Food Safety: Keeping Cold Food Safely COLD In A Cooler!

 ~ by Texas Homesteader ~ 

Going on a picnic or BBQ? Today I’m talking about Keeping Food Cold! Food safety is important, especially when bringing food from home when the weather turns hot. Come see my tips for keeping your cold dishes safely chilled on the cheap! 

Keeping Food Cold! Let's talk food safety when the weather turns hot. Tips for keeping your cold dishes safely chilled on the cheap! #TexasHomesteader

Keeping Food Cold At Gatherings

Keeping food safely cold when bringing it from home is important. And when the weather turns warm there are often many opportunities to get together. And, you know, gatherings  often involve bringing your favorite dish to share with friends & family. 

Picnics and cookouts – swim parties and birthday gatherings, BBQ’s and family reunions. How fun!

I’ve written before about food safety and keeping your hot dish hot until it’s time to eat. But today I’m tackling the issue from the other side of the coin – keeping your cold dishes safely COLD!

Food To Take To A Picnic

At a recent gathering we agreed to bring our favorite Zesty Pico de Gallo Deviled Eggs. They’re always a hit!!

We sometimes add spicy pico de gallo to our deviled eggs for a spicy kick. #TexasHomesteader

I also whipped up some homemade hummus for snacking and we would bring a seedless watermelon for some cold summertime refreshment. 

But it was a large party and we knew that the fridge was going to be PACKED with food plus all the leftovers after the feast. So we took matters into our own hands in assuring our food stayed cold. 

Our ice maker is crappy, errr I mean small and doesn’t make much ice. So it was our trusty chest freezer to the rescue! 

How to Keep Food Cold

We have family members share with us their empty large plastic bottles, such as 2-liter cola bottles & such. And we keep several water bottles in our freezer that have been filled with water and frozen.

Keeping Food Cold! Let's talk food safety when the weather turns hot. Tips for keeping your cold dishes safely chilled on the cheap! #TexasHomesteader

Frozen Water Bottles Serve two purposes:

    • First, the more filled a freezer is kept the more efficiently it runs. So these frozen bottles are actually helping our freezer to save electricity. 

    • Secondly, I use these frozen bottles in many different ways such as when I’m making homemade yogurt. When I need to cool the warmed milk I fill a large bowl with water & drop in a couple of these frozen bottles. It cools the water for me to set the pan of hot milk in it. 

Making Our Own Longer-Lasting Ice For CHEAP

But today we’ll be tossing a few of these babies into a cooler to help keep our food and drinks cold. I’d say that’s quite a bit of mileage from previously empty bottles destined only for the recycling bin! 

But we also needed something for the cooler that packed a little more punch. Those small frozen water bottles will be helpful but we needed ice and lots of it.

Although ice is not expensive, it’s just frozen water! It always seemed crazy to me that there was such a market for it. 

And then there would be the plastic bag it’s sold in that doesn’t recycle in our area. Ugh…

So I took a cue from my dad’s oh-so-smart tip arsenal and provided ice the way he does for his large coolers.

How To Pack A Cooler With Food And Ice

Right before we left for the party we brought out our cooler and several frozen water bottles. (of course you could use ice from your freezer if your ice maker’s not crappy like ours, or you can just buy ice).

I placed the deviled eggs & hummus containers as well as our watermelon into the cooler. Then packed the frozen water bottles around them. 

Finally I brought out a couple of large frozen 2-liter drink bottles from the freezer. RancherMan took a utility knife and scored around the middle of each bottle, then beat them with a hammer until they broke in half. 

Keeping Food Cold! Let's talk food safety when the weather turns hot. Tips for keeping your cold dishes safely chilled on the cheap! #TexasHomesteader

He took the halves of the bottles and held them over the cooler, hitting them with the hammer to break the ice into large chunks that then fell right into the cooler. 

Now the beauty of this is that large pieces of ice take longer to melt than smaller pieces. It will also help the frozen water bottles to stay cold even longer.  

This can be a money-saving way of providing ice for your coolers throughout the summer.

Keeping Food Cold! Let's talk food safety when the weather turns hot. Tips for keeping your cold dishes safely chilled on the cheap! #TexasHomesteader

And this ice will typically melt significantly more slowly than the commercial stuff that’s sold in plastic bags because commercial ice is in much smaller pieces. 

It’s certainly been the ice choice for us. No plastic bags, no cash out of pocket, and significantly longer cooling action. Gotta love it!

A Fun Outside Family Gathering

We enjoyed our family gathering filled with good food, lots of laughs, rousting games of Ranch-Themed Cornhole and a good time was had by all! 

What are your favorite tips for keeping food safely chilled during the hot summer months?


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7 thoughts on “Food Safety: Keeping Cold Food Safely COLD In A Cooler!

  1. Anya

    I think freezing water bottles is the coolest hack ever.

  2. Elaine

    Great Tips!! I use frozen water bottles as well!! Thanks for sharing on My 2 Favorite Things on Thursday! Pinned!

  3. Marge Sweigart

    Hi Tammy! Stopping by from the Let’s Get Real Blog Hop. Really smart idea to keep frozen water bottles on hand. I like your idea of using them for cooling the water when you’re making yogurt, or anything else you need to cool down quickly. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Janet Vinyard

    Hi Tammy, Great ideas for keeping cold food cold! It’s so important in this weather – people don’t realize how often food poisoning happens in the summertime! Thanks for sharing this information! Blessings, Janet

  5. ColleenB.~Texas

    When the daughters where younger we used to do a lot of camping and I would make frozen ice in anything and everything, from bread pans to large freezer bags. Nice thing about using freezer bags, they would lay flat on bottom of cooler and food items would set on top surrounded by large chunks of ice. I have even used the heavy duty ice packs that would stay frozen for long periods of time. When going to pot lucks in the heat of summer and would have a cold dish that needed to be kept cold, I would put my cold dish inside a larger bowl and surround with crushed ice. For a family gathering at one time I had taken a kiddy pool, filled with ice and set the cold food items inside the pool. Worked like a charm. A smaller one to hold the beverages in.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      If I have the room in my freezer, I’d much rather freeze large chunks of ice instead of buying those bags of crushed ice. The crushed ice just doesn’t last very long! I like your idea of freezing in bread pans for a larger chunk of ice! Like you, I’ve used the heavy duty ice packs and they stay frozen for a long time but they just don’t seem to share a lot of cold. But I still toss ’em in along with the frozen water bottles and the larger chunks of ice and it all helps to varying degrees.


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