How to Pack a Cooler Strategically With Beer and Food

The best way to keep your beer and food cold in a cooler or solar-powered fridge on a hot summer day is by pre-chilling your cooler, using block ice packs/ice blocks, and packing the cooler strategically.

Taking out spoilt salads or warm homemade beer from your cooler can ruin your summer outing. Making your drink and food items stay cold may seem like an uphill task at first, but it’s a simpler process than you think.

This article will be discussing how to pack a cooler and keep it shut off from the outside air.

Pre-chilling Your Cooler

Firstly, use a suitable cooler. A good cooler should keep your beer from getting warm. However, you shouldn’t expect a freezer or cooler inside your hot attic or basement to effectively prevent your beverages from getting exposed to warm air.

Back to the point, you can pre-chill your cooler by filling it with crushed or cubed ice at least some hours before your outing.

Use a Separate Cooler for Your Food

cooler packed with salad

It’s better to have two coolers or a two-cooler system instead of a single one. This way, one cooler can be used for chilling drinks while the other cooler can be used for food, such as fresh salads or fish that need to be kept cold at all times.

Pack them so that the packing is not too tight. This enables you to place more ice in each cooler and layer them better.

Furthermore, since you’ll be opening and shutting the lid of your cooler every time you need something, separating your drink from your food keeps it secure from being exposed to warm air longer than necessary.

Using Block Ice

Using block ice is a better cooling option than ice cubes because cubed ice melts faster and is less efficient in keeping your beverages sustainably cold.

If you can’t find one to purchase at a gas station or a local store, you can make yours by freezing water placed in a cooler tray or baking pan.

You can use a big Ziploc bag or a trash bag to wrap this ice block before you start packing. The purpose of doing this is to reduce the amount of water leaking around your food when the ice begins melting.

You can also put a piece of cardboard on top of your block ice for extra insulation before putting your food on these blocks or around them.

Keeping Your Beverages and Food at Freezing Point First

An excellent way to get a strong start in getting cooler food and drinks is by keeping them frozen or chilling them first before even placing them in the cooler. This is the best method to keep them cold if you don’t intend to use these items for a few days.

Frozen food can function for longer and gradually defrost in your cooler. So it will be ready for use when needed. The exact process applies to your children’s juice boxes, non-carbonated beverages, milk jugs, and water bottles.

But keep in mind that some fish, prepared food, and leftovers should not be refrozen.

Strategic Layering

Simply accumulating items randomly in your cooler and then putting ice as the top layer is a bad way to cool your drinks or food.

An additional downside is that it doesn’t make it easy to find a particular item or beverage that you may be searching for.

The best way to layer your items in the coolers is by placing what you’ll want last at the bottom of the cooler. You can also place alternate foods at the bottom if you’re using one cooler.

Gradually work your way up in the order you will need these items.

The following steps will illustrate what the above paragraph is talking about.

  • Use block ice at the bottom of your cooler.
  • Place the food you’ll need last before other items (this can be in the food cooler or in the same cooler with drinks), pack your drinks properly and place them horizontally in a way that their label will face upwards.
  • Put in a thin layer of ice (ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 inches) of crushed ice.
  • Start the process all over again.

Layering strategically saves you time when you want to pick something from the cooler.

Don’t Leave Your Cooler Open

If you want the items in your cooler to stay cool, keep it closed to prevent air from getting inside. The more your cooler is exposed to the air outside, the quicker the ice will melt. This means your drinks and food will not stay cold as long as it’s supposed to.

Also, try to ensure that you open the cooler less frequently. It’s essential you take out everything to prepare that picnic or that great outdoor dinner and then quickly shut the lid.

Keep the Cooler Away From Heat

Another great hack is to keep your cooler in a location that’s shaded from the sun and as cool as possible. When you want to put it in your car, place it on the backseat instead of the trunk.

Standing Your Cans in the Cooler

You can use your drink cans to form a stack by standing them up at the base of your cooler. Ensure that there’s little space between the cans for the ice to fill.

Then stack these cans on top of each other, forming high towers of cans. Ensure that there is space for ice in between these towers of cans. Then put ice in the cooler to occupy the gaps left. This is an effective cooling technique because the ice will be touching all cans on their sides.


If you don’t have sufficient ice for the above cooling techniques, the best technique to keep your items cold is to use cold sinks. So you can put all your drinks in the cooler and then use a top layer of ice. Also, it will be better to place the cans horizontally in your cooler instead of vertically.

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