Choosing the Best Freezer for You and Your Family
Make This the Year You Buy a Freezer!
If you understand all the advantages of purchasing grass-fed and pasture-raised meats in the form of shares from Kookoolan Farms but haven't made any purchases yet, you may be worried about your freezer space. Don't worry, you aren't alone! This is the #1 reason our would-be customers haven't purchased grass-fed beef yet.
2020 was the year that all the freezers got bought up in panic buying, and at many retailers, there is still a long wait for freezers. There's an expression that "The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is right now." You could say the same thing for buying a freezer.
This blog post will walk you through some of the freezer choices, and if you don't have a dedicated freezer, we encourage you to get one on order. Once you know your expected delivery date, you can order your beef so it will be ready shortly after your scheduled freezer delivery. Already about 2/3rds of our total beef volume for 2021 has been reserved. It's never too early to get on the books for your preferred delivery date!
A Kookoolan Farms beef box -- this box holds a maximum of about 35-40 lbs, and on average, a 1/16th beef fills one box; a 1/8th beef fills two boxes!
Over the last 15 years, having supplied various meat, poultry, and seafood products to hundreds of customers, we have seen most of the questions and considerations which go into acquiring a stand-alone freezer. In the order of importance, these include the capacity (3 to 22 cubic feet), type (chest or upright; frost-free or manual defrost); shelf and basket configurations; and perhaps the brand and from what store to procure them.
So many choices! How can you ever decide? Relax, Farmer Chrissie is here to walk you through it!
Before acquiring your freezer, you should have a good idea of what you're planning to put in it. A one-eighth beef would need about 2.5 cubic feet (same as a whole lamb). Three of our pasture-raised chickens occupy about 1 cubic foot. You can scale these numbers depending on what share size works for your family; we generally recommend not buying more meat than your household can consume in a year.
Beyond just the meats that you buy from Kookoolan Farms, consider all the other things you may want to put into it, such as seafood shares, summer berries, or fall mushrooms. Overall, a 7-to-10-cubic-foot freezer is a good size for most families and should allow you to store away 1/8 of beef, half a lamb, some chickens, a box of seafood, and a few flats of berries. If you are thinking about storing fresh and seasonally available products for the entire year, or if you have more than two adults and two children in your household, consider a 12-to-14-cubic-foot freezer.
Farmer Koorosh goes appliance shopping for you! 7.2-cu-ft chest freezer (left) holds about 150 pounds of packaged meats, such as 1/8th beef + 25 lbs salmon + ½ lamb + 6 large chickens + a few packages of soup bones. 17-cu-ft upright freezer (right) holds about 350 pounds of meat (or call it 300, because you'll never get the stacking efficiency that you can get in a chest freezer), such as 1/4 beef, plus a whole lamb, plus 12 chickens, plus 35 lbs of seafood plus 10-15 pounds of soup bones.
What Type of Freezer?
How much floor space and ceiling height do you have available? Don't look just in the kitchen. You can check the mudroom, basement, porch, and garage as possible locations. Upright freezers need more height; chest freezers need more floor space. It should be convenient to get from your car to the freezer to put new items in and convenient to get things out of the freezer while cooking in the kitchen.
Chest freezers are more volume-efficient. Suppose you're thinking about an upright freezer. In that case, we recommend sizing up 20% bigger due to inaccessible volume (the extra shelving and door racks help tremendously with access and organization but "waste" total capacity). After last week's ice storms and power outages, it's worth noting that a chest freezer is FAR more robust in an extended power outage: because the door opens at the top, the cold air has no way to leak out, and things stay frozen many days, maybe up to a week, even without power.
Price vs. utility is also an important factor to consider. Upright freezers tend to cost 60% to 80% more for the equivalent capacity. Chest freezers usually don't come with a frost-free option and should be defrosted every year (the best time to do this job is right before purchasing your seasonal products in the summer). Defrosting freezers can be a bit of a hassle. Still, with a bit of planning and using picnic coolers to help store your food temporarily during the defrost process, one should be able to do the job in four to eight hours and without much worry.
In some upright freezers, each shelf has its own cooling capability. These freezers tend to be on the expensive side; however, the ability to cool each self independently could be helpful if you decide you need to freeze a large volume of stuff in a short period of time. Our beef, lamb, and seafood shares come already frozen, and, if anything, they help in lowering the temperature of your freezer.
If you were recently without power, you might already be thinking about a generator. A backup generator is an excellent idea for keeping frozen foods frozen, keeping refrigerated foods cold, being able to run the heater and cook meals in your house, and take a hot shower. A generator is a prudent way to be ready for short-term power outages and more serious potentials such as an earthquake. Generally, having some second source of power is a good idea. If your house is all-electric, consider getting a propane burner and storing a small tank of propane in the garage. If your hot water tank is electric, having a gas stove gives you another way to heat water.
Half a beef in a 14-cubic-foot chest freezer.
Brand and Store
A 7-cubic-foot chest freezer ranges from about $189 at Target or $229 at Lowe's. A 17-cubic-foot upright runs about $900 at Home Depot. Costco online always has a selection.
At Kookoolan Farms, we have owned eight chest freezers, one upright freezer, five refrigerators, one glass display freezer, an 8x12 walk-in freezer, and a glass-top display freezer, so we have lots of experience buying appliances! We have always opted for brand names recognized as something our customers can trust (even though we understand that sometimes big names sell their names to global manufacturers of dubious quality). For seemingly equivalent products, the price can be a good first indicator of quality. But always ask the sales rep why a product is more expensive than something that looks equivalent.
The next consideration is where to purchase your freezer. Usually, local specialty stores (such as Hutchinson's Appliances in Hillsboro and Standard TV and Appliances) meet, or sometimes even beat, box store prices. You also usually get better expertise from the sales rep at a smaller specialty appliance store. Also at specialty stores, there is usually some room for negotiation. Sometimes just asking for it gets you 5%-10% off. But there's nothing wrong with just getting your freezer at Costco or Lowe's!
Another consideration is service. There's a lot to be said for having someone to call when your freezer stops working.
Your Family's Eating Habits
Finally, and ultimately most importantly, you want to think about what foods your family actually eats and at what rate. EXAMPLE for calculating your family's meat consumption: "We eat meat at home about four nights a week. There are two adults and two young children in our household." Farmer Chrissie might interpret this to mean that you are cooking 1.5 lbs of meat four nights a week, for a total of six pounds a week. Call it 6 lbs. x 52 weeks = 300 pounds of meat in a year, more or less.
What species are you eating? "Oh, 50% chicken, 25% beef, maybe fish once a week, plus a little pork and lamb." So Farmer Chrissie would say, 50% of 300 pounds is 150 pounds of chicken a year; that's 25 six-pound chickens. Fifty-five pounds of beef is roughly equivalent to the finish weight for an eighth of a beef. 1/7th of your 300 pounds (that's fish one night a week) would be 43 pounds of seafood, which might mean a 25-pound salmon share and a 10-pound halibut share. All this meat totals 270 pounds of animal proteins or 90% of the total annual animal protein needs for this example family. Tailor the assumptions and calculations to your family!
The rest of your animal proteins perhaps you pick up once in a while on a whim with your other groceries, accepting the higher retail price for the sake of variety and convenience.
An upright 17-cubic-foot freezer full of Kookoolan Farms meats
If you're starting from scratch and hoping to change your meat-buying habits this year, here are some of the usual considerations for scheduling meat purchases.
One consideration is planning your orders so that you spread out costs on a regular, predictable schedule. Another is freezer capacity: just because you use 300 pounds of animal proteins over a year doesn't mean you have to be able to store it all at once (300 pounds all at once would require about 14 cubic feet, but you likely don't need a freezer that big). Another consideration is seasonal availability (the farm's schedule!) because not all meats and other seasonal produce are available all the time.
You can choose to make smaller, more frequent purchases if you want to have fresher meat, be able to keep a smaller freezer, or choose items with a shorter shelf life (such as bacon!). Or you might decide to purchase several things all at once so you can do less driving and have a maximum variety of choices available on any given day. In practice, it's usually a trade-off between these things.
Regardless of age, meat share pickup day is a joyful and wondrous family event and viscerally establishes that food comes from farms -- and from farmers!
Putting It All Together to Develop Your Family's Action Plan
Here's an example budget for purchasing a year of meats from Kookoolan Farms; these purchases total $2618, or $218/month including your new freezer. Eating down your freezer stock at a rate of about six pounds a week means that all of these meats will fit in your new 7-cubic-foot chest freezer. Note that with a plan like this one, not only do you eat sustainably-harvested meats all year long -- you also start the year 2022 with a freezer filled with a wide variety of meats!
• 10-lb halibut share in January $229 • 7-cubic-foot freezer in February $219 • 1/8th beef in March $500 • 12 chickens in July $540 • Half lamb in August $280 • 1/8th beef in September $500 • 25-lb salmon share in November $350
If you read about different freezer brands an Consumer Reports, visit your local appliance store to compare the styles, features, configurations and brands, have a family meeting to figure out your annual animal protein needs, and lastly buy the freezer and place an order for your meats, you will be prepare to tackle a year of sustainable practices and delicious foods!
Please feel welcome to call us at 503-730-7535, or to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org—we're always happy to answer your questions.