Freeze water bottles to use as icepacks in lunch boxes and coolers

This, from one of my best and oldest friends, Judie (always a thrill when I discover a friend reads Parent Hacks):

I usually use Blue Ice, which is an ice substitute that can be frozen over and over again and is packaged to not leak, in my insulated picnic cooler to keep perishables fresh. I also freeze water bottles filled with water when our family is going on a road trip so as the ice melts we’ll have cold water to drink. I discovered that if I freeze my kids’ water bottles overnight I can use them in place of Blue Ice in their insulated lunch bags. By lunchtime at school they will have cold water to drink and fresh non-spoiled food to eat.

Also, two-liter soda bottles are also a great substitute for Blue Ice and ice bags for your big chest coolers. Just freeze the water in the soda bottle and you have generic Blue Ice. The ice melts inside the bottle and doesn’t get the food items wet. It also stays frozen longer than ice cubes.

Related: Make an ice pack out of hair gel or corn syrup


  1. Chakolate says

    I recently realized I could take cottage cheese in my lunch if I put in frozen blueberries – the blueberries thawed and the cottage cheese was kept cold. Super for those of us who are low-carb.

  2. Lemon says

    Be careful about freezing plastic! The chemicals can leech into the food or beverage. Same for microwaving.

  3. rachel says

    My mom used to freeze a yogurt to go in our lunches. If it isn’t thawed by lunch (usually not), it has a “slushy” texture that’s good. (sometimes the thawed texture can get weird, though, so don’t freeze all your yogurt until you figure out if your kiddos like it).

  4. becki says

    We freeze water bottles half way full, and then add water to the top half. This gives us some water to drink right away, so we don’t have to wait hours for the ice to melt. The ice also keeps the water cool.

  5. Sean M. O'Grady says

    My mom used to freeze juice boxes. It served 2 purposes, keep lunch cold, and make the juice fun to drink. It had the consistency of a melted slurpee!

  6. says

    I often try to find ways to use food as my cold pack. I find the blue ice thingies take up too much room in the lunchbox. I do the same as Becki, just freeze half the water bottle because I found, esp. with those small water bottles, the ice doesn’t melt very fast. The juice boxes freeze TOO well, lol. They weren’t even thawed by lunch time. I love the idea of putting frozen blueberries in yogurt!

    Rice and pasta freeze and thaw beautifully, so you can freeze them in small one-serving sizes and put them in lunches as your cold pack.

  7. CJ says

    I use servings of frozen veggies -peas and beans, esp. My kiddos love cold veggies – go figure! Also, on car trips, we’ve frozen prepared chicken or meat. It thaws but stays cool through the day and, in a pinch, can be eaten right out of the cooler. (We like sandwiches or roll-ups when reheating is not an option.)

  8. Judie says

    Yes, I had heard about possible problems with freezing and reusing water bottles, but when I did my research I came up with this information that can be found on

    Can freezing a PET beverage bottle cause dioxins to leach into its contents?
    This is the subject of another e-mail hoax. There simply is no scientific basis to support the claim that PET bottles will release dioxin when frozen. Dioxins are a family of chemical compounds that are produced by combustion at extremely high temperatures. They can only be formed at temperatures well above 700 degrees Fahrenheit; they cannot be formed at room temperature or in freezing temperatures. Moreover, there is no reasonable scientific basis for expecting dioxins to be present in plastic food or beverage containers in the first place.

  9. Encarnacion says

    My own parents used this all the time when I was a kid, along with the blue ice packs. I grew up in Phoenix, so 90+ Fahrenheit starts in April or May, and sometimes goes until September. If you have insulated lunch bags, and start out with a very well-frozen bottle, it will probably still be frozen by lunchtime though.

  10. Judie says

    Thanks Lemon for your insight. I am somewhat of a research junkie so more information is always appreciated. I will definitely consider your article.
    By the way, what is a reusable freeze disc? Is that like Blue Ice?

  11. says

    I hope someone has also mentioned using frozen vegetables as ice packs on injuries. Frozen peas and frozen corn easily wraps around ankles and wrists. Just don’t wait for the bag to thaw before you throw it back in the freezer.

  12. says

    My own parents used this all the time when I was a kid, along with the blue ice packs. If you have insulated lunch bags, and start out with a very well-frozen bottle, it will probably still be frozen by lunchtime though.

  13. Kara says

    Please DO NOT FREEZE plastic water bottles. The plastic releases a dangeous toxin into your water. Freezing liquids (water, juice etc) in lunches boxes is a good idea, just make sure it is a reusable plastice bottle that does not contain BPA.

  14. Bobby says

    Not all plastics contain the harmful chemicals associated with freezing and heating, only “soft” plastics do, and never trust EVERYTHING you read on the internet.

    I use a gerneric icepack from Munckin. It’s smaller than most others and stays frozen for more than 8 hours. After a 12 hour trip it was still cold. I paid $1.99 for it at Target so it was worth it. But frozen veggies is a great idea, and yougert does have live cultures in it to assist digestion so if you freeze it it kills the helpful cultures. Just keep in mind the texture changes because the cultures stop working. My sister freezes pudding and I want to do that for my son’s preschool lunches now.