Summer is for chilled drinks the same way winter is for hot coffee, chocolate, or soup. Nowadays, keeping your drinks cold in hot weather isn't as hard.
How to do it well is what many people fail at all the time. This post gives some tips and tricks on how to pack your cooler for efficiency. Try them, and you won't regret it.
Read More: How to Keep Ice Longer in a Cooler?
The Choice of the Cooler Matters a Lot
If you plan to get a cooler, a high-quality one with great ice retention will be ideal. A hard cooler will be great for insulation and keeping the food colder, or a soft-sided cooler that can keep ice for 3-5 days is also a good choice if you are planning a short trip.
If you'll be packing perishable foods for weeks, don't start with lightweight insulated bags. Consider a sturdier option instead.
Ensure you clean your cooler before packing your supplies. Most people store their coolers in garages. Such places are warmer in the summer. But, these could be potential breeding places for bacteria and germs.
So, instead of gambling with health, start your picnic, hike, or camping event with a clean cooler. Use warm soapy water.
1. Pre-Cool the Cooler for Longevity
Place your cooler in the deep freezer to start the cooling process. It ensures that it can keep its low temperatures to keep your supplies cool for a long time as you load them. You can pre-cool it overnight if you intend to use it the following day.
2. Pre-Cool or Freeze Your Content First
You will do yourself more justice and prolong the life of your cooler by doing this beforehand. Freeze all the foods and drinks that you can freeze. Do you know it can take triple the time to cool supplies you store in the cooler straight from room temperature?
3. Save on Space
Suppose you need to pack a lot of supplies. So, preparing them before packing helps to save space. You can prep your marinade, chop the veggies, portion your condiments, and much more.
If your supplies take less space, you will have more space for ice. It means that the cooler prolongs its service time before the ice melts and food thaws or warms.
4. Pack Raw Meats Separately
The same way you would do in your freezer, you need to store raw meats to avoid cross-contamination. It can be risky to your overall health if meat juices drip into other foods. Moreover, it can cause food poisoning and other severe health issues.
You can pack raw meats in zip-lock bags. Or leak-proof containers if you have them to prevent such happenings. Also, if you only have one cooler to use, put the raw meats in a separate compartment. If your cooler has no partitions, have the meat packs at the bottom of the cooler.
5. Take Out Any Excess Packaging
Some packaging like half-full soda bottles can take up so much space. Go away with such space consumers as much as possible. Find smaller containers to pack in liquids. For other foods and supplies, zip-lock bags will do.
6. Settle for Ice Blocks and Freezer Packs
Create a solid and cooler base using ice blocks or large freezer packs. Then you can pack anything in the freezer. Blocks won't melt as fast as ice cubes or crushed ice.
Freezer packs are reusable. But, if you can't find any, substitute with water bottles. You can choose the single or gallons. Fill the bottles three-quarter way to allow the expansion of ice.
To use the frozen water bottles, lay them horizontally. It allows you to build on them as you arrange your supplies. If you need to fill any cracks, use ice cubes.
7. Two Coolers? Separate Your Drinks From Foods
Some people are lucky to own more than one cooler. You can use them to separate your supplies. Have foods in one and beverages in the other. It distributes the load equally and prevents tight packing of any particular cooler.
It means that you can pack in as much ice as possible, and the cooler will keep it longer. Also, if everything is in one cooler, your frequency of opening and closing the cooler will be high.
But, if you have only one cooler, you need to follow the quick cooler packing tips shared in this article. It will allow for functionality and increased performance.
8. Square Containers Are the Best
If you insist on using containers for food storage instead of zip-lock bags, go for square ones. These are great for prepped and portioned meals.
Round containers consume so much space and will not pack together well. Rectangular ones are a good option too.
9. Settle Your Beverages to the Bottom
Arrange your juices, beers, and drinks at the bottom part of the cooler. Otherwise, they will crush the other supplies. This tip is for those who don't have extra coolers to separate drinks from foods.
As said in the earlier point, freeze your drinks before packing. Even as you arrange them at the bottom of the cooler, they'll help in cooling each other.
10. Keep Supplies Dry
Everyone wants to tone down on the packaging. But, it is also vital to ensure that your supplies are dry throughout. Seal all your eggs, meats, and cheese in plastic bags.
It ensures that your foods remain dry when you notice ice melts. Ensure such, and other perishable foods like mayonnaise remain as cold as possible.
11. Leak-Proof Containers and Zip-Lock Bags Are Ideal
Anything could happen, and cooler water seeps into other supplies. To be on the safe side, pack all foods in zip-lock bags or containers. These should be leak-proof to prevent any moisture from getting in or out.
It prevents you from worrying about draining water from melted ice, especially if you want to add new packs.
12. Longer Trips Away From Home? Dry Ice Works
For days when your trips are longer and take more days, dry ice comes in handy. These are very cold and will freeze everything in contact with it as fast as possible. One needs to be further careful when handling it.
13. Categorize Your Meals
Pack your meals in categories. It allows you to see everything with ease. Besides, it also reduces the time that the cooler has to be open when pulling out supplies.
You can use the left to right rule. It means packing breakfast to the left side and dinner to the right.
14. Drag It Last to the Car
Don't pack the cooler immediately. Wait until when you are about to leave before packing the cooler. Let it be the last thing you do before stepping out. It allows for prolonged efficiency.
15. Transportation and Handling Will Determine Its Efficiency
Have the cooler in the car-perhaps on the seat. Loading it in the trunk will reduce its efficiency. The trunk overheats faster.
When out on a picnic or when camping, store it in the shade. It could be under a tree or a picnic stand. The sun generates heat that can melt the ice in the cooler within a short time if you aren't careful enough.
Always avoid storing it in direct sunlight, for more insulation when outdoors, use a wet towel to place over the cooler.
Some manufacturers have reflective paneling to use on coolers. It helps prevent the cooler from warming up, especially when you expose it to direct sunlight.
Learning how well to pack your cooler makes life easier for picnic lovers. First, this is for convenience and comfort when adventuring outside the house. But, the most crucial thing will be food safety and the prevention of food poisoning.
We have shared these valuable tips to make it easier for you to pack your cooler. Some might be obvious and easy to assume, but the repercussions can be detrimental.