How I Save Money by Eating Down the Freezer

published Feb 5, 2015
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(Image credit: Jessica Fisher)

Twice a year, I unplug my deep freeze for a few weeks. It gets a chance to thaw, the ice melting off the sides. I wipe it down, and I save a few kilowatts in energy rather than running an empty freezer.

Why do I have an empty freezer?

In January and July, I do what I call the Pantry Challenge. I focus on using up what we have rather than buying more. I work with my most perishable items, those in the fridge and freezer, before moving to my canned goods. Each time I do this, we save hundreds of dollars in grocery money. In fact, last month’s challenge reaped our family a $650 savings, off our typical $1200 bill.

I don’t have a ton of storage space and my freezer wasn’t that full to begin with, but apparently I had still stocked enough away to feed our family of 8 for less than $600.

How I Eat Down the Freezer

Here’s what my planning looks like to “eat down the freezer”:

  1. Take Inventory: I take a new, fresh inventory of what we have because I like the clean start.
  2. Make Meal Lists: I make two lists: one for meals that I can make with what I have on hand, and the other for the few grocery items I might need to supplement those meals.
  3. Set a Goal: I make some goals. I had no idea we would save so much this time around, but I had planned to spend as little as possible. That was my goal.
  4. Get Creative: I get creative. Even though I make a meal plan, sometimes I go off the track and am stuck not knowing what to make for supper. One day when I thought we really were at the end of our stores, I found two sausages I thought I had used and made my Chicken Pot Pie with sausage instead. We used up something from the freezer and moved a little bit closer to saving more money.

You might not have enough to go a whole month, but most people I talk to have enough in their freezers to go a week without shopping. When you focus on what you have, you save money, but you also learn better shopping habits. When you’re forced to use up a bad purchase, it teaches you.

Eating down the freezer can help you save money, appreciate what you have, teach you to shop and meal plan better, and help you waste less. It also gives you a clean slate for filling it back up with things you love!

Join The Kitchn’s Freezer Cure!

Take four weeks to eat down your freezer, get it organized, and stock it back up with useful staples and great meals.