Is Storing Food in a Freezer Economical? - ToughNickel - Money
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Is Storing Food in a Freezer Economical?

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

does-storing-food-in-a-freezer-save-money

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.

Prices captured from several online retailers.

BrandModel#StyleVolume (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

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

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 upright freezers cost significantly more than chest freezers.

My family's freezer.

My family's freezer.

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.

BrandModel#StyleVolume (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

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.

does-storing-food-in-a-freezer-save-money

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 ShoppingFamily 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

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/>

© 2018 Christopher Wanamaker

Comments

Christopher Wanamaker (author) from Arizona on April 29, 2018:

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.

Christopher Wanamaker (author) from Arizona on April 29, 2018:

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.

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on April 29, 2018:

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 from USA on April 28, 2018:

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.