When embarking on a road trip, whether a short or long one, you want to make sure the food you take stays fresh and healthy. How you plan and prepare your food, and taking the time to pack it is very important. Making sure your food is stored correctly and stays cool throughout your trip is easy if you keep these tips in mind.
Prep Before Hand
Planning out all your meals, preparing, and packing all the food you will take with you is just good sense. This will also help you in packing your coolers to keep your food fresh longer. Make a list of all the items you will need to buy and try to keep perishable foods at a minimum. Make sure you have plenty of storage bags and containers to be able to take them with you on your trip.
Take a Portable Freezer
You will most likely need a cooler, but better yet is to take a portable freezer with you. A portable freezer is more efficient in keeping your perishables fresh longer compared to a cooler or ice pack. Even electric coolers will not be as sealed and as cold as a portable freezer. Portable freezers are small and are very convenient, click here to choose a model that can easily travel with you. They will allow you more flexibility in the types of food you choose to take with you as they will keep your food fresh for the longest time possible. Whether it’s ice cream or freshly caught fish, if you are on a fishing trip, they will ensure that they are frozen through.
Take Two Coolers
Have two coolers, one for food items and another for drinks and refreshments. This ensures your food cooler stays cold longer as you avoid the constant opening and closing of the cooler lid while fetching drinks. The more your cooler’s lid is open, the faster the ice will melt, and the faster your cooler warms up.
Pre-chill Your Cooler
If using a cooler, prepare it the night before by filling it up with a mixture of ice cubes and water. Leave it overnight to allow the cooler to reach its maximum chill factor. Dump out the melted ice and cold water the next morning, and you are ready to pack your cooler with your food items.
Pack Food Wisely
While taking food for a trip, plan to cook a few one-pot meals a few days beforehand and freeze them. This makes them ready for packing before you leave. When packing your cold cuts, vegetables, and dairy, try to keep them refrigerated until the last possible time before you head for your road trip. And make sure you pack directly from the freezer or fridge to avoid prolonged exposure to warm air. Do not wash fruits and vegetables before packing them in storage bags. They will not last if they are washed and damp. The storage bags can extend their shelf life only if they are completely dry when packed. Another tip, if possible, is to buy local produce from any farmers market that you might encounter on your road trip, this will ensure that whatever you will eat will be as fresh as possible.
Line Coolers with Ice
If using a cooler, try to pack ice cubes or home-made ice packs between each layer of the packed food. This will keep your food fresh longer. Another alternative if your cooler is big enough to line the bottom with frozen water bottles, which will allow the cooler to maintain a cold temperature from top to bottom more efficiently.
For all your food, make sure you wrap them individually, whether in plastic bags with a zip lock or sealable Tupperware containers. This will help keep food from getting wet or leaking and contaminating other foods in the cooler or portable freezer. For food you have cooked such as chili and casseroles that will be reheated, Tupperware containers are perfect to avoid any leaking or smells. Plastic resealable bags are perfect for ready-made sandwiches, snacks, such as trail mixes and energy balls, and vegetable sticks. For meats and dairy, always pack them on top of ice to keep them fresh longer. In addition, always bring some non-perishable food with you, such as canned goods, in case any of your packed food items start going bad.
Once you have everything individually wrapped and packed, how you place them and line them up in the cooler is also important. The tighter you pack your food containers and bags, the longer they will stay cold as the close packing helps the overall temperature to stay cool.
Use a Food Vacuum
Another great way to pack your food is to use a food saver. A food saver can vacuum the air out of your plastic bags, and this method helps keep food fresh longer. Baked goods, meats, and sliced fruits can keep great when packed this way.
Once you reach your destination, try to ensure that you always park strategically, basically don’t park in the sun. You have to always make sure your food stock is away from direct sunlight and in the shade throughout your trip to avoid your food going bad because of warm temperatures. If you can find a parking spot with shade, then it is ok to leave your cooler in the car until you are ready to cook or start preparing a meal. However, you can’t be sure to find shade all the time. In that case, try to make your own shade by leaving the cooler near the car outside and have it protected by the car shade. During winter, this will not be a problem as the temperatures will contribute to making the temperature of your cooler even colder.
Making sure your food stays fresh on your road trip can be a little time consuming, but quite worthwhile. Be sure to have plenty of ice on hand and a good portable freezer and keep your coolers cold as much as possible. Most importantly, enjoy the road trip.