Eating nutritious food is essential for my health. If I eat more than two high-fat, low nutrition meals in a week it takes longer for me to heal after injury and my energy level plummets. For most of us, more than two high-fat, low nutrition meals in a week also adds unwanted pounds and can mess with our hearts and arteries. The easiest way I’ve found to keep on track with healthy eating is to have the majority of my meals at home where I can control the ingredients.
On Unclutterer, we’ve written in the past about how to make eating at home easier with meal planning techniques. The process allows you to plan for healthy meals, create a simple shopping list, and avoid the stressful “what’s for dinner” moment in front of the open refrigerator.
Since our meal planning article initially ran, I’ve received dozens of e-mails asking if my husband and I use a deep freezer in addition to the refrigerator/freezer we have in our kitchen. We currently don’t have one, but it is something we discuss a couple times a month. (What? You don’t have such sexy conversations with your partner/roommate/friends/spouse?) One of the questions we’ve been trying to answer is if the expense of the deep freezer plus the cost of the electrical energy to run it is less than the amount we spend buying in smaller portions and driving more frequently to our butcher and local market.
Then, a PR guy from Frigidaire sent me a press release, and instantly I could ask someone all of my weird deep freezer questions. (I am certain this guy thinks I am one of the strangest contacts he’s ever made.)
So, to start off our brief series on using deep freezers for meal planning, I want to address my initial question of cost. Is it financially prudent to own and use a deep freezer?
The commonly purchased model Frigidaire deep freezer is around $850. This model is an upright freezer — and upright freezers cost considerably more than chest freezers. If my husband and I were to buy one, we would go for a small chest freezer (under 10 cu. ft.), which has an MSRP of less than $250. (Amazon lists the freezer for $209.)
After going to the Energy Star website, I plugged in the numbers for a chest freezer under 16 cu. ft. manufactured after 2001 and discovered that it costs just under $50 a year to power the model my husband and I have been discussing. (I entered in the data as if I wanted to get rid of my current deep freezer.)
Looking at the average $850 upright unit I mentioned previously, it costs around $85 a year to power.
A small chest freezer may be a decent purchase for us. The first year, the price of the freezer is less than a dollar a day, and, in the years after the initial purchase, the price falls to less than 14 cents a day. Not yet considering food savings, the convenience gained is probably worth 14 cents a day.
The more common, upright, $850 freezer is a little more than $2.50 a day the first year, and 24 cents a day in subsequent years. I would have a much more difficult time justifying the expense of this larger freezer solely based on convenience. But, if I had kids and more mouths to feed, then its price tag would even be reasonable.
The cost of food
To get a good comparison of food prices in bulk versus smaller portions, I want to look at the price of beef. I know not everyone eats beef, but I had to pick something to compare and beef figures are easily obtained.
I purchase my beef from an organic butcher who gets the majority of his stock from regional farms. In his butcher shop, I can order half a cow twice a year (butchered and vacuum sealed into meal-size portions) or I can make weekly trips into his shop to buy cuts of beef as I need them. Half a cow roughly translates to about $3.50 per pound, and beef I buy on a weekly basis usually starts at $5 per pound (for roasts) and can be as much as $30 per pound for premium cuts. Without argument, it is cheaper to buy half a cow and freeze the bulk meat than it is to buy weekly.
Even if you don’t buy your meat from an organic butcher and pay grocery store prices, you’ll still spend more than $3.50 per pound for a cut of beef.
Ultimately, the expense of a deep freezer plus the cost of the electrical energy to run it is less than the amount we’re currently wasting when we buy our food in smaller portions. My final answer is that it is financially prudent for us to purchase a deep freezer and buy in bulk.