It’s the key to shopping and cooking smarter, not harder.

By David McCann
Updated January 16, 2020
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Credit: Walmart

We made a purchase that surprised people.

No one could understand it.

We bought a chest freezer.

“Your refrigerator already HAS a freezer section. What could you possibly need a whole chest freezer for?”

I will explain, and by the end, I’m guessing you’re going to pull out a tape measure to see where you might fit one of your own.

Right off the bat, I’d like to address cost. Between $125 and $250 can buy you a brand new one. That’s not outrageously expensive, and the newer, energy efficient models run for about $4 a month.

And now, the most important question: WHY IN THE WORLD? I can only answer for myself, but I think many of my reasons will resonate. As you might assume, I love to cook. And I seem genetically incapable of making just enough food for my husband and I. Therefore, even after the workday lunchbox is filled, there is leftover food… waiting. And the chest freezer is a gamechanger.

I make so many meals that don’t suffer at all from freezing that I could almost fill a whole freezer just from dinners.

But the real game changers, for me, come from two things. One, fresh foods from the garden that I freeze and use all year long. Two, seeing huge sales at the grocery store or farmer’s market, and being able to take advantage of them.

At the height of summer, my yard is chockablock with fresh basil. And though I use it by the bushel fresh, I also make literal gallons of pesto to freeze. And nothing makes you forget the dark cold of winter like a bowl of pasta coated with the flavor of fresh summer basil. We also grow tons of hot peppers, and freeze them whole. Not to mention Tuscan Kale, and tomatoes (which can be frozen whole or barely cooked into sauce).

And when it comes to sales at the store, duxelles from a big mushroom sale can add hearty mushroom umami to anything—like soup, when potatoes and onions or leeks are plentiful. Whole berries frozen on trays then packed in freezer bags. Chili when beef is cheap. Chicken breasts, for any number of satisfying chicken dinners. A whole pork loin for roasts and chops and stir fry. The list is limited only by your imagination.

And, for me, there’s another amazing benefit. I freeze chicken bones and trimmings, along with the trimmings from onions, celery, carrots, garlic, herbs. Guess what? The best chicken stock you will ever taste is now just a pot of water away.

I conservatively estimate my food costs are at least ⅓ less because of the chest freezer. And (this is even more important) I can buy things at their absolute “height of season” in abundance. Which translates to a much lower cost. And that means that flavor and nutritional value are at the peak as well.

Look around your home. See if you have the space. Look at various sizes of chest freezers. I think you’ll discover it might be possible. And it will change your cooking forever.

This Story Originally Appeared On MyRecipes