Whether you have a stand-alone unit or yours is part of your refrigerator, your freezer is either costing a lot in wasted energy or is saving you a bundle in food costs. It has a lot to do with the style of freezer you have, the way you stock it and how you maintain it.
Use a thermometer. Get a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to check the temperature. The closer to 0 F, the better. Food kept at 0 F will last months longer than say 20 or 31 F.
Remove the air. Trapped air causes freezer burn. Make sure you select a container small enough so the contents fill it. You can remove a great deal of the air from a freezer bag without a fancy vacuum sealing machine. Seal all but enough space to slip in a drinking straw. Now inhale on that straw to pull all the air out of the bag. Quickly zip the last bit and pop it into the freezer.
Opt for a chest style freezer. If you’re in the market for a freezer, opt for a chest type freezer with a manual defrost. Unlike an upright model where the contents get hit with a blast of warm air every time you open it, a chest freezer, because of its design, keeps the cold in when opened. Remember science class? Heat rises, but cold falls. Defrost it once a year when you clean it out and you’ll be good to go. A chest style freezer would be an excellent investment for anyone looking to keep the cost of food at a minimum.
Fill ‘er up. It takes a lot more electricity to keep an empty freezer at 0 F than a full one. So pack it as tightly as you can. If you don’t have enough food to do that, fill empty milk cartons with water and freeze them. The square shape is better than round jugs because you can stack them like bricks. Bonus: You’ll have plenty of fresh water in the event of a power outage.
Inventory. The worst thing for your electricity bill is to keep opening the freezer, especially if you have an upright model that allows the entire contents to get hit with a blast of warm air every time you open it. Post an inventory list on the door. As you use something, mark it off. Now you can “shop” the list, not stand there with the door open.
Cook for a day, eat for a month. It’s an intense proposition, but if you are willing to work very hard just one day each month, you can make all of your dinner meals for an entire month — and freeze them. Before you dismiss this as impossible, take a look at the method, recipes and instructions in Once-A-Month Cooking: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Every Day, by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson. They invented this process and coined the term more than 25 years ago. It’s as terrific today as it was then, but now with so many more recipes, options and instructions.
Would you like to send a tip to Mary? You can email her at mary@everyday
cheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.