Picnics, road trips, or power outages, there are so many reasons you may have for trying to keep perishable food fresh and safe on ice in a cooler. You will also need to keep food fresh using a cooler, to get to and from your grocery store if it is more than about 30 minutes from your home, or for more pleasant outings like boating trips, camping, afternoons on the beach, or cookouts.

Factors to keep in mind

Ideally, you should store perishable food at 40 degrees or less to preserve quality and freshness for longer. However, most coolers are not very reliable about maintaining that temperature, so don’t store food in coolers for the kind of durations you would store them in a refrigerator. Other factors to consider are the facts that the cooler will be opened again and again, that the cooler is likely to be left out in the sun, and so on.

Storage durations for common foods

Items like fish, poultry, or ground meat are more perishable than others, and become extremely hazardous when they go bad. Don’t keep this kind of food in coolers for over two days in any circumstances. Steaks and chops last longer, and can be stored for three to four. Cured meats like bacon and lunch meat keep longer and can be stored for up to a week. Eggs can be stored for up to two weeks. Egg shells are porous, so don’t let them sit in the water at the bottom, which can become contaminated over time.milk cannot be stored more than a couple of days, and cheese can be stored for a long time as long as you keep it in the original, air tight packaging.

Storage durations for fruits and vegetables

Berries or cherries can only be stored for about two days in a cooler, softer fruits like grapes, pears, peaches, apricots and so on can be stored for about three or four days, and Apples or citrus garden cup fruits stay fresh for up to a month. Fresh vegetables like broccoli, peas, squash, and lettuce can be stored for three days. Carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, beans, and lettuce can be stored for a week, and things like potatoes, or dry onions can be stored safely for up to two months.

Storing food in coolers, efficiently

Pre cool or freeze the food before packing it in the cooler. Try to pack foods into the cooler directly from your refrigerator rather than from your stove top. The fuller the cooler is, the longer it will retain its cold temperatures, so fill as much as possible, and pack the empty space with ice. Try to put raw meat, poultry, or seafood in a different cooler. If you have only one cooler to use, pack these items securely in plastic bags, and store at the bottom so that their juices don’t contaminate the cooked food or the uncooked produce in the cooler. Put the cooked food in watertight containers and put the beverages in a different cooler if possible, to prevent excessive warming up from the frequent opening. Try to store the cooler in the shade, partly buried in sand, or cover it with some blankets to help keep it cool.