Packing your cooler smartly, safely for Fourth of July weekend

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

There's a good chance your Fourth of July weekend will have a cooler full of good food and drinks. But before you pack your cooler, get rid of any possible mold and mildew. Chances are, the last time you used your cooler, you just dumped out any remaining water from the bottom of it and put it on the shelf.

“The first thing you do is get some soapy water and clean out the interior and then use something like Clorox wipes to disinfect it, and then just let it air dry,” said Dave Poletti, store manager of the Southport Meijer.

Now it’s time to pack your cooler. The easiest way to think about it is from the bottom up. Start with your drinks. Don't just lay the containers down on the bottom of the cooler, stand them up. And then take your ice and surround all the product, that way all sides get cool. Before the next step, here's another great idea regarding beverages.

“Before we are ready to pack our cooler and go, I put the bottled water or Gatorade or whatever beverage in the freezer for a while. That way it’s really cool and refreshing, and it helps keep other items cold as well,” said Meijer shopper Nicole Black.

The next layer above the drinks and ice, should contain your perishables, like meats and dairy. You want to have ice below and above those items. With your perishables surrounded by ice, you are more likely to maintain a temperature of about 40 degrees for safety. Our expert says, here’s something else you should do for safety, which many don't!

Instead of just taking the package of meat that you use from the store, and put them directly into the cooler, put the items inside seal-able containers like
Rubbermaid. The reason for that is, if there's any purge or anything else in the product, it won't go onto the ice, or your drinks, and food and you'll have a nice safe picnic.

Last of all, put snacks and miscellaneous items into re-sealable bags that you may want to grab easily. Put those on the top layer, surrounded by ice.
Make sure you fill it up to the top of the cooler for better insulation, so less air gets to your food. You'll have not only a fun picnic, but a safe one.