Cut your food costs with a stand-alone freezer

Kris and I recently bought another side of beef. Well, to be more accurate, we purchased one third of a cow. Every year, we go in with several other families to split an animal. This year, our portion of the purchase comprised:

  • 46 pounds of lean hamburger (in 24 packs)
  • 36-1/8 pounds of roasts (in 10 packs)
  • 31-1/4 pounds of steak (in 20 packs)

We also received 2-1/4 pounds of beef tongue that we're giving to the guys at the box factory. José and Jesus tell me that lengua is delicious, but I'm not willing to prepare it myself. (If they want to make something for me, I'll eat it.)

We received a total of 115-5/8 pounds of beef for $425, which is an average cost of $3.66 per pound. (In December 2006, we paid $300 for 83 pounds of beef, for an average of $3.61 per pound. In November 2007, we paid $277 for 81 pounds of beef, an average of $3.42 per pound.)

The problem is, Kris and I can't eat this much beef. We love it (sorry, vegetarians), and we think we're getting a great deal at this price, but we're not willing to prepare beef more than once a week. This year, we recruited help. We found two other families to split our share. They each gave us $100, and we gave them one-quarter of our load.

This still leaves us with a lot of meat. Fortunately, we have a 20-year-old upright freezer, which we picked up for free from one of Kris' co-workers. This freezer is a godsend. We use it to store our beef, and plenty of other food besides. But whenever I mention the freezer, I get comments asking me how cost-effective it really is. That's a great question. I finally found time to answer it.

Using my Kill-a-Watt electricity meter, I took four readings of the freezer's power consumption.

  • After 47 hours, the freezer had consumed 3.13 kilowatt-hours of electricity (for an average use of 67 watts).
  • After 70.5 hours, it had used 4.73 kWh (67 watts).
  • After 116 hours, it had used 8.07 kWh (70 watts).
  • After 154 hours, it had used 10.69 kWh (69 watts).

For ease of calculation, let's say that our freezer seems to be using an average of 70 watts, or about 1.68 kilowatt-hours per day. That's 613.2 kilowatt-hours per year. Because our electricity costs us 12 cents per kilowatt hour, that's a total cost of just over 20 cents per day. It costs us about $75 a year to run the upright freezer. A newer, more efficient model would no doubt cost even less to operate.

“How do you feel about that cost?” I asked Kris once we'd computed the numbers. “Do you think it's worth it?”

“Totally,” she said. “And here's why. Having the freezer gives us flexibility because it lets us stock up on things when prices are good, instead of just when we run out. If I see that butter is on sale, I can stock up.”

“That's not all,” she said. “Because of the freezer, we're able to buy a lot of things in bulk, which brings the cost per unit down. Like those Costco bags of shredded cheese that I use in soups, quesadillas, tacos and other stuff. I just divide it up into reasonable portions and stick it in the freezer.”

“Yeah,” I said. “And I guess I'm able to buy several boxes of my favorite Trader Joe's items which means we don't have to make extra trips, which would require more gas and more time shopping.”

“Right,” said Kris. “Finally, don't forget the most important reason for having a freezer. It lets me preserve a lot of food from our garden. We've been using frozen jam, berries, and pasta sauce all winter. I've already added a batch of strawberry jam and twelve cups of frozen berries from this month's berry crop.” I licked my lips at the thought of fresh strawberry jam as Kris continued: “I've never run the numbers, but I don't have to. I'm certain the freezer saves us more than a $6 per month.

For more info about the cost-effectiveness of a stand-alone freezer, check out:

  • Consumer Reports Home and Garden blog: As food prices rise, consider a stand-alone freezer
  • St. Petersburg Times: How to buy a stand-alone freezer

This is the first time I've really used the Kill-a-Watt to help evaluate my financial choices. For my next experiment, I'm going to measure how much electricity Kris' computer and monitor use. How much energy (and money) could we save by turning these off when they're not in use?

Edit: Holy cats. I cannot believe I typoed “freezer” as “feezer” in the title and left it live for eight hours. How mortifying. Please take away my license to blog!

More about...Food, Home & Garden

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