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Saturday, July 18, 2020

My Emergency Freezer Storage

Although a dry storage pantry is a good way to keep many foods, I've found that's it's more economical to keep some foods in frozen form. This would include eggs, some of our milk, and most of our meat. 

  • Powdered eggs are very expensive, yet fresh eggs are relatively easy to freeze and take up just a small amount of freezer space (see this post on freezing eggs)
  • With regards to milk -- as many of you likely discovered this spring, powdered non-fat milk is expensive. Powdered whole milk (I use whole milk for making yogurt) is even more so. Most of us only have so much freezer-space to give over to those large gallon jugs of milk. So, I freeze several months' worth of whole milk for making yogurt and enough jugs of 2% drinking milk to get through about 1 to 2 months. The rest of our emergency milk is powdered non-fat, bought as cheaply as I could find.
  • I do stock some canned meat. However, for variety and economy, fresh meat kept in the freezer is my preference.

So, what all did I buy (or plan to buy) for my emergency freezer supplies? Here's my list:

eggs and dairy
  • eggs, frozen in pint containers, 6 eggs per each container, total of 10 dozen -- egg prices are still low, so I may add another 5 dozen eggs to the freezer in the next couple of weeks. This would give us a 3-month supply of eggs.
  • whole milk, frozen in gallons for making yogurt, enough to make yogurt for 3 to 4 months. (I will add some 2% gallons for drinking as room allows in the next few weeks.)
  • 5-lb bags of cheese (I was able to buy a few bags of mozzarella when prices were super low -- about $1.70/lb)
  • frozen whole chickens
  • frozen hamburger patties (Walmart, GV, less expensive per pound than fresh ground beef)
  • frozen hot dogs
  • frozen bacon (both turkey and pork, bought before prices skyrocketed)
  • frozen pork sausage links
  • frozen ham
  • I may add 1 or 2 whole turkeys this fall
fruits and vegetables
  • frozen foraged and garden berries -- we plan on picking wild blackberries again this year. Last year we picked 16 ice cream pails full.
  • chopped rhubarb -- I freeze it on trays then put in a gallon ziploc
  • quarts of homemade rhubarb sauce
  • frozen orange and apple juice concentrate, enough for several months (Walmart, GV)
  • some garden herbs, basil and rosemary -- they retain more flavor when frozen as opposed to dried
fats and oils
  • frozen butter (restaurant supply, case of 30 1-lb blocks, bought when prices were super low)

There's a major difference that affects quantity and choice between a dry storage and freezer emergency storage -- capacity. Unless you live in an RV or tiny house, your capacity for dry storage is actually quite large. You can store canned goods in spare closets, laundry rooms, basements, cabinets/armoires/trunks in living spaces, under beds, behind sofas, almost anywhere except bathrooms (too humid for many goods). In contrast, with freezer storage, the limit is quite obvious. Many of us just have the freezer attached to our refrigerator. Some of us also have a stand-alone freezer. I'm quite fortunate to have abundant freezer space. 

If I had to prioritize freezer space while thinking of frugality and stocking up for an emergency, I would focus on meat (because the price on meat can fluctuate greatly and I wouldn't want to be caught out with too little meat for an extended period), eggs (they take so little space to store in the freezer and we know that egg prices rise every fall through winter), canned juice concentrate (also takes up little room, with cans fitting in gaps between other items), and some butter (but only if found on sale). 

With surplus garden or foraged produce -- if my freezer space were limited, I would focus on canning those items. And for the milk, I would keep powdered milk on hand instead of freezing gallon jugs of milk, as milk takes up a lot of space in a freezer and powdered is a good alternative in an emergency.

Also, you should know that I have other foods in my freezer, just none that I bought specifically to get through an extended period without shopping. For example, I freeze leftovers, homemade stock, homemade bread and buns, ice cream in season, other meat that I find great deals on, some frozen veggies, and odds and ends from the garden. These are items that we use on a regular basis and are not held aside to use at a later date.

In addition to the emergency pantry, we have always planned on using the garden and orchard for at least a little fresh produce from March through October. The garden and orchard have always been a component of our "back-up plan."

Next week, I'll share how I ensure we use everything spread over a long period, while maintaining a lot of variety every week.


  1. Stand alone freezers are so helpful, aren't they? You store more dairy than we do. Ours has fruits, veggies, and meat as the main items, along with some breads, butter, jams and jellies. I use the freezer over the fridge for smaller items that I like to have at my fingertips (sausage links for our Sunday brunch, mozzarella cheese, meat that I intend to use soon, ice cream). Somehow that freezer always ends up sort of messy, probably because I'm in it more. I'm always baffled at people who want a huge fridge--we must use our freezer more than the average family does. It just seems easier to me to have things in storage there and to bring it out as I need it.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Our freezer in the kitchen is always a mess. I think it's because we're stashing lots of small packets of things in there (leftovers, the last bit of something, small amounts of herbs, etc). Fortunately, it's the smallest of our freezers, so only so much stuff to go through when looking for a particular item. In the ideal world, I'd have both a walk-in fridge and a walk-in freezer. I love the luxury of space!

      Have a lovely Sunday, Kris.

  2. You are so organized. How long will 30 lbs of butter last you?

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      30 lbs should last about 1 year for us. We use about 1/2 lb per week for things like spreading on toast or adding to rice/oatmeal/potatoes/veggies (2 of us need to put on or keep up weight more than others), plus an extra little bit for baking (less than 1/4 lb/week on average). Does 30 lbs sound like a lot or a little butter?

      have a great day, Live and Learn.

  3. I would add nuts and chocolate chips to this list because it keeps the nuts from going rancid and hides the chocolate chips so you have some for baking.-Kathryn

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      Ha ha! I have hidden chocolate chips in the freezer before. Freezing them also makes them slightly less appealing to snack on -- not as melty and chocolatey when frozen. For the most part, I keep the choc chips tucked away in a cupboard and we seem to leave them alone.

      You're right, I do keep bagged nuts in the freezer so they'll keep longer. Thanks for mentioning that! I'll keep a small amount of nuts in the baking cupboard when I know I'll be using them soon and my freezer space is limited (like in autumn).

      I've read that you can keep nuts at room temp for a few months, in the fridge for a year, and about 2 years in the freezer. But I've kept nuts in the freezer for more than 2 years without any issues. Shelled nuts tend to pick up odors and I think that may be why experts suggest using freezer-stored nuts within 2 years.

      have a great day, Kathryn!

  4. I'm on the same page as those with a messy kitchen freezer. That is just where daily usage things land and it becomes quite messy. I often move things from there to the deep freezer just to make a bit more room.

    We use the deep freezer for EVERYTHING. It is very useful for us as we are in it every single day. I wish I had more room for milk and I did freeze milk during the early days of this pandemic. I feel like I will need to keep space for more as we enter late summer, fall, and winter. We also use our deep freezer for meat, veggies, breads, jams, butter, chocolate chips, oatmeal, pretzels, flour, sugar (white and brown).

    My husband thought we could eliminate the deep freezer and I was thinking about it but I just can't give it up. He doesn't do much cooking so he really can't fully appreciate having variety at hand.


    1. Hi Alice,
      That's interesting that you use your freezer for sugar. What does freezing do for white sugar? I learn something new here all of the time.

      As I get older (and as my kids move into their adult lives more) I see us keeping a freezer, not because of a large family to feed, but so I can be free from grocery shopping so often. Spare freezer space can be beneficial at almost all phases of adult life. I can appreciate the variety that you're able to have in meals with your deep freeze.

      Have a great day, Alice!

    2. I put sugar in my freezer to free up space in my pantry. It has done very well for me and once it thaws it is just as good as right off the store shelf. I also want to make sure there is nothing moving around in my flour, sugar, brown sugar, or oatmeal so they all go in the freezer right after I purchase them.

      I also will not go without a freezer once the kids are all on their own. I don't want to run to the store for every little thing.


    3. Hi Alice,
      thanks for this information. After my bug problem with cornmeal/polenta in the sprung, I've been keeping new purchases of cornmeal in the freezer.

  5. A few months ago, we made an inventory of our freezer goods, so we could strategize a shopping list for the entire year. The list is very helpful since we can't remember longer than a day what is in the freezer and the quantity. We add and subtract as best we can.

    The freezer is an absolute money saver, especially since we are not paying additional for electricity (PV panels). Leftovers, near expiry pantry items, bug infested dry goods, extra garden produce, nuts and chocolates that we intend to enjoy sparingly, clearance hoards.

    Have a nice day!!

    1. Hi Laura,
      An inventory of some sort is practically a necessity if you have lots of different items in the freezer. It is so easy to forget what is in there, isn't it? I would rather use my *limited* personal memory space for more interesting topics that what is in my freezer. Ha ha!

      Thank you! You have a nice day too, Laura!


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