09:14 – We did a Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday. With Mary’s and Barbara’s advice, I picked up some stuff to ship off to the Marine unit in Afghanistan. I’m very glad they were there. For example, one of the items the troops requested was wipes. So, as I was picking up a bottle of Chlorox2 bleach for us, I happened to notice a large box of Lysol disinfectant wipes. I picked it up, and Barbara intercepted me. Although she phrased it more politely, the message was basically, “No, you moron, they want BABY WIPES!” Me: “There’s a difference?” So she led me to the next aisle, where I picked up a case of 900 baby wipes.

As it turned out, Paul and Mary were already quite experienced with sending CARE packages to the troops. Mary’s cousin was over in the Middle East, and they’ve been frequently sending packages to him, so they’re intimately familiar with stuff like filling out customs forms, which items can’t be sent and so forth.

So now I have to figure out which items and how many of each will fit in each USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate Box B. That offers by far the best bang for the buck. It costs only $8.47 to mail to an APO AE address, versus $13.30 for the slightly larger PM Large Flat-Rate Box. The one downside of the RRBB is that it’s limited to 20 pounds, versus 70 pounds for the LFRB, so I may end up using an LFRB if I’m shipping a lot of heavy stuff like canned goods.

The one universal piece of advice is to seal the items in ziplock bags, ideally two bags per item. I’m going to use just one freezer-weight bag per item, because they’re pretty impermeable to odors and such, but I’ll use my heat sealer to run a seam between the ziplock and the edge of the bag. That way, they can cut off the heat-sealed part and rezip the bag if they need to. Anything to keep sand out. I’ll use the sink method to exhaust air from the bags: fill the bag, zip it most of the way closed, and then lower the bag into a sink full of water to press the air out.

09:14 – I just shipped off the first box to the Marines in Afghanistan. I managed to get nine 7-ounce cans of tuna, three Kraft mac & cheese dinners, and two 100-packs of baby wipes into the box, which is all the cubic would allow. Other than the tuna, I bagged and heat sealed everything. As I told Barbara, it costs so little to do that we cab send packages frequently without even noticing the cost. Even counting the $8.47 postage, I don’t think the entire box cost us more than $25 or so.

You wouldn’t know that from the customs declaration, though. I entered the description as “Tuna, 7-ounce cans”, the quantity as “9”, and the value as $10.50. It wasn’t until I’d already printed the label and stuck it on the box that I noticed the 2976A customs form listed 9 cans of tuna with a total value of $94.50 rather than $10.50. Oh, well.

If I’d mailed the items in a regular box the same size as the RRBB, postage for the 12-pound-2-ounce box would have been $18.83 rather than $8.47 with the RRBB. But that gave me a cunning idea. Unless I filled it entirely with canned goods, it’d be difficult or impossible to hit the 20-pound weight limit on that box. But I can send 12+ pounds via Priority Mail for $18 or $19 even in a box, presumably within reason. Cubic is really limiting on the RR Box B, so I think we’ll start using those only for dense shipments. For less dense items–tampons, facial tissues, and so on–I’ll start using a larger box.