Does a freezer reduce grocery bills?

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Will a Freezer Reduce Grocery Bills?

In talking to neighbors, they all assume that owning a freezer is a necessity to save money on food. We do not own a freezer, but I'd like to know the math involved to figure out how long it would take to pay for itself in money saved by freezing food on sale.

The catch for our small family of three people is that we eat vegetarian frequently, and only very small amounts of chicken, pork, or fish. We don't grow our own produce, so there is no garden excess to freeze, and we live in a city where canned vegetables often go on sale. Has anyone else in a similar situation done the math to figure out how much money we'd have to save on food purchases for a freezer to pay for itself including electricity costs?

2 Ways a Freezer Reduces Bills

There are two major points to consider when you are determining if a freezer is right for your family. The first is the money saved on freezable items versus the cost to buy and run the freezer. I have the largest freezer available. It was $599 and costs about $8 a month to run. I expect it will last at least 10 years. Thus the "cost" of the freezer is $13 a month ($599 + ($8 x 12 months x 10 years)= $1559/120 months). If our family of three eats 13 pounds of chicken a month and gets it on sale at $1.99 per pound rather than $2.99 per pound, the freezer pays for itself. If we eat more chicken, then we save more.

The second, and possibly more important, point is if the freezer will save you from running to the store. Impulse purchases are a major budget buster, not to mention with the cost of fuel these days. At any time, I can open my freezer and make a meal for one or ten. I keep it well stocked. I'm able to buy "treats" like Pizza Pockets and frozen waffles because I buy them in bulk when on sale.

I also have a vacuum sealer to use on items going into the freezer. I can repackage the cheaper "family size" meats (or vegetables), or even buy a big slab and slice it into steaks. I repackage ground beef, turkey, or chicken into 3/4-pound packages. My family doesn't really notice a 1/4-pound difference, especially when I use healthy spinach or eggplant as "filler." I highly recommend a sealer for anyone with a freezer!

Overall, I would say that my freezer has paid for itself many times over. I would highly recommend one for any family. It not only saves money, but it also allows for greater flexibility to plan meals ahead of time or cook on the fly.
Country Livin' Cathy

Think Beyond Grocery Bills

I don't have the math answers for which you are looking, but I offer a lesson learned while making my own decision on whether or not to buy a freezer. Are you subject to hurricanes, ice storms, or other possible causes of long-term power outages? I was ready to buy a freezer to take advantage of sales and to freeze garden produce when a hurricane took out our power for six days. That and many other hurricanes and ice storms since have convinced me that a freezer would not be a wise purchase for me. Think about your own power and weather situation in addition to the other math of owning a freezer.

Do the Freezer Math

The math is easy once you get the numbers, but getting the numbers is not easy. The first number you need is the price of the freezer. This is not an easy number to get, but you would be doing the work anyway to buy a freezer. Comparison shop, select the freezer you would buy, select the place you would buy from, and see what it would cost.

The next number you need is how long the freezer is expected to last. Unfortunately, this very important number is impossible to know. However, the number can be estimated. According to a 1997 chart from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Sacramento Valley found at, a freezer is expected to last 20 years. This is an average, of course. Try to factor in things that might make a difference, such as how reliable the model you chose is, how hard you will be on the freezer, how likely you are to repair rather than replace the appliance, how likely you are to want to trade to a different model in less than 20 years, etc.

Then you need to know how much repairs will cost during the time you own the freezer, which is another number that is impossible to know. If you would have repairs done professionally, maybe you could interview someone at a repair center and see if they can give you an estimate. If you would do the repairs yourself, look up common problems in your fix-it book or someplace like Repair Check prices and make the estimate yourself. Now add the cost of purchase to the estimate of repair costs. Then divide by the number of years you expect it to last. This number is the annual cost of owning a freezer.

To that, you'll need to add the annual cost of actually using your freezer (the cost of energy). You need two more numbers for this. First, how much energy will you use? This is another number you're going to have to guess. Start with the Energy Guide label on the appliance and find their estimate for the kilowatt hours used per year. Then adjust that number up or down based on whether your freezer will get opened more or less than the average. Also remember that if your freezer is in the garage, the amount it costs to run it will be different than if it is in the house.

The other number you need is the cost per kilowatt hour. You can find this on your utility bill. Prices may vary throughout the year, so check one from the winter and one from the summer. Prices might also increase as you use more, so use the highest figure that is currently on your bill. Of course, energy prices have been high lately. If you think they may drop, you might want to check a utility bill from a couple of years ago, and choose a number between the two. Then multiply the number of kilowatt hours per year by your cost per kilowatt hour. This gives you your annual energy cost.

Now add the annual cost to own the freezer to the annual cost to run the freezer to get an estimate of your total annual cost.

I think that calculating whether you would actually save more than this amount might be more difficult than estimating the cost. Remember that only savings on things that go in a freezer but wouldn't have fit in your refrigerator/freezer count. And you have to subtract any costs of defrosting. But also remember that if having a freezer means you make fewer trips to the store, or that you cook larger quantities fewer times, you get to add in your energy savings. If having a stockpile of food means you go out to eat less, that can add up to a lot of savings as well. It's hard to guess how your life will or won't change once you acquire a freezer.

Often Overlooked Freezer Facts

A freezer is a very useful appliance, but it is difficult to calculate the cost savings. Many of the cost benefits of a freezer are hidden, and not reflected in a simple calculation. The value of my freezer is in the convenience it provides and my ability to make and/or save food that would otherwise go unused or be thrown away. In addition to storing frozen meats bought on sale, my freezer allows me to:

  • Prepare and bake four casseroles at once in my oven for microwaving later, saving oven heating and easing dinner preparation on a busy day later.
  • Make a year's supply of fresh strawberry freezer jam in June after a family outing to pick them, providing family fun and tastier jam.
  • Make and freeze pumpkin puree using the Halloween pumpkin that would otherwise be thrown away, for later use in soup and baking.
  • Cook and freeze large amounts of vegetable or chicken broth in one to two cup containers for later convenient use.
  • Chop and save partly used fresh vegetables that otherwise would slowly go bad in my fridge
  • Trim, shred, and freeze the block of cheese that's just starting to mold for use as a pizza or casserole topping
  • Purchase and store large quantities of seasonal frozen foods or any food that's at a deep discount.
  • Pick and freeze free wild grape leaves in July to make Greek dolmades in the middle of winter
  • Store the three Thanksgiving/Christmas turkeys that my husband and I receive from our employers in a one-month period
  • Relax when two feet of snow is predicted and everyone else is rushing to the store to stock up for the storm

I couldn't live without my freezer! Try it and you'll like it! Happy freezing!

Freezer - Not Just for Meat

We are not vegetarian, but we eat very little meat. We find our freezer to be very helpful for storing grains, rice, nuts, etc., which are things that vegetarians eat a lot. By storing them this way, we have never had any problems with bugs even though I buy 25- to 50-pound bags of most of these items. We fill the rest of the freezer with fruits and vegetables that go on sale when they are in season. Frozen foods retain nutrients better than canned. We spend about $10 a month on electricity for the freezer, but we live in deep south Texas where it is hot almost all year, so your electric costs might be lower. A freezer can help keep you out of the store, and therefore save money by not being tempted to buy extra things. Also, making meals and putting them in the freezer sure cuts down on the temptation to go out to eat on a busy day.
A Texas Family

Health and Grocery Bills

The biggest issue to consider is health. Canned veggies have huge amounts of sodium. They are also much lower than frozen in vitamins and antioxidants. Frozen veggies are often fresher than fresh bought. The volume of frozen is higher, too, because less cooking means more chewing and less water lost through the canning process. Compare frozen vegetables cooked al dente and the same veggies that are canned. There's a big difference in taste and volume.

Take the Next Step

  • Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
  • Continue to trim food costs by visiting our food & groceries section to get tips and tools for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

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