All the kids coveted Steve’s care packages from his mom — homemade walnut–chocolate chip cookies, twice wrapped individually in plastic wrap and shipped by the dozens in freezer bags. Mouths watered as he sliced open the box in the college cafeteria. Thankfully, I was on Steve’s “good” list. It’s amazing how one little homemade treat in the midst of college life and terrible cafeteria food makes your day.
Our son headed off for college last week and care packages are on this mama’s brain. What would make for a little pick-me-up? Homemade chocolate chip cookies, check. But what else?
My friend Sande is definitely in the running for the Mom of the Year Award ~ Care Package Edition. “I usually set up a priority-mail box and just start stuffing in whatever I can fit as I find it,” she explained, “and when I can’t fit in anymore, I seal and send it. And then start on the next one. They don’t have Trader Joe’s in North Dakota, so my daughter loves getting snacks from there and, bonus for me, it’s not expensive. She likes their Cookie Butter Sandwich cookies [$3.99 for ten ounces], their cereal bars [“This Apple Walks Into a Bar” cereal bars, $1.99 for six-count], the Spicy Chai Tea Latte Mix [$3.99 for ten ounces], and spices for flavoring food cooked in her dorm-room microwave. I usually add a little knickknack from Hobby Lobby, something I think will remind her of home....
“I’ve also sent theme boxes,” she added, “like a spa in a box for her to share with her friends during winter: facial masks, headbands, mani-pedi stuff with polish, cookies, and cocoa. The Dollar Store has lots of spa stuff. And I usually add in some holiday-decor item, like reindeer ears, St. Patrick’s Day, or Valentine items.”
“I tend to prefer snacks that are small but filling,” admitted Claire, a student at UCSD. “Since I’m usually running between classes, I’m not always sure when I can sit and have a full meal. Things like Clif bars or trail mix are what I gravitate toward, since you can vary the flavors and avoid getting bored of the snack. Packs of pretzels, Goldfish, or the occasional bag of chips accomplishes the same goal but generally have less variety [$5.99 for a six-count box of Clif bars at Target].”
Evelyn said, “My friend Meg received a care package from her mom last year that was a multi-course meal in a box. There were three cans of soup, bread sticks, freshly cooked food in a Tupperware container, popcorn. It made for such a comfort meal.
“But for my care packages, just send money,” she laughed. “My friend Sam’s mom sends Safeway gift cards. Those would work also. And send jam. Plus toffee, cheese puffs, teas, granola bars, trail mixes for late-night studying. Fuzzy socks or a soft throw would also be nice for the long hours studying in my room. And a house plant. It’s nice to have something living in your room.”
“I send my boy protein bars,” answered Bernice. “He likes the Tiger’s Milk: Protein Rich Bars. The food was so bad at school he was happy to have those [$19.95 for a box of 24 bars at Walmart]. I also sent him a vanilla protein-powder mix that he would mix with coffee and milk and shake it up and drink before class. The Nature’s Plus Spiru-Tein Shake is a good brand [$24.99 for .82 lb at Sprouts]. There is also the Solgar Whey to Go protein powder [$36.99 for an 32-ounce canister on Amazon].”
“I liked organization items for my room,” admitted Nancy. “I used a bed organizing caddy since space was such a premium in those tiny rooms. You always end up spending some time working from your bed, so a multi-compartment caddy where you can pop pens and phones and little books into is very helpful [Fancii 10 Pocket Bedside Caddy Hanging Storage Organizer, $13.99 on Amazon].”