How Long Can You Store Food In A Cooler?

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A cooler in the woods - How Long Can You Store Food In A Cooler?

In most cases, you can count on a Styrofoam cooler keeping your food and drinks cold for anywhere between 18 and 24 hours. The average steel belted cooler will keep ice frozen for about two to three days.

Then you need a cooler with press and pull latches and the ability to keep ice for four to five days. Take the time to find the ideal cooler for your needs.


How Long Can Food Stay in a Cooler with an Ice Pack?

When foods are stored at temperatures above or below their recommended range, the naturally occurring bacteria on them can multiply to toxic proportions.

Because the growth of these bacteria is slowed by refrigeration, the food is safe to eat. When temperatures are correct, a cooler can serve as effectively as a refrigerator.

Filled with ice, a cooler keeps even the most perishable foods safe to eat long after the picnic ends, right up to their expiration date, as long as you keep an eye on the temperature inside the cooler.


Which Coolers are the Best for Storing Food?

Use a cooler to preserve the freshness of your refreshments for as long as you’re away from home. Some are insulated to keep things cool for longer, while others hold ice to lower the temperature. Here are some of the best coolers for storing food.


Igloo Trailmate 70 Qt Cooler

In our most recent round of cooler testing, the Igloo Eco Trailmate came out on top. It kept Coke cans cold for 36 hours straight and retained most of the ice frozen solid.

In addition, this durable cooler has many convenient features, such as a telescoping carry handle and a detachable container for bringing along dry goods.


Titan Deep Freeze 48-Can Zipperless HardBody Cooler

After 36 hours, there was only a 6-degree temperature drop in the soda cans within this compact, soft cooler with a rigid inside. You can fit up to 48 cans inside without adding ice, and it will only weigh around 44 pounds when completely stocked with cans alone.

There are also outside pockets and bungee cords on the lid to help secure loose objects, in addition to a perforated tray that runs the length of the cooler to assist keep some items separated.


Tundra Haul

Excellent temperature regulation was demonstrated in tests, where a constant 33 degrees Fahrenheit was maintained for 36 hours. Further, a food crate is included to facilitate tidiness inside.


Type of Food That Can Stay in the Cooler the Longest

The following is based on a cooler that is 40 degrees or cooler with ice.


1-2 Days

  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Ground Meat
  • Berries
  • Cherries


2-3 Days

  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Milk


3-7 Days

  • Steak
  • Bacon
  • Lunch Meat
  • Yogurt
  • Sour Cream
  • Cream Cheese
  • Soft Fruit


1-2 Weeks

  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Green Beans
  • Bell Peppers


1 Month

  • Apples
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Oranges


Foods That Can Last in the Cooler for Less than 24h

Any food can last in a cooler for 24 hours with ice. Without ice, however, it is best to cut that time in half to be on the safe side. So, looking at our previous list, we can assume that fish, poultry, and ground meat will only be good for 24 hours or less.


Is there Any Food You Can’t Store in a Cooler?

You should never store some foods in a cooler (or a refrigerator). Here are a few of them:


Butternut Squash

Because of the condensation that forms inside a refrigerator or cooler, the quality of this vegetable may quickly deteriorate if it is kept in either of those environments.



Don’t store your bread in the cooler. Bread, like potatoes and sweet potatoes, loses its fresh flavor when exposed to cold.



The avocados should be kept away from the cooler for four to seven days to ripen. Chilling them will prolong the process and possibly cause them to go off more quickly.



In general, aubergines don’t need to be stored in a cooler, but they should be stored in a cool, dark place to prevent them from drying out.



If you have a chocolate bar or box of chocolates, never store them in a cooler. Flavor, color, and consistency can be altered by cold and dampness.

In addition, the cocoa butter in chocolate is notoriously bad at resisting odor transfer from nearby foods, so it’s best to keep it in a separate container from anything with a strong flavor or aroma.



Pastries are best preserved when stored in a paper bag at room temperature. Condensation in the cooler might ruin the pastry’s texture, making it soggy and limp.


Final Thoughts on How Long Can You Store Food In A Cooler

Some foods can be kept in a cooler for long periods if the cooler is kept at the right temperature and has ice. But always be careful, as some foods do not last as long as others, and there are foods out there that should not be stored in a cooler.