As the country’s economy falters and everybody’s financial situation becomes tighter, many try to think of effective ways to save money. One increasingly popular way to save money is to buy a freezer. Many households have made their grocery dollar go farther by buying food and meats in bulk or on sale for use later.
Growing up in Upstate New York, I can remember every family I knew always had a separate freezer. Often the families were farmers as well as hunters. They saved money by doing their own butchering, and the only way they could store anything perishable for any length of time was in the family freezer. The farmers I knew were always a very frugal bunch. Nothing was ever wasted. They bought food in bulk when the prices were low or grew it themselves and lived off the freezer and their canning efforts in the lean months.
Most people nowadays can’t butcher their own meat and poultry, but they can still save money by buying a freezer. Here are a few tips on how to buy and make your freezer purchase pay off in savings throughout the year.
What freezer size is right for you? How many people are in your household? Two? Four? More? The more people in your household the more dramatic the savings you should see with a freezer. Consider that if there are only two people in your household, a larger freezer over 10 or 12 cubic feet may well be far too large for you to use efficiently.
Most frozen foods are good for approximately 6 weeks in a freezer. Meats and poultry, if frozen correctly, can last months. Just remember that the longer you store frozen food, the more likely the degradation of the quality and taste from freezer burn and dehydration. The last thing you want is to waste time and money by buying food and then have it look like jerky and taste like old sneakers.
Try to figure how many groceries your household would use in two months that could be frozen and stored. Many of the most popular freezer sizes these days run between 10 to 19.5 cubic feet of storage space, though I’ve found personal freezer models with storage size that run as little as 2.1 cubic feet. There may even be smaller sizes than that, but I don’t recommend any of the really small freezers less than 10 cubic feet unless you just don’t have the room for something larger. As long as you have a regular ol’ refrigerator equipped with a freezer, you may not want to bother with the extra expense and energy usage of something that small. If you still think you will need and use more freezer storage than that, opt for the smaller size freezer of around 12 to 15 cubic feet. That way, if for some reason you need to get rid of the appliance, since that size range is so popular, you’ll have people lined up to buy it second hand.
Consider energy usage when computing savings. Generally speaking, the larger a freezer is, the higher the energy usage. Most freezers are also most efficient when they are about 2/3 full. No matter what size your household is, when you use up the frozen food or you begin to see that you aren’t using all the available storage in the freezer, find something else to fill the unused space. I once heard a recommendation (I wish I could claim it as my own idea, but can’t) to take up the space with tightly-capped gallon-size plastic jugs such as detergent or bleach bottles filled half way with water. Just keep the jugs nearby as you take stuff out of your freezer. It’s a great idea, and I tip my hat to whoever originally came up with it.
Chest or Upright Freezer? Ah, a question that just about everyone asks themselves when looking at freezers. Here are some things to think about. Chest freezers have a larger footprint (take more floor space) than uprights, sometimes twice as much space. If you live in an apartment, this will certainly be a major consideration in your final decision.
Another thing, while it is true that you can stack stuff on top of a chest freezer, it’s really not convenient. You’ll rethink that idea after a few times of off-loading this week’s laundry and those extra paint cans and your recyclables off the top of your chest freezer because you needed to get that frozen pizza out for dinner.
On the plus side, a chest freezer generally costs less initially, usually is more energy efficient, and usually provides more actual freezer space for your dollar than uprights. But they can be a pain to search through when fully loaded. A super-frustrating, muttering-inducing search through a packed chest freezer is not fun. I’ve done it more than once, even after I thought I had clearly marked everything. More than once I’ve had my feet in the air while my numb fingers shuffled through frozen peas and beef roasts. It is a cold, brutal experience. In freezer space no one can hear you scream. Except for my wife who stands there behind me, hands on hips, laughing with delight.
And uprights still have some major advantages over chest freezers. As previously stated, they are easier to fill and subsequently find items that have been stored. You normally don’t need to rummage too much when trying to find that pork roast you bought in November. Plus, many uprights are available with auto defrost. Most chest freezers are manual defrost, and even though you only usually need to do it about once a year, defrosting one can be a tedious, hours-long task.
New or used? Sometimes you can save a bundle if you find a freezer second-hand. But consider this: How energy efficient is that older freezer? According to the government’s Energy Star website, Energy Star qualified freezers use 10% less energy than is required by federal standards. How much electricity will you spend on that gigantic freezer made 20 years ago that is the approximate size of that monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey? You won’t know until you use it for a few months.
I have found that sometimes older freezers may be a good buy, but always remember that the life expectancy of one of these things is about 20 years. My suggestion is that if you want, go ahead and check for used, but realize that it may be nearly impossible to find, especially in these troubled economic times when everybody is trying to save money in whatever way they can. People usually don’t sell something that is saving them money right now.
Once you’ve checked and maybe exhausted the used freezer avenue, check out the new freezers. When buying new, here are the six things to remember:
1. Be sure to carefully measure the space where you want the freezer to go.
2. Check to make sure your electrical socket is close so that there is less likelihood of your freezer becoming inadvertently unplugged. My parents had an upright that the dog unplugged by accident (at least that’s what the dog said) when she lay down for a nap next to it and a few days later they ended up with about two hundred dollars worth of spoiled food.
3. Decide on your preference for chest or upright, and pick the size that is right for your household for maximum energy conservation. Try to find a freezer that is Energy Star qualified to get top energy efficiency for the size you need. Even if you decide on a freezer that doesn’t have the Energy Star qualified rating, check the yellow energy usage tag to see how much your estimated energy bill for a year will be so there are no surprises. If you decide to get a chest freezer, toss an old blanket over it to help insulate it even more. Easy to take off and replace, and may make a few dollars difference down the road in energy costs.
4. Remember that freezers come in both manual defrost and automatic defrost. Manual defrost is labor-intensive, and to maintain energy-efficiency, needs to be periodically addressed.
5. Keep a list of what you put in there to make it easier to keep track of. When packaging food for frozen storage, try to make sure you take out as much air as possible. The items will last longer with no freezer burn if you can take the air out of the packaging, so that may mean extra effort to repackage me
ats and poultry. Just don’t forget to use a permanent ink pen to mark what the item is and the date you put it in there.
6. Finally, one of the cheapest ways to buy a new freezer is online. If you decide to order a freezer online, remember that, unless the dealer offers free shipping, you may need to figure shipping charges in the price. Most dealer’s free shipping is usually to the curb at your address. Freezers can weigh well over two hundred pounds. Choose your shipping option well, and do it before you order. You can’t change your mind about the shipping after you order. I always strongly suggest that if you don’t have a couple strong backs in the household that you opt for White Glove Service. The shipper brings it into your household, and places it where you need it put. It costs more, but if you don’t get White Glove Service, don’t bother calling me. I’ve got a bad back, honest.
Follow these tips and you’ll save money-not only through these difficult economic times, but for years to come.