What Is the Best Way to Pack Food for the Beach?

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Spending time on the beach is one of my favorite activities. You can swim in the water, build sand castles, or simply lay out on a beach towel and get a tan.

No matter how you choose to fill your time at the beach, you eventually need to eat. I always pack a meal and snacks for the beach, but I worry about getting sand in my food.

After some trial and error, I have found the best way to pack food for the beach. If you want to enjoy a snack without extra grit, here are several useful tips.

Always Use a Cooler to Store Your Food

While there are many ways to pack your food, the food should always be stored inside a quality cooler. The cooler provides a secure place to store the food and prevent exposure to the sun, heat, sand, and critters.

You may also need a cooler to keep your food properly refrigerated. When stored at room temperature, refrigerated foods should be consumed within two hours. Unless you plan on eating as soon as you get to the beach, you will likely need to keep these foods cool inside a cooler with ice.

Prepare Your Foods Before You Go

Preparing a meal on the beach is asking for trouble. Slicing bread or cheese and preparing your own sandwich while trying to keep everything out of the sand is a challenge that you will likely fail. If you plan to eat something that requires preparation, take care of all the prep work first.

Along with sandwiches, this tip also applies to fruit and vegetables. For example, if you want to bring oranges, you may want to peel the oranges first and place them in a sealable sandwich bag.

nuts and seeds

Choose Foods That Do Not Require Preparation

You may also find it easier to pack items that are easy to eat on the go. My favorites are nuts and seeds. They typically come in sealable containers and do not require refrigeration or any preparation.

Basically, anything that does not require preparation or refrigeration is a suitable choice. However, if the container that the food comes in is made from paper products, you may want to place it in a different container. Instead of using the container that it came in, pour the item into a sealable sandwich bag.

Store All Foods Separately in Containers or Bags

It is also a good idea to separate your foods. Place each item in its own bag or plastic container, especially condiments.

If you have fragile foods that may easily get squished, place them in a plastic container instead of a bag. This also protects the foods against leaks from drinks or other items, helping to keep the food from getting soggy.

bring hydrating drinks

Bring Refreshing Drinks Instead of Sugary Beverages

Hydration is important when you are at the beach. I tend to get parched by the time I choose a spot to set up my stuff. If you want to stay hydrated, avoid sugary beverages and bring something more refreshing.

Lemonade is a great choice, as is water. When packing these drinks, remember to store them separately from the rest of your food. If the drinks need to go in the same cooler as your foods, place the drinks in their own container or plastic bag.

Avoid Foods That Carry a Risk of Foodborne Illness

While a cooler may help keep certain foods chilled, there are some foods that you should simply avoid bringing to the beach. These foods are more likely to spoil without proper refrigeration, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. You should avoid yogurt, ice cream, and most dairy products.

If you need ice cream, busy beaches tend to attract vendors. You should not have trouble finding a vendor selling ice cream and other treats that you may not want to bring on your own. If there are no vendors on the beach, there is surely an ice cream parlor within walking distance.

eating ice cream at the beach

Begin Packing Your Foods in the Cooler

When you have gathered the foods that you plan to bring, you still need to pack them properly in the cooler. An insulated bag is less preferable, as it may get crushed and ruin your meals.

The heaviest food items should be placed in the cooler first so that they are on the bottom. The lightest items should go last. If you need to add ice to keep your food cool, add the ice after you finish packing the foods. 

Create a Comfortable Space to Eat Your Foods 

Packing the foods is just one step in enjoying a meal without sand or soggy ingredients. You also need to set up a suitable spot for eating. If you sit in the sand and eat, you are more likely to get sand in your food.

Bring a large picnic blanket to lay out in the sand. You can secure the corners of the blanket with rocks, shoes, or other items that you bring with you. Place the cooler directly in the center of the blanket.

I also recommend placing a hand towel next to the picnic table. Before touching any foods or opening the cooler, you can wipe your hands off on the towel to remove sand.

For added protection from the sand, consider sitting on beach chairs. Many chairs include cup holders, providing a spot to store your drink to avoid letting it tip over in the sand.

Last Thoughts on the Best Way to
Pack Food for the Beach

Packing food is important if you plan on spending the whole day at the beach. It is easy to get dehydrated and hungry when you spend the day swimming or chasing children around on the beach. However, you should plan before you go.

Take the time to select foods that are easy to store and transport to the beach. You should also place everything in a cooler or bag to keep sand out. If you remember these tips, you can enjoy a sandwich without the sand.