If you’ve been couponing like I have, you probably have a ton of free or super cheap hygiene products stocked up: toothpastes, deodorants, lotions, hair care products, razors, etc. And more likely than not, you probably have a lot of it in sample or travel sizes! Wouldn’t it be awesome to put some of that into the hands of people who really need it this holiday season?

Our troops on the front lines (male and female) are often asking for hygiene items as well as treats, food items, and reminders of home. In some locations they don’t always get access to goods, so when a package full of needed items comes in, it’s like Santa has come to the desert!

When our family adopts a unit during the holidays, we go through AnySoldier.com. Anysoldier.com is a website where you can find postings from soldiers in all branches of the military, from all over the U.S.  Individuals volunteer to represent a unit and, on behalf of their brothers and sisters serving with them, make requests for things from home. What’s really nice about this program is that you don’t go through a middleman.  You’re never left wondering if your donations got into the hands of those in need. You get their address, and what you send is what they receive.

Items that are nice to send include:

  • Travel size items (shampoo, toothpaste, wipes, etc)
  • Razors, deodorants, lotions, and body sprays
  • Hard candies 
  • Gummies and fruit snack pouches
  • Individual cereal bars, snack bars, or mixed nuts/trail mix
  • Books and magazines
  • DVDs
  • Hats, gloves, and instant cocoa (in winter months)
  • Canned soups, instant mac and cheese, or pasta bowls
  • Letters!!
  • Small holiday decorations/items (especially before Christmas)

Tip: Tape down the lids of shampoos, gels, etc. and seal them in zip top plastic bags. You never know if they might open during shipping!

Items that are not always a good idea:

  • Chocolates (they melt in warmer months.)
  • Pork products of ANY kind (when sending to Middle East)
  • Graphic, sexual, or violent magazines/media (prohibited)
  • Home brewing supplies, or anything alcohol related
  • Tobacco products and/or lighters
  • Soda or aerosol cans (can pop during flight)
  • Glass items
  • Chemicals
  • Baked goods (they may go bad before they get there)

Just be aware that you will have to fill out a small customs form that goes on the box. Make sure to write down the inventory of the items you are packing BEFORE you seal up the box. USPS provides these for free, just ask your postal clerk. Also, it will take a few weeks, so plan ahead for holidays or the specific month you want your package to arrive. (Sending cold weather items in March will probably arrive much too late to be very useful.)

I usually go to the local Post Office for my supplies, but recently I learned that if you call them at 1-800-610-8734, select option #1 Express Mail, Priority Mail or Global Express Guaranteed products, and ask a customer service agent for a “military kit”, they’ll get a kit off to you free of charge. The kit includes boxes, tape, and custom forms. (Takes approx 4-7 days).

It does cost to ship the flat rate boxes to the soldiers, but it’s usually even cheaper than domestic flat rates, with no weight limit!

So this Holiday Season consider adopting a troop or two and sending some love from home!

This has been a guest post by Amber from St. John, AZ
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

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31 thoughts on “Adopt a Soldier: Use your Stockpile to Send Holiday Cheer”

  1. I recommend sending either a toiletries box or a food box. If you do both, the food will taste like soap, even if it’s packaged!

  2. Amy Maynard says:

    Can you send full size products like shampoo and body wash, or are trial size better?

  3. Amy Maynard says:

    Can you send full size shampoo and soap or are the trial size better?

  4. This is awesome! My daughter came home and wrote a letter to a soldier in honor of veterans day. I was wondering how we could get that five year olds well wishes to an actual soldier. Then I saw your post. We picked a troop from our area (OHIO) and we are gonna send snacks! YAY! Snacks and socks.

  5. I have been using anysoldier for over a year now, i have filled tons of boxes with coupon items. The Soilders are so very grateful. I have made many contacts and talk to them on fb in iraq, I have been sending for over a year and i still can’t get them to “request anything” they tell me over and over what i chose is perfect. Warning though…once you start, u will be addicted.

  6. My hubby and his buddies love it when I send the microwavable Betty Crocker desserts from the cake mix aisle- tastes like nothing else you can get while deployed! (if you send these, send a little measuring spoon so they can measure the water- learned that one the hard way lol)

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have requested an address and I’m really excited to do this just in time for the holidays!
    To anyone who has done this before…About how much is it to ship a box to the Middle East?

    • A. S. says:

      USPS has flat rate boxes.. I just sent mine, and they were 12 dollars and some change. (3 boxes cost me 38 dollars total) Cheaper than domestic priority flat rates for the same size box.

    • It depend where you live, I live in CT so i choose addresss that are APO AE i only have to pay for shipping to NY (if i use a brown box) which i found is cheaper cause i by the huge box at walmart for .88 pack it with food and it is about $15.00. Most people use the large flat rate box to send that price is 12.95 i use that when i send shampoos and heavy cans, cause u can stuff up to 70lbs in the flat rate, I just find it more cost effective to send brown box. if you are in apo AP i believe hope this helps – Any questions i would love to help i have been sending this way for over a year now

  8. When I was in Iraq, we sorted all these hygiene goodies into cardboard boxes (soap/hair/razors/etc) and we just took them as we needed them. It was wonderful just having that available when we needed it! Chapstick and lotion were my absolute FAVEs to get! It’s pretty dry out there, ya know ;) We also had boxes full of goodies…the beef jerky is the one box that was always empty! (I guess Marines really like their beef jerky, or maybe it was just my Bn!)

  9. Lena Rotan says:

    such a great cause! a lady at my church does a “stocking for soldiers” every year for Christmas! great ways to show we are still thinking about them and care!

  10. Thanks for posting this! My Girl Scout troops pick the soldiers serving overseas for their “Gift of Caring” program during their cookie sale. Last year we received 84 donated boxes! We did send them overseas but the girls never heard back. I love this idea where they can get a response back from the soldiers and see them enjoying the packages they made up!

    • My Bn recieved girl scout cookies (this was back in 06 when I was in Fallujah), we had more cookies than I’ve ever seen (and I used to be a girl scout!) They never told us who was sending them, though. But boy did I enjoy some Caramel Delights/Samoas while I was there. Yum! Thank you girl scouts!

    • A. S. says:

      RememberL you may or may not hear back from them. Sometimes they dont have time or ability to write back or email. They try, but it’s never guaranteed.

  11. Soliders Angels is another program that u deal directly with the deployed serviceman/woman, we have adopted one and we send boxes and letters each month so if you are looking to do more than just the holidays this is a good program, we are on our 4th serviceman and our kiddos love it

  12. Jen Boys says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been looking for something like this that cuts out the middle man but what do you do a good search for, “Care package for troops no middle man”? lol! Thanks again and I cannot wait to get boxes together to send!

  13. dawn louise says:

    What about sample size shampoo and conditioners? Would I be able to send those also? I’ve been getting a lot through the mail and sometimes those small sample packets are attached to the full size bottles that I buy from the stores.

    • you should be able to. My husband is in the Air Force and we send care packages out monthly and he tells me to always send the travel size things becuase each soilder has very limited personal space so travel size items are usually the way to go. Since my husband keeps his hair very short he can make a travel size bottle of shampoo last almost 2 weeks!

  14. Kellie Kent says:

    There is a wonderful organization called Treats for Troops that is a 100% volunteer based organization with NO overhead that supports the troops year round. I donate these types of things ALL the time and they are SO appreciative. In addition, they have been designated by the government as their own post office so packages go from their warehouse to the desert in ONE WEEK. We send homebaked goods, etc. on a regular basis. Please visit http://www.treatsfortroops.INFO for more information or check them out on facebook. Treats for Troops / Operation Pocket Change is a wonderful organization and is certified as a 503c non profit.

  15. Julia Brewer says:

    This is an awesome idea! My oldest son just returned home (on 9/11) from a tour of duty in Iraq and I know the soldiers LOVE getting care packages. It means A LOT to them so please share and care!

  16. Just requested an address. Thanks for posting this!!!

  17. Valerie says:

    Thank you for this valuable information. It will definitely be a great activity to do with my 8 yr old. I always like to do several donation projects at Christmas to help, but also to teach my son the importance of blessing others!!!

  18. Anonymous says:

    LOVE this idea! My brother was an Airman who served a couple of stints in the desert. We’re glad to have him home safe and sound but I feel for those still serving.

  19. Another good idea would be to send gifts and cards to Soldiers who have been injured. Find your local Fisher House or any one will do. See if you could possibly get a name to send some gifts to a few of the wounded soldiers staying there. Fisher House is a great place and I know the soldiers there could really use some holiday cheer.

  20. Anonymous says:

    my husband is in the army and one thing they don’t have while deployed is Christmas trees so if you have a extra small one they would love that also a little homemade one candy canes also anything that will fit in a pocket that they can eat cause when they go on missions they cant take much with them also baby wipes cause when they are on missions they cant shower socks are great to send to and if you send to a soldier from you area home town favorite’s they will love

  21. Anonymous says:

    my husband is in the army and one thing they dont have when deployed is Christmas trees so if you have a small extra one they would enjoy that or even a little home made tree

  22. Thank you so much for posting this! My brother did two tours in Iraq, and we sent things over there during Christmas time. We sent a small tree and ornaments along with just goofy things such as silly putty and other things. Food is always good. If he didn’t want it, he handed it out to others. I really appreciate you mentioning this!

  23. Anonymous says:

    consider donating items to a local charity for soldiers. We have one in my area, The Desert Angel. She has packing parties where people can come pack boxes. She’s always collecting donations and knows exactly how and what to pack. I’ve taken my boys a few times to pack boxes.