survive rough handling. You can buy them at office supply or discount stores, or better yet, reuse an old box that's still firm and rigid. Use strong tape such as plastic packaging or nylon-reinforced filament. These work better than duct or masking tapes, which aren't strong enough for shipping.
- Away We Go
There are many options for mailing your care package. Premium services like FedEx and UPS will get the job done, but the US Postal Service offers flat rate shipping on Priority Mail (if you use their boxes), which can sometimes be more economical. Avoid the post office's long lines by pre-paying online, or find a local office supply store that handles your preferred carrier. And of course, double check all addresses before mailing!
- Don't Forget the Troops
Sending a package to a soldier is a great way to relieve homesickness by providing a little taste of home. When preparing a military care package, make sure you check the destination country's restrictions on food or other items. And pack treats that won't melt with prolonged exposure to heat if they are going to areas with extreme temperatures.