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Cooler packing tips: What you need to know to keep your food fresh and safe

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MILWAUKEE -- It takes a little bit of planning to pack a cooler when going camping or tailgating at a Brewers game. Meijer's healthy living advisor Maribel Alchin joins FOX6 WakeUp with tips to keep your food fresh and safe to eat.

Step One: The Cooler
Before you cram your drinks and grilling essentials into your cooler, give it a thorough cleaning. Remove any dirt and mildew that has built up since its last use to prevent contamination. Stay away from harsh chemicals, though. A simple combination of soap and water will do the trick.

Step Two: Beverages
Cover the bottom of your cooler with a layer of ice prior to adding any beverages. Place all of your beverages on top of the ice, and cover with an additional layer of ice to make sure they stay cooler, longer. Keeping your beverages at the bottom of your cooler will help them stay cold despite the warmth of the summer beach sun.

Healthy options:

  • Bottled water
  • Sparkling water
  • Zero-calorie vitamin waters
  • Zero-calorie flavored waters
  • Unsweetened beverages
  • 100% Fruit Juice

Step Three: Meat Products

Just like you did with your beverages, cover the width of the cooler with a layer of ice before you pack your meat products. Stack your meat products on top of the ice, and surround it with ice on all sides. By putting your meats in the middle of your cooler, you can prevent them from spoiling. Be sure all meat is properly packaged in leak proof containers and bags or placed in a separate cooler if necessary. Always keep meat and poultry separate from foods that will be eaten raw.

Convenient and healthier options:

  • Lower sodium deli meats
  • Shredded rotisserie chicken at the Meijer deli
  • Premade steak and veggies kabobs at the Meat service counter
  • Frozen lean beef, salmon or turkey burgers

Step Four: Fruits and Vegetables
Store your fruits and vegetables in plastic, air-tight containers before you pack them. This will save space and maintain freshness. Place the containers on top of your meat products, and cover them with ice to keep them cool.

Convenient options:

  • Pre-cut mixed fruit tray
  • Pre-cut veggie tray
  • Premade Broccoli Crunch Salad, Kale Salad, and more at the Meijer deliStep Five: Snacks and Misc. Items

Pack any snacks or miscellaneous items in air-tight plastic bags, and place them on top of all other items in your cooler. This will provide easy access, because let`s face it: everyone needs to get to those chips in a hurry.

Healthier options:

  • Hummus
  • Storemade Guacamole
  • Whole grain chips like True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Salsas: Pico de Gallo, Mango Salsa, Meijer deli Southwest Salsa
  • Trail mix or nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Veggie chips

Step Six: More Ice
This may seem a bit redundant, but we`re serious about ice. Fill your cooler to the brim with ice, and pack it in tightly around the edges. This will prevent any warm air from entering the cooler and heating up your picnic lunch. Be sure to store all food in watertight containers to prevent contact with melting ice water.
When you`re hitting the road, remember to keep the cooler inside the car where it`s air-conditioned and not in the trunk. Next up - enjoy your picnic!

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