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  1. #1

    Default Keeping Food Cold, But Not Wet

    Good day,

    I went to the store today hoping to replace my cooler that I have had for at least the last decade. I was hoping to find a cooler that had some type of tray/shelf in it to allow items that don't need to be frozen to sit on. To my dismay there was no such item.

    Now I am trying to figure a way to keep some food very cold while allowing other stuff to remain cool, but not frozen and certainly not wet.

    Any and all ideas would be appreciated! We are embarking on a 23 road trip.

  2. Default

    Try going to Walmart and picking up a 12V cooler. It should keep all your items chilly but not soggy as if you were using ice.

  3. #3


    One option is to see if you can find a plastic tray that will fit, or one of those Rubbermaid containers with a lid; not sure if it would keep things from getting frozen (although my experience with coolers is that something that didn't start out frozen isn't going to get that way in a cooler, no matter how cold).

    If you're using regular ice to keep things cool, and if you sew, you can do what I did for absorbing the water. I bought a container of those "watering crystals" (they're about $10 for 12 oz., sold in the garden section of Home Depot or Target). I made a small fabric bag (about four by five inches), and put about 1/2 teaspoon of the crystals in it, and sewed the top shut. If I put two or three of these in the bottom of the cooler, they absorb most of the liquid from the ice. The only down side is that it then takes more than a week for the water to evaporate back out of them.

    You can also soak them in water overnight, and then freeze them, and they're handy home-made icepacks.

    Another cool trick with these crystals is to make a long, narrow tube, leave about four inches empty, sew a line across, put in 1/4 t. or less of the crystals, sew another line in about 4 inches, another 1/4 t. of crystals, another line, and then four more inches of fabric. Put snaps or velcro on the empty ends, so they can connect to each other. Soak it in water overnight, until the crystals have absorbed all the water they can. You then wear the thingy around your neck, and it helps to keep you cooler by keeping something cool against you.

    Plus, you can always use them for their intended purpose and put them into your potted plants so they won't need to be watered while you're away.

  4. Default Snap top containers and ziplock bags...

    For a couple of suggestions..

    Get some "snap top" containers -- such as the tupperware ones. There are other competing brands, but if you have a tight snap - fitting lid, it should keep the water out. Just put your stuff in them, and toss it into the ice chest. If you pick the right ones, I've found you can stack them in the ice chest.

    Secondly, double zip-lock bag the items. Put them in a ziplock bag, seal the bag, then put that in another zip lock bag and seal that. Not perfect, but usually does the job -- unless you're like me and bury it under 8 cans of soft drinks, 3 water bottles, and a stack of fruit at the bottom of the ice chest. Then the pressure of the stuff on top may pop the seal.....

    Depending upon the ice chest, you may be able to fit a open-topped container in the chest -- something like a dish pan in shape. If you don't over fill the container, it will float.. keeping any water out. Of course if you overload it with heavy stuff like soda cans or water bottles, it may not -- but if you put cheese, cold cuts and bread it in, it should.

    Plus, spend a couple of minutes packing the chest, rather than dumping everything in. What I try to do is put a layer of soft drinks, water bottles on the bottom of the ice chest, then a thick layer of ice, then containers/ double zip lock bags on the top of the ice. As the ice melts it drips down between the water bottles and soda can, away from the stuff on top.

    And of course, pre-cool everything in the fridge before you put it in. That way you don't melt half your ice cooling room temperature (or higher) stuff just to get it cold. I have some friends who swear by the practice of freezing their water bottles and putting them in the ice chest to add to the ice.

    Lastly, drain the melted water out of the ice chest every day. With mine, I've found with 20 lbs of ice I only generate about 1-2 inches of water per day, which is easily drained in a couple of minutes. This does reduce the thermal mass in the ice chest (less cold stuff in the ice chest), but does really reduce the amout of water sloshing in the bottom. I've also found that keeping an ice chest mostly full of ice works much better than a mostly empty chest (more thermal mass) in reducing melting, as does keeping it more full of ice + foodstuffs, once everything has been cooled down to near 32 F.

    And I will add -- frozen food will not typically stay frozen more than a few hours in any ice chest. The ice/ water will keep it at 32 F near the water/ ice, but frozen food wiill slowly thaw. I have used dry ice in ice chests, but that tends to freeze everything inside -- including the sodas and water bottles and cold cuts and cheese. Crunchy frozen cold cuts aren't that good in sandwiches, although they do thaw pretty quickly. But soda can's can burst if frozen...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Mine Does

    I'll say that I love all of Larrison's suggestions for packing a cooler.

    However, I will add that my current cooler came with a removable plastic shelf, with slots that allow water to drain to the bottom. I use an "Ice Cube" model, which I think is made by Igloo. Its a little more tall and square than most models, but I still see it around stores all the time, so you might want to look for that model.

  6. #6

    Default Some good tip

    1. This is making me hungry
    2. Some good points to consider - even for those of us who fly in and pick up the cheapest (disposable) polystrene cool box we can

  7. #7

    Default Thanks For The Great Ideas


    Thanks for the great ideas!!! We are incorporating them into our plans…Although the plot thickens. Since we will be visiting relatives in Iowa we decided to bring 30 pounds of Louisiana shrimp and just as many LIVE crawfish—the journey begins!!!! I’ll have to report how we do.

    Again, thanks for all the great input.

    BTW--the seafood won't be with the rest of our food!!!!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Keithville, LA

    Default Live Crawfish!

    Keep a tight lid on that container. I don't want to hear about some crazed driver wrestling with live crawfish as he drives to Iowa. Hmmm - just reminded me that I haven't managed to get any crawfish this season. I think I know what I'll be doing this weekend.


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