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How to Pack Food for Your Move

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Packing food for your move can be quite a trouble because of the variety of items kept in your kitchen. From frozen food to perishables, there is a wide range of stuff that needs to be sorted out before your start to pack everything up. Moreover, if you have the tendency to pile things up in your refrigerator, it might take hours just to get started with the packing.

So, what is the solution? Well, despite all the complexity, you can pack your food items with ease by following a proper step-by-step procedure as mentioned below:

Packing Food Items

List the food items that you need to pack

Before you start wrapping jars and containers, list out all the food items in your kitchen and categorize them in a way where you can pack the items together so that they won't damage each other. Doing this will also help you identify what to pack and what to leave.

Make sure that you don't waste food unnecessarily, but at the same time carry as much food as your capacity allows. Here's how you can prepare the food for packing:

  • Make an inventory list - Get started by preparing an inventory list to get an idea of the quantity of items in your kitchen. This would make the sorting quick and hassle-free. You can organize the food as per categories like:
    • Fridge
    • Freezer
    • Pantry
  • Get rid of the unwanted items - Anything that is nearly finished or already approaching expiration should probably be used before your move or tossed out. Nearly empty tubs of butter or bottles of ketchup, leftovers, and opened cartons of milk or juice are probably not worth hanging onto, especially since they would be used up within a few days at your new place anyway.
  • Materials required for packing food - Once you've identified the number of food items to be packed and their categories, make arrangements to have enough boxes to hold the food and extra wrapping items to protect them. The materials required to pack food include:
    • Stacks of clean packing paper or unprinted newsprint
    • Some plastic bags
    • 1.5 cubic-foot or "small" cartons
    • 3-cubic-foot or "medium" cartons
    • A roll of packing tape
    • A permanent marker

Start packing as per the category of food

Since every category of food needs to be handled differently, we have enlisted the packing procedures for all these categories separately. Here's how you should pack your food for the move:

Pack perishable food

Since perishable items have a short shelf life, it's important to deal with this category first. You don't want your food to get sour or spoiled. Try your best to consume as many of these items as possible before the move so that you have less to carry, especially if the containers are nearly empty.

Follow these guidelines to pack your perishable items:

  • Pack your items in an airtight container or sealable plastic bag to maintain freshness before shipping.
  • Place containers inside a larger foam box with thicker, insulated walls to maintain the temperature.
  • Inside the box, place refrigerants such as gel coolants or dry ice (for frozen products) to keep the food cold.
  • Next, place the foam box inside a larger box for shipping. Use bubble wrap or packing paper in order to fill empty spaces and keep the food stationary.
  • It is best to pay for expedited or next-day delivery to ensure your items arrive quickly and won't spoil.
  • It's important to note that frozen food items are subject to transportation restrictions for which you'll need to coordinate with your mover. Although these can be transported in a refrigerated truck, in terms of finances, it will be a huge cost.

Packing non-perishable food

Non-perishable food is relatively easy to pack since it's not subject to a short shelf life and other constraints. However, you still need to make sure that nothing leaks or rips during the transit.

Follow below tips to pack non-perishable food items:

  • Dry foods like rice, cereals, and spices can be easily packed in boxes before you place them in cartons. Make sure that you cover all holes and seal them with tape.
  • Canned goods are heavy and need careful handling. You can pack these in small and medium sized boxes. However, you may buy new ones with less money than the amount you would spend transporting them. Hence, you need to make an informed decision.
  • If there are items like flour or sugar in large quantities, you may have to first put them in heavy duty, sealable containers before packing them in a cardboard box.
  • If you have glass bottles containing oil or sauce, you can donate these bottles instead of carrying them on the move. In case you decide to keep them on your move, make sure to pack the bottles with utmost care.

Packing food in a cooler for a local move

If your move is shorter and more local, you may transport food yourself in your own vehicle. Here are the steps to be followed:

  • Make sure everything that could potentially leak, or spill is sealed in an airtight container or plastic bag.
  • Place items with bags of ice or ice packs inside the cooler. Insert refrigerated items first and place the frozen products on the top--they will help to keep the rest colder longer.
  • Pack as many items as you can fit inside your cooler--the fuller the cooler is, the longer it will maintain its temperature.
  • Place the cooler inside the vehicle last, so that it's easy to access and can be brought quickly into your new house. This way, you can unpack your food as soon as possible.

Labeling the boxes

After you have put all the food items in the cartons, place one final layer of packing paper on top of everything as cushioning. Then, seal the box with tape. Finish by labeling the box with its contents and destination. You can label the boxes as per the type of item like, "Perishable, "Fragile", "Keep Refrigerated", "Dry Ice", and so on.

Other important tips for packing food when moving

It's advisable to empty out your refrigerator 24 hours before moving day. Your fridge needs a full day to defrost and air out before being transported to limit the growth of mold or foul odors. After you empty your fridge, unplug and leave it open overnight.

Ask your movers about their policies regarding perishable foods. Some moving companies will transport food on the moving truck for you, but others may not. However, they will leave the packing up to you and won't be held liable for damaged or spoiled food.

If you are moving dry ice, handle it with care. Dry ice can be a hazardous material that may cause rupture, explosion, burns or suffocation. Do not pack dry ice in an airtight container, or it may explode and cause injury. Lastly, never handle dry ice with bare hands; use tongs or gloves to prevent burns.

Patrick Hanan  Posted by Patrick Hanan on April 15, 2010

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