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Freezer Buying Basics

Whether you are shopping for a chest or upright freezer, size and usage matters

There is no doubt that a stand-alone freezer is a great accompaniment to the refrigerator. You can purchase meat when it goes on sale, you can stock up for a large party or holiday event, and you can get fruits and vegetables in season and bag them up for the rest of the year. If you live in the country, it's a necessity because you probably stock up when you make trips into town.

When deciding what size of freezer you need, be aware of basic requirements to keep the unit running smoothly.

First, it should be as full as possible to keep food cold and never less than three-quarters full. You should outline how you will use it and what will go in the freezer throughout the year. The size of your family may also help determine size. Budget and location are also part of the calculation.

One cubic foot of freezer space holds approximately 35 pounds of food. The freezer experts estimate that each person accounts for 1.5 of cubic foot space. That calculation is based on regular rotation of foods that are eaten within a short period of time. If you are planning on actually stocking up, then you should look more at the space for the location of the freezer and what you can afford.

It is not a problem to place a freezer in a garage, in a basement, or in a utility room. Fluctuating temperatures will not affect its performance. Be cautious when looking at used freezers. The older models will be electricity-hogs so a bargain price might not pay off in the long run.

Quite often, depending on the time of year, a freezer may begin to empty. You can easily meet the minimum capacity requirements by filling cartons with water and letting them freeze. These may come in handy during electrical outages. Use as many as you need to keep the freezer full. Also, if you have a pet, consider bagging the dry dog food and storing it in the freezer. This will also help keep bugs out.

Don't be hesitant to purchase a freezer if you live in an area with frequent power outages. Food should remain unspoiled for up to 2 days if the freezer door remains closed. (However, follow the rule of no more than 2 hours of room temperature for any defrosted/cooked food and always pitch if in doubt.) Any longer than that and you will run the risk of contamination. Again, it's a good idea to keep extra ice-filled jugs in the freezer to deter thawing. If you are leaving for an extended period of time, place a freezer baggie full of ice cubes inside. If the cubes have melted, you'll know there has been an outage and can decide whether to start pitching food.

Food does not last forever in the freezer and you should become familiar with the recommendations for keeping each type of food before it is cooked. These charts are easily found online.

A freezer is a great thing to own. Food is always at the ready and that convenience more than pays for itself.



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