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safety of food in long car ride?

Taking a beach vacation involving an 8 hour+ car ride. Would like to purchase some bulk food for large family (16) in advance with balance to be replenished locally. What advice can you share - hopefully by personal experiences. Thinking of taking opportunity of local Costco and Restaurant depot pricing and quality as opposed to small beach town local supermarket.

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  1. Beachtown being Sandbridge VA.

    1 Reply
    1. re: smilingal

      Hey! According to Mapquest, there's a Trader Joe's and a Harris Teeter not far from Sandbridge! Lucky you!

    2. Depends on what you're taking, but if you will have perishables, a simple styrofoam chest is all you will need. I recently made a long drive with smoked fish. I used an inexpensive foam chest, put a solid block of ice in the bottom ( I just left it in the bag it came in ), packed the fish around it in sealed bags, then poured cubed ice over it to fill the chest. I made one overnight stop after which I drained the water and replenished the cubed ice. I didn't have to replace the block for a two-day trip. The ice was readily available in supermarkets.

      1. 16 people? wow...
        It depends on where you will be staying...
        when i took a trip to Cape may, i took my Lodge 12 inch skillet and my kitchen knife because i know almost always, those rented place have the worst qualist of pots(especially frying pans) and knives. I'd also advise you to take some kitchen tools as well...like thongs, spatulas.

        Last year on a family road trip, i had a cooler that gets connected to a cigarrette holder. I brought meat, bread, cheese, butter, eggs, coldcuts, fruits..etc to save money and save time from shopping locally. I also brought some of my favorite spices like rosemary, garlic powder and thyme even salt and pepper since some places don't stock them. I also brought some cooking oil and onion too. Brought rolls of bounty.
        But in your case, you have 16 people...that sounds tough!
        Good luck and have fun! and remember, bacon and butter make everything taste good!

        6 Replies
        1. re: Monica

          Just curious...how do you use "thongs" in the kitchen? ;)

          1. re: Philly Ray

            since it never gives enough coverage, i use it to hold hot pots and such. and if you run out of underwears while traveling, you can even wear it too.

            1. re: Philly Ray

              I use them to get the man of the house to do the dishes and take the garbage out. ;)

              1. re: Philly Ray

                Just curious...how do you use "thongs" in the kitchen? ;)

                It *is* a beach vacation.

                1. re: Philly Ray

                  The real question should be how do you use the spatula with the thongs?

                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                    To help with the bottom biscuits, of course.

              2. We use dry ice blocks. Be very careful with what you put directly on top of the block because it will freeze (learned the hard way with eggs). Our ice block lasted three days before it evaporated.

                And obviously don't touch the ice block. :-)

                3 Replies
                1. re: UTgal

                  Gotta be careful with dry ice, tho. Frozen carbon dioxide expands like you wouldn't believe when it sublimates (that is, when it changes from a frozen state to a gaseous state), and if your container is sufficiently air tight, you have a bomb on your hands. Also, even from the trunk, CO2 can make it's way into the passenger compartment and suffocate you. Keep the vehicle well ventilated with dry ice on board.

                  1. re: UTgal

                    Also don't put dry ice directly on bottom of cooler. It will crack the cooler. And wrap it in paper, not plastic.

                    I just stay away from it. Too many dangers.

                    1. re: Muddirtt

                      Yes. I think we will heed the warnings and avoid the dry ice.

                    1. re: Hobbert

                      Freeze plastic bottles nearly filled with water. For a 2-liter, this will take a couple of days. The bigger the bottle, the better. It will take longer to thaw than a bag of ice cubes and there are no worries about drowning food in melted ice. Plus, once the bottles defrost you have ice water to drink. You could use lemonade, Crystal Light, or other flavored waters instead of tap water. When I carried lunch on a walking mail route, I used a frozen juice box in my lunchbag. Freeze some of them if there are young kids on the trip.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        I do the same thing for lunch at work. A couple of frozen juice boxes keep things cold and have a nice slushy quality by lunch time.

                    2. We do this every year. I bring tons of food to the FL Keys in the largest size coolers sold at West Marine - I think they are 110 quart? I use one cooler for frozen food, one for milk/dairy/cold cuts/cheese and one for fresh produce. We buy staples at the big box store (including many cases of water, beer, soft drinks, etc.) and produce at the farm market. While we are in the keys for 6 weeks, we use those coolers as extra fridge space, to ice down drinks for parties, and for fishing, of course. We ask visitors (who arrive just about every weekend) to bring fresh produce.

                      We do this because the prices in the Keys are high, the selection of fresh produce especially is typically dismal, and I don't feel like sitting in my car for hours trying to get back and forth to the closest supermarket, which can be easily and hour or more each way, depending on traffic.

                      I also bring spices, knives, XL stainless mixing bowl, and 13 qt round Le Creuset as well as soap, sunscreen, paper goods, garbage bags, ziplocks, disposable hotel pans, etc. Lastly, I stock up on "kitchen basics" such as spatulas, mixing spoons, oven mitts, can opener, etc. at the Dollar Store. We leave that stuff behind for the next renter.

                      We've been doing this for nearly 20 yrs and it was only a few years ago that I finally convinced my spouse that we didn't need to bring the BBQ grill. And yes, we DO look like the Clampetts driving down I-95!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MrsPatmore

                        I have done something similar when heading to Europe and a self-catering flat in an expensive country like Belgium or Switzerland. Two suggestions: a) If you take small cans of minced clams, you can find potatoes, onions, and milk locally and make clam chowder. 2) If you take cumin and raisins, you can find ground beef, an onion, and a small can of tomato sauce locally to make picadillo.

                      2. Somewhere in between the simple styrofoam ice chest and the 110 lb. cooler is your family's solution: it greatly depends on how much frozen food you're bringing (the more cold mass, the more things will stay cold without additional ice), and how much chilled fresh food. Also types of food.

                        Anything that can be frozen without loss of quality, should be. Bacon, some of the milk, any whole meats/poultry. Freeze bottles of drinking water, too.

                        From many a weekend camping trip that involved coolers, I can recall us keeping any dairy tightly sealed and upright, and if you're bringing eggs for 16, that separate styrofoam ice chest would be a good place for them. They don't even need to be iced, really, but if you have a couple of those dry paks, by all means.

                        As to the main cooler and the rest of your frozen/fresh food, empty a couple of the bags of ice over all, and then nestle another one or two, depending on the size of the cooler, on top.

                        1. Are you planning for 3 meals a day for 16 people? For how long?

                          Several years ago, went on a week ski vacation in Vermont with 5-6 other friends. We hit supermarket once we got there and bought BIG items for 3-4 big meals only... a big turkey (and 2/3 disposable roasting pans to stack and cook it in), ground beef (for chili or a meatloaf), a ham, maybe chicken parts. We'd have a true MEAL one night with salad/sides and then picked at left-overs at will.

                          Completely agree that MOST rental places have less than optimally equiped kitchens... generally LOUSY knives and pots/pans... skillets in particular. AND can totally understand WHY!! You'd have to be out of your MIND to leave a GREAT knife or GREAT cookware in the hands of people who basically will use it like it's NOT THEIRS!

                          I usually take 1-2 road trips from NJ to WV where my sister has a great place in the mountains... about 350 miles and pretty much similar time for drive. Usually only 3-4 people, but we all show up like JED and his crew. Meats could be frozen before putting in coolers... makes some of own ice. Always a good time to clean out fridge?? Instead of leaving stuff like milk half & half, eggs behind... into cooler. Same with typical veggies... carrots, onions, celery, etc. Figure it's better to haul it along than leave it languishing in fridge for maybe a week?? Any fruit/veggies that don't get used just get tossed into woods for deer.

                          Think about condiments... those partial bottles of ketchup/mustard/mayo. Think about oil/butter. Shore town grocery stores are generally more expensive than what you can find at home... you're a captive audience and they're the only game in town.

                          1. lots of ice and cooler for perishables. maybe freeze some of the animal/fish protein before hand. Freeze bottles of water and toss in bags of produce to keep them cool Keep the AC on. Shadow windows from sunlight.

                            1. There's a Costco in Norfolk, any option of simply heading there on your way in (looks like it's about 45 minutes from your general destination, but that's based on Google maps).

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ferret

                                I spoke with the rental people and they said there is Restaurant Depot, Bjs (didn't mention Costco so thanks for that mention) those two are about 45 min. away. Would you still suggest bringing the food or go when we get there?

                                1. re: smilingal

                                  Depends on how much room you have to transport. I would bring enough for the first day or so, to get started, and then go on a supply run, once you have really been able to examine the cooking and storage situation.

                                  And bring some storage containers for leftovers, zip top bags, plastic wrap, foil etc cause that stuff gets expensive! I usually bring the old containers so I can just toss them and don't have to bring them back home with me.

                              2. My husband just transported 175+ lbs of frozen beef from MD to MA. Large coolers and dry ice kept it frozen solid.

                                We do a beach vacation that involves about 6 hours of travel time and we bring enough milk, eggs, cheese, meats, ice cream etc for a week in regular old coolers with freezer packs and/or bags of ice and never had a problem.

                                Along with I bring my good knives, a medium sized cast iron pan and my favorite spatula. Oh and plastic containers for storage.

                                1. All such great suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

                                  1. Cooler with large one-gallon block ice. Block ice melts slower. I use the gallon Hawaiian Punch jugs. They are nice and square and lids are sturdier than milk jugs. For a large cooler, use 2 or more.

                                    Be prepared. Freeze them hard at least a day.

                                    8 hrs is nothing. In a quality "5 day" cooler, I have one jug of ice last me 3 days in the beverages cooler in 90F degree weather while camping.

                                    No mess with the ice being contained as it's melting also.

                                    If you have the money, get a Yeti cooler. If not, I've found that Igloo 5-day coolers beat Coleman 5-day coolers for keeping things colder longer, though the Coleman's are usually built better.

                                    You could also look into an electric cooler. Plug into vehicle and in the room. I've never tried them but I would probably use block ice with them also.

                                    Block ice. Block ice. Block ice.
                                    The bigger, the better. A cube is preferred shape for less surface area, long melting, and packs in cooler efficiently. Those Hawaiian Punch gallons work great. I fill them completely, then freeze -- They expand nicely also.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Muddirtt

                                      I was wondering how to get a block of ice. I will look for the hawaiian punch containers...not familiar with them.

                                    2. For at least one meal (day 1 or 2), make ahead and freeze. Said frozen meal will be the ice pack for transporting other goods.
                                      I also take my own ice cube trays, some storage containers, heavy zip bags and/or more cold-packs (for beach beverages), knives, a good pan or two, and my "proper" coffee cup. We've run into too many beach vacation properties which have plastic (ugh) mugs! Oh, what the hell... if you have space, take a couple of glasses, too! Even water tastes better out of a real glass.

                                      1. I work on the Outer Banks and have worked in Virginia Beach, both resort towns. Food at the grocery stores in resort areas are markedly more expensive than in non resort areas. Most people rent houses/condos/cottages for the sake of being able to use the kitchen and save money. I suggest you pack your vehicle with everything you want to bring if you are trying to save money.

                                        As other posters have noted, packing your perishables in a good cooler with ice should be sufficient for that amount of time you are traveling. I also second freezing what you can prior to loading. Eggs don't have to be refrigerated for short periods of time so those should be okay, neither does veggies like root veggies, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, etc. so just bag those up and keep them in an area of the car that is not directly in the sun. Use the cooler wisely and don't jam it with things that unnecessarily take up valuable space. By the way, I've been in both Harris Teeter's and Trader Joe's in both NC and VA beach areas and walked right out. Too expensive and the selection sucked.

                                        1. Remember to bring spices, oils and vinegar. I transfer them to smaller containers once I have an idea of my menu. Some of the beach towns have poor tasting water so I bring a Britta pitcher.

                                          I had frozen items wrapped in newspaper and packed into cardboard box stay hard for over 6 hours when I lacked enough cooler space.

                                          If a package won't be used in its entirety (Rice, condiments, whatever) I purchase it at home and repack in the needed quantities.

                                          Things I used often and seldom find at the rental: fine mesh sieve, citrus reamer, good knives, fish spatula, immersion blender, zester/microplane, decent colander.

                                          Handy: Wooden clothes pins, sparker thingy for lighting grills and candles, woolite for swim suit washing, duct tape 'cos something will need it!

                                          Have fun!

                                          3 Replies
                                            1. re: meatn3

                                              Britta pitcher is a great idea. Re: spices -- I saw a great suggestion on one of these boards -- can't find it now -- to use the day of the week medicine containers (7 or 14 little bins with lids, hooked together; cost about $.99 at the drugstore) to take dribs of spices you might need. I thought it was genius.

                                              Most important thing to take with you, I think, is a good knife. And if it is a _good_ knife, take a small cutting board, too, because the one in the rental may be glass. You can coast on most anything else.

                                              If you are space-challenged in your car, you could plan to stock up sometime before you hit the real tourist areas -- an hour or two out -- your passengers can be a little cramped for an hour or two. A fabric type cooler would work fine for this short period of time.

                                              Don't forget that you may need DW detergent, laundry soap, tin foil to cover nasty grill/broiler, baggies/clingfilm for storage, trash bags and paper towels.

                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                Great mention of repackaging - whenever I travel and take spices or dry non perishables, I repackage in small zip top bags or what they call poly bags that up such a small amount of space.