Shipping food cross-country
September 28, 2006 1:13 PM   Subscribe

What would be the level of ease, as well as likely cost, of shipping a food item from Washington, DC to San Francisco?

A good friend left my office in DC a few months ago to move to San Fran; for her birthday I'm considering what would be the ultimate gag gift (to her) of an order of noodles from the famous Chinatown Express restaurant; her favorite DC lunch spot where we all ate once a week. As it's a cross-country order I'm assuming this would require shipping the frozen noodles in a carton of dry ice, a la Ohama Steaks or any other food catalog.

Unfortunately, I could only find one place in DC that sold dry ice; an ice cream wholesaler that never picked up the phone. This would be a great gift, but not great enough to cost a heap of money in shipping and handling, so I was wondering if anyone out there with experience/knowledge in dry ice product shipping would know roughly how feasible, and how expensive, it would cost to ship what would be at most a 1-pound container of food. If I can't do this for less than $20-30 plus the cost of the food it's not worth it. I also, honestly, have no idea if it's even legal given HAzMat laws in a post-9/11 world and all that nonsense.

And yes, to get it out of the way I'm well aware there are likely even better noodle places in San Francisco, but that's light years from the point ;)
posted by XQUZYPHYR to Food & Drink (7 answers total)
Dry ice is probably unneccessary; I think you could just use a decent ice chiller (like you'd use for a cooler) and ship in styrofoam (within a box of course). Send it overnight and you should be just fine. Unfortunately, a quick check on fedex's site suggests that overnight shipping for a 2 lb box (~1 lb of food + ~1 pound of ice) is going run you about $40.
posted by rorycberger at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2006

I'm no dry ice expert, but you probably can't do this for $20-30. According to some of the sites listed here, you need a heck of a lot of dry ice to keep food frozen for even a short period of time. Unless you use 20+ pounds of dry ice, you'll need to do expedited shipping, not ground shipping which is more affordable.

You could just freeze the noodles and ship them in a box with a couple of standard ice packs by overnight delivery for around $40. If you ship the package from a FedEx center with late drop-off (e.g. 9:00pm), it will be delivered by 3:00pm and probably earlier, so it would only be in transit for 12-18 hours. The noodles will thaw somewhat during transit, but it should still be ok to eat by the time it arrives. This is over your budget, but my guess is it's the most viable way to do this.

Cute idea, by the way.
posted by brain_drain at 1:39 PM on September 28, 2006

D'oh, rorycberger!
posted by brain_drain at 1:39 PM on September 28, 2006

Hmm... according to USPS, Express mail (which is overnight to 2 days guaranteed shipping) runs $20 for 2 pounds....I think my best bet might be to see how small (and light) a styrofoam shipping container I can get.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:50 PM on September 28, 2006

The Harris Teeter in Pentagon Row sells dry ice - it's in a cooler just inside the door by the regular ice. I'm unsure if any other of their locations sells it as well.
posted by phearlez at 3:32 PM on September 28, 2006

Holy crap, I live across the street from that Harris Teeter. I will investigate forthwith. Thanks!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:42 PM on September 28, 2006

I doubt that an order of take-out noodles would survive being frozen. But maybe you could find some MeFite flying to SFO who'd accept it as part of their carry-on, and then deliver it?

(BTW I used to get dry ice somewhere in Bladensburg near the Good Humor facility, but that was during the Carter administration -- no doubt things have changed since.)

posted by Rash at 4:10 PM on September 28, 2006

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