Do I Really Need a Chest Freezer?

TinyHandsYes. Yes, you really need a chest freezer.

I could wax poetic about how a chest freezer is a glorious place where your favorite foods are kept in their original, delicious states, waiting for you to come fish them out and enjoy. I could rhapsodize about eating blueberries, strawberries, and peaches in the dead of winter that didn’t come from South America. Pesto, lentil soup, chili just as delectable as the day you prepared them. Dried fruit that never molds. Nuts that never go rancid. But I won’t.

I’ll talk cold, hard numbers. (get it? like ice!) A little disclaimer before I begin: most of these numbers are estimates and extrapolations. They are, however, true to the best of my knowledge and I’ve been conservative with my estimates.

In January 2009, we purchased an 8.9 cubic foot chest freezer for $268.20. We also purchased the extended warranty (why? I don’t know) for $84.97. The electricity to run it costs an estimated $31 per year. Thus, the freezer has cost us a total of $446.17 in the three years that we’ve had it.

I’ve chosen to focus on beef, as it’s our number one food expenditure, even though I put a lot more stuff in my freezer.

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Beef comes from the butcher in these tidy little packages.

Last winter, I bought a quarter of a completely grass fed cow. I paid $2.75/lb hanging weight. When I got home, I weighed everything to figure out exactly how much I spent per pound after the extras (head, hooves, and unusable bones) were removed. I came home with 89 lbs of beef. Bear in mind that I specifically asked the butcher for the organs and bones, so I ended up with a little more beef than the folks who got the rest of that animal. I paid a total of $263.34. I paid $2.95/lb for completely natural, grassfed beef. That includes ground beef, roasts, steaks, ribs, and meaty soup bones. We’ve also done a more detailed cost analysis for our latest whole cow purchase.

A pound of primarily grassfed, but grain finished, ground beef at New Seasons Market here in Portland is regularly $3.49/lb. It’s the cheapest beef they sell. And it’s grain finished. If I were to buy 89 lbs of ground beef*, it would cost $310.61. So I saved $47.27.

So I saved $47.27 on four months’ worth of beef. Multiply by three to get the savings on a year’s worth of beef = $141.81. Making a very rough extrapolation, I have saved $425.43 over the three years we have had the freezer.

This is conservative, as the kids’ caloric intake has increased dramatically since starting GAPS last year.

So, to recap, we have spent $445 on the freezer and have saved $425 on beef alone. Have I recouped that $20?

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Blueberries taste even better in January than they did in July!

I’m just talking about the beef! I freeze summer berries and vegetables when they are at the peak of the season and cheap, cheap, cheap. I buy nuts and coconut in bulk and freeze them for freshness. I make large batches of soup and stock for easy dinners and lunches. When my local farmer runs a special on whole chickens, I can buy a bunch and not worry about eating them all right away. When I’m out of food in the fridge and don’t want to go to the store, I can rummage around in there and come up with something involved protein and vege.

I can’t imagine trying to eat the way we do without my chest freezer humming away in the garage. We couldn’t afford and it would not be as convenient.

Have I convinced you yet? Great! Which freezer is right for your family?

*I know comparing 89 lbs of ground beef to 89 lbs of roasts, steaks, and soup bones is like comparing apples to oranges, but some people do only get ground when they buy a beef.

This post is part of Traditional Tuesdays, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Freaky Friday, and Pennywise Platter.

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29 comments to Do I Really Need a Chest Freezer?

  • A chest freezer is on our to buy list now that we have gone primal/paleo. We plan to buy half a grass fed cow and will need the space. Think we will try Craigslist first though.

    • Mama

      It’s always a good idea to check Craigslist, but do consider its energy efficiency before buying! Having high quality beef on hand is a wonderful thing. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

  • I LOVE my chest freezer, too! We have to keep ours in our bedroom (lol) because we live in a tiny apartment but it is still totally worth it! Oh, and I’m jealous of your beef deal. I had to pay $6.50 a pound when I bought a quarter of a grass-fed cow last summer. I think food is just expensive here in Colorado.

    • We just bought a larger one and are rearranging our whole laundry area to move the smaller one inside. I’m really excited to not have to go out to the garage to make dinner.

      $6.50/lb! That made me gulp! Did you go through a large operation? The best deals I’ve found have been through small farms – just 1 or 2 people raising extra beef along with their own to save some money. Have you checked Craigslist?

  • Checking in from Frugal Days. Great post! We purchased a chest freezer last summer, but I haven’t been as good about using mine as you. Freezing berries seems simple enough, but how did you freeze vegetables? The only way I’ve ever done it is to make soup and freeze it. I would love to learn about freezing raw veggies if it can be done. We joined a meat CSA here in Arlington, MA, but it sounds like a great idea to supplement the small amount of beef (and no bones) with 1/4 a cow.

  • TinyHands! Thank you for sharing this super fabulous post today on Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways! I just love it:) Wanted to let you know that I will be sharing this on the wall of my fb page.

  • nancy

    We’ve had a freezer for over 20 yrs. It’s an upright 21 cubic ft commercial and my husband (then boyfriend) had purshased it through Rich Plan of Ga, frozen food distributor. You buy your plan then they come and stock your freezer. You didn’t have to buy the freezer from them but he seemed to think easier to one stop shop. Can’t tell you how much it’s been used and abused over the last 20 yrs. Probably not as energy effecient as new ones on the market but, I bet the newer ones wouldn’t last as long as this one has. So great to make up meals ahead or just open the door and pull stuff out instead of having to hit the grocery store. A life saver!!

  • Heather

    I seriously don’t know what I would do without my chest freezer! We freeze SOO much! I know that I could can it all, but you can only do so much with canned venison, pork, chicken, etc. Another great saver in a chest freezer, my fresh ground wheat and rye flours. I can purchase a 25lb bag of whole wheat berries for about $15, grind it fresh, and it has to be frozen so it doesn’t lose it’s essential vitamins and minerals and go rancid. So rather than grinding every time I want to make bread, I can grind it all throughout one day and freeze it! So yes, we already have one! And I am thankful you took the time to figure out the numbers on it. I just may steal those and alter them to my figures and share with those doubters who ask me if it’s really worth it to do all that work.

  • Brenda

    My husband and I have been discussing buying a deep freeze but I am concerned about the food getting freezer burned and ending up being tossed out and wasting instead of enjoying, especially the meat which will take months to consume. Any suggestions on the best ways to minimize freezer burn ?


    • Mama

      One thing you can do that will help is to get a freezer with the manual defrost option rather than autodefrost. That way it won’t keep kicking into a warm/cool cycle and your food will last longer, in better condition.

      When freezing, always make sure to take care when packing your food so that there is really no air. Wrap it tightly. We double wrap our meat and are willing to accept a bit of freezer burn, but some people prefer to vacuum seal it. Getting the air off the food goes a long way to preventing freezer burn!

  • One way to minimize freezer burn (in addition to squeezing out all air possible) in meats/poultry is to freeze them in marinades. The marinades coat the meat, preventing or delaying freezer burn, and they really soak in during the freezing and thawing to flavor and tenderize. Soy Vay marinades are good and natural or you can make your own. My favorite is a marinade for boneless chicken breast (also good for pork) that I put in one of my writers’ newsletters (now on hiatus): The recipes are roughly in the middle of the newsletter.

    And to freeze most vegetables, you blanch them in water or steam (this means just barely cook them), cool quickly with cold water, drain, then package, squeezing out as much air as possible.

    Always date things you put in your freezer. If the food is dark and you are using plastic bags, use freezer tape to make a label, because writing with a marker on a bag of dark food does not hold up very well in terms of staying legible.

    • Mama

      Great advice, Sharon! Keeping the air away from the food is key! I’ve made the mistake of poor labeling one too many times. Somehow I always think I’ll remember what I put in there and when, which is just plain silliness.

  • Hi all, My husband and I grow and “put by” a whole year’s worth of vegetables and fruits ech year. Much of it we freeze. We have two chest freezers in the basement of our home. My goal at this point in my life is to pass on the valuable knowledge we have gained over the years to the next generation. So I have started a blog, “PRESERVING THE HARVEST,” in which I share techniques for growing, freezing, drying, and lacto-fermenting vegetables, fruits, and herbs. I invite you to check it out : Enjoy!!

  • Lisa Smith

    Brilliant post – Thank you!

  • I LOVE my chest freezer! And I think you probably understand my feeling of joy when I open it and see all the grassfed beef, pastured chickens, raw milk, and frozen wild berries that are housed in there! Thanks for sharing @ Freaky Friday!

  • […] 50 Strategies to Save Money and Pay Off Your Debt. Written by Chris of Mamabilee Farm.  3. Do I Really Need A Chest Freezer. Written by TinyHands of The Liberated […]

  • Mo

    I know this is an old post but need help. I want a chest freezer but the only place I can put one is a guest room. I am worried about leak or condensation since I have wood floors. Do you think it’s a good idea?

    • We have ours in our kitchen on linoleum and haven’t noticed any problems. Chest freezers don’t have external coils like old refrigerators, so there shouldn’t be any leaking or condensation.

  • If you lay ’em out this way, who can argue! I think Maytag/GE alike companies need to pay you for the promotion…Nicely presented.

  • […] pay for themselves and can store baked goods, dairy, meat, fruits and veggies, herbs and […]

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