Buying a Freezer (Reader Q&A)

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Erin wrote with the following questions about buying a freezer,

I’m just getting started with freezer cooking. I would like input on buying a freezer. What size? (We have 4 kids and may or may not have more. Chest or upright? Can I put it in my non-attached garage (in Colorado)? Any proven favorites for brands? Any tips on finding a “deal” on a freezer? I had no idea how expensive they were!

Great questions, Erin. Since you’re just starting out, remember that it’s very possible to live without a deep freeze and still make freezer cooking work for you.

My friend Carrie recently posted her experience in making a small refrigerator freezer work for her for stockpiling, and I think some of the same techniques apply to storing homemade frozen meals.

Last year, I shared a vlog and some techniques on how to make freezer cooking work in a side-by-side. It is quite doable.

That said, I also have a deep freeze and have had one for about ten years. We bought ours used from some friends who were moving. It’s a large chest freezer that has served us well for quite some time.

I see three drawbacks to this type of freezer:

  1. It can be a safety hazard if small children try to get things out unsupervised. Yes, there have been cases of children falling in. Ours can be locked which is an excellent safety feature to have.
  2. It does accumulate some amount of ice every few months or so. I defrost it about once or twice a year.
  3. Things can get lost in the bottom since you have to pile rather than stack.

On the flip side, last time I checked chest freezers were less expensive than uprights and tend to keep their cold better. Also, there’s almost no way to “accidentally” leave this baby open.

Upright freezers, however, can get left ajar, particularly when children are retrieving items. We’ve known more than one household to find out that someone had left the door open and everything in the freezer thawed. Having a freezer alarm can help you avoid that, though.

That has been our experience. While I would love a spanking, new upright freezer, we’re making this one work for us.

I haven’t answered all your questions, I know some people who can.

What advice do YOU have for buying a freezer?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. We bought a chest freezer when I first started freezer cooking 5+ years ago. It was not frost-free and it was too hard to get food in and out of it. I’m only 5’3″ and I could never get things out of the bottom and I had to de-frost it every 4-5 months. Not so much fun, I tell you.

    In July 2010, my hubby and I found a great deal at Lowe’s on upright freezers and we bought it. To say I LOVE this freezer is an understatement! I don’t have to de-frost it, I can easily see what is on each shelf, and it is so much easier to organize (one shelf for casseroles, one shelf for baking goods, one shelf for our 1/2 cow purchase, etc). And ours does have a built-in alarm if the door is ajar.

    If I had known better the first time, I would’ve gotten an upright to start with.

    There’s nothing wrong with a chest freezer, it just wasn’t the best fit for us.

    Definitely look for sales on freezers – they come around fairly often.


  2. I strongly recommend an Energy Star chest freezer. They use noticeably less electricity for the same volume of food space as an upright. Every time you open the door of an upright the cold air pours out of it and the motor has to work harder. With a chest freezer the cold air settles inside so you do not lose as much cold each time you empty it.

    Another trick to save electricity is that when your freezer is not full, stack your food in such a way that the air doesn’t pour out each time, for example, our chest freezer has “air pockets” in it such that we do not stack the food as tightly as possible when it’s not actually full.

    Key though is Energy Star. Whatever the extra cost might be (there may be rebates or discounts for ES appliances) you will *definitely* make up in electric bills.

  3. my husband & i don’t have an extra freezer, simply because we live in an apartment and there’s nowhere to put it. and there’s only 2 of us so we don’t really *need* it. but my parents have an upright freezer that they love, for many of the reasons mentioned above. it’s so easy to organize. when i have the space for a freezer, i will get an upright–unless i’m given a chest freezer for free or almost nothing. uprights are much more versatile and easy i think, and take up less space. my parents keep theirs in the garage but i know of others who use a basement/laundry room.

  4. Myra says

    I have always had an upright – like others said before, if you are short, it’s a plus. You may be able to get one with a key, so to cut down on leaving it ajar. Even a smaller upright works better for organizing than a chest, IMO.

  5. katie says

    We started with a chest freezer many moons ago and I disliked it from the get go. Though it was inexpensive compared to the upright, it was a pain to get to everything. And when you needed the item on the bottom, you wasted a lot of cold air emptying out that side, finding the item, then refilling it.

    We’ve had a huge upright (32 c.f.) for 11 years now. I LOVE it. It’s gigantic, but it’s always full. We bought it to store the cow we purchased. It’s gone through 3 house moves, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    We bought it at a Scratch and Dent – it had a big scratch on the door, so they slashed the price by 75%. I didn’t care since it was going in the garage. Check out places like Sears Outlet for better deals. Good luck!

  6. I’m really happy with our chest freezer. Ours came with four movable bins that help a lot with the organization–I have one for steaks, one for chicken, one for fish, and one for frozen bags of veggies. Other things, like casseroles, ice cream, and chicken nuggets, get stacked on the bottoms.

    Ours also has the lock. I keep it on a long piece of yarn tethered to a nearby utility shelf. It sits on the shelf, out of reach of children, but can’t get lost for the adults who need it.

    Ours is a large energy star model and I’m so glad I got it. We haven’t seen any difference in our bills. We keep it in the basement near the laundry. It’s convenient because I bring down laundry and come up with dinner. 🙂

  7. Shaorn says

    I’m with the Upright Freezer folks. I own a smaller upright now, I LOVE it, and we’re currently watching sales for a bigger upright. Growing up, my parents had one of each. And we lost A LOT of food on the bottom of the chest because our short family members couldn’t reach the bottom. That being said, I’ve seen people who made a chest work better for them by buying crates and stacking them. Then to get to the stuff on the bottom, you only have to take out one crate to get to what’s underneath. They’d use one crate for chicken, one for veggies, one for beef, etc. But they could be designated in whatever way works for you.

  8. Marilyn says

    We checked various websites, compared prices and models, pros and cons to upright versus chest and finally went with a small chest for our “starter” freezer. We found a super price at Sam’s Club that included delivery to our basement- no one else came any where near the price we found.
    That being said so many people told me that I would lose things at the bottom- so to avoid that I made a checklist of my freezer contents that I posted on my frig and as I put in and take out I mark kit on the list. This helps tremendously. Our chest freezer cam with one basket that sits on top but I would recommend getting other plastic baskets or large bags to keep like foods together.

  9. Jennifer says

    Check craigslist too. People get rid of them fairly regularly. Chest freezers are less expensive than upright. Sears Outlet is a great place to look as others have mentioned.

  10. Patti says

    I highly recommend a freezer in a location near you. We have ours in our kitchen next to our refrigerator. Don’t know who designed the kitchen this way, but it sure is heaven to have the two side by side. We use the freezer every day and it stays full!! Right now I am loading it up with fresh strawberries and blueberries. Yum!

  11. I am 5’0″…a chest freezer was not even something I looked at. I love my upright. I can see and reach everything. I bought mine on sale at Sears, 6 months no finance. I love it!!

  12. I have four kids too and I got the smallest chest freezer from Sams 2 years ago, it was$158 then and it’s $178 now because my friend just bought hers. It works well for my stockpiling of meats and taking advantage of summer produce. Last year I froze 15 quarts of green beans and we’re still eating on them and they are fresh-love it. I’m freezing corn and tomatoes this year-can’t you tell I’m not into canning. I love to freeze all my homemade breads from the Artisan cookbook in five and I eat from our freezer everyday. It works for us. I have to clear it out and defrost at least once a year, which is very easy-thaw it out and let it drain. It’s economical and priced frugal and serves us well in our small mudroom. I freeze nearly everyday and post it on my blog.

  13. Kathleen K says

    We bought our first freezer 13 years ago–a medium size chest freezer. Keeping it organized was a challenge, but we did so with plastic storage bins with lids. Then about 4 years ago, we bought a very large upright. Much easier to organize. We used them both until we sold our house (and the freezers).

  14. JenBlake says

    My grandparents found an upright freezer for me at an estate sale. It is not frost free, and is not energy star, but it was free so I am thrilled. We have had it about 6 years and it has worked great. Here’s a tip to tell if your freezer has defrosted and re-frozen without you realizing it (power out while on vacation, accidentally unplugged then re-plugged by a kid etc.) Freeze a small container of water (I use a small butter dish) and after it is frozen rest a penny on top. Keep it in your freezer. If the power is out for any length of time, the ice will melt and the penny will sink. When it refreezes the penny will be in ice and you can tell how long it was not cold by how far the penny is in the cup.

    • katie says

      @JenBlake, I love the penny idea. Though we’ve only had 4 major incidents in 15 years of freezers, the penny in water would have been helpful for 2 of them…going to go and do that now! thanks.

  15. michele johnson says

    I have both a medium size chest freezer and a frost free upright freezer. I like the upright better for several reasons.
    1. Like you said, things don’t get lost in the bottom.
    2. I don’t like to take the time to defrost a freezer.
    3. Smaller area for the upright, even though it will hold about 2-3 times as much (with 10 people in the house space is always a premium).
    4. I can organize it better.
    5. We lay things on any surface we can reach (can you say clutter?), this can’t be done with the upright because it is really tall (the biggest Lowe’s had at the time).
    6. Even though we don’t end up laying things on it, the top can still be used as a place to store things (just like our 2 fridges).
    The only 2 drawbacks to an upright that I can think of are:
    1. Every time you open the door, it lets a lot of cold air out the bottom and warm air in the top (this is the main reason you should have a frost free or you will have to defrost it a lot, especially here in Florida where it is very hot).
    2. If you let your kids get into the freezer, there is a chance of them leaving the door open or ajar, especially if your freezer is in an out of the way place (I have tried to train my kids to stay out of the freezer unless they ask or I ask them to get something out for me). The newer ones usually seal themselves shut pretty well, so this helps with that. You could also wedge the freezer backward a little with some wood so the door would always swing shut if ever left open (not enough to unbalance it, but just enough for the door to swing towards the freezer).
    Good luck and hope this helps! 🙂

  16. Jen Fitzpatrick says

    I absolutely LOVE my upright freezer, but I do have one recomendation for you. I bought mine when I was expecting my second child and I definitely did not buy big enough! Now that I have 3 plus 3 stepchildren, I am constantly needing more room (even though they eeat things fast enough!). It’s easier to fill a freezer with water jugs to keep it full that to try to put everything you have into one that isn’t big enough. They also sell childproof locks for them, so you don’t have to worry about the curious hands of the children……..

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