Updated: May 16
Did you know that if you are returning to or your shipment is transiting the US, that it cannot contain food items? Even though you likely purchased said items in the US, you can’t bring them back. Crazy, right? (Yes, there are workarounds, but it is restricted and comes out of your own pocket.)
So as you approach your PCS date, it is time to take a look at what you have left. Now ask yourself, what will you not finish? If you’re in a country where you’re allowed to sell unexpired consumables, now is probably a good time to start pulling them off the shelf and getting them ready. You can also give them away. And possibly if you have a commissary at post they might buy things from you at a portion of the cost. It’s good to ask whomever manages your commissary if there’s anything they’ll buy back and how you can go about it. If you get in ahead of everyone else, you’re more likely to have your things purchased before the commissary doesn’t have room in their storage to take more.
Once you figured out what you won’t eat, now it’s time to make a plan for what you will eat. You might think you’ll eat more than you will. So each month or week depending on how much time you have, take five to ten minutes to evaluate what you have left and if you think you’ll get to eating it. It’s pretty common towards the end of your tour to be eating out more and attending events. Because most people transfer during the summer there are also more activities going on and parties to say goodbye. Plus, you have end-of-school and farewell events for kids and families.
If you are going onto another overseas post you can also consider shipping your consumables in your HHE if you have room. Be sure to check all of your expiration dates to determine if it is worth shipping the items. And check with your next post to see if there are any restrictions on food items or beverages being shipped into the country. You don’t want your HHE getting held up in customs over some aging items from your pantry.
Again, if you’re returning to the US or if your shipment will transit the US (ask your GSO) food and beverage is not allowed without paying a customs agent out of pocket to clear the shipment. Even still, certain items are prohibited from entering the US. However, cleaning supplies, toiletries and paper products should not be restricted.
In the words of a wise chef and Foreign Service spouse Julia Childs, Bon Appetit!!