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Whole Foods Insulated Reusable Bag - opinions?

It seems that my Friday nights have become multiple grocery store trip extravaganzas which means that the refrigerated/frozen products purchased at store # 1 are usually near room temperature by the time I get home from store #4 a few hours later given the time it takes to do other errands along the way. (FYI In case anyone is appaled at the fact that my trip involves 4 stores and several hours, I actually enjoy my lovely 3 hour adventure. I can get all of the specialty products that I want from different stores. It's a nice way to spend a Friday night as I find grocery shopping enjoyable and somewhat relaxing). Obviously, this is not ideal so when at Whole Foods last week I noticed a large insulated thermal reusable bag which I figured would be perfect. It's large and has comfortable straps and holds a lot of food. They assured me that it woudl keep food cool for up to 4 hours. However, when I got home last week 3 hours maximum from my shopping trip, all of the food was barely even cold. Anyone have any experience with these bags? Are there others you'd recommend? I read somewhere on Chow that Whole Foods will accept defective and broken bags, so should I return it if it's not actually keeping the food cold for the estimated time?

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  1. I am not familiar with the Whole Foods bag, but I use bags that are probably similar. You need to add some re-freezable ice packs into the bag, or at least add some solidly frozen items that you just purchased, or buy a bag of ice at the first store.

    Not sure where you are located, but if the outside temperature is warm, then the temp inside your car is probably even hotter. The bag by itself does not provide any cooling, it just insulates the contents from the outside temp. This will be less of a problem in the cold weather months.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pamf

      OK great. Now that I think about it, most of the items were cool rather than frozen (refrigerated meat and cheeses) which I imagine don't contribute much to the "coolness" of the bag. The bag is kept in the car which is air conditioned in transit between stores but then of course warms up as I am shopping.

    2. I keep an ice chest in my vehicle for extended and hot weather shopping. In hot weather, I will also use "blue ice" and/or ice in "recycled" water bottles.

      I don't know which version of the WF bag you have. Years ago, WF was using a foil lined bag. Based on my experience foil bags do not work as well as insulated bags, and even insulated bags require ice. My insulated bags were designed for transporting whole fish. The bag has ~1" of insulation on each side and is covered with vinyl.

      If you want to keep you food cold, use ice.

      1. Wouldn't it make sense to just leave a decent-sized cooler in the back of your car, and put in a few refreezable ice packs to keep everything cold? If you have a fridge at work, put the ice packs in there to stay frozen, and when you leave for the weekend, take them with you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: LindaWhit

          That is what I do when my grocery trips are long.

        2. The insulated bags are much less insulated than and hold much less than a hard shell cooler. I find that the cheap styrofoam coolers sold at many supermarkets for a few bucks are much better and very suitable for leaving in the car. One ice pack is usually enough for 4+ hours.

          If you are nice to your doctor or your kid's pediatrician, you can score free ice packs that shippers use to protect vaccine shipments. In fact, they also send the vaccines in styrofoam boxes that are even better insulated than the supermarket ones.

          1 Reply
          1. re: therealdoctorlew

            Another place you may be able to get really awesome coolers is if you know a local wildlife rehabilitator.

            My thick walled, awesome styrofoam coolers came from when I was caring for birds of prey. The rodent companies ship the frozen rats and mice in the BEST coolers.

            Yes, I did clean and bleach them thoroughly.

          2. We just keep a large ice chest in the back of the car for these types of shopping trips.