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Budget-Friendly Tips for Packing and Sending Care Packages to Military Overseas

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Military Care Package Hip2Save

If you’ve ever considered sending a care package to a member of the military (or maybe you are just looking for some new suggestions and insider insight!), I thought you might find this email from a Hip2Save reader to be quite helpful…

[h2s_box]I thought I would share one of my newest journeys into being frugal! My husband is currently on his 6th deployment, and with a toddler and newborn I wanted to be prepared for everything before he left, including being really organized about care packages. Before I started couponing, I would just go to the store and pay full price for items and ship them off, but now, with the help of Hip2Save, I managed to be frugal and smart about care packages.

Shipping costs:

There isn’t a way to get around this, but some helpful hints include:
Order free flat rate boxes, pay shipping costs, print labels, and arrange for pick up at your house. It actually saves a little more than a dollar per box as opposed to doing it at a USPS location, there is no weight limit, and you don’t have to waste gas on a trip.

Many places ship to APO addresses for free. Cheryl’s Cookies does and with the wonderful people on this site using my link, I was able to send cookies to my husband’s department for free!

Decorating the boxes:

In order to make the boxes more inviting, I used scrapbook paper and cute sayings/greetings to decorate the boxes. I gave each box a theme as well: the obvious holiday ones, but also ones such as “Date Night,” “We Are So Blue Without You,” “Breakfast in Bed,” and “Born to Run.”

Using Michaels coupons I was able to buy a pack of themed scrapbook paper and decorate over 30 boxes for less than $4!

Some of the themes:
Game night (hand-held games, dollar store puzzle books
Sweet Dreams (hot coco, personalized mug, blanket)
Breakfast in bed (cereal, chocolate milk boxes, pop tarts, etc.)
Born to Run: Fitness box (health bars, drinks, water bottle, workout clothes)
Date Night (copy of the first movie you saw together and one you are watching with the kids)
St. Patrick’s Day (everything green packaging)
We are so Blue Without You (everything in blue packaging)
Keep it Clean (Toiletries, towels, etc)
The final countdown (the last box….include plans for when your SO is home)

What goes in the boxes:

I planned ahead and made a list of what I wanted to include. This made couponing and shopping easier! My favorite deals included Hormel microwaveable meals (Target gift card deal paired with coupons), pull tab soups and canned goods, the Beef Jerky deals, and tons of granola bars, candy (avoid chocolate since it melts) and cookies… all almost free after coupons.

Other items:
A binder for my son’s artwork, sheet protectors, & envelopes for the “Open When” letters (free with Office Depot wrapp), Hanes socks and shirts (Target coupon, Cartwheel matched with a sale), free magazine subscription to Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, handheld games from Target toy clearance, Back to School Febreeze and Clorox wipe deals, new towel and sheet set (free after promotions at Kohls), tons of Shutterfly books, magnets, etc. that are freebies!

Some little things that made them special:
“Open when” letters to last throughout the deployment. Some ideas include:
Open when you need to laugh…
Open when you can’t sleep…
Open when you are frustrated….
Open when you need to feel appreciated…
Open when you want to be challenged…
Open when you want to know my favorite ten memories of us as a dating couple…
Open when you want to know my favorite ten memories of us as a married couple…
Open when you want to know my favorite ten memories of us as parents…
Open when you don’t feel well…
Open when you’re discouraged…
Open when you’re bored…
Open when you’re homesick…
Open when you’re halfway through deployment…


1. Use ziplock bags (bought with coupons of course) for any items that could melt or leak (I used them for pudding and energy drinks I got with coupons)

2. Ship ahead of time… They can take up to 4-6 weeks to arrive so you want to keep that in mind in case they are date specific.

Some other deployment suggestions:

You can save money by pausing the deployed person’s phone plan

Stay active to make the time go by faster! There are tons of freebies and discounts for military dependents!

Get the kids involved! We made a countdown board (using a tri-fold board from Office Depot) including a countdown calendar, a map of where daddy is, messages and pictures from daddy! We also used Kohls cash to get a recordable book so the kids could hear their dad’s voice every night![/h2s_box]

Join The Discussion

Comments 41

  1. barbie

    Great Ideas! This is my husband’s 6th deployment as well!

  2. Geena O Joseph

    Lovely idea….

  3. Jamie

    Good tips. My husband left last week on his third. I’ve been at a loss this time because he doesn’t want any junk food! Thank for all the non-food ideas. 😉

  4. Liz

    God bless your families, thank you for your service and sacrifice for our country.

  5. Jenny

    Great ideas! My question is, if you don’t know anyone in the military and want to donate a package, what do you do? Where do you send it?

    • VJ

      I agree… is there a general address to send a package to? a group ? I don’t want to just use google if someone has a great organization to use

      • Jamie

        One Idea is you might want to contact a unit near you that may be deployed. Many National Guard units are in towns near you and could have some soldiers deployed. Just contact the readiness center/armory and ask. If you contact the Family Readiness Group president, she will be able to help you out and maybe get some stuff to soldiers that may not have a lot of support at home.

    • Lenni

      They have websites that you can google that military individuals sign up for and you can send them care packages that way

    • Carol

      I’ve been sending care packges through They are great to work with. Another tip I learned is to stuff the boxes as full as you can. That way nothing shifts and squashes. I use food to replace packing materials. (hard candy, suckers, instant oatmeal, ramen noodles,etc)
      I’ve adopted 18 soldiers/sailors and sent 127 boxes over the last few years. A few of them came back because the soldier was sent home early, but they were not mashed because of the tight packing. At least that’s what the postmaster told me. Just a few thoughts…

  6. Bridget

    No doubt all that hard work you put in is VERY appreciated!! very nice!

  7. CJ

    Amazing! You should be very pleased with yourself and happy that you can do so much (with so little) for your DH. Really cute ideas. I might have to snag a few this holiday season. Thank you, for giving your DH to us and thank your DH for his service!

  8. wanda

    My nephew is in Boot Camp in Parris Island for the Marines 🙂 Go Neph!! They ask for cough drops but you have to send enough for the whole platoon. Would love to decorate the boxes but have been told not to do that in boot camp because the DI’s will use that to their advantage, does this happen on deployment as well or just while in boot camp?

    • Jamie

      It only happens in boot camp. Once they are in a unit and with the guys that they trust their lives with, they typically won’t be mean. During a deployment any piece of home is amazing to them, and a great uplifter. Most guys will be jealous if you take the time to send something special to your nephew. I know my husband loves it, and some of the guys give him a hard time (joking around) about what I send him. But at the end of the day they all ask him for his goodies, and I usually send enough for them to share!!!! Good luck to your nephew!

    • Em

      DO NOT DECORATE THAT BOX! Once boot camp has come and gone it’s all good. During boot camp that is just one more way to break you down to build you back up.

      • Sofie

        What in the world is this all about?

        • Em

          You’re broken down in basic (boot, whatever you want to call it). Physically, mentally. Then you can be built back up the way the service wants you to be. It works- we have the world’s finest armed services.

  9. Ashley57

    This is so wonderful. It brought tears to my eyes. What a great job you are doing.

  10. M.

    Great ideas! My brother in law is a Captain in the Army – he has had a great career with the Army and wouldn’t trade it for anything but I know it’s hard to be away from home and these idea will help us next time we send a package!

  11. justme

    Very sweet and creative!

  12. Nicole

    My daughter & I was just talking about what she wanted in her care package. This is going to help me a lot!! Thanks for posting.

  13. Amy Reed

    this is so moving…thank you for sharing

  14. Rach

    Now that’s a great wife 🙂

  15. Anne

    As a former peace corps volunteer, I have to say this is such a great idea. Care packages really made my day (and week, and month) overseas and I’ve actually cried from getting them! What a wonderful and thoughtful thing to do for anyone living far from home and family. 🙂

  16. Lenni

    So cute! More ideas for me! I have been sending my bf packages he is currently deployed too!

  17. Rose

    We sent care packages to my son-in-law & his buddies every other week during his two tours ln Iraq. They wanted spaghetti fixings one time, you should have seen us trying to gather up freezed dried hamburger meat & the other ingredients to mail over there. Anyway, when we went to mail the packages, a couple of people in line at the post office actually paid the postage for us. This was awesome since my daughter was pregnant with their first child & money was supper tight. I just don’t anybody to forget about our troops & the sacrifices that they & their families make for all of us. (Sorry for the lengthy of this post)

  18. Rachel

    What an awesome idea! And thank you to your family for all you do! I’m amazed at the strength, determination, and dedication of our military men and women… And their families back home seem to be just as amazing! Thank you, thank you!

  19. Rebecca in TX

    Thanks for sharing! These are great ideas!

  20. Michelle

    You are an incredible, thoughtful, creative woman. Thank you for your inspiration and sacrifice, and thank your husband for his service. Collin, thanks for posting this excellent reminder on Veteran’s Day — those defending our freedom deserve thoughts and prayers, and those giving them strength from home deserve our admiration and support.

  21. Anna

    If you live in Illinois, at least in the Chicago area, Midas collects items for Operation Support Our Troops for care packages. The collect peanut butter, mints, body wash, floss, batteries, and some othr stuff. Convenient to drop off a few things.

  22. Sherri

    My DH is now a veteran but I am so touched by your thoughtfulness towards your husband! He is a blessed man! This took a lot of thought, planning, and action to pull this off. All with a baby and a toddler. I am certainly thankful for all military families and their dedication to protecting our country. We should be honoring them every day!

  23. Lisha

    Great ideas! I especially like the “Open when…” letters. Thanks 4 sharing!

  24. Pamela


  25. Linda R

    This so great! Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • Linda R

      Oops *This IS so great!

  26. W.S.

    How amazing & inspiring!

  27. Steph

    I don’t know anybody personally who is active duty, but these are some great ideas!

  28. Becca

    Thank you! My husband is on his third deployment and these are great ideas. I love the “open when” letter ideas, I will definitely be using that!

  29. Amanda M

    Wish I would have thought oh this when my husband deployed, what I use to do is always include a cute item once I sent him a barrel of monkeys since he had mentioned how much he loved them when he was little and lots of Q tips it’s an essential item for body and gun cleaning!

  30. maxine

    my hubby is currently deployed and i have sent cheryl’s cookies…i had problems putting in an fpo address but did the live chat option and they put it in for me and they even gave me free shipping for the trouble. great customer service.

  31. Cristina

    Thanks for this ideas! Gladly appreciate

  32. lalayeso

    Where can I send care packages to familys overseas and expired coupons (since they can use expired ones up to 6 months past exp.) thanks! Please email me 😀 and what would be the items most in need?

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