Long Will it Last? Keeping Food in the Cooler
food should be kept at 40 degrees or colder. Most coolers or ice chests
are not reliably that cold and you should not try to keep food as long
in the cooler as you do at home in a refrigerator.
The following is
a general guideline for keeping food in a cooler. It assumes that your
cooler is very cold, that foods are generally 40 degrees or colder.
It just gives you a margin for error to accommodate for the kiddies
pulling pops out regularly, the cooler being left in the sun, loads
of warm food placed in the cooler, and other cooler hazards. If you
know your cooler has been above forty degrees, play it safe and discard
potentially hazardous foods such as meats and egg-based dressings.
poultry, and ground meat: These are both very perishable and potentially hazardous. Do not keep
these foods in a cooler for more than a day or two—never over
These should keep for three or four days in a cold cooler.
bacon and lunch meat:
The cured nature of these meats will keep these safe longer. Use within
a week. Be cautious of deli meats that may not be cured and will not
keep as well.
As long as they are kept cold, your eggs should last one to two weeks.
Discard any eggs that have cracked shells. Remember that egg shells
are porous. Do not let the eggs sit in water in the bottom of the
cooler where they may become contaminated.
Milk may keep for a week in the refrigerator but do not plan on keeping
milk in the cooler for more than two or three days. Smell or taste
milk before using to make sure that it is still fresh, especially
if you are using it in cooking where spoiled milk may not be noticed.
- Cheese: If kept in its original packaging that is air and moisture tight,
cheese will keep a long time—harder cheeses longer than soft
cheeses. Plan on keeping cheeses in a cooler for a week or longer.
We have taken cheeses on backpacking trips in the mountains and river
trips with no refrigeration for four or five days.
Margarine will keep longer than butter. You should get two weeks or
more from your margarine and at least a week from your butter. Butter
will become rancid. It will also absorb odors from your cooler. Store
your butter in zipper-type plastic bags. Do not let it become wet.
sour cream, and cream cheese: Plan
on using these within a week.
fruit: For keeping qualities, there are three classes of fruit. Berries and
cherries will only keep for one or two days. Soft fruits—grapes,
melons, pears, peaches, plums, and apricots—should keep for
three or four days. Apples and citrus fruits will keep for a month.
Broccoli, peas, summer squash, and lettuce will keep for two or three
days. Carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce and green
peppers will keep for a week. Potatoes, winter squash, and dry onions
will keep for a couple months and do not need to be refrigerated.
Ideal storage for these vegetables is 50 to 55 degrees.