How do I move the contents of my deep-freeze cross-country?

My wife and I are moving from NY to OR in a month or two. However, we’ve been living the country life up until now, with a chest freezer in the basement stocked with a quarter cow and a whole pig. (Both butchered and packaged … we’re not talking about a solid carcass…)

We’re doing our best to chow through it all before we move, and have been giving some away, etc., but we still have close to 100 pounds of organic, grass-fed meat right now, and I’d love to be able to take it with us. But we’re talking about a 7-10 day drive. How can I possible keep it frozen for that whole period, without renting some sort of freezer truck? Do I have AAA map out dry ice sources along with our hotels on the route? Liquid nitrogen?

Dry ice lasts a long time, and it’s cheap and plentiful. Package it well (and don’t open it if you don’t have to) and hit a grocery store or two along your route to refresh. My husband’s parents sent us some gourmet steaks for Christmas this year and they arrived SOLIDLY frozen after four days.

That said: where in Oregon? Welcome!

Where are you getting that it’s a 7 to 10 day drive? Using the Rand McNally Online Mileage Calculator, I get that from JFK Airport in NY to Portland, Oregaon, it is:

So say, 3,000 miles; even if you keep the hammer at 50 because you’re towing a U-Haul and drive only from 6 am to 6 pm every day (that’s 10 hours of actual driving time and allowing 2 hours for pit stops, which is generous), so you only make 500 miles a day, that’s still only 6 days.

And you can speed things up by driving faster–55 is safe with a U-Haul, and if you’re not towing anything, you can make even better time, driving from 6 am to 8 pm every day, and having shorter pit stops. So that’s not 7 to 10 days. For you to take 10 days to get there, you’d have to be making only 300 miles a day, which is leisurely even by Grandpa’s standards, and I have to assume you’re planning on either sightseeing or visiting relatives along the way. Or else you have a compulsive outlet mall shopper in the car (“Oooh! There’s one at the next exit!”)


[attempts to visualize 100 pounds of meat as a big pile]

Hmm…that isn’t really that much meat. I’d get a bunch of styrofoam coolers (you probably don’t want to inve$t the money in those huge double-layer insulated molded-plastic soda coolers, because what do you do with them after your trip is over?, but the styrofoam ones you can always use), pack the meat it, add some dry ice, and then put them all together in the trunk of the car or the front of the U-haul, wrapped up snugly with a bunch of blankets for insulation, and then DO NOT OPEN THEM TO PEEK en route, until you’re ready to put them into their new freezer. Every time you open the lid to peek, you let warm air in, so the secret is to bundle them up and then leave them alone.

And actually, since you’re making this trip in the dead of winter, and you’ll be traveling across the northern tier of states, if you have the coolers in either the U-Haul or the trunk of the car, IMO they’d stay plenty cold enough that you wouldn’t need dry ice–just use regular ice dumped in on top. Big chunks of meat will stay frozen all by themselves, with just some ice, if they’re insulated and the ambient air temperature is fairly low.


Well, we’re driving from near Albany, and we have to stop to see family in Pennsylvania (at least 2 additional days). Plus, we might want to see Mount Rushmore or some other minor sight along the way. (And this will likely be in March.)

We’re sending all of our stuff using PODS; we’ll just be bringing our animals, some clothes, and sleeping bags (in case we beat all of our stuff there and have to sleep on the floor) in our Element and a car-top cargo carrier. So, hopefully, a couple of foam coolers and some dry ice should do us. I guess the question will be, do we stop to replace the dry ice, or just leave everything sealed until we get there?

If it were me, I’d use this as the perfect excuse to pick up one of these.

Slate magazine has a column where they review various consumer products, and here is the review of coolers. The top-ranked one is the Coleman Ultimate Extreme 50-qt. Cooler, which the manufacturer claims can keep ice frozen for up to six days, although Slate found it worked only up to four days. Still if you replace the dry ice once or twice, that should get you cross country. And it’s only $35.

One question I have, though; where does one buy dry ice? Is it available in supermarkets?

You can buy it from just about any ice company. Just look up “ice” in the Yellow Pages of any reasonably large city you stop in for the night.

Dry ice is easy to find in some areas. Many supermarkets carry it, and sometimes there’s an icehouse in town. It’s hard to find in other places. The only place I know of here in KC is the meat counter of a small specialty grocer.

My experience is that once dry ice is out of the special freezer it’s kept in, it’s gone within 24 hours. I seem to remember hearing or reading that this is essentially unavoidable. If this is correct, it could be problematic for a trip of that length. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be replaced every day (the mass of frozen meat will retain its coldness for a time), but I would guess at least every other day.

If you do go with dry ice, don’t try to seal it airtight. The vapor pressure developed as it sublimates is formidable, as I recall.

Between the cost of dry ice and the bulk of ice chests that could be used for more valuable possessions, I would still think it would be easier and/or cheaper to buy 100 pounds of prime grass fed beef when you get to Oregon. I have moved many times (once from Alaska to New England) and my motto has always been, “Can this be replaced easier and/or cheaper than keeping it?” Moving long distance is hard enough as it is without smacking into the law of diminishing returns when you try to hold onto things that are really not justifiable. Any kind of food surely falls under that description.

Removal companies in the UK (and advice for power cuts) suggest that freezers are ok without power for 2 days- the temp rises some, but not to put the food at risk. What is to stop you using an extension lead and firing up the freezer for a couple of hours when you stop? Do that each night, or every other night, and you should be OK.