Ran out of ice? As always, we have your back. We made a list of places that sell bagged ice, so you won’t have to.
So you’ve run out of ice. Or maybe you’re about to. The good news is that bagged ice isn’t that hard to find, especially if you have a full tank of gas and can drive to a place that sells it.
The usual places where you can find bagged ice are drive-up ice vending machines, national and regional grocery stores, convenience stores, and in the coolers at some gas stations. Prices range from $2 to $4 for a 10-pound bag and $4 to $6 for a 20-pound bag.
Ice Vending Machines
Ice vending machines have become big business lately, and more and more entrepreneurs are opening drive-up locations that sell bagged ice and drinking water to thirsty customers like you and me.
Look for an ice vending machine of one of these brands near you:
- Arctic Glacier
- Home City Ice
- Kooler Ice
- Reddy Ice
- The Ice Depot
- Twice the Ice
Note: Almost all of these brands have ice vending machine locators on their websites. Some even have apps you can download to your phone.
Most grocery stores, whether national or regional, sell bags of ice. Big-box stores have a special section for ice, whereas smaller grocery stores do not. In the smaller stores, you will usually find ice in the frozen foods or refrigerated drinks section.
Before heading to your local grocery store, look up their phone number and call them to ask if they have ice packs or not. This will save you time and gas money in case they don’t have any at the moment.
To help you in your search, here’s a list of grocery stores that normally carry ice (in alphabetical order):
- ACME Markets
- BJ’s Wholesale
- Food 4 Less
- Food Lion
- Fred Meyer
- Giant Eagle
- Harris Teeter
- Ingles Markets
- Piggly Wiggly
- Price Rite
- Sam’s Club
- Smith’s Food & Drug
- Stop & Shop
- Weis Markets
- Whole Foods
Note: In case you come across conflicting information out there on the Internet, know that Aldi’s doesn’t have bagged ice in the United States, but it does in Great Britain.
Whether or not the convenience store around the corner sells bags of ice comes down to where you live. In big cities, convenience stores usually carry bagged ice. But in smaller towns across rural America, that may not necessarily be the case.
Before heading to the nearest convenience store, find its phone number on the Internet and call directly to find out if they have bags or ice. If they don’t, this will save you time and money. (And at least you’ll know you need to look for another store!)
Below is a list of convenience stores in the U.S. that normally carry ice:
- Albertsons Express
- Circle K
- Family Express
- Kwik Trip
Note: Bagged ice is usually more expensive in convenience stores than in ice vending machines and large supermarkets.
Some gas stations sell bagged ice, while others don’t. Whether they do comes down largely to the owner and the location. They’re more likely to offer bagged ice in metropolitan areas than in rural areas, but that’s not always the case.
Look for packaged ice in the coolers out front or in those in the store inside. When in doubt, ask the clerk. Remember that packaged ice, like many other items, can be very expensive at gas stations.
How to Buy Bagged Ice
When buying bagged ice, there are two things to consider: the type of ice and its safety. Ice cubes are best for soft drinks and wine, while crushed ice is better for cocktails. Factory-made ice is generally safer than the ice produced in a store.
Should You Use Ice Cubes or Crushed Ice?
Ice cubes keep their shape and melt slowly. So they cool your drink slower than crushed ice does, but they also keep it cool longer. Add ice cubes to soft drinks, rosé, and white wine.
Crushed ice melts faster than ice cubes. So crushed ice cools your drink faster, but also keeps it cold for less time and dilutes it more. Use crushed ice in cocktails that benefit from dilution, such as Mohito, Moscow Mule, Rum Swizz, and White Russian.
Safety Matters More Than You Think
Ice is food, says the consumer tips section of the International Packaged Ice Association’s website. As such, ice can contain disease-causing bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Choose packaged ice wisely.
In the United States, the Food & Drug Administration is the federal agency that regulates the safety of packaged ice. Ice sold interstate must be manufactured in accordance with FDA regulations and labeled with the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor of the ice.
But the FDA doesn’t regulate retail stores that make and sell their own ice on the spot (or intrastate). So buy your packaged ice from a retailer whose safety practices you can trust.
The best ice is made in the sanitary conditions of an ice plant—not in the back room of the small store around the corner, where the water may be contaminated and the ice cubes may be handled by poorly trained staff and without adequate safety measures. Many stores carry branded ice produced in an ice plant.
As a general rule of thumb, commercially sold ice should be clear, odorless, and tasteless. If the ice you just bought has a strange color, smells off, or tastes funny, throw it away. You have no way of knowing if it’s drinkable or not.
The bag the ice is sold in must be intact and free from foreign objects. While drawstring ties make it easier to open the bag, a bag that’s sealed shut is the safer choice in most circumstances.