It’s not often you find a classic hack that excels at four different things, but maybe that’s why it’s a classic. We told you 13 years ago to fill the empty space in your freezer with water bottles, and we hope you did.
First, how to do this: You can use empty milk jugs or orange juice cartons, and fill them with tap water. Or you can buy flats of disposable water bottles, and stick ’em right in the freezer. For most freezers, the water bottles are probably more convenient, but if you have a big ol’ basement chest freezer, you may want to go for the jugs.
Okay, so here’s why this is a genius hack:
The fuller your freezer is, the less energy it takes to keep it cold. If your freezer is normally only half full, and especially if you’re opening the door frequently and letting in warm air, you should fill that space with something cold. Like frozen water bottles.
As we head into hurricane season, this is an important one: if you lose power, your freezer essentially becomes a giant picnic cooler. It can’t become any colder, so your best hope is to stop it from warming up. Insulation helps, and a refrigerator/freezer has plenty of insulation. Then you need ice packs inside, and hey, guess what makes a great ice pack? A ton of pre-frozen water bottles.
Heading off for a beach day or a camping trip? Lucky you, you have a bunch of frozen water bottles to act as ice packs in the cooler. Just pop ’em in, add your food, and you’re set. Emily Long, who wrote our guide to packing the perfect cooler, reminded me that you can cut the top off rectangular milk cartons to make block ice, which melts more slowly than your standard gas-station ice cubes.
It’s good to keep a supply of water on hand as part of your emergency supplies. If the water inside your bottles is drinkable (i.e., you actually washed those old milk cartons before filling them), then you have a stash of water that you can drink in an emergency.
The same goes for your picnic cooler, and that’s another reason I like to use standard half-liter water bottles: they make great ice packs, and as they melt, you can drink them.
So with just one hack, you’ve improved your energy usage, provided for two different types of emergencies, and given yourself a supply of icy cold drinks for your next summer picnic. Win-win-win-win.