DIY Dollar Store Military Care Package Guide

DIY Dollar Store Military Care Package Guide

Posted by Christine Vande Griend on Jul 25th 2019

We know you look to Hero Care Packages to provide high quality, well sourced and shipped care packages for your Hero – and you know we’re glad to do it anytime! We’re also glad to help you with DIY care package know how – and did you know that you only need to look as far as your local dollar store for a great selection of care package items that will make your service member smile?

Dollar Store Books

We invite you to look at the dollar store with the eyes of a service member far from home and ask yourself what might make their day a little brighter or more fun.

But before you fill up your cart, let’s review some DIY service member care package basics. We’ll let you check out the full articles on mailing service member packages, and restricted items. You might look at the list of restricted items and think: “Did someone really send that to someone?” We’ll just trust that they have their reasons.

Other items on the no-go list for service members are surprising and vary by region. For example, you can’t send  chewing gum to a service member in Singapore: it’s actually illegal to chew gum in Singapore. Why is it illegal to chew gum in Singapore? There are actually a couple of reasons. This interesting law has been on Singapore’s books since 1992. 

In general, it’s best to keep in mind where your service member is currently serving, taking into consideration cultural and climate related restrictions. Then ask them if there are any items that they are specifically unable to receive (over and above the universal restrictions), or are simply ill-advised for the weather or circumstances in which he or she is serving. And when in doubt – don’t. At least until you ask.

Once you’re armed with this info, along with your service member’s personal interests in mind, head out to your local dollar store. While it may be preferable to purchase certain items elsewhere, dollar stores are a convenient and cost effective way to DIY a care package – and dollar stores aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Interestingly, while department stores are slashing staff and frantically reorganizing assets, and major retailers are closing record numbers of locations, dollar stores are thriving in the U.S. Their numbers are steadily rising, too. Check out Statista's forecast for the number of dollar stores expected in the next few years.

The first stop is usually right by the door of the dollar stores – seasonal items. These are nice extras to mark whatever season or holiday your service member may be spending away from home. Whether it’s flip flop season or the holidays, you can find something fun to include.

Hygiene items are usually available to your service member, but our feedback from troops tells us they are ALWAYS welcome – body wash, disposable wipes, anti-bacterial hand wash,  lip balm, lotions, and sunscreen are much appreciated. The smaller sizes usually carried by dollar stores make them especially good for care packages, and easy for your Hero to store. Also available are topical pain relieving rubs and other minor medical comfort items. Steer clear of anything aerosol to stay within regulations. Air fresheners are another item service members appreciate in tight quarters. Ladies only items you can pick up at the dollar store include hair ties, hair pins and other accessories, and even certain makeup items are available that might ship well (skip the nail polish – not allowed to be shipped). Next, stationery and envelopes are a good idea and might even keep those letters coming right back to you. And pick up a dollar store journal – journaling is a great way to record their experiences and de-stress a bit.

Snack and drink items are always care package favorites, and dollar stores usually have a good supply of shelf stable snacks.   Beef jerky, candy, sunflower seeds, cookies and chips, along with drink mixes are all over dollar store shelves. Troops especially love the individual drink packets to flavor their water, since hydration is so important. Keep in mind the locale where your Hero is serving, particularly hot climates, and avoid snacks that are likely to melt. These are a steal at a dollar each and there’s a great selection at most dollar stores. Packaging and snacks that are crush resistant are a good idea for your DIY care package.

When your Hero is serving away from home, they face a few common enemies: boredom during off hours, and the need to unwind. Dollar stores have a lot to offer in the fight to de-stress and relax.

Dollar Store Toys

The dollar store is an unexpected resource for a much-requested Hero thank you: Books. Books are a proven boredom buster for your service member – and dollar stores are full of fiction and non-fiction titles, as well as word search, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, etc. Books are a great way to unwind, and dollar stores are full of exceptional deals on soft cover, hard cover, puzzle books, and  word search books. At a dollar each, anyone can afford to keep their Hero reading.

Now it’s time to head to the toy aisle. Think this kid stuff is not for your Hero? Sure, everyone is different, but don’t be afraid to use your imagination – and lighten things up for your service member. This is where you can really get creative. You can start by including decks of playing cards, and explore the dollar stores selection of  puzzles. Many of the puzzles available include beautiful outdoors scenes, nature scenes, animals, etc. There are lots of jigsaw puzzles and sometimes board games available at dollar stores – hours of fun for just a dollar.

Sports are a lot of fun – so stick around the toys section of the dollar store just a little longer. You’d be surprised what people enjoy when they are far away from home and their normal off-hours. Yes, your Hero (and friends) will put this selection to good use: plastic baseball bats and balls, over the door basketball hoops, water guns, foam dart guns, and a wide variety of sports items available at the dollar store will get lots of use. Don’t be afraid to appeal to the kid in your Hero.

Who couldn’t use an extra phone charger cord? Dollar stores are a surprising source for earbuds, cell phone cases, and other  cell phone accessories. Toss a few into your DIY care package for a dollar each. Another unexpected dollar store haul is DVDs! Like the book selection, it will vary by store, but your Hero and friends will likely enjoy any movies you select. Live action, comedy, and romance DVDs are hard to beat and easy to find at most dollar stores.

Dollar Store Sports Toys

Dollar stores have so much to offer – convenience, affordability, and a great selection. And if you want to augment your care package with other goods, no problem! Ordering a favorite book or movie only takes a few days. That gives you time to add a real, handwritten letter, and some photos, and pack your box for your Hero.

Last but not least, you can always find packing materials for your care package. Boxes (check sizes!), bubble wrap, padded mailers, and gift wrap are all in one place.

Add a real, handwritten letter, and some photos, and Bonus: Even the dollar store checkout aisle has a lot to offer. This is the time to yield to “impulse buys;” everything from beef jerky to batteries can be found before you check out. You can actually put together a really well rounded and fun care package for under $25 before shipping.

Serving away from home brings with it many challenges – and part of that means missing the comforts of home, things we often take for granted. What we know is that it’s the little things in life that make a big difference – and sending your hero a DIY care package is one way to make a difference, and the dollar store can make that an affordable and convenient option. If you decide not to DIY, Hero Care Packages is always ready and glad to help with the selection, timing, packing and mailing. Your Hero will thank you for it. 

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