How to Store Food on a Boat Free from Contamination

How to Store Food on a Boat Free from Contamination

As the summer approaches, most boating enthusiasts want to have a nice grill and a great cooler for ultimate enjoyment while cruising. 

Unfortunately, many of them often fail to consider the contamination risk that being on the water on a hot day poses to the various types of food brought on board. 

And the disappointment of food poisoning can be very annoying, especially while you are in the middle of an ocean or lake. 

When I started bringing my kids on board, I could not escape from stuffing more food and snacks on my pontoon boat. 

To be honest, packing food for several people for a boat trip wasn’t an easy task. There was much to learn about storage prevent food poisoning while still keeping the boat tidy. 

I realized that things get really messy when you don’t store your food properly. You could also end up with rats, mice, or, worse, cockroach infestations on your boat. 

The good news is that I researched and learned some important ways to store food safely on a boat regardless of the size of your crew!

Here, I will share my best tips that can help you keep your food well-organized and free of contamination on your boat. 

But before we get on to the tips, let’s have a deeper look at why boat food storage matters. 

As the summer approaches, most boating enthusiasts want to have a nice grill and a great cooler for ultimate enjoyment while cruising. 

Unfortunately, many of them often fail to consider the contamination risk that being on the water on a hot day poses to the various types of food brought on board. 

And the disappointment of food poisoning can be very annoying, especially while you are in the middle of an ocean or lake. 

When I started bringing my kids on board, I could not escape from stuffing more food and snacks on my pontoon boat. 

To be honest, packing food for several people for a boat trip wasn’t an easy task. There was much to learn about storage prevent food poisoning while still keeping the boat tidy. 

I realized that things get really messy when you don’t store your food properly. You could also end up with rats, mice, or, worse, cockroach infestations on your boat. 

The good news is that I researched and learned some important ways to store food safely on a boat regardless of the size of your crew!

Here, I will share my best tips that can help you keep your food well-organized and free of contamination on your boat. 

But before we get on to the tips, let’s have a deeper look at why boat food storage matters. 

Reasons Boat Food Storage is Crucial

Reasons Boat Food Storage is Crucial

While you can easily toss your packed lunch box onto the boat and start cruising, this isn’t always a guarantee that you’ll have safe food to enjoy when you get hungry. 

The conditions on the water are usually very different, and you could end up starving during your sailing trip. 

If you are wondering why you need to be more technical with your food when cruising, here are several reasons: 

Maintains Freshness

The conditions on a hot summer’s day can easily turn your well-prepared food for a comfortable and enjoyable trip rotten.

It becomes even worse when the rotten food is close to other potentially feasible foods. Everything gets contaminated, and you may end up with stomach upsets and diarrhea upon eating such food.

For instance, you may think that it’s okay to store your fresh fish with other cool cooked or fresh foods in the freezer.

However, this only creates room for contamination, and you might end up with an uneatable mess in your cooler. Imagine you and your boating crew starving throughout the boat trip. Not so great, right? 

That’s why you need to ensure that all your food is properly stored in appropriate places in your boat. 

All you have to do is find out which storage method works for your fresh fruits, dried foods, meats, vegetables, and other foods.

Regulates Temperature 

Storing food properly for boating activities ensures that it remains at the right temperature and prevents contamination. 

However, most boats do not have the right facilities to keep food warm or cold and inhibit bacteria growth. 

Depending on the type and nature of the foods you want to bring on board, proper storage is a perfect solution.

Storing them in the right way can help control the temperature, which may otherwise interfere with food safety.

For example, freezing your raw meats, chicken, or fish will enhance longevity and let you enjoy fresh food whenever you feel hungry during the trip. 

If you have cooked meals that you plan to eat after a few hours of cruising, you may want to pack them in a dish with a keep warm feature. There are also mini-fridges that come with a keep-warm feature.

Keeps Your Boat Clean

Being in constant motion on the water means that your items will be swayed to the point of even falling off from the shelves. 

This may cause spills and create a mess in the boat, especially when dealing with cooked foods and the various drinks. 

If you don’t want to spend lots of hours trying to clean stains and cleaning spills, you’ll need to invest in proper storage solutions. 

Storing your food well in a boat will keep things clean and neat all the time. The food storage equipment for boating may cost you a few bucks, but the investment is definitely worth the money. 

Prevents Contamination 

It’s one thing to have to scrub a stained boat and another to have food poisoning. Getting your packed foods contaminated with bacteria and germs can be pretty awful.

And there are many ways your food can be contaminated in your boat unless you sanitize the entire boat from the previous boating trip. 

Your food can sustain contamination from critters, improper packing, and the overall boat conditions, especially the temperature and humidity. 

So, you need to ensure that all the food is properly stored to keep contaminants at bay. When the conditions are favorable, you’ll enjoy your delicious meals and even prepare some aboard with ease. 

Tips for Storing Food on a Boat Free from Contamination

Tips for Storing Food on a Boat Free from Contamination

Looking for effective ways to safeguard your passengers’ health when cruising? Below are some great tips on how to store food on your boat free from contamination: 

Food Storage Containers Are a Must Have 

I love food storage containers as they not only help me store my food properly on the boat, but they also do a great job in keeping critters and pests away. 

Food storage containers with lockable lids are my favorite for boating activities as they give me extra confidence that my food is safe while cruising. 

If you have a boat refrigerator and want to use food storage containers, you can get ones that have good ventilation to keep fruits and vegetables fresh. 

You will not regret buying these storage containers with fresh vent technology. 

Separate Warm and Cold Foods 

If you want to steer clear of cross contamination, always separate your warm and cold foods. 

You should ensure that any raw food brought on board is stored separately from foods ready to eat. 

The discomfort and health issues that come with food poisoning can be quite disheartening.

But it’s a whole different problem when you have diarrhea and feel nauseous in the middle of an ocean. 

For boaters storing their foods in a cooler, it’s wise to put cold food and hot food in different containers to avoid contamination.

You can use a cooler to keep cold food at the right temperature for several hours or keep hot foods warm, but not both in the same cooler. 

Keep Raw Meat and Cooked Meat Apart

While you might be tempted to toss all of your food items into a single storage unit, this isn’t always a brilliant idea, particularly when it comes to meats.

You should keep your cooked food separate from uncooked foods.

Raw meat may host all sorts of harmful bacteria from Campylobacter and Listeria to Salmonella and E.coli. 

These bacteria usually die when the meat is fully cooked. So, you need to ensure that no cooked meat comes into direct contact with raw meat.

One of the best ways to avoid cross contamination is to pack raw meat in Ziploc freezer bags and store cooked meat in food storage containers.

When cooking your meat on board, whether fish or poultry, you need to defrost it properly to ensure that even the inner portions are ready for cooking. 

Sometimes it’s wise to avoid freezing meat to ease the cooking process, especially for shorter boat trips. 

Invest in Portable Cooler Boxes for Your Boat

Boat coolers are a perfect way to keep different kinds of foods and drinks cool on a hot summer cruising day. 

And the good thing about marine cooler boxes is that they have extended ice retention than ordinary camping coolers. A standard camping cooler may not handle the hot sun on the water pretty well. 

If you decide to invest in a marine cooler for your boating food storage, I’d recommend the Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler. It’s a heavy-duty cooler that comes with a sturdy construction that can withstand the hot sun as you cruise. 

Ziploc Freezer Plastic Bags Are 100% Essential 

Ziploc Freezer Plastic Bags Are 100% Essential

If you want to carry several types of different foods, you may want to invest in Ziploc freezer bags. 

Not only do Ziploc freezer bags keep your food safe, but they also save on space since they are compact and streamlined. 

While food storage containers are a perfect way to pack your food when cruising, they take a lot of space. They may not be appropriate when you want to bring different foods aboard. 

This is where Ziploc freezer bags come into play. 

What I find to be the most fascinating about these food storage bags is that they are available everywhere from local stores and supermarkets to online stores like Amazon. 

It’s easy for you to stock up at relatively affordable prices. And you can always re use them after washing and drying them properly. 

Once you buy the Ziploc freezer bags, be sure to label them with a permanent or waterproof marker to suit boating conditions. 

Get a Portable 12v Boat Fridge

Not all boat sizes can accommodate a standard fridge. If you have a small boat with no refrigerator on board, you may want to get a portable boat fridge. 

Most compact boat fridges can operate well with a 12v power supply, which is perfect when cruising for longer periods. 

If you prefer versatile appliances like me, the BESTEK Portable Refrigerator is just a perfect option for you.

It’s a great boat fridge that also comes with food warmer. I couldn’t ask for more in such a portable fridge. 

Buy Some Plastic Storage Bins 

Are you looking for a simple and affordable way to pack your food for boating activities? All you have to do is invest in some plastic storage bins. 

Plastic bins give you several options when it comes to organizing and storing your food on the boat. 

You can just slide them into the boat’s lockers or put them in a fridge if you have a larger one on board. 

At the same time, you should keep in mind that not all plastic storage bins are ideal for food storage, and if you end up with the wrong ones, food poisoning will be a part of your trip. 

The best plastic storage bins for boating food packing are ones that are well-ventilated to allow air flow. They should also feature a sturdy base and be easy to clean. 

 I bought these Sterilite Plastic Storage Bins on Amazon last summer, and I still think it’s one of my best buys when it comes to food storage for boating activities. 

Boat Food Storage Hammocks Are Great for Longer Trips

If you plan to sail for an extended period, the chances are that you are going to prepare some food on board, which may call for delicate ingredients like eggs. 

In such cases, you’ll need a safe way to store your ingredients in easily accessible yet secure areas, such as the ceiling. 

You can use gear hammocks to hang your fragile items like eggs and breakfast cereal from the ceiling for safety and easy access. 

The good thing about gear hammocks is that they are relatively cheap and compact enough to store in your boat when not in use.

Nonetheless, it’s important to be extra careful when hanging the hammock on your boat, as a small mistake may ruin your food and create a mess on the boat. 

For example, you can try not to hang the hammock against the wall as your eggs will fall when there is a strong wave or wake shaking the boat. Trust me, it’s horrible to clean a mess of raw eggs on a boat. 

Speaking of cooking on board, you can get an extra table that will let you prepare your meals with ease. It will give you ample space to slice up your soft fruits, veggies, and meat.

An extra table will also be super handy when eating, especially if your boat lacks an adequate table surface. 

You can always set the removable table up when cooking and eating and remove it when not in use at your convenience. 

Compact removable tables for boats come in different sizes and designs, so you can be sure of getting what suits your needs best. 

How to Prevent Pest Contamination

How to Prevent Pest Contamination

Pests and crawling critters common in boats are a major source of food contamination. So, it’s crucial to take the extra mile and keep pests and critters at bay. 

The most common critters and pests that attack boats include cockroaches, weevils, ants, rats, and mice. 

If any of these critters invade your boat, they can cause terrible harm not only to your food but also to the various parts of your boat, from seats to the deck. 

The best way to prevent pest contamination is by keeping your boat clean all time. 

If the critters are already in your boat, you can set some traps in boat lockers and cupboards to kill ants and roaches. 

Mooring lines are a number one route in which ants, rats, and mice can get into your boat when storing your boat at the dock. 

You can install guards on the mooring lines and overhead utility lines to create a barrier and keep the critters off. 

Having the smell of cinnamon in your boat will discourage ants that may come on board in search of food.

The rule of thumb is always keep your boat clean and wipe the food preparation surfaces every time you use them to prevent debris buildup. 

Keep in mind that any food residue will also promote bacteria growth in your boat, which will increase the risk of food contamination. 

FAQs

FAQs

Q: How Do You Keep Food Fresh on a Boat?

A: To store food fresh on a boat, you need to ensure that you have the right supplies and pack your food properly. 

This includes getting the right food storage containers, coolers, or even plastic bags. Here are some tips to help you keep your food fresh on a boat:

  • Keep your cooked foods separate from raw foods. 
  • Any hot food should also not be stored together with other cold foods. 
  • Use well-ventilated food storage containers to store your fruits and vegetables. 
  • Put the vegetables in the warmer places in the refrigerator, which is usually the upper fridge space as the hot air rises while cold air falls. This will help in preserving their rich textures. 
  • Always inspect the items from grocery stores when bringing them on board to avoid bringing pests onto your board. 
  • Always go for whole instead of pre-cut vegetables at the grocery store as they tend to last longer. 
  • Do not re use plastic Ziploc freezer bags, which hold raw meat. Raw meats may have harmful bacteria. 
  • Always clean your food preparation areas and eating tables after using them.
  • If you have to grill meat on board, always bring a meat thermometer to test whether it’s fully cooked before serving, especially when using frozen meat.
  • Be sure to disinfect the surface after cutting raw meats to prevent contamination if other foods contact the area. 
  • Always clean your food containers after using them to keep them fresh and sanitized for the next trip. 
  • Sanitize the items you can to block the growth of destructive bacteria. 
  • Invest in a non-slip shelf-paper or bubble wrap to keep your food containers intact and prevent sliding, which may spoil your fragile foods. 

If you need to can your foods, you can use traditional mason jars. I have used them for many years, and I have nothing to complain about so far. 

Of course, not all foods will require refrigeration or freezing, but you still need to store them well in the boat galley to prevent contamination. 

Dry foods, rice, pasta, cured meat products, and dried milk will just do fine in warm storage. You just need to ensure that each food is in a sealed container. 

Q: How Do You Store Vegetables on a Boat?

A: While you have many ways to keep your vegetables fresh in your home, storing veggies on a boat isn’t as easy. 

First of all, you don’t have a lot of space and all those wonderful big produce containers. So, you need to be a little more creative when packing your produce to keep everything fresh. 

Here is how to store your vegetables on a boat:

Wash the Vegetables

When storing your vegetables on the boat, the first thing you need to do is wash them, especially when purchased at a farmer’s market or roadside stores. 

Wash the veggies thoroughly to remove all the dirt and eliminate any germs that would be clinging to the produce.

Sometimes I prefer mixing a cup of bleach with several gallons of fresh water when cleaning my vegetables for boat storage. 

A vegetable brush also comes in handy when dealing with challenging and dirty items such as carrots and potatoes. 

Most products purchased in the supermarket are already washed and ready to use, so there is no need to do it again. 

Once your vegetables are clean, leave them to dry before packing. 

Store Some Vegetables in Ventilated Containers 

Store Some Vegetables in Ventilated Containers

You can store the vegetables that will do well without refrigeration in ventilated containers to leave room for leafy greens and other highly perishable items. 

This includes tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, and more. You can wrap them with bubble wrap to prevent bruising. 

Many vegetables do not necessarily require refrigeration and will really do better when packed in the right food storage containers then kept in the cupboard or lockers. 

However, you need to ensure that the storage surface is dry, as any warm moisture will accelerate the ripening process and trigger rotting.

Store onions and potatoes in a cool and dry place to keep them fresh for an extended period. But you should ensure that they are in separate bins since onions emit ethylene gas that may, in turn, ruin your potatoes. 

Deal with the Condensation Problem

The condensation problem is usually real when packing food for boating activities, especially in the summer. 

 If you store your room temperature vegetables in plastic bags and keep them in the refrigerator, all the warm moisture will condense in the bags. 

This means that your vegetables will have to sit in the moisture, which will reduce the quality and cause rotting in many cases. 

To solve this problem, you can buy some refrigerator bags or wrap a paper towel around the vegetables when storing them in the plastic bag.  

If you decide to wrap the vegetables with paper towels, you’ll need to change the towels every day as it works like a diaper to prevent water buildup. 

There is also an easier alternative, which involves using small containers with a vent in their lid to allow air flow. 

Put Fragile Vegetables in Their Own Containers

Whether you want to freeze or just keep your food cool, it’s important to keep in mind that some fresh produce will quickly spoil when mixed with other items. 

I personally prefer small containers with ventilation for delicate vegetables that may quickly spoil with the typical boat motion. 

It’s also important to avoid using metal containers, especially when keeping your vegetables cool, as the material may conduct more cold than needed. 

Plastic bins, containers, and bags should always be your go-to options when it comes to keeping your vegetables fresh, whether in the freezer or the cupboard. 

Conclusion

Conclusion

Storing food on a boat free from contamination is no picnic, but it does not have to be so hard and boring. 

All you have to do is plan what to carry and where to put it for safe storage. Otherwise, you will end up with an unpredicted mess. 

If you plan to prepare meals onboard, be sure to clean up the cooking and eating areas after using them to get rid of any food crumbs and debris. You should also clean up any spills as soon as you can. 

By keeping things clean and well organized, you can be sure to have an enjoyable lunch or a picture-perfect dinner with your crew like no one’s business. 

Feel free to try out these tips when packing for your picnic on the water. Hopefully, they will help you store your food properly for your next trip on the lake. 

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