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How to Pack a Cooler

Taking a “mental health day” today….but Kaitlyn’s got this covered! 🙂

Kaitlyn writes……

I spent at least a week or two nearly every summer as a kid on a family vacation. My family had a travel trailer so most of those vacations meant long hours in the car. And long hours in the car always meant yummy snacks and treats that we didn’t normally have at home. My favorites were always grape soda and jelly beans. When I got older I always packed more sophisticated snacks like Diet Coke and white cheddar Cheezits. 😉

But I have a feeling most of you like to bring healthier food on road trips which means you’ll need a well stocked cooler.  Did you know there is a right way to pack a cooler? I didn’t until I saw an article in the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens with great tips for maximizing cooler space and keeping fresh foods, well, fresh!

Here are a few tips for how to pack a cooler for efficiency and freshness:

-Hard plastic coolers with thick walls will keep food colder longer than lighter weight coolers or insulated bags.

-Start by pre-chilling your food, drinks and your cooler! Obviously food and drinks can just go in the fridge but filling your cooler with ice a couple of hours before you add the food will ensure that your food stays colder, longer.

-Forgo messy loose ice for reusable ice sheets. I’ve always used standard blue ice packs but found these at Walmart (here are some similar ones on Amazon) and I like them so much better! I always found it difficult to get the blue ice to freeze flat which made it hard to pack in a cooler. These are nice and thin so you can fit them around the sides of the cooler or even squeeze them between food.

-Pack sandwiches, yogurt, cut-up fruit, veggies etc. in stackable plastic containers. They are a great way to stay organized! I especially love the small ones for salad dressing, dip, peanut butter etc. If you’re packing any raw meat make sure your containers are water tight so juices don’t drip onto other food. Pack these on the bottom of the cooler for extra insurance.

-Fill left over space with small water bottles. I know using tiny bottles of water isn’t the most eco friendly thing but they make packing easier and you’re less likely to end up with half drunk water bottles strewn all over your car. You may also want to freeze your water bottles to add an extra layer of chill. You could also consider packing a separate drink cooler so you aren’t constantly opening the cooler with all the food and letting the cold air out.

-Don’t forget a couple of thin, flexible cutting boards and some knives for cutting up fruit and other food for tiny hands (if you have kids that is). I especially love these knives that have covers for the blades, which ensures you won’t accidentally cut your hand when reaching into the cooler.

-Pack things like utensils, straws, napkins, tissues etc. in a plastic baggie. Attach it to the top of your cooler with Command velcro strips. Don’t forget hand sanitizer since you might not always have easy access to running water. Attach it to the top of your cooler with more Command strips for easy access.

-You may also want to throw in some extras like wet wipes, matches, and a small first aid kit.

-Keep the cooler in the car rather than in a hot trunk.

-Try packing a few of these delicious sounding recipes from Rodale News. And here is a list of healthy snack ideas from Natasha’s Kitchen.

Do you have any other great tips for packing a cooler?

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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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