Is Storing Food in a Freezer Economical?

Updated on April 28, 2018
CWanamaker profile image

Chris has a Master's degree in engineering and uses his knowledge to write about a variety of topics from an analytical perspective.

Many American households today have one or more deep freezers designed to store food for the long term. Owning and stocking, a freezer with meals, leftovers, and meat has a variety of benefits. Depending on the type of food you are freezing, spoilage can be prevented for up to 18 months in some cases. This can help reduce the number of grocery store trips that you need to make and can help you capitalize on sale prices when they come around. A freezer is also good to helping you to take advantage of the potential savings of buying in bulk. In addition, if you lose your job or something else happens that prevents you from buying more food (or earning more money), you can likely survive for a week or more with the food stored in your freezer and your pantry.

With all the great benefits of owning a freezer, it begs the question: Is it really economical to freeze your food, especially in light of increasing costs for electricity? In other words, does keeping food in a freezer at your home save or cost you money?

The Initial Cost of a Freezer

The cost of purchasing a freezer has to be considered in the equation when attempting to answer this question. The initial cost of a freezer will vary greatly depending on the brand, the size, the style and the features that you desire. In order to answer this question, I researched a range of freezers and their relative costs. The table below shows a sample of 37 freezers and their price as of 2018.

(click column header to sort results)
Brand  
Model#  
Style  
Volume (cuft)  
Price ($ USD)  
Cost per Volume ($/cuft)  
Magic Chef
MCUF3W2
Upright
3.0
$161.00
$53.67
Haier
HFC3501ACW
Chest
3.5
$169.00
$48.29
Danby
DCF038A1WDB-3
Chest
3.8
$199.00
$52.37
GE
FCM5SKWW
Chest
5.0
$209.00
$41.80
Magic Chef
HMCF5W2
Chest
5.2
$169.00
$32.50
Danby
DCF055A1WDB1
Chest
5.5
$271.99
$49.45
Frigidaire
FFFU06M1TW
Upright
5.8
$299.00
$51.55
Magic Chef
HMCF7W2
Chest
6.9
$199.00
$28.84
GE
FCM7SKWW
Chest
7.0
$239.00
$34.14
Amana
AQC0701GRW
Chest
7.0
$229.00
$32.71
Haier
HF71CM33NW
Chest
7.1
$199.00
$28.03
Frigidaire
FFFC07M1TW
Chest
7.2
$229.00
$31.81
Frigidaire
FFFC09M1RW
Chest
8.7
$349.00
$40.11
Haier
HFC9204ACW
Chest
9.2
$329.00
$35.76
GE
FCM11PHWW
Chest
10.6
$359.10
$33.88
Frigidaire
FFFU13M1QW
Upright
12.8
$449.10
$35.09
Frigidaire
FFFU14F2QW
Upright
13.8
$497.70
$36.07
GE
FUF14DLRWW
Upright
14.1
$584.10
$41.43
Frigidaire
FFFC15M4TW
Chest
14.8
$428.40
$28.95
Maytag
MZC31T15DW
Chest
14.8
$467.10
$31.56
Whirlpool
WZC5415DW
Chest
14.8
$512.00
$34.59
Whirlpool
WZC3115DW
Chest
15.0
$467.10
$31.14
Maytag
MZF34X16DW
Upright
15.7
$557.10
$35.48
Frigidaire
FFFH17F2QW
Upright
16.6
$528.30
$31.83
GE
FUF17DLRWW
Upright
17.3
$674.10
$38.97
Frigidaire
FFFU17M1QW
Upright
17.4
$497.70
$28.60
Whirlpool
WSZ57L18DM
Upright
17.7
$1,439.10
$81.31
Frigidaire
FGFU19F6QF
Upright
18.6
$1,529.10
$82.21
Frigidaire
FFFC20M4TW
Chest
19.8
$674.10
$34.05
Frigidaire
FFFH20F2QW
Upright
20.0
$628.20
$31.41
Frigidaire
FGVU21F8QF
Upright
20.5
$1,079.10
$52.64
Frigidaire
FFFH21F6QW
Upright
20.5
$899.10
$43.86
Frigidaire
FFFU21M1QW
Upright
20.9
$719.10
$34.41
Frigidaire
FUF21DLRWW
Upright
21.0
$809.10
$38.53
GE
FCM22DLWW
Chest
21.7
$764.10
$35.21
Whirlpool
WZC3122DW
Chest
21.7
$764.10
$35.21
Frigidaire
FFFC25M4TW
Chest
24.8
$764.10
$30.81
Prices captured from several online retailers.

Next is a graph showing the cost of freezer versus the storage space.

Relative Cost of Freezers as Compared to Their Storage Volume
Relative Cost of Freezers as Compared to Their Storage Volume | Source

You can clearly see a trend in increasing price as compared to storage volume. It's interesting to note that the price increase is basically linear (except for a few outliers) which means that the cost per cubic foot of storage is somewhat constant. The average cost per cubic foot of storage for chest freezers is $35.77 whereas the cost per cubic foot of storage for upright freezers is $44.81. The average initial cost of all freezers in the sample is $522.76 and comes with a storage volume of 13.2 cuft. Another interesting thing is that that upright freezers cost significantly more than chest freezers.

My family's freezer.
My family's freezer. | Source

Long Term Cost of a Freezer

The life expectancy of a typical freezer is about 20 years and they only require minimal maintenance. Most freezers only need periodic defrosting and the removal of accumulated dust/debris from any fans or ducts. Therefore, maintenance costs will be ignored when analyzing the long term costs of ownership. With that said, the real cost of freezer ownership comes in the form of electrical usage.

Just like the initial cost of purchasing a freezer, electrical usage varies based on the design and efficiency of the freezer. The cost of electricity also varies depending on your location. In Idaho, electricity may only cost 8.0 cents/kwh whereas in Hawaii it may cost as much as 33.2 cents/ kwh. The average cost of electricity in the United States is about 12 cents/ kwh. The table below shows the electrical usages and associated costs of ownership for the average cost of electricity relative to the freezers size.

(click column header to sort results)
Brand  
Model#  
Style  
Volume (cuft)  
Estimated Energy Use (kwh/yr)  
Average Cost Per Day ($/day)  
Average Cost Per Year ($/yr)  
Frigidaire
FFFC15M4TW
Chest
14.8
306
$0.10
$36.72
Magic Chef
HMCF7W2
Chest
6.9
249
$0.08
$29.88
Frigidaire
FFFC25M4TW
Chest
24.8
321
$0.11
$38.52
Frigidaire
FFFC20M4TW
Chest
19.8
321
$0.11
$38.52
Magic Chef
HMCF5W2
Chest
5.2
221
$0.07
$26.52
GE
FCM11PHWW
Chest
10.6
218
$0.07
$26.16
GE
FCM22DLWW
Chest
21.7
346
$0.11
$41.52
Maytag
MZC31T15DW
Chest
14.8
297
$0.10
$35.64
Whirlpool
WZC3115DW
Chest
15.0
297
$0.10
$35.64
GE
FCM7SKWW
Chest
7.0
250
$0.08
$30.00
GE
FCM5SKWW
Chest
5.0
218
$0.07
$26.16
Whirlpool
WZC3122DW
Chest
21.7
386
$0.13
$46.32
Whirlpool
WZC5415DW
Chest
14.8
297
$0.10
$35.64
Haier
HF71CM33NW
Chest
7.1
248
$0.08
$29.76
Frigidaire
FFFC09M1RW
Chest
8.7
218
$0.07
$26.16
Amana
AQC0701GRW
Chest
7.0
248
$0.08
$29.76
Haier
HFC3501ACW
Chest
3.5
190
$0.06
$22.80
Haier
HFC9204ACW
Chest
9.2
225
$0.07
$27.00
Danby
DCF038A1WDB-3
Chest
3.8
197
$0.06
$23.64
Frigidaire
FFFC07M1TW
Chest
7.2
255
$0.08
$30.60
Danby
DCF055A1WDB1
Chest
5.5
224
$0.07
$26.88
Frigidaire
FFFH20F2QW
Upright
20.0
480
$0.16
$57.60
Frigidaire
FFFH17F2QW
Upright
16.6
431
$0.14
$51.72
Frigidaire
FFFU17M1QW
Upright
17.4
362
$0.12
$43.44
Frigidaire
FUF21DLRWW
Upright
21.0
495
$0.16
$59.40
Frigidaire
FFFU14F2QW
Upright
13.8
436
$0.14
$52.32
Frigidaire
FGVU21F8QF
Upright
20.5
484
$0.16
$58.08
Frigidaire
FGFU19F6QF
Upright
18.6
593
$0.19
$71.16
Frigidaire
FFFH21F6QW
Upright
20.5
484
$0.16
$58.08
Frigidaire
FFFU06M1TW
Upright
5.8
281
$0.09
$33.72
GE
FUF17DLRWW
Upright
17.3
397
$0.13
$47.64
Magic Chef
MCUF3W2
Upright
3.0
270
$0.09
$32.40
Frigidaire
FFFU21M1QW
Upright
20.9
397
$0.13
$47.64
GE
FUF14DLRWW
Upright
14.1
397
$0.13
$47.64
Maytag
MZF34X16DW
Upright
15.7
466
$0.15
$55.92
Frigidaire
FFFU13M1QW
Upright
12.8
318
$0.10
$38.16
Whirlpool
WSZ57L18DM
Upright
17.7
496
$0.16
$59.52

Next is a graph showing the relationship between storage size and the annual cost of electricity.

Annual Cost of Freezer Ownership as Compared to Storage Volume
Annual Cost of Freezer Ownership as Compared to Storage Volume | Source

As you can see, there is a similar correlation between storage volume and annual electricity usage. The cost of electricity is related to the storage size of the freezer. The average annual electrical cost for a chest freezer is $31.61 and for upright freezers the cost is $50.90. When looking at the data as a whole, the average annual electrical cost of an average freezer is $39.95.

The Cost of Food

The cost of buying food is harder to quantify than the cost of the freezer is. The amount of money you will spend on groceries depends on your family size, food tastes, and buying habits. For example, if you only ever purchase the amount of food you need for any given week and nothing more, there is almost no need to have a freezer in the first place. Additionally, if you never look at sale prices and have no desire to buy in bulk or store food for longer than it would last in a refrigerator, then a freezer is also of no value to you.

The advantage that comes from buying and using a freezer comes from how you can leverage its benefits to save you money. Any potential money savings from freezing food would come from a reduction in the number of grocery store trips you have to make as well as any savings generated by changing your spending habits. For example, a freezer will equip you to be able to capitalize on sale prices or bulk purchases.

The table below shows the potential annual grocery bill for a family of four for two different scenarios. The first scenario is the family who grocery shops weekly, doesn't worry about sale prices, and doesn't freeze any food. The second scenario is the family who shops biweekly, looks for sales of freezable goods (meat in particular), buys in bulk, and uses a freezer to store the food for use when prices are higher.

 
Family of 4, Weekly Shopping
Family of 4, Biweekly Shopping w/ Bulk and Sale Price Shopping
Yearly Shopping Trips
52
26
Cost per Trip (Gas, Wear and Tear)
$5.50
$5.50
Trip Cost per Year
$286.00
$143.00
Grocery Bill Per Trip
$173.00
$346.00
Sale Savings (25% off Freezables)
$0.00
-$17.50
Bulk Purchase Savings (5% off Freezables)
$0.00
-$3.50
Annual Grocery Bill
$8,996.00
$8,450.00
Total Annual Cost of Grocery Shopping
$9,282.00
$8,593.00

Without considering the cost of purchasing and owning a freezer, it would appear that the family who shops less often and purchases bargain and bulk foods would save about $689 per year as compared to the other family.

An unused freezer still costs you money.
An unused freezer still costs you money.

Putting it All Together

When we combine the cost of buying/owning a freezer with that of a conscientious grocery shopper, the results are interesting. The graph below compares the cumulative cost of grocery shopping/eating for a 10 year period for a with and without freezer scenario. Note that for a family who uses a freezer the "average" or "typical" values calculated above were used in the analysis.

Cumulative Annual Cost for Groceries, With and Without Freezer Usage
Cumulative Annual Cost for Groceries, With and Without Freezer Usage | Source

Does Owning and Using a Freezer Save Money?

Based on this information, we can conclude that for a typical or average situation, owning a freezer is indeed an economical solution to saving money on groceries over the long term. According to this analysis, the breakeven point occurs within the first year. This means that someone who purchases a freezer and invests more time into shopping smarter will see savings within a few months.

Again, this is for a very "average" situation assuming an annual grocery bill of $9,282 (non-freezer user) or $8,593 (freezer user), a 13.2 cuft freezer with an initial cost of $522.76, and an average annual cost of electrical usage of $39.95. I tried this analysis with a variety of other situations and found that in almost every one, purchasing a freezer was a good investment that paid off quickly. This is because the cost of groceries are so much higher than the cost of a freezer and even a small amount of savings can result in large savings over time.

Everyone's personal situation is different. You'll still need to consider the costs of electricity in your specific area as well as the initial cost of the specific freezer that you purchase. In addition, you grocery buying and eating habits could change the economics of buying and owning a freezer. And finally, you will have to decide how much time you want to invest in grocery shopping in order to capitalize on sale prices and bulk purchases.

References and Resources

NPR Planet Money. The Price of Electricity in Your State. October 28, 2011. <https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2011/10/27/141766341/the-price-of-electricity-in-your-state>

USA Today. The Cost of Feeding a Family of Four. May 1, 2013. <https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/01/grocery-costs-for-family/2104165/>

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 CWanamaker

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      • CWanamaker profile imageAUTHOR

        CWanamaker 

        4 months ago from Arizona

        Brian - That's a very smart use of a freezer. I have friends that go hunting and one deer can feed their family for months. Freezers have become a very important part of saving money on food.

      • CWanamaker profile imageAUTHOR

        CWanamaker 

        4 months ago from Arizona

        FlourishAnyway - Yes, thank you. I was surprised by the results of the analysis. We purchased a freezer some years ago and use it mostly for meat and some produce that can only be purchased in the fall.

      • B. Leekley profile image

        Brian Leekley 

        4 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

        In the 1950s and 1960s, my north woods grandparents economized a lot by freezing pan fish in fishing season, berries in berry picking season, and venison in hunting season.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        4 months ago from USA

        You approached this in a very logical and reasonable fashion. We received our small chest freezer when my husband’s father died. It has been very useful as a way of storing summer produce for winter months in particular.

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