As a military wife, military reporter and friend of many Marines (and a few sailors), I have done a lot of overseas shipping. I send so many baked goods that the owner of the Annapolis Post Box knows me as “The Cookie Lady.”
The first time I sent cookies overseas was almost 10 years ago, when I decided to send some monster cookies to Bangladesh for my friend’s birthday. I paid a zillion dollars to have them “overnight” shipped (unsurprisingly, they don’t have overnight service from Bluffton, S.C. to Dhaka — expedited shipping is more like a week). But the box got stuck in customs in Miami for two weeks and took FOREVER to get there. Allegedly the cookies were still good. But because of that (and because everyone seems to love monster cookies) they are the type I usually ship overseas.
The combination of oatmeal and peanut butter make these cookies pretty sturdy. They normally have chocolate chips and regular M&Ms in them, but during the summer I use regular and peanut M&Ms (with no chocolate chips) to avoid crazy melting.
Of course, you can bake any kind of cookies you (or your friend/loved one) like. Just be sure to take into consideration that it will likely take at least two weeks to arrive for military, and the package may be exposed to extreme heat.
Try to underbake the cookies just a tad (you don’t want them to be so soft that they fall apart, but they won’t get stale as quickly if they are slightly underbaked), and find a good inexpensive airtight container to send them in. I have never wrapped my cookies individually, but I know some people do. I like to put a layer of paper towels or napkins down, then a layer of cookies, then more paper towels and so on, finishing with paper towels to keep the cookies from jiggling around too much. If the container is smaller, I may just put the paper towels on the bottom and top. I’ve also read that putting apple peel in the paper towels helps prevent mold, but I haven’t had problems with moldy cookies (as far as I’m aware).
If the container you’re using isn’t great, you may want to seal the lid on with packing tape. Then, just pack it securely in a box with other goodies (magazines, sunscreen, gum, Gatorade powder, an egg crate mattress, wet wipes, foot powder — whatever makes sense for the person and the location) and take it to the Post Office. You can use a flat-rate box (they make special ones for the military, but the regular ones are fine, too), though it may be cheaper to use your own box if the things you’re sending aren’t super heavy.
You’ll need to fill out a customs form at the Post Office. Don’t spend extra for overnight shipping — that will only get it to the mail processing place in the United States faster. After that, it will probably go to a different location or two and sit there before being sent to the ship or base. The fastest I’ve heard of things getting to major bases in Afghanistan is a week, but if the service member is at a remote forward operating base, it may take several weeks.
And, if you’re sending any kind of liquids or gels, make sure you seal them very well in plastic bags. The mail clerks in Kandahar told me they saw a box that had nearly disintegrated because some kind of liquid inside (shampoo or laundry detergent, probably) had opened and spilled everywhere, drenching the box. Don’t be that person!
That’s all I can think of, but please let me know if you have any questions.
And, if you’d like the recipe for monster cookies again….
Monster cookies (makes about 6 dozen large cookies)
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
24 ounces creamy peanut butter (don’t use the “natural” kind or the batter will be nearly impossible to stir)
9 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (NOT quick oats)
1/2 pound chocolate chips (substitute peanut M&Ms if sending to an extremely hot location)
1/2 pound M&Ms
Preheat oven to 350.
Slightly beat the eggs in a very large bowl, then mix in sugars. Add vanilla, corn syrup and baking soda and blend. Cream in butter and peanut butter.
Add oatmeal a cupful at a time, mixing between each addition. You may have to stir in the last cup or two by hand. Stir in chocolate chips and/or M&Ms.
Form balls of batter and place on a greased or lined cookie sheet, allowing at least two inches for spreading. Bake for 10 minutes, then check cookies. Cookies will be done when puffy and turning golden.
Allow to cool on cookie sheets for about 10 minutes (cookies will flatten out somewhat), then use a spatula to move to cookie sheets. Make sure cookies have cooled completely before packing.