Tips for sending food through the mail

Since many of us are not going to be able to travel and gather together with family and friends for the upcoming holidays, we will miss the feasts that often accompany them. I have been pondering whether to send ‘treat boxes’ to people I would normally see during the holiday season. Since I often created cookie boxes for work, it would not be that much different to create something to send via the mail or package delivery service. But is it a good idea to ship food? HuffPost fills us in on the details about shipping foods this holiday season.

Obviously I am not alone in thinking about sending treats to relatives and friends. Shipping companies realize that this may be the busiest season ever in terms of delivering not only gifts but also homemade goodies. In 2019, the U.S. Postal Service delivered about 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That will likely increase this year, despite the fact that the USPS has gone through major upheaval. The takeaway here is to plan ahead and ship items earlier than normal to accommodate potential delays.

If you do ship baked goods or other foods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends “shipping perishable items in a foam or corrugated cardboard box with a cold source, like dry ice or a frozen gel pack.” Perishable items, like frosted cakes, pies, soft cookies, cookies with fillings, or other high-moisture items should always be sent using a speedy method such as overnight shipping, and make sure someone will be available to receive the package as soon as it arrives. No one wants to come home to rotting food on their doorstep.

Drier items like most cookies and candies don’t need to be shipped express, but do consider how long they will remain fresh. Some items age well, like shortbread or pound cakes, but other things will become stale in just a day or two. Choose your items wisely, and don’t mix and match things that have different moisture levels. If you put crisp meringues in the same container as chewy cookies, you’ll end up with soggy meringues and dried out cookies.

If you have a vacuum sealer, now is the time to use it. Most of them have a delicate setting so your cookies won’t get smashed. A zip-closure bag will also work, just try to press out as much air as possible. Be sure to put plenty of packing material around your goodies to protect them from rough handling. My husband always says “make sure you feel comfortable throwing the package down a flight of stairs.” One mistake people make is to allow items to move around too much. When you shake your box, you shouldn’t hear anything move. The photo above might look attractive now, but those items will be a right mess if you shipped them like that.

Think outside the box as well. I have used cylindrical cardboard tubes to hold cookies stacked on top of each other. If you match the size of the cookies to the tubes correctly, they will arrive looking great. It is also possible to use some goodies as cushioning agents. I have used bags filled with homemade caramel corn as “packing peanuts.” One last piece of advice is take advantage of flat rate shipping boxes if you plan to make dense items like caramels or toffee. It’s amazing how heavy those items can get – and how expensive it can be to ship them.

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