Whether for your child off to their first summer at sleep-away camp or for a cross-country friend "just because," nothing says love like a package of homemade treats. Here's everything you need to know to avoid having your thoughtful care package arrive in crumbs.
A box of homemade treats can be a sweet surprise, whether you’re sending a package to a child away at summer camp, an older child starting their first year of college, or a “just because” gift to make someone feel appreciated. But if the lucky recipient opens his or her mail to find a crumbly, melted mess, it won’t give the effect you’re going for. Here’s what to consider when making a care package, including ideas for what to bake, how to pack, and tips for shipping.
Choose treats that will hold up in the mail.
A good rule of thumb is that any treat that crumbles or doesn’t hold up in your hand won’t hold up in the mail, either. The same goes for any item with a perishable ingredient that requires refrigeration, such as cream cheese or buttercream frosting. During summer months, you may want to stay away from treats with chocolate chips as well, as they begin to melt at around 90 degrees.
Sturdy items that mail well any time of year include:
- Cookies, like Oatmeal Toffee Cookies, Ultimate M&M Cookies or Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti
- Bars, like Pecan Pie Bars, Peanut Butter Blondies or Chocolate Brownie Bites
- Quick breads, like Basic Banana Bread (skip the glaze), Apple Bread or Spiced Pumpkin Bread
- Granola, like Power Granola, Sesame Almond Cherry Granola or Maple Pecan Granola
WATCH: How to Make M&M Drop Cookies
Wrap them properly.
Always make sure the item is completely cooled before getting ready to send. When mailing individual treats like cookies or bars, arrange them neatly in a plastic container or tin with wax paper between each item before packing them into the mailing box. “If you pack [the treats] properly inside, they won’t be susceptible to elements outside,” says Carl A. Walton, a spokesperson for USPS.
If you’re mailing soft cookies, you can add a slice of white bread into the container before sealing. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread, keeping them tender longer. Quick breads should be wrapped twice in plastic wrap and then sealed inside a gallon-size plastic bag, or wrapped again in foil. Granola can be sealed inside a sturdy plastic bag. Remember to clearly label the items so the recipient knows what’s inside.
Use the right box.
The biggest mistake people make in shipping a care package is either choosing a box that’s the wrong size or leaving too much room for goods to move around inside. “Packing materials should be filling up the entire space,” says Walton. “It’s always best to get a box that’s a little bigger than the contents so you have room to pack material around it.” You can use items like bubble wrap, packing peanuts, recycled newspaper or even popped popcorn to cushion your treats.
Choose the best shipping method.
Even if they don’t require refrigeration, all baked goods are perishable to an extent, so choose a shipping method that will get them there while they’re still fresh. If shipping USPS, Walton recommends choosing at least Priority Mail, which takes two to three days and includes tracking.
Be mindful of allergens.
When shipping a care package, consider children around the recipient who might have food allergies—especially if they’re sharing sleeping quarters, like a cabin or a dorm room. If this is a concern, avoid baking treats with peanuts and tree nuts, two of the most common food allergens. An easy swap for nuts or peanut butter in baked goods: Sunflower seeds or sunflower butter, which give a nice toasty flavor and a boost of Vitamin E to boot, says Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDE, CDN, owner of Entirely Nourished.