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.

CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag: Insulated Leakproof 50 Can Soft Sided Portable Cooler Bag for Lunch, Grocery Shopping, Camping and Road Trips, Heather Grey/Black, 8 gallon/30 Large (7060-H011-00061PK)
  • Large capacity SnapBasket Tahoe Coolers can hold up to 50 cans of your favorite drinks plus ice; perfect for use at the beach, while camping or to load up full of snacks for youth sports games outdoors
  • Patented SnapHinges on both sides of the cooler bags offer structured support when the tote is open; to close the cooler, simply push the side hinges in which folds the compact bag down flat
  • Versatile totes can be packed with lunch and a few ice packs for a daytime picnic, small enough to place in the trunk of your SUV as an ice chest on road trips; can fit in your suitcase for vacation
  • The perfect size for food delivery services and a great solution to haul groceries from the grocery store or farmer's market to your kitchen at home; comfortable handle and duffel bag handles for heavy loads
  • Measures 18. 25"L x 12. 25"W x 12"H when open and collapses flat to 3"; weighs 2 pounds when empty; lightweight bag holds 30 liters (8 gallons) by volume with a load capacity of 50 pounds

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.

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.

Wekapo Sand Proof Beach Blanket (Blue)
  • ✔ OVERSIZED AND COMPACT-10‘x9'(300cmX280cm)over 30% bigger than competing beach / pinic blanket, will comfortably fit 7 adults.only weights 14 oz.come with 6 metal stakes in a pouch for 4 anchor loops so you will have 2 spare ones just in case.
  • ✔ SIMPLE DESIGN & DOUBLE ANCHORED-WEKAPO blanket is designed as simple as possible so it has eliminated 5 sticking out sand pockets and added 4 corner pockets that can be used for storage or sand anchor. If it's windy day, it can be nailed down on beach by metal stakes coming with our blanket.
  • ✔ SAND PROOF AND WATER RESISTANT-This beautifully colored blanket is made of durable ripstop nylon. Just shake the blanket and it easily gets rid of all the sand once. Not only is this wonderful fabric breathable and light-weight, but watch as water beads up and rolls off. The little water that may stay behind will dry VERY FAST.
  • ✔ SUPERIOR QUALITY- Triple stitched for maximum strength and durability. All pieces of this blanket are made with lasting use in mind.
  • ✔ MULTIFUNCTIONAL – Use it as a Picnic Blanket, for relaxing during vacation, hiking/camping or simply for hanging out with friends or family in a garden/backyard – a truly multifunctional camping accessory!

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.

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

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