For the short version, the answer is probably a resounding “yes”. Especially if you plan on getting through COVID-19 lockdowns with lots of frozen food and cooking in bulk.
First everyone panic-bought toilet paper, then flour and yeast, freaking CHICKENS, and now freezers are understandably next. After all, if you want to go out less and thus reduce your risk in exposing yourself or others to the virus, it helps to have another place to store food that’ll keep. And you can probably only live off box mix mac and cheese, baking staples, and dried beans until your household members and/or your colon go completely Lord of the Flies.
Online appliance sales have jumped 50-100% compared to 2019 sales numbers for the first quarter, but freestanding freezers have been an especially hot commodity (oxymoronic pun unintended). Thinking of jumping on the bandwagon? You might need to get on a waitlist, unless you do what I did and go compact. Everyone from big box retailers to mom and pop electronics shops are running out of freezers.
Trust, there are many things that have sucked about quarantining in a small apartment, ditto for quarantining while single. What hasn’t sucked? Being able to get a new freezer sent to my door in a matter of days instead of a matter of months because I can only fit a small unit in my NYC shoebox.
So, if you’re thinking about getting another freezer to get through this uncertain timeframe, regardless of your ability to get one right now? Consider the following aside from the initial cost in buying the appliance.
Consider Your Ongoing Costs and Needs After the Pandemic, Plus Your Current Reality
Right now, chest freezers and upright models around 5 cubic feet are selling out like toilet paper and flour. This means that depending on the options available to you for pick-up or shipping, you’re either going to have to go for the doomsday size that’s 7 cubic feet or larger or perhaps shop for a compact that’s under 4 cubic feet, like I did.
After looking up a couple models and making notes of the dimensions, I determined I could fit a chest freezer no larger than 5.3 cubic feet off to the side of the main room of my apartment. Because unlike air conditioning units, you can’t use an extension cord with these puppies. Always plug them into a grounded outlet! This is a challenge if you don’t have many outlets in the area where you plan to use it, because the cords on freestanding freezers are really stubby. And we’re not exactly in an era where you can easily call up an electrician and get them to come over and install a new outlet for you…or be able to get to the hospital easily if you wind up electrocuting yourself on a DIY job. So, carefully consider this aside from the space alone.
This also goes for being able to actually get the freezer indoors. Are you physically up for it if you can’t get delivery? You’ll need at least two able-bodied people if you’re getting a large chest freezer, and getting medical attention in case of an accident is REALLY precarious at the time of writing.
With all that said, assuming you can safely fit, plug, and move the unit in your home, think about how much frozen food you expect to keep on hand after all this. Before the pandemic, I lamented about how much it can suck living in compact city when I dove into finding the right fridge for your home. I loftily thought about buying a freestanding chest freezer, but knew from growing up with hoarders that this move can quickly backfire. We had a chest freezer that had a whole bunch of shit on top of it in the garage until my second year of college. I do not recall ever actually going to the garage to use it!
If you anticipate that you won’t want to bend to really get inside a chest freezer, you’ll probably want to opt for an upright model. With an upright freezer, you’ll also be less tempted to just clutter things on top of it to the point that you’ll barely use it when this hellish period becomes a footnote in world history. However, if you plan on freezing lots of large items in things like those foil casserole pans, want to use an ice cream maker and need a spacious place to freeze the bowl, and so on, you might want to go for broke and get the chest freezer. Just don’t do what my family did and give in to the temptation of forming a Tower of Pisa of random household crap on top of it, or else you’ll be tossing out carbon-dated lasagna in 20 years.
If you don’t think you’ll really use a second freezer all that much when this over and we can start flocking back to our favorite restaurants, ordering in more frequently, eating at work or on the road, and all the other hallmarks of no longer living under lockdown? You’ll either want to make do with what you have, consider upgrading to a larger fridge and freezer, or perhaps go compact.
The energy costs for larger units can ratchet up because they run 24/7. Depending on energy costs where you live and the size of the unit, it can be anywhere from $12-30 per month to run a freestanding freezer. Small units are pretty inexpensive, only adding about $3-10 per month in energy costs. Check the wattage of the model you want to buy and see if any are marked as energy-efficient, or compare them to the wattage of what you currently have.
Compact Freezers, and Considering RV, Morgue, Commercial, and Medical Freezers
Okay, that sounds a little batshit crazy. But we live in batshit crazy times and have to get creative. Best Buy, Home Depot, and so on say that the freezer you want is backordered
I got a compact medical freezer through Compact Appliance, and am freaking happy with it. I was able to get a freight appointment two days after ordering, which is apparently unheard of for 5-7 cubic foot models now, but you’ll need to pop in your zip code and see which models are available for shipment in your area and if there are any anticipated delays. I found that the best way to do this was to skip to the medical freezers.
Hilariously, my unit was described as food-safe on the website but it came with all this documentation for storing medications and human organs, plus keys. I INSTANTLY envisioned some creepy kind of Gabriel Knight setup, if you’re into old school adventure games. But it’s doing an awesome job at freezing all of my bits of fruit for future smoothies, homemade ice cream, and the doomsday amount of Amy’s frozen dinners I could only dream of buying at one time.
Because like I said, I loftily pondered getting a second freezer in the past but hadn’t really researched costs. Because New York apartments are tiny and we dearly trade space for lifestyle aspects, sadly those lifestyles are on hold right now. Once I saw I could fit one after all, I still put it off because life got in the way. Then two weeks before I wrote this article, I got home from the store with a full shopping cart and as yet another frozen pizza and bag of vegetables unceremoniously fell on the floor, even after I extricated the pizzas from their cardboard shells, and was forced to relocate my leftover eggplant parm to the fridge when I seriously had enough of the phallic-looking vegetable to last a week, I just found myself seething out loud, “I can’t live like this.” A few days and $430 later, I was now the proud owner of a hospital-approved medical freezer with drawers
I got this model, which is 2.8 cubic feet. If you were contemplating getting another freezer but are worried you won’t use a chest freezer again after this is over? A little one with some drawers might be just what you need for freezing leftovers, microwave dinners, and anything that goes in baggies and would normally get lost in the Arctic morass that is a standard freezer. There’s even some tiny models about the size of a hotel icebox, some that fit on counter tops as well, that you should consider if a chest is too big and you don’t think you’ll still use it in the future.
As for the differences between a regular freezer and a medical freezer, medical freezers are made with different specifications to be hospital and/or morgue grade for storing certain chemicals, medications, and body parts. Mine goes to -20 degrees, which is lower than your run of the mill freezer. Some medical freezers are also built with specific shelving for storing specimens and small vials, which is fantastic if you have lots of tiny items that would normally get lost in your freezer!
RV freezers might be an option if you’re also short on space, want something durable, and would also like the option to travel with it. However, they’re on the expensive side– some even cost more than large chest freezers. I’d only recommend this option if you plan on camping and traveling with it when we’re free to travel safely again, because they don’t even hold as much as my medical freezer does yet can cost twice as much.
Then to think further outside the box if regular chest and upright freezer models are out of stock, going compact is one option. But you should also consider commercial freezers, compact and regular models alike. They’re less likely to be out of stock and not cost much more than a standard chest freezer, hell, some of them might even be cheaper– especially if you opt for a compact.
You’ll want to go for broke and get the larger one if you have a household of four or more, single people and couples can live large with 2.8 cubic feet easily. If you’re getting a commercial freezer though, just check the wattage and electrical specs along with the dimensions if you’re shopping for a new one. If any small businesses nearby are looking to downsize in this time, it also doesn’t hurt to see if they’re interested in selling one of their freezers if they don’t have a walk-in.
What I’ve Learned From Getting a Second Freezer
I don’t know if I’ll live in this condo forever, but no matter what happens next, I’m definitely a convert to the idea of having an external freezer aside from your main fridge.
What I like the most about this thing is that you don’t have to worry about shit falling on the floor. If you HATE food falling on the floor, you want a style that has drawers. I love being able to open up my morgue freezer and know that all my little baggies of frozen berries are safely tucked inside the top drawer and won’t get stuck behind frozen leftovers and Lean Cuisines. And even if things are packed in there like a hyperborean version of Jenga, none of it is going to fall on the floor.
So on that note, freezer accessories! You’ll want to get some of those fridge bins and dividers if you want to keep things separate, like ice trays from the rest of your food. It can also help organize fruits and vegetables by name, color, freshness date, you name it.
Freezer-safe containers are also a must if you’re going to start freezing food a lot more now. I like Sistema Klip-It containers for most of my food because they’re SUPER airtight, and easily snap on and off. But they will shatter like glass falling out of a freezer. Ice cream containers are great for freezing homemade food if you’re not going to use baggies, they’re durable and designed to be frozen so I bought a few and have been using them a lot more now. They’re perfect for curries, stews, soups, and pasta dishes if they’re not being used for frozen desserts.
If you’re going to get a chest freezer though, take some organizing tips from a short girl: get some of those “shelf within a shelf” wire racks that us short people have been using forever to make our too-tall kitchen cabinets slightly more useful. You’ll better utilize the space in your freezer, and if you stack a couple, not have to bend as much to do an icy deep-dive to get that frozen burrito you wanted.