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Is COVID-19 Causing a Freezer Shortage in the U.S.?

If you’ve shopped for a freezer lately, the long waiting list or outright unavailability of the appliances might surprise you. After all, in the U.S., people are used to going to the store and walking out the same day with whatever product they want. But the truth is that people in the U.S. are currently experiencing a freezer shortage.

The problem is, you don’t want your food to spoil, but you also want to stock up. It’s hard to imagine that the freezer shortage won’t affect you in some way. But the good news is, all is not lost.

Before we look at alternatives, you should know why there is a freezer shortage in the first place.

Why Is There a Freezer Shortage in the U.S.?

Since the lockdowns began, people have been stocking up on food, and the more food they purchase or grow, the more room they need to store it. That increased demand puts pressure on manufacturers to make more freezers to meet consumer’s needs.

For instance, one couple decided to double the size of their garden to prepare for more fallout from the pandemic. And then when they went looking for a freezer to store it all in, sellers told them it could take months to get one.

After months of searching, they finally turned to other ways of preserving their harvest.

Ironically, at the same time that consumer demand for freezer’s increased, the industry implemented a new conversion to hydrocarbon refrigerants.

This conversion helps manufacturers comply with states that have new environmental regulations.

Unfortunately, that meant factories had to retool their assembly lines to meet the new requirements. And that’s right about the time that the lockdowns went into effect.

According to Martin Hartunian, the CEO of ABC Warehouse, the coronavirus makes it more difficult for retailers to fill orders because of supply chain disruptions due to the virus.

It was a perfect storm. The combination of increased consumer demand, new conversion requirements, and COVID lockdowns are to blame for people’s inability to buy a freezer.

What to Do About the Freezer Shortage

Now that you know why the U.S. is experiencing a freezer shortage, you can begin to make other plans to store the extra food you buy or grow.

Here are some tips that will ensure your food doesn’t go to waste.

Order and wait

If you have enough room in your existing freezer, you can always pack it tight and wait until freezers become available again.

That may make it inconvenient when you have to pull out a lot of food every time you want something from the freezer, but it is certainly an option.

If you choose this option, learn to make better use of your freezer space.

For instance, you can break down large packages into small ones by using freezer bags. You may also utilize shelves in your freezer that allow you to stacks items and take up less space. If you have a smaller freezer, like a chest freezer, you will have to learn to be even more conservative with your space.

Repair your freezer

If your old freezer quit working, it may make more sense to repair it rather than waiting months for a new one. Depending on the issue, you may be able to take some simple steps to get your freezer back in working order.

Here is a quick video that outlines six things that could cause a freezer to quit cooling. This video will allow you to troubleshoot your freezer before calling out a professional. Who knows? You may be able to buy the parts and repair it yourself.

In the above video, one of the elements that you need to troubleshoot is the evaporator coil.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to determine whether or not yours is working. This next quick video will walk you step-by-step through the process.

If you determine that all six of the issues mentioned in the video are not the cause of the problem, it’s time to call out a professional.

Use your homeowner’s warranty or call an independent freezer repair technician and get a quote for the repair.

Freezer Shortage? Preserve Your Food Another Way

If you can’t wait to order another fridge and your current one isn’t repairable, it’s time to get creative and look for other ways to preserve your food.

For centuries, people have used alternative methods of preserve food, and those options are still available to us now.

Freezer shortage? That’s okay! Here are a few ways you can preserve your food without a freezer.

Dehydrate your food

One of the easiest ways to preserve fruits and vegetables is by dehydrating them. When you take all of the moisture out of food, it eliminates the chance of developing mold or going bad.

You can dehydrate food in three ways. And as a bonus, when you dehydrate food, it intensifies the flavor. Think those home-grown tomatoes taste good now? Wait until you taste them after you dehydrate them!

Buy a food dehydrator

Food dehydrators are inexpensive and easy to use. They have round trays surrounding a center bar and use heat and air to remove all moisture from the produce.

To use one, chop your fruit or vegetables so that the pieces are equal in size. Then, lay them out in a single layer on each of the trays. Next, turn on the dehydrator and run it until all moisture is gone from the produce.

That typically takes 5 to 14 hours, depending on the water content in the produce. Properly dehydrated food can last up to five years.

Food dehydrators come in all sizes and prices, so you can find the one that’s right for you. For instance, if you’re looking for an inexpensive, compact food dehydrator, the  Commercial Chef #CCD100W6 fits the bill.

It has five stacking trays and adjustable temperature control that allows you to decide how you dehydrate each type of your produce.

Use your oven

If you don’t own a dehydrator, you can use your oven to dehydrate both fruits and vegetables.

To do it, cut your product into quarter-inch slices, then place them on a baking sheet. Then, turn your oven to the lowest possible setting and put the baking tray in the oven.

Cook them at this setting until all the moisture is gone. That typically takes six to eight hours.

Dry it outside

When you use the sun to dehydrate vegetables, it will add another level of sweetness to them. Herbs and tomatoes work perfectly using this method.

To dehydrate your produce this way, slice your tomatoes very thin and lay them out on a baking sheet. Then, place a fine mesh over the sheet so bugs won’t attack your goodies!

Next, place the tray outdoors in a sunny spot. Leave the herbs or tomatoes out in the sun for a couple of days or until the tomatoes or herbs dry completely.

Get into canning

People have been preserving food with canning for a long time. Many people are afraid of the process because of old stories about exploding pressure canners, but today’s equipment is safe to use.

If you’re going to can food, it’s vital that you follow the directions on established recipes precisely. If food is incorrectly canned, it can lead to botulism, which can be deadly.

As long as you follow tried and true recipes, canning food is a great way to preserve it for very long periods.

The most important aspect of canning correctly is knowing which type of canning method to use for each food. Here’s a rundown of each.

Water bath canning

If your food is acidic — think pickled vegetables, tomatoes with added acidity, or sugar preserves — you will use the water bath canning method. To do this, you will need a stockpot with a lid, a rack for the bottom of the pan, and canning jars.

Once you load the canning jars with the ingredients in the recipe, simply submerge the jars into the pot, put the lid on, and let the water boil for the length of time listed in the recipe.

The acidity in the ingredients will preserve the food. And once you take out the jars, the canning lids will seal to the jars, making it possible to store the food for years safely.

Pressure canning

Pressure canning is not the same thing as pressure cooking. When you pressure can produce or meats, you use pressure and intense heat to preserve the food.

Any food that is not naturally acidic, you must can using a pressure canner. That type of equipment can heat water to a temperature hotter than boiling water, making it impossible for botulism spores to survive.

The types of foods you will use for pressure canning are meats and any vegetables that are not pickled. That list includes soups and broths.

The pressure canner consists of a vent, pressure gauge, and some screw clamps to keep the lid on during the canning process.

To pressure can your produce or meat, it’s essential to follow the recipe exactly. It will tell you how to pack the jars, at what temperature to set the gauge, and for how long.

If you follow the instructions, you can store the cans for years.

When purchasing a pressure canner, look for one that includes the rack and a solid set of instructions. Some, like the T-fal Pressure Cooker #7114000511, even have a recipe book for your convenience.

Store it

If you live in an area where the temperatures don’t reach above 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, you can extend your harvest (or purchase) by storing it in a cellar or other cold, dark area.

Produce such as winter squash, carrots, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes will stay good for four to six months using this method.

Ferment it

Fermenting food not only helps you store all the extra produce, but it also adds nutrients to the food that will boost your health. Fermenting foods may sound scary, but it’s as simple as following a few steps.

To start, decide which vegetables you want to ferment. You can ferment one at a time or combine a few of them to create a unique and healthy dish.

Next, you need to determine which equipment to buy. You can purchase specialized fermentation vessels or simply use a crockpot.

Once you decide on the basics, it’s time to ferment your vegetables. You can chop them, shred them, or leave them whole. How you preserve them is entirely up to you.

Next, add salt, salt and whey, or a starter culture as the fermentation method.

Your next step is to prepare the brine and fill the vessel with the vegetables. Use a heavy object on top of a plate to weigh it down, and then leave it alone for a few days.

Once the vegetables reach your desired level of fermentation, move them to a cool spot.

When Will the Freezer Shortage End?

As of this writing, manufacturers aren’t saying when the freezer shortage will end. But they are working on getting freezers out to everyone who is on waiting lists.

Some retail stores are posting freezer updates on their websites. That helps to keep consumers informed about current inventory and expected delivery dates. In the meantime, why not do some research and learn about the best freezers for your home?

That way, once the freezer shortage is over, you will know which model to buy.

Have you had a difficult time buying a freezer lately? If so, we’d love to hear your experiences with the current freezer shortage!