Chest Freezer for Two
Hello, I'm seeking advice on getting a second freezer and I really need to know what size is appropriate.
The basic situation: I live with my girlfriend, we have no children, so there are just to two of us. I like to cook but if I'm not cooking, she often prefers to convenience of the dreaded frozen prepared meals. Okay okay, I'll admit they are convenient and some are even tasty. Moving on....
We're looking for advice on a freezer to add to our standard sized fridge/freezer for extra storage. Basically, the freezer on top of the fridge is great for convenient items and essential items - for example, ice cube trays, small containers of iced cream, frozen peas, the aforementioned frozen meals etc. But if I ever need to store something either bigger or longer term - think a ham, a turkey, or 10 quarts of home made chicken stock - there's no possible way. Therefore I think we're going to use the fridge-freezer for convenient stuff and get a second freezer for my big items and storage.
So then, with only two people, including one cook, and no children, what size freezer do you recommend? I've found models as little as 3 cubic feet (smaller than some bar-fridges) up to... well, the sky's the limit. The most common "apartment" sized ones are about 5-6 cubic feet and $300-$400, but likely to be discounted on Dec. 26th (we're in Canada).
Also, can anyone tell me if a chest freezer really is a convenience or a pain in the neck? My fear is that I will turn into my mother, who has TWO chest freezers full with so much frozen food that there are probably items at the bottom older than I am. I know the idea is great, that I can always have my own stock and pasta sauces on hand even if I'm feeling lazy, but that laziness could lead me down a bad path.... anyone have any experience here?
I'd err on the side of bigger. If you run out of space in a freezer that's half-filled with jugs of ice, you just take out some of the ice. If you run out of space in a freezer that's half the size, you're out of luck.
While you're in the appliance-buying mode, you may also want to take a look at vacuum sealers. When you suck all the air out of a package before freezing it, the contents last a LOT longer. Just this weekend I found a package of tamales that were made on Christmas Eve 2005. Or maybe it was '04. Anyway, I heated them up fearing the worst, but they were still really good. My daughter had one for breakfast this morning, as a matter of fact. Had they been stored in zip-top bags, they would have been badly freezer-burnt, but the vacuum-sealer kept them in good shape.
IMHO a freezer is a huge convenience, but it requires active management. Some folks are organized enough to keep a list of the freezer's contents and their use-by dates; I just go through the freezer periodically, make mental notes of the stuff that needs to be used up, and plan menus accordingly. The risk is that if something gets buried, it can drop off the radar for a long time (eg, that package of tamales) and possibly become inedible.
I agree that it's a huge convenience. It was one of the first things DH and I bought for our apartment. In our previous apt and the current one, we extended our kitchen partway into the dining area and the freezer is not only for freezing, it is also an extra counter surface.
I don't know the storage capability of ours, but the exterior measurements are about 3 feet high, 2 feet deep and 2.5 feet wide. I wish it had baskets or something, because its hard to get stuff out of the bottom. We end up using grocery bags to hold the smaller loose stuff (like portions of meat, ziplocs of bacon, etc). About once a month or so, we do an inventory and include the older stuff on the week's menu.
And don't forget to look for one that's Energy Star rated (or Canadian equivalent) for low(er) cost of operation.
My wife and I had a 3.5 cubic foot chest freezer for several years that we loved (it bit the dust when the basement flooded in a house we were renting). It was the perfect size for us as it afforded enough space to be able to load up on good deals or large items when they came along but was small enough to fit into some rather tight spaces in various apartments. It was also small enough to avoid the burying of some things along the lines of what alanbarnes rightly cautions one to be careful about. When the 3.5 cubic foot model died in the flood, we replaced it with a 5 cubic foot model and it was larger than we ever needed. Obviously, everyone's needs will vary but for 2 people my suggestion is a 3.5 cubic foot chest freezer if you can find one.
We're in the exact same situation as you (couple, no kids), and we couldn't live without our basement freezer. It's a tremendous convenience. One thing, however: if you can get an upright freezer instead of a chest freezer, do that. It's much more convenient and it's easier to see and reach into. I don't know how easy they are to find, though: the ancient Amana in our basement is a relic from when Allstonian's parents owned this house and the basement was where the snake- and mice-breeding colonies were.
I'm just going to address usage. I really find cooking relaxing & enjoyable. When I once had an extra freezer I found that it worked well for me in taking advantage of sales and seasonal items. Worked great with stock, pesto, etc.
Freezing meals/soups/stews was less helpful because I generally cooked too frequently to take full advantage of the ready made items in the freezer. So ingredients worked, pre-made meals not so much for me.
That said, I really wish I had one now - I miss it!