Buying a Freezer

Get the more for your food dollar

If the contents of your refrigerator freezer keep falling out because you don't have enough room, you may wish you had a freezer. Refrigerator freezers are not intended for long-term storage either, so if you are tempted by the seasonal sales, especially in the fall when the fresh fruits and vegies beg to be frozen and frozen food sales are going strong, a freezer can help you save money and keep a ready supply of homemade lasagne.

The advantages of a freezer can be significant. You can

What kind of freezer is best?

There are two basic choices in freezers: upright and chest. The following table shows the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Freezer type Advantages Disadvantages
Chest
  • Energy efficient
  • Somewhat less expensive
  • Make excellent secondary freezers
  • Retains cold better during a power outage.
  • Interior may not be lighted
  • Easy to "lose" contents as new packages are added.
Upright
  • Lighted interior and separate shelves ease organization.
  • Easy to see what you have
  • More expensive
  • Opening door allows more warm air to displace cold air, so is less energy efficient.

Upright freezers open like your refrigerator. With a well lit interior, you can see what you have and with the contents arranged on shelves, there is at least a possibility that you can organize its contents.

Freezers in the garage

Putting a freezer in the garage is largely a matter of practicality. There is no reason not to put it in the garage if it's convenient for you and you don't live in a challenging climate.

For folks who live in very hot climates like the Desert Southwest, putting a refrigerator or freezer out in an uninsulated garage isn't bad in itself, but it could be extremely expensive as your appliance works overtime to maintain those zero degree temps.

The chest freezer is less easy to organize so keeping a freezer inventory is important. It's all too easy for contents to to drift to the bottom, so you may be less likely to find what you know is there. Still, they are more efficient, use less energy, and allow you to store more food per cubic foot, which makes them a very cost-effective buy.

Frost free or not?

There are advantages and disadvantages concerning whether you purchase a frost-free freezer or one that needs defrosting—usually a couple times a year. Though a frost-free freezer is a bit pricier and a more expensive to run, it saves time if you don't have to thaw it out and allow it to drain. That can be a huge advantage if you are pressed for time and don't have a domestic engineer who is willing to supervise. Keep in mind, that frost-free models tend to dry food out, which makes it important to use food relatively quickly.

On the other hand, defrosting your freezer encourages you to touch each package in the freezer which allows you to repack your freezer and move use-this-first stock to a location where you won't be required to root for it. Chest freezers often have convenient baskets for just this purpose. There is a modest savings in initial cash outlay too for a non frost-free freezer, and that could be appealing if you are trying to stick with a strict budget.

Making your choice

When you shop for a refrigerator, the number of cubic feet is is typically determined by the number of people in your household. With a freezer, the number in your household is somewhat less important. Consider the following:

If you hate shopping and want to purchase a month's supply of food at once, a small freezer might be just right because you'd refill it every month. If you want to shop sales and stock a six-month food supply, a larger freezer might be needed. If you hunt or want to store a side of beef, you'll need a huge freezer.

Budget makes a difference too, but try not to get to hung up on the initial cost of the freezer. If you can discipline yourself to buy on sale, you can cut your costs by 10 percent or more a week; you could easily save the cost of the freezer and electricity in less than a year.

If you have a large side-by-side refrigerator, a small secondary deep freeze might give you the extra cold storage you need for longer periods.

Location and available space may also determine what type of freezer will work best for you. You may have lots of room for a mammoth freezer in the garage, but many homeowners are maxed out. Small can be good and just as cost-effective as a big freezer. An upright has a smaller footprint, but a small chest can double up as a folding table in the laundry—it just means you have to put stuff away.

Whether your household is just one person or a half dozen, a freezer allows you to preserve food for at least six weeks and it's often fine for much longer. Quality diminishes over time, but as long as the freezer contents have consistently remained frozen, the contents will be safe to eat.

Because people tend to buy too large a freezer, food ends up being stored longer than is optimum for quality. If it isn't at least 2/3 full, it also uses more energy. For maximum efficiency keep the freezer at least 2/3 full. Some freezer owners store gallon jugs filled with water just to take up space if they don't have the freezer full.

Keep in mind that Simple is Good. The more bells and whistles you choose for your freezer, the higher the initial cost and the more likely something will break. After all, it's just a big box for storing food. It's best not to get too carried away. The only thing that is really essential is a good freezer thermometer so you can monitor the freezer's internal temperature.

Freezer organization

To keep your freezer organized, the following tips might help.

New or used

Buying a used freezer could save you a lot of money, or it could easily end up being a financial sinkhole.

A relatively new used freezer may take advantage of newer construction materials and technologies and still be under warranty. Check Consumer Reports for information about models and styles. You might pick a freezer up for half the price of a new freezer and that could be a very good thing.

Use caution when looking at older freezers. Older models may not be as energy efficient and what you save in the initial cost, could add up quickly in extra energy costs and demolish any cost advantage quickly. You could easily find yourself with hundreds of dollars worth of food in a dead freezer and have to quickly replace it without the luxury of evaluating the type of freezer that best suits your household's needs.

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