I just love durable goods that can help you save money over the long haul. Some things are completely worth the money you spend on them for the savings they bring you later. Coolers are one of those items. They are extremely durable, and extremely useful.
Case in point. My parents purchased this cooler when I was in Highschool. Roughly circa 1987. They used it for years, and when my dad was clearing things out of his garage back in the mid 90’s I snagged it. So it’s over 25 years old. . .and still going strong! Sure–the back hinges split a few years ago, but that just means the lid is either all the way on or all the way off–plenty of coolers are made that way anyway. It’s still solid, fully functional, and even looks pretty darn good! We use it all the time as a “drinks” cooler when we host one of our backyard BBQ’s.
I’ve shown that coolers can be very durable, so how do they save you money? Here you go!
7 Ways Coolers Can Save You Cash
1. Bring your own drinks and food to concerts, sporting events, water parks, day trips and more.
Buying drinks and snacks at a venue-or on the road-can cost a pretty penny. That soda that you paid $.30 a can for at Walmart frequently costs $1.50-$3 when you are out. Even a cheapo dinner or snack costs far more than sandwiches, cheese and crackers or fruit brought from home. Even if you can’t bring your cooler into wherever you are headed, you can just head back to the car and grab a bite before continuing whatever fun you are having.
2. Bring your own food on vacation for either camping or a hotel.
Being able to bring perishable food with you on vacation saves you a ton. Hardboil up a dozen eggs before you go, bring milk for cereal (which obviously doesn’t have to go in the cooler) and some fruit and you can skip paying for breakfast each day. Add in some cold cuts, cheese and condiments and you have the option of eating lunch/dinner as well. If you eat lunch out (typically less expensive than dinner) and then have a simple sandwich dinner you will not only save your pocketbook, but your waistline too! You’ve also got a spot to put your leftovers so you can eat them the next day instead of wasting money by tossing them.
3. Save energy during a party.
Every time you open your refrigerator door, heat rushes in and your fridge has to use more energy cooling back down. That of course costs you more money. When you have a party you don’t want your guests opening the door a hundred times to pull out drinks. Fill a cooler with ice, toss the drinks in to chill, and keep your guests out of your fridge.
4. Keep your groceries from spoiling in the car.
I can save a lot of money by shopping in at the bigger grocery stores like Walmart instead of the expensive mom and pop store here in town. Because I’m trying to save gas I try to do my errands all on one day a week rather than making multiple trips. . . but in the warmer months of the year that means I have to do my grocery shopping last so the perishable and frozen items aren’t ruined. That doesn’t always work out with the various tasks I’m trying to accomplish and I wind up either making a separate trip (30 min each way) or shopping more expensively locally. If you toss a cooler in the car you can purchase those items whenever it is most convenient and keep them cold in the cooler (I like to pick up a couple of “extra” bags of frozen veggies to help keep everything chilled). Money saved!
5. Use as a “Haybox” or “Fireless Cooker” to make meals.
In World War II “Hayboxes” were recommended as a way to save cooking fuel/energy. The idea was simple. You bring your recipe (usually a soup, stew, porrige, bean dish or casserole–basically anything you’d think of cooking in a crockpot) up to boiling, then cover it, take it off the stove and put in a box full of hay and leave it covered for several hours. The hay would insulate the pot and retain the heat, allowing the dish to continue cooking without applying any additional heat. Today the same thing can be done with a cooler (far better insulated than a box) and some blankets, pillows, towels etc. Root Simple has a great article on Hay Boxes.
6. Keep dry goods away from rodents.
There are times in life when you are storing dry goods in a place that has rodents. Yes–I know this isn’t usually an issue in the typical modern home, but in many cabins/camps or other seasonal home it can be. We have a small boathouse on a lake (it’s a boathouse that’s been turned into a camp). There are mice–so while canned goods are just fine being left there, dry goods like pasta, cereal, crackers and flour are pretty chancy. Of course if a rodent gets into your food you have to throw it out and dig out your wallet to replace everything. A cooler makes an excellent rodent proof container to keep those types of items in.
7. Use for perishable food if the power goes out.
When the power goes out the best way to keep your fridge and freezer (and their contents of course) cold is to open the door as little as possible. If the power is going to be out for a day or two, there are probably some items in the fridge and freezer that you actually want to use. Take those items out, put them in your cooler (along with some ice if possible) and then keep the freezer and fridge door firmly shut! (note: You can even drape the fridge/freezer with blankets and such to insulate it more if you are worried about a long term outage). If it’s a shorter duration power outage this just might save everything in your fridge and freezer–which sure beats the grocery bill you’d have if you had to replace it all!
Since coolers are such a wonderful frugal tool, I thought it was great when Walmart asked me if I’d pick up a new cooler and tell you all about it.
I headed off to the store and back into the sporting goods section. If you didn’t know, that’s where all the coolers are! I’m a particular fan of Coleman brand coolers (although Walmart carries lots of brands). Coleman quality is well known in camping and outdoor gear–my 25 year old cooler is a Coleman so I know they last! I also love the fact that Coleman coolers are Made in America!
The selection was a bit overwhelming. There were Coleman coolers in all sizes, from lunchbox to 150 quarts. Extreme coolers that could keep ice for 3 or 5 days. Coolers with wheels. Coolers of steel. Coolers you can lock. I had to narrow the field down before I could decide.
We do a lot of things in the summer where we tote a cooler along–not only in the trunk of the car, but into someplace (friends yards for BBQ, the Water Safari park in Old Forge, even walking down to the fair grounds in our town). I knew wheels would make my life a lot easier.
We started out comparing the 28qt wheeled cooler with the 40 qt extreme marine cooler. Obviously the capacity was a factor–but what really got me was the wheels. Look at the difference in wheel size–the bigger ones on the marine cooler would have a far easier time on bumpy lawns, uneven sidewalks and sandy beaches. As a bonus it also makes a really nice solid seat!
Similar to the marine cooler was the Coleman Extreme 50qt it has the same nice big wheels, and the same solid retractable handle. The profile was a bit bigger, and the capacity bigger.
Here you can see the capacity of all three.
After much thought I decided to go with the 48 qt marine cooler. I wanted the bigger wheels, but I liked the more “medium large” size. The largest was almost TOO big to to tote along on a day trip.
On Memorial Day we got together with a few folks at a friends house for a simple BBQ. It was a pretty mellow affair. The cooler came in handy for the sodas!
And when you are at Walmart don’t forget to pick up some insect repellent. Not only will you enjoy your cooler more if you aren’t being dive bombed by bugs–but you can help ward off the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease.
Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.