Public Food Lockers: Making Bulk Shopping Manageable

Everybody likes a deal. Buying in bulk is very popular and quite a number of big box stores operate on the principle of more is less. A common problem to buying in bulk is where to store the purchase, especially food.

Food Locker 2A Ithaca 267x267 Public Food Lockers: Making Bulk Shopping ManageableWe don’t want to run to the grocery store every few days. This costs us time and money. It would be easier if we had some kind of pantry to store our food. Even worse is freezing food or buying frozen food in quantity. Our refrigerator freezer just isn’t large enough to accommodate the “specials” we have found.

Yes, we could also buy a separate freezer, but that’s a big cost. Do we have room for the freezer? What are the electrical costs to running both a refrigerator and a freezer? On average, a refrigerator or a freezer can run between $75.00 and $200.00 each year, depending on geography, size of the unit, or age of the appliance (

A cheaper solution may be the public food locker. Public food lockers were very common in the 1940s before home freezers became a reality. There were some 6,000 lockers in the United States at that time. Ernest C. Janke, President of the Utah Frozen Food Lockers Association predicted in 1945 that food lockers would not diminish when home freezers became common (The Deseret News, December 12, 1945). Oh, was he wrong. Food lockers went into decline and have remained so until recently.

Food Locker 3A Ithaca 267x267 Public Food Lockers: Making Bulk Shopping ManageableBetween the 1950s and the 1970s, the Springville Meat Company had about 1,000 locker customers. Again, home refrigerators/freezers caused this number to drop dramatically. Food lockers were often a part of a meat processing plant. The largest user of food lockers were traditionally farmers and hunters.

Today, the food or meat locker is making a return. Consumers have found that it is more cost effective to store their meat and frozen foods in a public locker. If you can purchase meat from a local farmer, you can learn how these animals were raised. Economically, it makes great sense to keep money in your community, instead of sending it off to some conglomerate grocery chain. In Corning, New York, a new locker business, the Finger Lakes Meat Project, has opened with great local interest. They offer a 25-gallon bin for $8.00 a month or an 18-gallon bin for $5.00. You can go in anytime and take meat home or bring more in; the bin is yours to use (

Food Locker 4A Ithaca 187x267 Public Food Lockers: Making Bulk Shopping ManageableDown the road in Ithaca, the locker project allows you to find a farmer selling what you want and then storing it at the locker. The price per pound is usually less than the grocery store price, as you’ve cut out the middle man. Not only is using a locker efficient, it is necessary for you if you don’t have your own freezer or live in an apartment. Here, the bin prices are $3.00 and $5.00. This locker has been so successful, there is a waiting list for members.

The money you save by buying locally, in bulk, and using a food or meat locker, is money you have to spend elsewhere. Expect to see these lockers grow in popularity. Perhaps your town will have one soon.