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Food that travels well in a cooler – What to pack for the beach?

When it’s time to hit the beach, it’s a good idea to make a shopping list for food that travels well in a cooler and stay fresh in your ice box even on the hottest summer days. Here the team of SeaSpiration gives you snack and meal ideas that taste good cold, are not inclined to spoilage, and don’t make your fingers sticky.

Anett Victoria - Author of SeaSpiration

Written by Anett Victoria

When it comes to a beach vacation, Anett is the person who certainly has tips on where to go and what to do no matter it is a luxury tropical holiday, a romantic seaside getaway, or a fun family trip to the ocean. As a world traveler with years of experience in exploring tropical countries and a water sports fan, she creates this inspiring site where she writes travel guides, reviews and recommends beach gear, and gives travel tips to make planning your trip quicker and easier! Are you curious about where She wanders now? Follow her adventures on IG too!

Pasta Salad

When thinking about food that stays good in a cooler, choosing a quick pasta salad with bottled Italian dressing is never a bad option!

Penne pasta salad

If you are out of ideas, try this recipe:
• two cups cooked black beans, rinsed
• 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 burpless cucumber, peeled and sliced fine
• two-three cups cooked tri-color rotini pasta
• 4 ounces Italian vinaigrette dressing
• feta cheese
• chopped flat parsley to taste

Mix everything but the feta and the parsley while the pasta is still a bit warm and allow this to cool in the refrigerator. Consider splitting your salad into multiple containers to avoid having anything sit out in the sun for too long.

Apples in Water

Fruits are certainly the jolly joker food to bring to the beach that are easy to transport in a cooler using small boxes. If you’re taking children to the beach, you can never go wrong with apples! The crunchy, sweet bites are perfect when the little ones get thirsty and also will help to cool them down in case they get overheated.

Green apple slices

Pick up some food boxes and cut a few apples into quarters or smaller. Trim away the cores and soak each apple in cold water inside the cooler. Try to make sure that each child has their own color or a container that has their initials on it to save fuss.

Olives and Pickles

While planning a trip to the beach with your children, it can be easy to focus on sweet things. However, as the day warms up folks will start to sweat and having a pickle to munch on can encourage your children to drink more water instead of soda.

Olives in a bowl

Split things out into reusable bags, or pack a flat food box at the bottom of the cooler with pickles wrapped in wax paper. Individual servings of olives would not go amiss for the grownups.


In addition to food that travels well in a cooler, remember to pack food that doesn’t need refrigeration. Roasted and lightly salted nuts can be a nice contrast to a can of soda or one of the chopped apples.

Salted cashew nut

If you want to avoid excess packaging, consider loading these in a reusable box with a plan paper towel to wipe fingers. This is a fantastic ready-to-eat beach snack everyone sure will love!

Street Tacos

Even if people aren’t in the mood for a large sandwich when lunchtime rolls around, having something offers a solid serving of protein in the middle of the day can keep spirits up.

It is an easy vacation meal to feed a crowd and the best is that it can be prepared very fast! To keep things light, consider prepping veggie street tacos that can include quinoa or brown rice at room temperature. If you’re worried about mayo, this recipe will take away those concerns!

Veggie tacos for the beach

Bonus tip for serving these on a warm day: Separate the little tortillas with wax paper and put just a little filling into small reusable containers that you can stack inside the cooler. They’ll be much easier to separate and the filling will hold flavor in the cooler.

Frozen Yogurt

To keep your cold stuff cold, consider investing in snack-sized yogurt containers and freezing them. Go ahead and use the full-fat yogurt flavors; non-fat and sugar-free will separate.

Rubbermaid TakeAlongs Snacking Food Containers

  • serving size containers that are great for snack cups with removable tray to keep foods separate until it's time to eat
  • great for meal prep, perfect for portioning
  • microwave-safe and freezer-friendly, can be put in dishwasher

Flavors such as orange cream and banana split are delicious as they thaw out, and the best is that you get a dose of calcium with your treat! Frozen yogurt is a fantastic beach snack for toddlers too!

Go Big or Go Home Chips and Salsa

When wondering what food to pack for a beach picnic, think simply; get a few packs of tostadas and mix up a large bowl of avocado salsa. To avoid having to pass around a bag of chips, consider packing your tostadas in a small tin so they won’t get all broken up and diners will be able to munch happily on this hearty salsa without breaking up their chips.

Avocado salsa

If you use a recipe that has lemon juice and cider vinegar; to offset, consider bringing a squeeze bottle of sour cream to cut the acidity.

Veggies With a Twist

When figuring out what to pack in a cooler for the beach, it’s extremely important to avoid anything drippy, sticky or excessively sweet. Once your fingers are sticky, you will start to collect sand, whether you’re done with your lunch or not. To encourage everyone, including you, to take a veggie break on your beach vacation, create walking salads

Purchase small bell peppers, cut off the stems, and trim out the veins and seeds inside. Once they’re empty and have dried a bit, put two carrot sticks, two pieces of celery, and one radish inside the pepper.

Red bell pepper

If things are tight, cut the celery and carrots smaller or cut back to one. Use the radish as a spacer between the taller sticks. If you want to pack small disposable containers of ranch dressing, do so, but these are a nice treat eaten plain and are a great fiber boost.

Cracker Stacks

Using small wheat crackers, layer, from bottom to top,
• cracker
• peanut butter
• slice of banana
• Nutella
• cracker

Go light on the peanut butter and Nutella to avoid slippage, and try to eat these in the morning so the banana looks good. Yum!


For something sweet, treat yourself to a simple pan of easy mix brownies with a bit of a boost.

Brownies on a plate

If you’re concerned about the chocolate chips in this recipe, try adding tiny M&Ms to reduce the risk of melting. Food that travels well in a cooler can sometimes be more easily managed with a candy coating!

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Cooler food ideas for the beach