Moving Frozen Food Across the Country

Written by Sarah

When we moved from our urban farm in Arizona to our rural homestead in the Missouri Ozarks, we had a couple of challenges that the average moving family does not have. Because we have adopted a lifestyle which allows us to be nearly self-sufficient, we have much more food on hand than the average family. We preserve our harvests.  We raise animals for meat that will last us a year or more.  We have multiple freezers, a pantry full of home canned food and dehydrated herbs, fruits, and veggies.  So, what is the best approach to all of this food when considering a move across the country?  Leave it? Take it? Eat it? Donate it?

When we began this adventure, Kevin and I agreed that it was essential for our family to have at least 1 year of meat in the freezers when we arrived to our new homestead. Because of the time and resources necessary to set up our homestead infrastructure, we anticipated raising very little “meat animals” during our first year in the Missouri Ozarks. But, we did not want to compromise our family’s commitment to eating home-raised meat. Six months before our move, we started preparing for this first year on the homestead by raising and freezing extra meat. We also had a very productive spring growing season that yielded many fruits and veggies that either did not lend themselves to canning, or that we just were too busy to preserve by other means. These homegrown goodies also went into the freezers. By the time we began preparing for our move, we had 5 freezers of food. Yes, 5 freezers.  This volume of frozen food would require very careful planning in order to move it safely on a 2 day road trip across the country in the middle of summer. Overall, our careful planning paid off. All of our food arrived safely and our goal to have a year of meat for our family was met successfully.

While searching online for tips and tricks to moving frozen food across the country in a moving truck, we realized there are not many resources out there. We were pretty much on our own. If we do say so ourselves, we did a darn good job! If we can help just a few families move their freezers full of their “food security” across the country, we will feel very accomplished. So, here we go!

A very brief view of our plan looked like this:

  1. Determine how many freezers need to be moved with food in them by eliminating unnecessary food items and by consolidating the food into fewer freezers.

  2. Determine the size of moving truck needed.

  3. Reserve the moving truck to be picked up the day before leaving.

  4. Freezers will have to be unloaded in order to physically move the freezers into the moving truck because they are too heavy to lift/move while full of food. They will then need to be reloaded once in truck.

  5. To ensure the food is completely frozen at the start of the trip, plug the freezers in overnight while in the moving truck.

  6. Tape freezer doors to prevent them from popping open or breaking their seal during the trip.

  7. Plug freezers in overnight upon reaching the destination and before moving the freezers to their new location.

Seems simple, right?  Piece of cake.  Realistically, so much more planning goes into this type of move than just these few steps. There’s just so much more to think about and consider. Here is a much more specific description of our moving plan. It’s a “how to” for those embarking on such a daring journey.

Before Moving Day

  1. Reduce what is in your freezers. Eat up what you can or give invaluable food away. Think about what is important to move and what is not. What is smart to move in the freezer and what is not. For instance, popsicles and ice cream are not smart choices to move. Food that is already freezer burned because it’s been in there for a few years is probably not worth moving. Frozen foods like berries, bags of veggies, tv dinners, and other foods that thaw out quickly will not do as well on the journey as frozen whole chickens, roasts, and blocks of ground meat. Keep these things in mind when choosing what stays and what goes. And, unless you have a clear purpose, plan, or reason, don’t stock up on freezer items at Costco or Sam’s Club right before you move.

  2. Consolidate your freezers. Before we moved, we had 5 freezers and 2 refrigerators (with the standard small freezers attached). None of them were packed full. We ended up consolidating them all into 3 freezers that were packed full…like really full. Freezers that are jam-packed with frozen solid food are going to stay frozen solid for a lot longer than 5 freezers partially full. By doing this exercise ahead of time, you know what to plan for in the moving truck. It also forces you to actually go through all of the food and decide what stays and what goes.

  3. Defrost your icy freezers before you move. Do whatever it takes to make sure your freezers are not filled with ice when you are moving them. It will only result in a gigantic mess by the time you reach your destination.

  4. Consider buying a generator. We purchased a generator for overall family emergencies, but also made sure to include it in our moving truck in case of a roadside emergency.

  5. Reserve the moving truck for at least one full day before you start your trip. This gives you ample time to move the freezers and food. More importantly, it allows you to plug the freezers in overnight while they are in the moving truck. By the next morning, all of your food will be frozen solid and ready to go.

Truck Pick-Up Day (which should be the day BEFORE you move)

  1. Park the truck in a location where it will be easiest to load. It will need to be near enough to an electrical outlet so that your freezers can be plugged in overnight. It should also be in a location that you feel is safe enough to prevent theft.

  2. Using masking tape or duct tape, mark off the location in the truck where each freezer will be located. Think about weight distribution. Make sure to distribute the freezer weight evenly around the moving truck. In other words, don’t put all of the freezers on the same side of the truck or all at the very back of the truck. Also, place greater weight toward the front of the truck rather than toward the back. Thinking about and planning freezer placement ahead of time will eliminate frustration and the possible need to move the freezers after you get them loaded (and full of food) later on. As ridiculous as it may sound, you could even find the measurements of the truck ahead of time and plan out on a diagram where each freezer should go. I know that sounds nerdy, but we did it and it helped. Also, plan for ventilation space. The freezers will be plugged in overnight inside the moving truck. They will need ventilation space in between the freezers and in between any other things you will be moving in the truck. Don’t run the risk of overheating your freezer motors by packing items or other freezers around your freezer vents. Check where each freezer vents and plan accordingly. Some freezers vent on the side, some in the back, and yet others underneath.

  3. Prepare heavy-duty extension cords. Technically, freezers should not be plugged into extension cords. However, in this situation, there is no other choice. To reduce any risk of fire or whatever the reasons are for not using extension cords, make sure to use heavy-duty cords and only one per freezer. No power strips. No shady rinky-dink extension cords. Now is not the time to start your newly sold house on fire or your rental.

  4. Moving very quickly, unload all of the contents of the first freezer into portable containers (we used laundry baskets and big Tupperware containers). Unplug the empty freezer and move it into the moving truck. Plug the freezer in. Bring the containers of frozen food to the moving truck and pack the freezer back up. Close the door and don’t open it again. Repeat this process with any remaining freezers.

  5. Tape the freezers closed. Using duct tape or something similar, tape the freezer doors closed. You’ve done a lot of work…tape those suckers shut so the seal doesn’t break and the doors don’t pop open on the trip.

  6. Once all freezers are in the moving truck, packed with food, plugged in and taped up, make sure they are all running…whether that is by seeing the “on” light, or by feeling for motor movement. Continue checking periodically. Keep the freezers plugged in until the very moment you are about to leave the next day.

Moving Day

  1. On moving day, unplug the freezers and put the extension cords inside the moving truck. Lock the moving truck door with some type of padlock. Then, get a move on.

Along the Way

  1. Depending on how long of a trip you have will determine what your “along the way” steps will be. Our move was less than 2 days. We left on Wednesday morning and reached our destination by Thursday early afternoon. We did not take any other measures along the way to keep the freezers cold.

  2. If your trip is more than 2 days, we recommend that you take alternate measures to keep your food safe including:

  3. Plugging in overnight at the hotel. This may require additional extension cords. Coordinate ahead of time with the hotel, if possible.

  4. Using dry ice. A few forums online suggest using dry ice along the way. This is an option that can be used initially and then more dry ice can be purchased along the way.

  5. Plugging in to your generator.

Upon Arrival

  1. As soon as you arrive, plug the freezers in and leave the freezers inside the moving truck until the next morning.  If you are dying to see how things went inside your freezers along the way, take a quick peak.  But then, shut the doors quickly so the freezers can work their magic.

  2. To unload, move all of the food into portable containers, move the freezer inside the house, plug the freezer in, and reload the food back in the freezer. Repeat with additional freezers.

Whew! You did it! Congratulations! Really, we mean it. Moving freezers full of food is a real hassle but is quite an accomplishment when done successfully.

We'd love to hear your comments!

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