You know you need to keep cold food cold at picnics to prevent bacteria from spreading. But many people don’t realize they also need to keep it cool after they’re done grocery shopping! In your supermarket cart, milk and eggs are all good. But as soon as you exit the store and hit the summer heat, they’re no longer in their comfort zone, and it gets worse when your car’s been parked in the sun. It doesn’t take long for the temp in your car to reach 100° F, and your fresh food will start to spoil pretty quickly.
The heat can speed the growth of dangerous bacteria that causes food poisoning, particularly in meats, fish and dairy—including ice cream.
How to Keep Food Cool After Grocery Shopping
The first rule of grocery shopping is “go home after grocery shopping.” Because that’s not always possible, here are some other helpful hints:
Park in the shade
Hey, one can dream, right? If your supermarket doesn’t have any shady parking, you can always consider planning your shopping trips at times other than the heat of the day (noon to 2 p.m.).
Load your cart strategically
If you can help it, try to shop for perishables last so that they spend the least amount of time outside their refrigerated sections of the store.
Bring your own insulated grocery shopping bags
Because sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, there’s always insulated bags. Some supermarkets have them available at checkout. But summer’s a good time to think about bringing your own. (We recommend keeping these extra-large insulated bags in the car.) Level up by adding ice packs before you shop.
Pack cold with cold
Keep cold foods with other cold foods. Ice cream can do wonders for keeping a pot roast cool on the way home, and the pot roast will help keep the ice cream from melting as well. But please avoid cross-contamination by bagging your meat individually before packing it up!
Consider keeping a cooler in your car
For extra-hot days or extra-long trips, having a cooler in your car can be a grocery-saver. (Even better if it’s a collapsible cooler, like this one.)
Avoid the trunk
Think it’s hot in the driver’s seat? The trunk is much worse. In fact, it’s the hottest part of your car. Consider giving your groceries the comfort of your air-conditioned cabin.
Have a plan
During the summer months, you’ll want to make grocery shopping the last thing you do before heading home. When you make multiple grocery-related stops (for example, going to Costco for these Kirkland bargains and your regular grocery store for meat and vegetables), plan so that the last thing you purchase are perishables.
And of course, as soon as you get home, put your perishables into the fridge. Here’s how to organize your refrigerator the right way!