Changed my mind – bought a freezer

Freezer.*sigh* I wrangled long and hard over my decision not to purchase a freezer earlier this year. My main reasons were that I wanted to save energy and to force myself to preserve food in other ways, like root cellaring.

Then the folks I slaughtered chickens with asked if I’d like to split a hog with them – pasture-raised and apple-fed by a neighbor and due to be processed within the week. The price seemed astoundingly cheap: about $2/lb, I calculated, after processing and smoking. For pasture-raised happy pig. Shoot – we pay $5/lb for the cheap happy sausage and $8/lb for bacon. I scrambled to figure out approximately how much meat is in a pig, and how much of what cuts.

And I realized suddenly, you can’t root cellar a pig. Oh, you can smoke and cure some of it – but what we really love is sausage, and I just don’t have the skills or desire to dry-cure and eat half a pig’s worth of pepperoni. So all my calculations before were really just taking veggies into account and not the fact that I could never get half a hog, a lamb, or a deer without a standalone freezer. Suddenly, it seemed perfectly logical to buy. Read on…

I bought the smallest chest freezer available in my area (5.5 cubic feet). It’s not Energy Star, but it uses less electricity than the smallest Energy Star freezer available (which was in the 15cf range). It supposedly uses less than 1 kwh/day. We got it a a local appliance dealer, who cut us a really nice bargain between the freezer and the radio I bought at the same time. It actually ended up being cheaper than buying at a big box store.

Ok, so what does half a hog look like? We had it cut into:

  • Ham – 14lb
  • Bacon – 6.5lb
  • 2 huge ham hocks (2.5 lb each)
  • Chops – 16lb
  • Spare ribs – 2.5lb
  • Sausage – 12lb
  • Neck bones – 1.5lb

I’d not taken the difference in “hanging weight” and “processed weight” adequately into account – this is only about 57 lb of meat total, from a hanging weight of about 100lb. So the price is closer to $4/lb…but still a very good deal, I think.

Buying by the side is a little like buying into a CSA – you get what you get, and you have to figure out how to use bits that you might not normally buy. For example, we love pork tenderloin, but there are only 2 of those per pig. And 16lb of pork chops, which we almost never buy. We are, in fact, sharing this half with a neighbor, and he’s taking almost all the ham, because I don’t think I could use 14lb of ham before said pig flew across my back yard.

This all fits handily, with room to spare, in a 5.5 cubic foot freezer. And we’re giving a lot of it to a neighbor…so much that I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake and we could’ve just put our quarter hog into the freezer in the kitchen. Maybe…but nothing else would’ve fit in there for months while we whittled away at the sausage.

So I’m cautiously optimistic about the freezer. I put 3 quarts of chicken stock in there to keep the pork company – man, I’ve gotten hooked on good homemade stock lately – and bought 6lb of the last broccoli of the season at the market to freeze, as well.

I hope it ends up being a good decision in the long run. I get really torn when it feels like I’m “buying to save.”

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9 Comments

  1. Leasmom said,

    November 9, 2008 at 10:14 am

    It will be. I am so happy that I have a deep freezer. I bought my turkey while it was cheap and now its in the freezer ready for Thanksgiving while everyone else will be paying $20-$30 more for an Amish turkey. So, gotta love the deep freezer plus I still have hot peppers frozen from last year in there and I can stock up and freeze things when canning isn’t possible or you just need to put things away fast…now you can stock up on alot of things. GOOD CHOICE!!!

  2. Darren said,

    November 9, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    I was all ready to buy a chest freezer so I could get a side of beef and a lamb from a farm not too far from where I live. It’s relatively local, organic, family-run, and they package up all the cuts in vacuum sealed bags for you ready to freeze.

    Just before buying the freezer, I checked the farmer’s web site again to show someone at work, and they’ve gone out of business! D’oh! So far I haven’t been able to find a similar supplier, but I’ll keep looking.

  3. Matriarchy said,

    November 10, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I got a freezer this year, too. The little one on top of the freezer was stuffed with stock and fruit from the summer, and muffins and stuff. I was never able to really take advantage of meat sales. I got a 7.2 CF model from Sears for $195, the best $/cf I could find. Now I love sending the kids downstairs to “shop” for dinner.

    It was amazing how fast it filled with chickens, sausage, ground turkey, more stock, frozen broccoli and cauliflower, butter, whole wheat flour, etc. I have also taken to freezing a quart of soup out of every batch. Space will open up soon when I take out the ham I got on sale, and I hope to take advantage of the seasonal turkey sales. Frankly, I can’t afford an organic turkey, but I do buy from a local poultry guy at a farmer’s market. I can afford organic produce, eggs, and bones for stock, and I hope to slowly increase the organic meat we can afford, using the money we save by buying bulk.

  4. Buttercup said,

    November 11, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Other things for the freezer: homemade sandwich bread (slice before freezing and use within a month),spaghetti sauce, homemade sauces and stocks of all kinds, whole grain flour, premade meals (aka leftovers) that you can put away and enjoy on a I can’t/won’t cook day when they are new again, roasted and peeled red peppers, blanched kale and other greens from the garden, fruit like blueberries and cranberries that require no processing, cooked tomatillos, cooked pumpkin.

  5. LutheranChik said,

    November 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    We recently purchased a freezer, which now sits in the garage. It’s filled with locally raised chickens from our Amish neighbors, berries from this summer, and a lamb from a local sheep farmer; come January we’ll be trying to fit a half a hog in it as well. We laugh at how quickly we’ve filled it up. I like the idea of storing flour in it.

  6. Kat said,

    November 19, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I’ll trade ya a couple pork chops for a couple steaks from my brother-in-law Billy’s grass-fed cattle when he slaughters them. Seriously.

  7. Emily said,

    November 20, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Kat – You’re on! I’ll leave them in an unmarked paper bag in the library, section SF391!

  8. Oldnovice said,

    November 22, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I like the idea of storing flour in it.

    I put new purchases of flour, cornmeal, rice, barley, beans, etc. in the freezer for a few days to kill off any insect eggs that might exist. Sometimes, however, (cough), I forget to write down where/when I put said purchase in a freezer and find myself having conversations with my husband that resemble, “We’re out of cornmeal.” “We’re not out of cornmeal; I just don’t remember where I put the new bag. It’s in one of the freezers; I just don’t know which one or where in which one.”

    I keep the majority of my spices in the freezer, as well. I buy in bulk from Penzey’s, remove only a small portion (less than 1 oz) of each spice into little metal containers for daily use, storing the rest in the freezer.

  9. November 20, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    […] [UPDATE: And then…I changed my mind and did buy a freezer. Here's why.] […]


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