| Musings |

Packaging Before Product

At two weeks to go, there was nothing online that would fit my cupcakes, arrive on time, and be affordable

I’m going to tell you a little secret. I mean, we’re all friends here, right? And you promise to forget this when my kids reach shidduchim.

I’m very practical. And… well… I don’t like to spend. Not on things I can get for free. Or on things that are meant to go in the garbage, like mishloach manos containers.

Another secret: My mishloach manos don’t not win prizes for creativity. I like themes, and I can come up with a few good ideas, but crafts and projects? Not me.

Still, I like nice and pretty things as much as you do. And I like to bake. The question is always what to make and how to package it in a way that’s respectable, but takes into account the reality that you won’t notice my mishloach manos over the 50 others on your table.

One year, I hit gold. My friend discovered a restaurant supply store.

That was the year I made cupcakes. My very artistic sister-in-law had done them the year before and flooded my inbox with different packaging ideas. Here’s the thing you need to know about very artistic sisters-in-law: The simpler their presentation looks, the more difficult it is to replicate.

Two weeks before Purim, I was scouring the internet for the perfect boxes to house the more than one hundred cupcakes in my freezer.

Then my very artistic sister-in-law tells me that the packaging comes before the product.

At two weeks to go, there was nothing online that would fit my cupcakes, arrive on time, and be affordable. And that’s when my friend told me about the restaurant supply store. With exactly one week to Purim, I trekked out in two feet of snow, only to learn when I got there that they only sell in bulk. (My friend had shared a case with her neighbor.)

I pinpointed these rectangular containers that would fit two cupcakes each. I’d planned to give four cupcakes in each mishloach manos, but the boxes that fit four cupcakes didn’t have the cupcake holder thing, so it would get kind of messy. There was a box with a cupcake holder, but it fit only one cupcake, and I didn’t think that would be presentable.

The two-cupcake option was sold in a case of 400 containers for 30 cents each. I could take half a case at more than double the price — 200 at 70 cents. (For comparison’s sake, the four-cupcake option was sold 150 in a case at 50 cents each, and the one-cupcake box in cases of 100.) What to do?

I spent so much time vacillating, the sales rep took another call and left me to it. I bothered my very artistic sister-in-law at work, and then — you promised to forget this — bought 400 containers. When I got home and put a package together — two stacked containers, chocolate cupcakes on the bottom, vanilla on top, glued together and tied with a ribbon — I was too embarrassed to even take a photo for advice on the ribbons.

And then I realized. Four hundred containers. If I gave 50 shalach manos a year, I would have these containers for eight years. And I don’t give out 50 shalach manos. Help.

And there I was. After fighting with the glue gun, freezer space, and ribbons, my husband wanted to throw away the more than 300 leftover containers, but you already guessed that I didn’t let, didn’t you?

The next year, no cupcakes. I learn from my mistakes. Cookies were also out, because they wouldn’t fit into the narrow container. So I made truffles.

The plan was to package roughly six handmade truffles with another min wrapped separately in cellophane and placed in the box. The containers would look full, the truffles would be delicious (I used the expensive chocolate), and best of all, I wouldn’t have to fuss with ribbon. But when I dug out the containers a week before Purim, I realized that cupcakes are pretty tall. To fill up the container nicely, each person would need more than six truffles. A lot more.

I spent the week making more truffles in addition to finalizing costumes and cooking for the seudah. Show my husband a truffle never again.

And I still had close to 300 containers left.

Year three. I was right after birth, so I decided to limit the number of truffles I’d make. How to fill up those packages? I decided on six truffles a person plus two kinds of nuts wrapped separately in those tiny cellophane bags. My husband has now come to hate cellophane. He also couldn’t resist pointing out that filling these packages was perhaps costing more than they were worth.

That was when, in a stroke of brilliance, I thought of another use for my containers. True, the kids’ packaging usually comes in at about 10 cents to these containers’ 30, but I already have these, don’t I? Saves money right there.

Except the soda cans that are integral to every kids’ mishloach manos didn’t fit. I gave my kids a treat and let them drink the cans we’d bought in Costco for 30 cents each. Then I bought the smaller, Purim-edition cans for 60 cents apiece.

I don’t care. I got rid of a hundred containers.

Year four. My kids were old enough to want to give out cute mishloach manos that matched their costumes. I blackmailed them into using my containers with this rule: Anyone who uses their own packaging can’t give out soda. Score! For an extra 30 cents a can, I saved 10 cents on each of the kids’ packages, and I used up more containers.

Coming this year: a brand-new mishloach manos package from the Loebs.

Yes, I still have about 70 containers left. But I’ve learned a few things: packaging comes first. Cupcakes, truffles, and soda are out. I’ll never be artistic.

And throwing these containers in the garbage is also called using them up.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 732)

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