As much of a fan as I am of bulk foods as well as freeze dried foods (of late), I understand that not everyone sees things the same as me, which is fine. In fact, bulk foods take both work and sometimes equipment (such as a grain grinder) to make use of them whereas freeze dried foods can seem like an additional expense that may not quite fit your needs or interests right now.
That’s understandable. Freezer meals, on the other hand, are something that you will make use of over time and the best part is that they’re already made and cooked! If you and your family are literally trying to make it through a lengthy emergency then I’m sure grinding wheat and making meals are NOT at the top of the “want to do” list. Freezer meals are already done and ready to eat once heated.
But why a chest freezer, specifically? Why not choose to power a refrigerator?
Though refrigerators are significantly more efficient these days, they’re still much larger (usually around 20 cubic feet) than an average chest freezer (usually between 3.5-7.0 cubic feet). It’s just a given that when you have more space to keep cool there’s more energy required to do so.
In addition, it’s my understanding that the automatic defrost feature of refrigerators use a significant amount of power and since chest freezers require manual defrost you have that day-to-day energy savings.
Moreover, a chest freezer obviously keeps ALL of the contents well below freezing which means it should have to run less often to maintain the same temperature. Beyond that, I’m sure a chest freezer door stays closed more often than the refrigerator and therefore needs to work less too. 😉
Of course, there are many factors that go into the efficiency of both refrigerators and freezers, from ambient temperatures to Energy Star ratings, relative sizes, and how full their compartments are (the fuller the better).
Ultimately, all of this means that a chest freezer is going to run less often and require less power day-to-day than any typical refrigerator/freezer combo. For long term emergencies this is a good thing!
Step 1: Pick Your Freezer Meals
The first step is to realize that you CAN make quite a few freezer meals for cheap. This site lays it all out for you (note that she does charge from $2.50-5.00 for some of the printable posts):
- 20 MEALS AT COSTCO FOR $150 – MEAL PLAN #2 WITH PRINTABLES
- 21 FREEZER MEALS FROM COSTCO FOR $150 THAT WILL ROCK YOUR PALATE AND MAKE YOUR WALLET SMILE
- 20 MEALS FROM COSTCO FOR $150 – RECIPES & PRINTABLE SHOPPING LISTS
- 21 GLUTEN FREE FREEZER MEALS FROM COSTCO FOR $150 THAT WILL ROCK YOUR GLUTEN FREE WORLD
- 20 GLUTEN FREE SLOW COOKER FREEZER PACKS FROM COSTCO FOR $150
- 21 GLUTEN FREE MEALS FROM COSTCO FOR $162
I’m sure she has more freezer meal ideas so take a look around when you get time.
Step 2: Purchase Plenty of Tupperware
Buy lots and lots of Tupperware. No need to spend a lot of money here… just go to Walmart or Target and get dozens of meal-sized containers or shop Amazon for freezer meal containers, if you prefer.
Step 3: Get a Chest Freezer
Get a chest freezer and NOT an upright freezer as chest freezers are purportedly 10-25% more efficient. Once upon a time we had an upright freezer but about the only thing that we used it for was to store dozens of loaves of bread that we purchased from a local co-op. Eventually, we got rid of that and swapped it for a smaller chest freezer.
What you purchase is up to you. There are no doubt many makes, sizes, and price ranges but somewhere around the 5.0 cubit foot chest freezer should be enough space for a few dozen meals.
If you purchase one new you can easily spend a few hundred dollars but if you look locally for sales or even on Craigslist you can often find them MUCH cheaper. Considering that the typical chest freezer can last a decade or more without a problem I wouldn’t be too concerned with purchasing one used.
Step 4: Figure out How to Power It
While you can purchase a generator for this purpose (among others) I find it’s a much better plan to simply purchase a quality 800 watt inverter and connect that to your vehicle battery… I detail the idea in the first part of this post. So long as you have gasoline to run your vehicle you’ll be able to keep a tiny chest freezer running for weeks or months which is plenty long enough to work your way through the meals.
Step 5: Get to Making Your Meals!
Just go back up to step 1 and start finding meal plans you want to follow and get to work. Be sure to label them with what they are and the date made. Finally, learn to play a good game of Tetris to make them all fit in the chest freezer ensuring you have a good rotation of meals throughout so that you’re not always eating the same meal.
What say you? Have you tried this idea specifically for emergencies or not? What works better?