Shenyang is a “consumables” post, so Diplowife and I are allowed two shipments of consumables over the next two years. The first was done as part of our pack-out, and arrived at the same time as our HHE. We’ll probably do the second one about a year into her tour, like next March. (Consumables are anything that gets used up, like food, alcohol, grooming products, cleaning products, etc.)
Shenyang is a consumables post, for various reasons. Presumably it’s because certain products are more difficult to obtain here than in other, more developed places. For example, the next city over, Beijing, is not a consumables post. Beijing, as I found out when I visited recently, a world-class city unlike Shenyang which is a bit of a backwater. However, all posts have access to Amazon.com and other Internet/mail-order retailers. I’ve ordered a lot from Amazon and others over the last few months. Some of which could have been shipped with our consumables, if I had thought to include them at the time, other stuff were things we needed that just aren’t for sale here. Point is, your consumables don’t have to only be things that you can’t buy locally, they should be things that can’t be bought locally OR sent through the diplomatic pouch/DPO mail.
Here’s the list of restrictions for DPO. For a lot of posts, and people, the really important restriction is for alcohol. From what I’ve seen, Shenyang has plenty of booze for sale, in grocery stores and liquor stores. The selection is not all that great usually, but if you’re not picky, you can get by with the local stores. Diplowife and I were advised to load up our consumables shipment with alcohol, and we did, but we probably didn’t really need to, given the local stores. It helps that we aren’t big drinkers.
The other big problem is for liquids in general. Our post office in Shenyang only accepts liquids in quantities of 16 oz. or less, per box. So when I order food from Amazon pantry and want a 12 oz. jar of peanut butter, and a 8 oz. bottle of molasses, those two items have to be in separate boxes. Which means separate orders made a couple days apart, because Amazon likes to stick orders in the same box if they can. So you can order liquids, but it’s kind of a pain. And some liquids can’t be shipped at all, like vanilla extract (I think it’s because it contains alcohol), and some of my art supplies.
Aerosols weren’t allowed in our pack-out, and they can’t be shipped, so I’m still trying to figure out how we’re supposed to get them here. Some people hide their aerosols in their HHE, but I don’t advise that. Hopefully you’ll be lucky and get a shipping company that allows aerosols. If you do, pack enough for your entire tour! The local stores don’t carry the brands I like for aerosol art supplies, so I think I’m out of luck.
So, given all that we’ve learned, I would have included some things in the consumables shipment, and left other things out. Here are some items that I can’t find in Shenyang, or are imported and therefore expensive:
- chicken stock
- maple syrup
- peanut butter
- corn syrup
- vanilla extract
- canned fruits and vegetables
- nuts, other than peanuts
- rye flour
- Dijon mustard
- breakfast cereal
- cheese, other than pre-sliced sandwich cheese
- gluten-free pasta
- quality paper goods of any kind (napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, you name it)
- arborio rice
- lots of spices, too many to list here
- ranch dressing
- bread crumbs
The list goes on and on. On the other hand, here are some items I was surprised to find were available here:
- familiar grooming products like Head & Shoulders shampoo, Cetaphil cleanser, Dove soap, etc.
- AP flour, cake flour, bread flour
- powdered sugar
- milk and cream (albeit UHT)
- butter (mostly from New Zealand, and kind of pricey)
- potato/tortilla chips (mostly in strange flavors, but I’m having fun trying them)
So plan accordingly. Every post has its own idiosyncrasies, so what’s common in one place is unknown in another. But one thing is constant: liquids are a pain to ship, so put a lot in your consumables, if you can. Good luck!