Whether you’re heading to a BBQ or off for a week-long camping trip, packing your cooler right will ensure that everything stays as cold as it should be, and that your food doesn’t spoil.
Don’t forget, your cooler can also be used as a double duty corn cooker! Check it out here.
Your first step should be to ensure that your cooler is as clean as a whistle inside and that the seals are intact and effective. This will reduce food spoilage/waste and keep your ice cold for a longer period of time.
Considering that food is being stored inside, wiping the inside with a cloth moistened with a water/vinegar mixture is an effective cleanser. If adding baking soda to the mixture, just be sure to rinse the cooler out well.
Hack #1 – DIY Ice
In the week or two leading up to your outing or camping trip, save money by building your own stockpile of ice. Assuming you have two ice cube trays to work with, start in the early morning by emptying the ice into a large zipper-topped bag or even a shopping bag. It’s helpful to have a separate freezer to store it in, but it’s not necessary. Refill the tray with water, and after lunch, repeat the process. After dinner, repeat. Then begin the next morning again until you have enough to fill your cooler.
Hack #2 – Start with cold contents
Extend the life of your ice by packing the cooler with food that is already cold. Ensuring that all the food is already cold, your ice won’t have to work as hard to chill everything, plus the ice will last much longer. Make it more economical (and less work) by packing items that are already cold.
Hack #3 – Use leak-proof food containers
Reduce the risk of contamination by ensuring that the containers you’re using are 100% leak-proof. I shared in a previous blog post that my pancake mix accidentally became contaminated by the uncooked meatloaf that had leaked in the cooler. The pancake mix was garbage (and I found a better way to store pancake batter, check out that post here) but the meatloaf was still okay to use.
Hack #4 – Keep your goods out of water
Reduce dripping containers and keep your items out of the cold water by using a cooling rack or two in your cooler. Bonus points if the racks you use are the folding type because they’ll take less room when not in use. The racks will keep your items out of the cold water, and reduce mess.
Hack #5 – Double-bag
When using zipper-topped bags to store cold food items in your cooler, it’s safest to double-bag in the event that one opens somehow. This will help reduce contamination and keep your cooler as clean as possible.
Hack #6 – Choose your cooler carefully
By buying a cooler with a built-in draining tap, you’re going to save yourself a lot of work when needing to restock your ice. Rather than having to take every item out, empty the water and then put everything back in, you can simply open the plug and tip the cooler to drain the liquid, before piling new ice on top.
Would you add anything to this list?