You Tell Me: Is a Freezer Worth the Money?

We’re two weeks out from moving into our new house. I don’t remember if I updated you on our refrigerator buying decision or not, but we discovered we needed more appliances than just a refrigerator! We ended up getting a package deal on new appliances from a local dealer. In the end we decided that since all of the appliances would need to be replaced sooner rather than later (and in the case of the range, immediately), it would be better to get the deal on a package with warranties than try to hunt down individual items on Craigslist.

By shopping locally, we worked with a dealer to get the best package deal available. So now I have a refrigerator, range, dishwasher, and an over the range microwave thrown in for good measure. And in the end the microwave didn’t cost any more than a regular oven hood.

But now that I’ve made the refrigerator decision, I’ve got my sight set on a freezer. There’s room for a chest freezer in my laundry room. I tell myself that having a freezer would be great for purchasing meat on sale, rather than purchasing it at full price as I need it. I tell myself that buying a new energy-efficient freezer would be more cost effective in the long run than getting an old one on Craigslist.

I’m not even close to taking the plunge on a freezer yet, but I want to make sure my thinking is in the right place. Will a freezer save me money in the long run? Is it better to buy new or used? Is a chest freezer better or an upright freezer? And what size freezer do I need?

I never thought I’d spend so much time thinking about appliances! Any insight you could offer would be great! Do you have a freezer? Did you buy it new or used? If you had to buy a new freezer, would you get the same thing? I want to know all about freezers!



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By , on Sep 12, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{66 Comments}

  1. KM:

    My household is just the two of us, and we definitely benefit from having a chest freezer. Just the savings on beef alone make it worthwhile. We pay $2.30 per pound for a mixed quarter of beef from a small farmer. We get extra lean ground beef (90-95% lean) in 1 pound packages and all of our roasts and steaks for the same low price. We can’t get that price on even the average ground beef (85% lean is usually more than that). I’m also able to stock up on other items and freeze extra produce from our garden. Once we begin growing our family, we will definitely see a huge increase in our savings.

  2. Rob in Madrid:

    Note we don’t have kids, but we only use the small three drawer freezer in the bottom of the fridge but I am slowly getting rid of my pantry as well. A lot of it has to do with the fact the wife and I are getting older and our metabolism is slowing. I’m finding that I don’t need to eat as much. A typical breakfasted used to be 2 eggs bacon toast, toast jam coffee juice etc. Now it’s a small bowl of cereal, single egg or a piece of toast. That is the biggest reason for getting rid of the pantry. I still using food I bought a year ago. Eating less means less shopping so I’m less concered about price more about portion size.

    Now my father/mother in law still have a freezer but they love gardening and freeze alot of stuff.

  3. Cathy:

    I guess I should have mentioned that the power was out for 4 days.

  4. Cathy:

    Another tip is to buy a freezer with commercial grade shelves. When my husband bought our freezer (10 years ago), it cost him $10 more for the one with commercial grade shelves. We found out the value of it after we were evacuated in a forest fire for 4 days. When we came home and opened our freezer, we were surprised to find almost everything still solidly frozen…except a few things, such as the hot dogs in the door. Our neighbors who had freezers were not as fortunate.

  5. Kim:

    Not sure if anyone still reads this but for those that have long power outages – Try putting in dry ice for a chest freezer. You can’t keep the door opened long, but if you keep it opened just long enough to get the dry ice in you can keep the freezer cold for over 3 days.
    My note on freezers – I live by myself and I have a small chest freezer and like the rest of the responders I stock up on meats when they are on sale. Because the freezer is small I work from sale to sale. I also bake my own bread, why spend $2 dollars on a loaf when to make one costs $.60 cents. I make a few loaves of different breads and freeze them. I like to cook with a lot of exotic ingreidents (banana Leaves for instance) so will freeze them when they go on sale.
    I love my chest freezer.

  6. june:

    I am probably on the fringe-side of normal freezer ownership: sort of a baglady-at-home. I have a 10 year old Sears that is not self- defrosting but when ice builds up, I just throw everything onto an old shower curtain and srrape down the inside with a plastic pancake flapper dipped into hot water onto a sheet of plastic placed on the freezer bottom. This only takes about 15 minutes. The process is actually a good opportunity to assess what’s stored. I never blanch anything and find it works great-perhaps because most of my stuff gets cooked eventually anyway. I label a lot but have evolved into using clear plastic bags for produce one year and then blue the next, so I make sure to use up one year’s stuff before the next. (Right now I am frantically eating up all the blue bags, which is a good spring diet too.) Perhaps I shouldn’t mention this but since I am the only one eating the frozen leafy greens (just an 87 year old husband and a middle-aged floozie here) last year I just harvested right after a night rain and picked carefully (no outer leaves) and didn’t even wash them. (Not company fare-haha and perhaps a few extra minerals!) I use large clear plastic bags to loosely organize the small bags/packages into 4 sections: fruit, vegetables, bread etc. and meat/fish sections with a few discount turkeys floating around on the bottom part of the freezer. On top of that I have 3 fitted, easily removable wire baskets. where I can store things that need to be eaten soon, jars of homemade applesauce, soup, leftovers, frozen juice from reduced citrus, cooked dired beans, cheese, etc. I have elvolved into freezing and eating things like papaya seeds (peppery!), uncooked squash seeds, grape and fig leaves, daylilly, honeysuckle, rose and violet flowers (and leaves),raw coconut, (shredded with brown skin on)- not that I am advising anyone else to eat these things! This January the local IGA sold me all of the left-over loose nuts for practically nothing, so I’ve frozen a ton of them. (Nuts for the nut!)

  7. Sarah:

    I have had a chest freezer for many years, and used it religiously, we once had 128 boxes of (generic) Cheez-It and Ritz crackers that we bought for $.25 a box- we had crackers for two years for $35. (About 90% off, and they froze BEAUTIFULLY) I buy frozen vegeatables on sale, the chopped onions and ready made ‘soup starters’ are so convenient, and if you find the right sale, much cheaper than fresh.

    A WORD OF WARNING-
    We just went on vacation, and while we were gone we experienced a power outage. All the clocks were flashing when we returned, and sure enough- everything in our freezer was gone. I was devastated, but I still don’t regret using a freezer. I don’t think that even with the approx $600 loss in food, we have even scratched the savings that we’ve had over the last 10 years.

    THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER:
    1) Put in a thaw indicator- ***EASY and FREE***- Take an old plastic peanut butter jar (something with a screw on lid) fill it halfway full of water- put it in the freezer and let it freeze. Then- FLIP IT UPSIDE DOWN and put it back in your freezer. The ice will then be at the TOP of your jar, and if there ever is a thaw you will know that the freezer has gone above freezing because the water has thawed and re-frozen at the bottom of your container. Sometimes power goes out without your knowledge for an extended length of time (for example utility companies working in the area)
    2)Filling milk jugs with water and freeze them along with your food. The more frozen stuff in your fidge, the longer it will stay cold when the power goes out. Air heats up much faster than a solid block of ice. So, if your freezer is not full, fill up the empty space with water jugs, that way if the power goes out those blocks of ice might buy you just enough time to save what is in the freezer.
    3)CONSIDER THE POWER SOURCE YOUR FREEZER IS HOOKED UP TO. This is how we lost our freezer stash. We were gone on vacation, and the power went out. We had someone watching the house, so we know the power wasn’t out for long. HOWEVER, the outlet that the freezer was hooked up to in our garage was part of a ground fault circuit that only ran the outlets in the bathrooms. Our house-sitter had no idea that circuit had flipped because everything else was working. When the power came back on, that circuit did not get reset, and by the time we discovered it, it was too late. This seems like a one-off kind of deal, but it needs consideration.
    -Make sure your freezer is not on a ground fault outlet- probably not a problem for most people, but check anyway
    -Make sure that your outlet is secure (kids may knock the plug loose, especially if your freezer is in a high-traffic area, like the garage, near where you store other stuff they may get into)
    -Check on your freezer regularly- you may catch an issue before it becomes a problem. IF the freezer fails- compressor goes out- whatever, you may catch it before you lose all your food. I used mine at least twice a day, so if I had NOT been on vacation, I would have discovered the problem before it was too late.

    I miss my stash- My freezer was like a grocery store. Even when I hadn’t bought groceries for weeks there was always SOMETHING in the freezer I could throw together for dinner. Now all I have is a box of popsicles and a can of frozen concentrated OJ. Its going to take me a while to recover, BUT on the bright side I won’t have to figure out how to use the box of salmon patties that we bought during a moment of insanity last month at Sam’s.

  8. Heather:

    Freezers are wonderful! We got ours from Freecycle.com and its a bit battered, but otherwise very useful. I like freezers because you can stock up on all the wonderful sale items like bread, juice, frozen veggies (if you didn’t put enough up), etc. Also, if you find someone to go in on a cow or pig with you you can buy a 1/2 or 1/4 cow or pig and really save some money on meat. Often it is much less than the supermarket prices per pound and because you know who you are buying it from, it is also better for you.

  9. Kate:

    Wow, I just stumbled onto your blog and here I find you asking about a topic I tackled recently in three separate posts, the first of which can be found here:

    http://livingthefrugallife.blo.....r-you.html

    I wouldn’t be without my chest freezer, but there’s definitely a learning curve to using it efficiently. My only qualms involve post apocalyptic scenarios where the electricity gets cut off and I’m facing a freezer full of thawed food that we’ll never eat up before it goes off. Anyway, I’m confident that we save a great deal by having the chest freezer. Maybe my posts will help you think through your decision.

  10. Marci:

    Lynnae – if you cook double ahead and freeze one it should definitely help the eating out! And I like to have meals ahead for when company or the out of town kids/grandkids show up. They get Mom’s homecooking without my having to cook, so I can enjoy the grandkids instead! Right now there’s homemade Lasagna, Chicken and Yellow Rice, Ham and White Bean soup, (all family favs) various veggie dishes, and frozen marbled brownies. Makes it so easy! Plus leftovers packaged in meals for me to take to work for lunch! Enjoy!

  11. Lynnae:

    Wow, thanks for all the comments! I think we’re going to go for it, but since we’re not in a hurry, I might watch Craigslist to see if I can pick up a cheap newer model.

    I know we’d use it, as I pick berries & make freezer jam in the summer. I also like to buy ahead when there are sales. And I’m thinking that making some meals ahead might help my bad eating out habit. :)

  12. When we bought our house, there was a chest freezer in the garage. We asked the former owners if we could have it with the house and they agreed. Until this summer (our second in the house) it had never been turned on. Now we have about 15lbs of black raspberries, 20 lbs of blueberries, 8 containers of homemade spaghetti sauce, chicken and various cuts of beef in it. There are also two storage containers of stuffed peppers and one large casserole dish of macaroni and cheese in there. Once my husband begins hunting season, there will also be venison in there in various cuts. It is a great way to keep those summer garden vegetables for the fall and winter. We are planning on buying a 1/4 cow and by then the freezer will be exploding!

    I think it is well worth it if you buy in bulk, freeze ahead meals, store summer veggies or make a lot of food yourself. I will make cinnamon rolls, bake half and freeze the rest. There is no way that I would want to keep a big pan of rolls in my regular freezer.

  13. Rob in Madrid:

    I don’t understand how a singe person, or even some couples could use a freezer. I enjoy cooking (but not baking) and I have to be careful not to make too much. Yesterday I made a large batch of Cocido (a Spanish stew) and I plan to give most of it away as I still have food left over that needs to be eaten from the last batch of cooking I did. As well I want to make a Brayntof (German Stew) same thing, most of it will be for a potluck after church this week.

    Part of it is the Wife and I tend to eat small meals at night, she’ll have an egg and I’ll have a sandwich or if she’s travelling I’ll eat out.
    My Wife and I tend to eat small meals (such as eggs or a sandwich) during the week and salads on the weekend and very occasionally a big meal. I barely use the freezer I have on top of the fridge.

    As to the stocking up theory, I simply wait for things to go on sale and buy enough to last to the next sale.

  14. Sarai:

    I haven’t been able to read all of the 52 other comments, so I hope I’m not repeating too much of what others have said. However, I did want to let you know that we have a chest freezer and it’s been a great money saver for us! I shop once a month and prepare meals ahead of time to be frozen until we’re ready to use. There’s no way all that food would fit in our refrigerator freezer unit. Sometimes, it would be nicer to have an upright (we wouldn’t have to take out the 15 packages of ground beef to get to the 1 package of turkey on the bottom), but we have been very pleased with our Holiday brand appliance (was purchased at Lowe’s). We feel like it’s been a great product and we didn’t pay a lot of money for it! Good luck!

  15. whey:

    i totally think buying a freezer is a great idea. i do all my cooking on the weekends. i cook my barley, and beans and stick it in the freezer. i also have my costco chicken i throw in the freezer. i’m just by myself but if i had a whole family, i can easily see how it would be economical. get a new one vs. used. jmho.

  16. Appliances are very costly — but I think a freezer is definitely worth the investment! In the long run — I think they truly do help save money.

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