How long in freezer

Table of Contents

How Long Does Food Last in the Freezer? A Storage Guide

You can freeze virtually all foods (with the exception of some, e.g. eggs in the shell which expand and crack). Food can remain frozen indefinitely and technically be safe to eat, as bacteria will not grow. However, over time all frozen food will deteriorate in quality and become unappetising to eat when defrosted. The time it takes for this deterioration to happen varies between foods.

Storage times for frozen food varies depending on the type of food and what type of freezer you have. Freezers have a star rating to indicate how long food can be safely stored. Checking this rating, as well as instructions on food packaging, is a good starting point for determining how long you can safely keep frozen food.

The Freezer Star Ratings

* = the freezer temperature is -6°c and food can be stored for 1 week.

** = the freezer temperature is -12°c and food can be stored for 1 month.

*** = the freezer temperature is -18°c and food can be stored for 3 months.

**** = the freezer temperature is -18°c and food can be stored for 3 months or longer.

Look at the packaging of frozen food to find guidance on how long the food can be stored using freezers of a certain star ratings. Also, be aware that freezers should ideally always run at -18°c.

How Long Do Frozen Vegetables Last?

Vegetables can be frozen for up to 8-12 months. Their frozen life varies depending on the best by date, the preparation method, and how they are stored. Keep them at a constant temperature and do not continuously refreeze them.

With proper storage, they can often last beyond the date. But they will have likely deteriorated in quality and may not be as appetising or nutritious. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.

You can usually tell by looking if frozen veg isn’t fit to eat anymore. Indications include excessive, caked-on ice crystals, a loss of colour in the veg, and a shrivelled state.

Consider puréeing high water content vegetables (like tomatoes) before freezing, particularly if you intend to use them in that condition, e.g. for sauce.

How long Does Frozen Fruit Last?

Fruit can be frozen for around 8 months. It can last for longer if it has been unopened. Its life also depends on its best by date at the time of freezing, how it was prepared, and how it is being stored. Keep them at a constant temperature and do not continuously refreeze them.

Fruit usually has best before dates, meaning it can last beyond this time if stored properly. But the taste and texture may have changed, so use your common sense to tell whether it’s still good to eat or not.

Fruit that has a dull colour or frosty look, with white-coloured ice, is probably well past its best and will taste bland.

Follow these tips when freezing fruit:

  • Purée or stew fruits (such as apples and strawberries) that you intend to use in jam, pie fillings, smoothies, and sauces. This saves space and can help it stay fresh for longer. For products such as strawberries that do not freeze well, it is especially beneficial.
  • Consider making fruits into sorbet or ice cream products to be served directly from frozen.
  • If serving frozen fruits as fresh, serve them when they still have a small amount of ice remaining. This gives them a firmer texture.

Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken?

In short: yes. You can freeze virtually all types of cooked meat, as long as you do it properly. Many ready meals, which contain meat, are cooked and then frozen, so the same principle applies to home freezing.

Make sure you cook the chicken thoroughly and leave it to cool before freezing (don’t leave it for longer than 2 hours though).

Keep frozen cooked meat for no longer than three to six months.

Follow any instructions for home freezing on the packaging of chicken and other meats. Consider marinating it before cooking to improve the texture or flavour for when it’s defrosted.

Follow these tips when freezing chicken, fish, pork, beef, and other meat:

  • Trim off excess fat before freezing. Greater amounts of fat increase the risk of rancidity occurring during frozen storage (this doesn’t make it unsafe, but makes it unappetising to eat).
  • Always defrost meat slowly and safely, preferably for a few hours in the fridge. Make sure it’s in a suitable container and on the lowest shelf (not in the veg drawer) so it doesn’t drip onto other foods.
  • Do not cook chicken directly from frozen. You must defrost it first.
  • Don’t put stuffing in meat or poultry before freezing. It can keep growing bacteria before it’s fully frozen.
  • Wrap the meat properly or keep it in sealed containers, otherwise it may get freezer-burn.

Can You Freeze Mince Meat?

Yes. The best way to freeze it is flat, rather than rounded. This enables the mince to freeze and thaw evenly.

Keep it in the freezer for no longer than 2 to 3 months.

Always follow home freezing instructions on the packaging if you’re uncertain. Also, be sure to cook it as soon as possible after defrosting.

If all the meat has turned a greyish colour, it’s an indication that it is no longer good.

Can You Freeze Sausages and Bacon?

Yes. You can keep sausages and bacon frozen for up to 2 months before they deteriorate in quality. They will still be safe to eat after 2 months but may have lost some of their flavour and texture. Remember that the fat on meat goes rancid if left too long (it will look and taste unpleasant, but isn’t dangerous), so trim fatty bacon before freezing.

How Long Does Frozen Bread Last?

You can keep bread and pastries, such as cakes, frozen for up to 3 months before they start to lose their quality.

Follow these tips when freezing bread:

  • Make sure you keep it in an air-tight, freezer-safe container or in its original packaging.
  • Bread fresh from an in-store bakery is often open or wrapped in paper or thin film that will prevent the bread from freezing well. Replace them with sealable freezer bags or plastic freezer wrap when freezing.
  • If freezing your own baked bread, be sure to let it cool before freezing to prevent sogginess or mould.
  • When defrosting bread, remove any ice within the pack, as this can thaw and cause the bread to become soggy in places.

Other Tips For Freezing Food

  • Leftovers and batch cooking can last for up to 3 months in the freezer. Try to minimise overfilling plates, or serve from a central bowl, so that it’s easier to freeze leftovers from the pan. Make sure to put it in an air-tight container.
  • Raw eggs can be frozen for up to 12 months, but must be removed from the shell and blended together. If you want to freeze either the yolk or white separately for use, be sure to separate them, but be aware that the yolk may thicken. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to 1/4 cup of egg yolk for savoury cooking or 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar for sweet dishes.
  • Freeze sauces separately (from the pasta or rice) if possible, as sauces generally store for longer.
  • Sauces (that you’ve made to go with rice or pasta) may thicken in the freezer. Therefore, you should add extra water after thawing (when reheating the meal) rather than before freezing.
  • Milk can sometimes curdle or separate when frozen, depending on its fat content. Semi or full skimmed milk is likely to freeze most successfully. Don’t worry if it separates; after thawing simply shake the bottle. The same is true for yogurt: just give it a good stir.

What To Read Next:

  • What Can I Cook From Frozen?
  • How to Reduce Food Waste at Home
  • Food Hygiene Quiz
  • Level 2 Food Hygiene Training for Catering

Tags:

Food SafetyHospitality

How long do vegetables last?

Do you buy fresh veggies at the farmers market? Harvest them from your own garden? Freeze lots of food in the fridge? Save leftovers from big holiday feasts? Whatever the case, you should know the shelf life and proper storage of fruits and vegetables, to prevent spoilage and waste. Plant-based foods are all about freshness, flavor, and nutrition.

So, to get the most of that goodness from your greens, here’s the lowdown on how long veggies last:

1. Fresh Veggies
The fresher the healthier: Fruits and vegetables straight from the farm or garden are super high in nutrition. How you store them —temperature, water, the air around them — is important for maintaining their vitamins, minerals, flavor, and appearance. Basically, you should keep veggies at the lowest temperature they can withstand without injury.
Store them right: Some vegetables like to be kept at above freezing (broccoli, kale, peas) in the fridge, while others like temperatures a little higher (eggplant, onions, pumpkins). Humidity matters too: Transpiration (loss of water) affects how long fruits and veggies last; some like it cold and humid (honeydew melon, peppers, sweet potatoes), and others prefer cool and dry (garlic, onions, pumpkins). For reference, keep these handy charts from Vegetable Gardener in your kitchen:

Storage and Shelf-Life Charts

Bookmark EatByDate’s extensive, searchable directory of vegetables, how long each one lasts (fresh or cooked), plus helpful nutrition notes.

2. Frozen Veggies
Fresh to frozen offers variety: Fresh fruits and veggies are seasonal, so freezing them when they’re available lets you enjoy them year-round. When frozen at their peak of freshness — especially if “flash frozen” (frozen quickly at extremely cold temperatures) — and stored in freezer-safe containers at a constant temperature, they retain their nutrients. And, if they were properly stored beforehand, they can last in the freezer for 8 to 10 months.
What about packaged frozen? The shelf life of store-bought frozen vegetables depends on the preparation method and how they were stored before freezing. Your first hint is the “best by date” (best if used by) stamped on the package. But, that isn’t an expiration date, so you can use the vegetables past that date if they still look and taste good.
Veestro does fresh frozen: Veestro’s plant-based, preservative-free meals are delivered to you fresh frozen to seal in their nutrients, and they will last up to 8 weeks in the freezer and one week in the fridge.

3. Cooked Veggies
Love leftovers! You can store cooked veggies in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. If stored much longer, mold might develop. Bear in mind that fruits and vegetables with higher water content (cucumber, strawberry, tomato) lose their flavor and quality faster than lower-water varieties (garlic, lima bean, potato), and seasonings added during cooking can shorten the storage time. So, freeze any extras right away for healthy leftovers later!

Learn more about War on Waste: Are Fresh Veggies Healthier than Frozen?

Sources:Kathryn Khosia, “Keeping the Harvest Fresh” and “How Long Will Your Vegetables Last?” Vegetable Gardener Magazine, The Taunton Press

“The Shelf Life of Fresh Vegetables: How Long Do Fresh Vegetables Last?” and “The Shelf Life of Frozen Vegetables: How Long Do Frozen Vegetables Last?” EatByDate “How Long Do Cooked Vegetables Keep?” Reference, IAC Publishing

FSIS

  • What Can You Freeze?
  • Is Frozen Food Safe?
  • Does Freezing Destroy Bacteria & Parasites?
  • Freshness & Quality
  • Nutrient Retention
  • Enzymes
  • Packaging
  • Freezer Burn
  • Color Changes
  • Freeze Rapidly
  • Freezer – Refrigerator Temperatures
  • Freezer Storage Time
  • Safe Thawing
  • Refreezing
  • Cooking Frozen Foods
  • Power Outage in Freezer
  • Frozen Cans
  • Frozen Eggs
  • Freezer Storage Chart

Foods in the freezer — are they safe? Every year, thousands of callers to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline aren’t sure about the safety of items stored in their own home freezers. The confusion seems to be based on the fact that few people understand how freezing protects food. Here is some information on how to freeze food safely and how long to keep it.
What Can You Freeze?
You can freeze almost any food. Some exceptions are canned food or eggs in shells. However, once the food (such as a ham) is out of the can, you may freeze it.
Being able to freeze food and being pleased with the quality after defrosting are two different things. Some foods simply don’t freeze well. Examples are mayonnaise, cream sauce and lettuce. Raw meat and poultry maintain their quality longer than their cooked counterparts because moisture is lost during cooking.

Is Frozen Food Safe?
Food stored constantly at 0 °F will always be safe. Only the quality suffers with lengthy freezer storage. Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.

Does Freezing Destroy Bacteria & Parasites?
Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts and molds — present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Since they will then grow at about the same rate as microorganisms on fresh food, you must handle thawed items as you would any perishable food.
Trichina and other parasites can be destroyed by sub-zero freezing temperatures. However, very strict government-supervised conditions must be met. Home freezing cannot be relied upon to destroy trichina. Thorough cooking, however, will destroy all parasites.

Freshness & Quality
Freshness and quality at the time of freezing affect the condition of frozen foods. If frozen at peak quality, thawed foods emerge tasting better than foods frozen near the end of their useful life. So freeze items you won’t use quickly sooner rather than later. Store all foods at 0° F or lower to retain vitamin content, color, flavor and texture.

Nutrient Retention
The freezing process itself does not destroy nutrients. In meat and poultry products, there is little change in nutrient value during freezer storage.

Enzymes
Enzyme activity can lead to the deterioration of food quality. Enzymes present in animals, vegetables, and fruit promote chemical reactions before and after harvest, such as ripening. Freezing only slows the enzyme activity that takes place in foods. It does not halt them.
Enzyme activity does not harm frozen meats or fish and is neutralized by the acids in frozen fruits. But most vegetables that freeze well are low acid and require brief, partial cooking to prevent deterioration. This is called “blanching.” For successful freezing, blanch or partially cook vegetables in boiling water or in a microwave oven. Then rapidly chill the vegetables prior to freezing and storage. Consult a cookbook for timing.

Packaging
Proper packaging helps maintain quality and prevent freezer burn. It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its original packaging, however this type of wrap is permeable to air and quality may diminish over time. For prolonged storage, overwrap these packages as you would any food for long-term storage. It is not necessary to rinse meat and poultry. Freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If you notice that a package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer, the food is still safe to use; merely overwrap or rewrap it.

Freezer Burn
Freezer burn does not make food unsafe, merely dry in spots. It appears as grayish-brown leathery spots and is caused by air coming in contact with the surface of the food. Cut freezer-burned portions away either before or after cooking the food. Heavily freezer-burned foods may have to be discarded for quality reasons.

Color Changes
Color changes can occur in frozen foods. The bright red color of meat as purchased usually turns dark or pale brown depending on its variety. This may be due to lack of oxygen, freezer burn or abnormally long storage.
Freezing doesn’t usually cause color changes in poultry. However, the bones and the meat near them can become dark. Bone darkening results when pigment seeps through the porous bones of young poultry into the surrounding tissues when the poultry meat is frozen and thawed.
The dulling of color in frozen vegetables and cooked foods is usually the result of excessive drying due to improper packaging or over-lengthy storage.

Freeze Rapidly
Freeze food as fast as possible to maintain its quality. Rapid freezing prevents undesirable large ice crystals from forming throughout the product because the molecules don’t have time to form into the characteristic six-sided snowflake. Slow freezing creates large, disruptive ice crystals. During thawing, they damage the cells and dissolve emulsions. This causes meat to “drip” and lose juiciness. Emulsions such as mayonnaise or cream will separate and appear curdled.
Ideally, a food 2-inches thick should freeze completely in about 2 hours. If your home freezer has a “quick-freeze” shelf, use it. Never stack packages to be frozen. Instead, spread them out in one layer on various shelves, stacking them only after frozen solid.

Freezer – Refrigerator Temperatures
If a refrigerator freezing compartment can’t maintain zero degrees or if the door is opened frequently, use it for short-term food storage. Eat those foods as soon as possible for best quality. Use a free-standing freezer set at 0 °F or below for long-term storage of frozen foods. Keep an appliance thermometer in your freezing compartment or freezer to check the temperature. This is important if you experience power-out or mechanical problems. The temperature in the refrigerator should be set at 40 °F or below. Check the refrigerator temperature with an appliance thermometer.

Freezer Storage Time
Because freezing keeps food safe almost indefinitely, recommended storage times are for quality only. Refer to the freezer storage chart at the end of this document, which lists optimum freezing times for best quality.
If a food is not listed on the chart, you may determine its quality after thawing. First check the odor. Some foods will develop a rancid or off odor when frozen too long and should be discarded. Some may not look picture perfect or be of high enough quality to serve alone but may be edible; use them to make soups or stews.

Safe Thawing
Never thaw foods in a garage, basement, car, dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat.
There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Small items may defrost overnight; most foods require a day or two. And large items like turkeys may take longer, approximately one day for each 5 pounds of weight.
For faster thawing, place food in a leak proof plastic bag and immerse it in cold water. (If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Tissues can also absorb water like a sponge, resulting in a watery product.) Check the water frequently to be sure it stays cold. Change the water every 30 minutes. After thawing, cook immediately.
When microwave-defrosting food, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.

Refreezing
Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.
If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly.

Cooking Frozen Foods
Raw or cooked meat, poultry or casseroles can be cooked or reheated from the frozen state. However, it will take approximately one and a half times as long to cook. Remember to discard any wrapping or absorbent paper from meat or poultry.
When cooking whole frozen poultry, remove the giblet pack from the cavity as soon as you can loosen it. Cook the giblets separately. Read the label on USDA-inspected frozen meat and poultry products. Some, such as pre-stuffed whole birds, MUST be cooked from the frozen state to ensure a safely cooked product.
LOOK FOR THE USDA OR STATE MARK OF INSPECTION
The inspection mark on the packaging tells you the product was prepared in a USDA or State-inspected plant under controlled conditions. Follow the package directions for thawing, reheating, and storing.

Power Outage in Freezer
If there is a power outage, the freezer fails, or if the freezer door has been left ajar by mistake, the food may still be safe to use if ice crystals remain. If the freezer has failed and a repairman is on the way, or it appears the power will be on soon, don’t open the freezer door. If the freezer door was left ajar and the freezer continued to keep the food cold, the food should stay safe.
A freezer full of food will usually keep about 2 days if the door is kept shut; a half-full freezer will last about a day. The freezing compartment in a refrigerator may not keep foods frozen as long. If the freezer is not full, quickly group packages together so they will retain the cold more effectively. Separate meat and poultry items from other foods so if they begin to thaw, their juices won’t drip onto other foods.
When the power is off, you may want to put dry ice, block ice, or bags of ice in the freezer or transfer foods to a friend’s freezer until power is restored. Use an appliance thermometer to monitor the temperature.
To determine the safety of foods when the power goes on, check their condition and temperature. If food is partly frozen, still has ice crystals, or is as cold as if it were in a refrigerator (40 °F), it is safe to refreeze or use. It’s not necessary to cook raw foods before refreezing. Discard foods that have been warmer than 40 °F for more than 2 hours. Discard any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices. Dispose of soft or melted ice cream for quality’s sake.
When it is freezing outside and there is snow on the ground, the outdoors seems like a good place to keep food until the power comes on; however, frozen food can thaw if it is exposed to the sun’s rays even when the temperature is very cold. Refrigerated food may become too warm and foodborne bacteria could grow. The outside temperature could vary hour by hour and the temperature outside will not protect refrigerated and frozen food. Additionally, perishable items could be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to animals. Animals may harbor bacteria or disease; never consume food that has come in contact with an animal.

Frozen Cans
Cans frozen accidentally, such as those left in a car or basement in sub-zero temperatures, can present health problems. If the cans are merely swollen — and you are sure the swelling was caused by freezing — the cans may still be usable. Let the can thaw in the refrigerator before opening. If the product doesn’t look and/or smell normal, throw it out. DO NOT TASTE IT! If the seams have rusted or burst, throw the cans out immediately, wrapping the burst can in plastic and disposing the food where no one, including animals can get it.

Frozen Eggs
Shell eggs should not be frozen. If an egg accidentally freezes and the shell cracked during freezing, discard the egg. Keep any uncracked eggs frozen until needed; then thaw in the refrigerator. These can be hard cooked successfully but other uses may be limited. That’s because freezing causes the yolk to become thick and syrupy so it will not flow like an unfrozen yolk or blend very well with the egg white or other ingredients.

Freezer Storage Chart (0 °F)
Note: Freezer storage is for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely.

Item Months
Bacon and Sausage 1 to 2
Casseroles 2 to 3
Egg whites or egg substitutes 12
Frozen Dinners and Entrees 3 to 4
Gravy, meat or poultry 2 to 3
Ham, Hotdogs and Lunchmeats 1 to 2
Meat, uncooked roasts 4 to 12
Meat, uncooked steaks or chops 4 to 12
Meat, uncooked ground 3 to 4
Meat, cooked 2 to 3
Poultry, uncooked whole 12
Poultry, uncooked parts 9
Poultry, uncooked giblets 3 to 4
Poultry, cooked 4
Soups and Stews 2 to 3
Wild game, uncooked 8 to 12

5 Frozen Foods You Shouldn’t Eat Past Their Expiration Date — If You Still Want Them To Taste Good

If you’re anything like me, you likely think of your freezer as that magical space where food stays fresh for an eternity. But, unfortunately, things actually do start to go bad in there. Consequently, there are a few different frozen foods you don’t want to east past their expiration date — at least, not if you want them to taste great.

That’s right, just because your delicious frozen pizzas and bags of tater tots are tucked away in the freezer doesn’t mean you want to keep them for years on end. Food does still expire in there. And, while it’s usually not dangerous to eat these foods after the printed date, they likely won’t taste as good, due to the flavor and texture breaking down over time. After all, do you really want to eat pizza rolls from 2012? I hope not.

Of course, the freezer is great for making things last a little longer. You can chuck everything from an extra loaf of bread to ground beef in there if you aren’t planning on using them in the near future. And, those are typically safe to eat past the printed expiration date — as you extended their shelf life by storing them in the freezer temporarily.

But, what about those food items that are actually meant to live in the freezer full-time? Well, you want to be a little more conscientious about those expiration dates — especially, if you want your meal to taste decent. Here are five frozen foods you don’t want to eat past the expiration date.

P.S. If you want to be on the safe side, just don’t eat anything after it expires. Problem solved.

1. Ice Cream

We’ve all had those intense sweets cravings that inspire us to dig all the way to the back of the freezer and pull out that tub of ice cream from who knows how long ago. You yank off the top and see a thick layer of ice crystals. I’m sure we’ve probably all just scraped those away and continued on with our mission to indulge. But, you likely noticed that your ice cream just didn’t taste as good. That freezer burn can cause an almost dry, chalky, bland taste. So, eating ice cream after it has expired isn’t always the greatest idea. Although, sometimes it’s totally necessary — I get it.

2. Frozen Pizza

Pizza is one of those freezer staples that everybody has. I’m a total pizza-lover, but even I’m guilty of leaving a random pizza in the freezer for too long. Hey, sometimes they just get buried under other things and you forget they’re in there. So, I’ve eaten my fair share of pizzas that were probably a little too far past their prime. While still safe to consume, they definitely have a hard, dry texture. Plus, the crust starts to taste a little spongey and styrofoam-ish. Tasty.

3. Potato Dishes

Whether you have fries, tater tots, or hash browns sitting in your freezer, you probably don’t want to eat them too far past the expiration date. They can definitely get freezer burn, and the cooked texture might seem a little mealy and pulpy. Not exactly the delicious potato dish you were hoping for, right?

4. Vegetables

Purchasing those bags of frozen vegetables is always convenient. After all, they’re available year-round. However, these handy side dishes definitely can go bad. Too long in the freezer and they’ll lose their color, shrivel in size, and start to collect a bunch of ice crystals. All of this results in a really bland and boring taste. Yuck.

5. Ice

Alright, I know this one seems extremely strange. I mean, ice technically isn’t food and it doesn’t even have an expiration date. But, hear me out. You know those plastic ice cube trays that you fill with water and then leave in your freezer? Well, your ice cubes are just as prone to freezer burn as the rest of your freezer food. Plus, ice can easily pick up any other strong, rancid odors that are living in your freezer. So, you’re better to keep your ice in a plastic freezer bag if it’s going to be staying in the freezer for quite some time. And, don’t forget to wash your ice cube trays every couple of weeks!

Images: Steven Depolo, Kyle Brown, Lynne Hand, Chris Campbell, e.c. johnson, sgrace/Flickr

We all rely on our freezers – from keeping a stash of frozen veg to make-ahead meals and midweek/Sunday lunch leftovers. But when was the last time you dug into the depths and did a proper audit on what you’re actually storing?

Now’s a good time to take a look. It could save you money on your weekly food shop if you have food that needs eating. If your freezer needs defrosting, it will be much easier and far safer if there’s not much in it.

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.

Related Story

Can you still use it?

Food can’t live forever in the freezer – meat should be used within six months and bread only lasts four to six months. Any longer and the food will still be safe but the colour, flavour and texture will start to deteriorate. Find our guide to freezer storage times on the handy infographic below:

Good freezing habits

  • Freezers run more efficiently when filled, however be careful to not to pack it too full – air must be able to circulate easily in order to maintain the temperature.
  • Never store away slightly warm foods in the freezer, as these will cause a rise in temperature.
  • When freezing large quantities, use the ‘fast-freeze’ setting if the appliance has one.
  • Pack and seal items in gusseted bags before freezing to avoid moisture or cold air coming into contact with the food or cross-flavouring occurring.
  • Use square or rectangular containers to store food – they stack well and take up less space. We like Lakeland’s Stack-a-Box Containers.
  • When freezing liquids, leave a little space to allow for expansion, so don’t fill containers right to the top.
  • Divide items of food that might stick together with baking parchment, foil or freezer paper.
  • Always label containers with details of the contents, date and quantity/number of servings.

Related Story

The defrosting guide

Freezing is only half the battle! Don’t ruin perfectly saved food in the defrosting process by following these steps:

  • Do not refreeze cooked food one it has defrosted. Raw defrosted food may be frozen once more, only if it has been cooked after defrosting and before re-freezing.
  • Defrosting should follow the manufacturer’s instructions (if available).
  • Defrosting frozen food needs to be done carefully, too. Never leave food to defrost in a warm place (a fridge or cool larder is ideal), cover loosely, and ensure it is thoroughly defrosted before cooking – cook food soon after defrosting.
  • To defrost meat, place it on a tray or plate to catch the juices and always place in the bottom of the fridge. Small pieces should defrost in around six hours, but large joints and turkeys can take up to 48 hours.
  • Meat defrosting in the fridge/microwave should be covered to avoid any cross-contamination.
  • To defrost in a microwave: use the defrost or 50% settings, this will ensure that the outside of the food doesn’t cook during defrosting. At intervals, break up or stir food as it is defrosting. Make sure to cook the food straight away.

Freezer storage essentials

Lakeland Fridge Freezer Thermometer Lakeland lakeland.co.uk £3.99 Freezer Fine Tip Permanent Markers Lakeland lakeland.co.uk £2.99 5 Stack a Boxes Food Storage Containers 2.5L Lakeland lakeland.co.uk £10.99 Lakeland Sealed Freezer Storage Bags Lakeland amazon.co.uk £7.99 Lakeland Silicone Ice Cube Tray Lakeland lakeland.co.uk £9.99 Bacofoil The Non-Stick Kitchen Foil BacoFoil amazon.co.uk £1.90 Reynolds Crafters Freezer Paper Reynolds amazon.co.uk £6.99 essential Waitrose baking parchment Waitrose waitrose.com £2.80

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

SIGN UP

How to Freeze Fruits and Vegetables to Preserve Freshness

When summer gives you heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables, freeze them to enjoy throughout the year. It’s easy! Just follow these tips to preserve summer’s bounty for months to come.

Image zoom Freezing Raspberries | Photo by Meredith

Quick Tips: How to Freeze Fruits and Vegetables

  • Choose produce that’s ripe and unblemished.
  • Before freezing vegetables, blanch and shock vegetables by boiling them briefly, drain, then plunge into ice water. Dry thoroughly.
  • Freeze fruits and vegetables quickly by spreading them in a single layer on a rimmed sheet pan.
  • Store in air-tight containers or freezer bags. Be sure to date the packages.
  • Fill containers to the top and remove as much air as possible from freezer bags.
  • Vegetables that hold up well to cooking (corn, peas) generally freeze well.
  • For better texture, use frozen fruit in recipes before it’s completely thawed.
  • Fruits and veggies freeze best at 0-degrees F or colder.
  • Store frozen fruits for about a year; vegetables, about 18 months. (Storing longer is fine, but the quality may decline.)

Freezing Fruits

  • Wash fruits and sort for damaged fruit before freezing. Some fruits do best with a sugar or sugar-syrup preparation. Blueberries, currants, and cranberries do fine without sugar.
  • Here’s a trick for freezing delicate berries like strawberries or raspberries: Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag or container. You can also prepare delicate berries with sugar or sugar syrup.
  • For fruits that tend to brown, like apples, peaches, nectarines and apricots, treat with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). Look for the powdered form in health food stores, drugstores, and some grocery stores in the vitamin aisle. To make an ascorbic acid wash: Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder (or finely crushed vitamin C tablets) in 3 tablespoons water. Sprinkle this mixture over the cut fruit. An acceptable substitute: Slice the fruit and dip the slices in an acidulated water bath — about one quart water plus a tablespoon of lemon juice — before drying and freezing.

Freezing Vegetables

The best vegetables for freezing are low-acid veggies. When freezing vegetables, first blanch them briefly in boiling water. Then quickly submerge the veggies in ice water to prevent them from cooking. Dry thoroughly on paper towel-lined sheet pans. Why blanch? Blanching prevents enzymes from damaging color, flavor, and nutrients. Blanching also destroys unkind microorganisms that might be lingering on the surface of vegetables. Pack vegetables snuggly to avoid air contact.

  • How to Blanch and Shock Vegetables

Packing Produce for the Freezer

  • The key to packing fruits and veggies for freezing is to keep moisture inside the package and air outside. Contact with air can cause changes in flavor and color. Pack fruit and vegetables in air-tight containers or moisture-proof, heavy-duty freezer bags, and force out as much air as possible. Wrap freezer bags in heavy-duty foil and seal with freezer tape. Stay away from plastic sandwich bags, which are not heavy-duty enough.
  • A few hours before adding food to the freezer, set the freezer to its coldest setting. And don’t overload the freezer (it will slow the freezing process).

Thawing Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Most vegetables can go directly from freezer to boiling water, though corn does best when allowed to thaw a bit first. Fruits are best when allowed to thaw at room temperature. Delicate berries can turn mushy when thawed completely, so consider eating them before they’re thoroughly thawed, such as in smoothies or as a topping for ice cream or yogurt.

When frozen, the water in fruits and veggies expands, causing ice crystals to puncture and break cell walls. As a result, some fruits and veggies tend to get mushy when thawed. To reduce the amount of cellular damage, freeze fruits and veggies as quickly as possible: colder temperatures produce smaller ice crystals, which do less damage to cell walls. The “mushy factor” is also why we recommend eating frozen fruits before they have completely thawed.

Freezer Storage Times ChartHow Long Frozen Food Stays Good

This chart provides freezer storage times for many common frozen food items, so you know how long your frozen food will taste its best. Plus, there’s a free printable cheat sheet showing the freezer storage guidelines too below.

Freezer Storage Guidelines

Bread & Desserts TIme
Baked bread and cookies 3 months
Cakes, pastries and doughnuts 3 months
Muffins and quick breads 3 months
Pancakes and waffles 3 months
Cookie or bread dough 1 month
Produce TIme
Fruits 1 year
Juices 1 year
Vegetables 8 months
Nuts 3 months
Dairy & Eggs TIme
Ice cream 2 months
Butter 9 months
Cheese 3 months
Eggs (raw, not in shells) 1 year
Milk 1 month
Meats TIme
Ground beef, pork & stew meats 4 months
Other beef (i.e., roasts, steaks) 1 year
Lamb and veal 9 months
Ham 2 months
Pork chops 4 months
Pork roast or loin 8 months
Bacon and sausage 1 month
Poultry TIme
Chicken and turkey (whole) 1 year
Chicken and turkey (cuts) 6 months
Ground turkey and chicken 4 months
Seafood TIme
Fatty fish (i.e., mackerel, trout) 3 months
Lean fish (i.e., cod, flounder) 6 months
Crab 10 months
Lobster 1 year
Shrimp and scallops (unbreaded) 1 year
Miscellaneous TIme
Casseroles (cooked) 3 months
Paste and rice (cooked) 3 months
Soups and stews 2 months

These Food Storage Times Are General Estimates Of When Food Will Taste Its Best

Frozen food, after a certain time period, will not taste as good as it used to, but may still be safe to eat (assuming it was properly frozen while fresh, and stayed frozen the entire time).

Therefore, the guidelines above are merely that, guidelines and estimates of time periods when the food will taste its best.

Further, these estimates apply to food frozen normally. If, for instance, it is frozen using a FoodSaver vacuum sealer this will typically increase how long the food will stay good frozen.

If an item is frozen and then thawed it should not be re-frozen thereafter, since this can make it unsafe to eat.

You can learn more about food safety with my article with 5 food storage safety tips, plus visit FoodSafety.gov.

Printable Freezer Storage Times Cheat Sheet

Click to get printable cheat sheet {opens into a PDF}

I’ve created this printable version of the cheat sheet for easier reference as you are clearing out your freezer as part of the Organizing Fridge & Freezer Challenge.

It will help you both know when to throw certain foods out from your freezer, and also when to plan to eat them while they’ll taste their best.

I suggest using it in conjunction with your freezer inventory form to determine the best use by date, and plan your freezer meals.

Other Printable Forms You May Like

Here are some additional printable forms about food storage that you may find helpful, including a similar chart and cheat sheet used for refrigerated items, and another for your pantry.


Refrigerated Food Storage Guidelines {Cheat Sheet}

Pantry Food Storage Chart {Cheat Sheet}
Freezer Inventory Form

This article is sponsored by the Indiana’s Family of Farmers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Share Your Comments, Tips & Ideas

I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!

caption Both milk and cereal last longer than you might think. source Cinnamon Toast Crunch/Facebook

  • Oftentimes expiration dates are a guideline and not a strict rule, usually referencing the quality rather than the actual safety of the food.
  • Although it is still important to check the packaging, there are quite a few foods where the date has no significance.
  • Dry, boxed pasta can last for quite some time if it’s unopened.
  • Oftentimes “expired” bread is fine to eat if you don’t see any mold.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It’s a common misconception that the date printed on packaged food is a firm deadline for when you should toss it.

In reality, one of the only items in the US with a federally-regulated expiration date is infant formula ― which is why “sell by” dates and “best if used by (or before)” dates are more of a guideline than a rule.

As Paul VanLandingham, a senior faculty member at the Center for Food and Beverage Management of Johnson & Wales University explained in an interview with WebMD, these numbers refer to food quality rather than food safety.

Although the former dictates how long a store should display a product to ensure its highest level of quality, the latter refers to long consumers should keep a product before it loses flavor or declines in quality.

When it comes to these 15 food items, you can oftentimes disregard the date on the package.

You can keep dry, boxed pasta for one to two years past its printed date.

caption Dry pasta lasts longer than you might realize. source Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

According to FoodSafety.gov, a food resource from the US Department of Health & Human Services, dry pasta can be kept for one to two years past its printed expiry date

Fresh (uncooked) pasta ― the kind you’ll often find in the refrigerated section of the supermarket next to Italian cheese ― is only good for four to five days beyond the date printed on the packaging. When frozen, it will typically keep for six to eight months.

Generally, cooked pasta, whether dry or fresh, can be kept for seven days in the fridge. In the freezer, it will typically stay fresh for six to eight months.

When it’s unopened, breakfast cereal lasts six to eight months past the date on the box.

If opened, your favorite cereal will typically stay fresh for between four and six months.

In contrast, cooked cereals such as oatmeal will only keep for four to five days in the fridge once prepared.

“Cereals don’t really go bad. There is not that much of a quality issue. If you leave your cereal box open, it can get stale, but you are still not going to get sick from it,” Emily Broad Leib, the director of Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic, told TIME magazine.

No matter what date is on the carton, you can use eggs within three to five weeks of purchasing them.

caption Eggs have a longer shelf-life than presumed. source

There are many ways to check if an egg has gone bad (like doing the float test or sniffing it to see if it has a sulfur smell), but generally the fresher the egg the better it tastes.

“In terms of freshness, a company can put a sell-by date or best used-by date on the carton. There is no regulation on that. The date is a good indicator of freshness,” Kevin Murphy, food safety and sanitation expert and professor and chair of hospitality services at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, previously told Insider.

“The closer you get to the date, the less fresh the eggs are going to be. But, just because you’ve hit that date or gone beyond it doesn’t mean that the eggs are necessarily bad,” he added.

No matter what date is printed on the carton, eggs are often safe to use within three to five weeks of when you purchase them. Hard-boiled eggs keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Raw meat and poultry keep long past their sell-by date if you freeze them.

caption Just make sure to store it in the freezer. source jutia/

Although raw meat and poultry will only keep for a few days in the fridge, these items can be kept past their sell-by date if you freeze them.

According to FoodSafety.gov, frozen ground meat will last three to four months, and a whole chicken or turkey can be frozen for upwards of a year.

“Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat,” according to the US Department of Agriculture report on the agency’s blog.

Raw fish also lasts much longer in the freezer.

caption Fish, like poultry, must be frozen if you want to keep it fresh for long periods of time. source Lemer Vadim/

According to Eat By Date, raw fish can last a lot longer ― between six and nine months – if you freeze it.

Smoked fish can last for three to six months in the freezer, and commercially frozen fish will keep for 10 to 12 months if it doesn’t thaw.

Additionally, unopened canned fish (such as tuna) can keep for between two and five years past its printed date.

As with many food items, appearance and odor will tell you more about if cheese is safe to eat than the number on the package.

caption It depends slightly on the type of cheese you’re eating. source

Generally speaking, cheese lasts beyond its expiration date.

Even if cheese (whole, cut, or sliced) grows mold, it can often be salvaged by cutting around the decay.

In fact, white mold is normal on so-called “bloomy rind” or soft-ripened cheeses like Camembert and Brie, according to the Gourmet Cheese Detective. Most colored molds, such as the orange, blue, and green varieties, however, are not edible.

Of course, the brighter mold is okay when it comes to blue cheeses ― but only if it’s spread evenly in a vein-like pattern and not concentrated in one spot.

Leafy greens, including bagged salads, can be revived with ice water if they begin to wilt.

caption Leafy greens can be salvaged past their prime. source Savanna Swain-Wilson

Not all produce comes with a sell-by date, but bagged items like salads and pre-cut celery often have them.

Thankfully, as the Greater Chicago Food Depository points out, green vegetables can be salvaged past their prime.

For example, you can resuscitate semi-wilted greens by submerging them in ice water for five to 10 minutes.

You can keep dairy milk five days or more past its printed date.

caption Chances are you’ll know when your milk has spoiled. source Joey Hadden/Insider

How long milk keeps depends on its fat content. Although non-fat milk can last between seven and 10 days, you can keep whole milk five to seven days past the date on the carton.

If milk does spoil, it will look discolored with a lumpy texture and dispel a sour odor.

If unopened, shelf-stable, non-dairy kinds of milk keep much longer – up to a month past the sell-by date.

Canned foods have a long shelf life.

caption Canned foods can last years. source

Although not all canned foods will last indefinitely, most have a shelf life that exceeds their sell-by or best-by date.

With the exception of highly acidic items like tomatoes and pineapple, canned vegetables, and some canned soups are okay to eat a year or two after they “expire.”

Canned meats, like corned beef and SPAM, keep even longer – between two and five years.

Unopened packages of frozen fruit and frozen vegetables are good for eight to 10 months beyond their printed date.

caption As long as it’s frozen, fruit will typically last a long time. source sagarmanis/ iStock

Eat By Date advises that unopened packages of frozen fruit and frozen vegetables can both keep for eight to 10 months past their printed date.

When unopened and refrigerated, yogurt will last two to three weeks past the date on the container.

caption Consider freezing your yogurt. source Caroline Praderio/Insider

In the fridge, unopened yogurt can still be tasty for one to two weeks past its best by date. When frozen, yogurt will keep up to two months, according to StillTasty.

Bread is usually fine to eat if you don’t see any mold.

caption If you see mold, however, throw it away. source kongsak sumano/

According to StillTasty, packaged bread (such as white bread) will keep for five to seven days at room temperature if it’s stored properly. Once refrigerated, it will retain its freshness for three to four days before becoming stale.

If you want to extend its shelf life, packaged bread will stay fresh for at least three months in the freezer.

If you do see mold, however, throw the bread out.

Unopened jars of peanut butter can keep for up to a year past their printed date.

caption Preservative-free peanut butter will not last as long. source White bear studio/

Whether or not it’s refrigerated, an unopened jar of peanut butter (with preservatives) will keep for a year past its printed date.

Natural peanut butter has a shorter shelf life, lasting three to six months past its date if it’s stored in the fridge.

In contrast, a sealed jar of another popular, nutty spread ― Nutella – will keep just one to two months past its printed date.

Some condiments, such as ketchup and mustard, are good for a year or two beyond their printed dates if the bottles are unopened.

caption Chances are that the ketchup in your fridge is still OK to eat. source L Barwell/

For example, unopened bottles of ketchup will last six months and an opened bottle of mustard can last up to a year if it’s kept in the fridge.

Honey only really spoils if it’s introduced to moisture.

caption Honey doesn’t offer a friendly environment for bacteria. source

Honey is known for its seemingly indefinite shelf life, a characteristic that can be attributed to the sticky stuff’s chemical make-up.

As a sugar, honey is a hygroscopic substance ― one that doesn’t contain much water but can absorb moisture from the air.

“Honey in its natural form is very low-moisture,” Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at the University of California, Davis, told Smithsonian Magazine. “Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that, they just die. They’re smothered by it, essentially.”

That being said, honey can spoil if it’s introduced to moisture. Still, contrary to popular belief, just because a jar of honey crystallizes doesn’t mean it’s gone bad. The grainy texture is caused by glucose molecules as they separate from water.

  • 20 foods that can last longer than you think
  • 8 signs your carton of eggs has gone bad
  • How to know if an opened bottle of alcohol has gone bad
  • 10 reasons you might think food’s gone bad when it’s actually still safe to eat

Many people are surprised to learn that those expiration dates on the bottom of canned foods don’t really mean what they thought. In fact, my article about canned food expiration dates is one of the most viewed articles out of close to 700 on the entire site. Looking at those views made me realize something. People are also told that they can only freeze foods for a certain period of time before they must be thrown out.

See also: What is Fresh Frozen Food?

In fact, FoodSafety.gov, from the U.S Department of Human Resources, provides a guide to Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer. The times given for the refrigerator should be taken seriously. However, many people providing this information elsewhere, tend to miss what the site has to say about the storage times given for the freezer:

The guidelines for freezer storage are for quality only. Frozen foods constantly stored at 0°F or below can be kept indefinitely.

That’s right. Foods stored in the freezer remain safe almost indefinitely. And, even if they are not actually stored as low as 0° F or below, they will still last much longer than the suggested times. Around -18° C, or just about 0° F is what most household freezers are set to as this is the basis of the expiration dates on many frozen foods. This is also the temperature used in restaurants and supermarkets, although supermarkets often fail to keep foods this cold consistently. Freezer temperature adjustment dials don’t usually provide actual temperatures so if you are not sure what temp your freezer is set to, consult your owner’s manual.

The expiration dates given on supermarket frozen foods are for quality only. They can be kept for much longer periods and still be safe to eat. If kept at 0° F or below, they can be kept indefinitely.

So, if you keep that pack of hot dogs in the freezer for longer than one to two months, the hot dogs will still be perfectly safe to eat. However, their quality may be compromised, meaning they may not taste as good or have the right texture. If freezer burn has set in, they may look bad, but they will still be perfectly safe. All the freezer times given on the site are for quality purposes only.

The better you wrap a food for freezer storage, the longer it’s quality can be maintained. No matter how well a food is stored, however, it cannot be kept at peak quality forever. But if you absolutely have nothing to eat, you can feel quite safe in eating that frost covered freezer burned pork chop or steak that you forgot about two years ago. It may not taste very good, but it won’t hurt you.

For longterm storage of frozen foods, the freezer in your refrigerator/freezer combo is not the best choice. For very longterm storage, the deep freezer is best, as I explained in my article about freezer burn. There, I also give some tips for wrapping meats for longer storage.

And remember that using a vacuum sealer like the Weston Professional Advantage Vacuum Sealer will help a lot.

You’ve probably heard a lot of so-called rules when it comes to frozen food.

For example, maybe you’ve been told that ice cream has gone bad once you see those crystals form or that you should never thaw and then refreeze meat.

But do you know which of those facts are true and which ones you can toss out … along with that mystery meat that’s been in the back of your freezer for five years?

For definitive answers to some common questions about keeping frozen food healthy and tasty, TODAY Food consulted two experts: chef Jennifer Stack, RDN, who teaches nutrition and food safety at the Culinary Institute of America, and Lauren Sucher, a press officer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Healthy frozen foods for easy family meals

May 17, 201904:51

Together, they’ve got answers to some of your most burning questions about everything frozen.

1. Is it OK to defrost food on my counter?

“Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the counter top,” advised Sucher. “Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. That means leaving any raw poultry, raw beef or any other food you wouldn’t leave sitting out on the counter is a bad idea.

“There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.”

2. How soon do I need to cook frozen food once I defrost it?

If you thawed the food in the refrigerator, you generally have between one to five days to cook it. “Once ground meat, stew meat, poultry or fish are thawed, cook them within a day or two,” said Stack. “Red meat roasts and steaks can stay in your refrigerator for three to five days before you need to cook them.”

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

3. Is it true that you shouldn’t refreeze thawed food?

This is a common misconception, but the experts say that if you’re still in the safe window for cooking and eating meat, poultry or fish, it’s perfectly safe to refreeze them, provided that the foods were thawed in the refrigerator and kept cold (40 degrees or below). “Refreezing the food might result in undesirable changes in texture and some loss of flavor but it will be safe to eat,” said Stack.

TODAY

Siri Daly’s Smashed Pea and Ricotta Crostini

Siri Daly

4. Does food keep indefinitely in the freezer?

Yes, but mostly no. “Frozen foods can be kept in your freezer indefinitely and still be safe to eat … assuming they stayed frozen solid the whole time,” said Stack. “However, they might not taste very good or have a strange texture that makes them unappealing.” She said that fresh, whole roasts, steaks and whole chickens will keep their quality for up to a year, but once meats are cut into pieces, their quality freezer life drops to four to six months. Other meats, such as sausage, lose quality after just two months.

The FoodKeeper app is a super handy tool that gives timelines for freshness and quality for foods stored in the refrigerator and freezer. TODAY Health also has guidelines for how long you can freeze different foods.

5. What’s the deal with those crystals on my ice cream?

Ice crystals form on food after that food has gotten warm and begun to defrost; then gets refrozen. “Once they get cold again, ice crystals start to form and the food (like ice cream) gets that off flavor and icy texture,” explained Stack.

When you buy frozen food, choose packages that do not obviously have ice crystals, since this may indicate that the food has partially defrosted and then refrozen. For bagged frozen foods, give the bag a squeeze to test for freshness. “Frozen peas, corn, beans, berries and small pieces of fish like shrimp and scallops should not be a solid block of food,” said Stack. “This may also be a sign of defrosting and refreezing for these foods.”

Siri Daly

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

Siri Daly

6. How can I keep frozen foods at their best?

Make sure that frozen foods are wrapped well or in a tightly sealed container. And make sure to keep them cold. “Your frozen foods will keep their quality longer if they are kept in the coldest part of the freezer, such as the bottom or the back of the freezer,” said Stack. “The side door storage areas usually get a little warmer so the food might soften or start to defrost.”

7. What foods should I never freeze?

While you can safely freeze any food, some foods just don’t freeze well. Stack’s “don’t freeze” list includes salad greens, meat salads made with mayonnaise (e.g. chicken salad), whole eggs and egg yolks and custard pies. So you’re gonna have to eat that whole custard pie (or keep it in your fridge for up to five days). While you can freeze milk and cheese, “they may have some changes in their texture,” said Stack.

8. Does freezing kill bacteria and other pathogens?

Sorry, nope. “Freezing food will not kill germs, but rather slow the growth,” Sucher said. “If a food product is about to expire and you decide to freeze it, the day that you pull it out of the freezer for thawing will restart the clock where you stopped it upon freezing the food. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within two hours.”

9. If I lose power, should I toss all the food in my freezer?

Good news! The experts say “no,” with some caveats. “If the power in your home goes out, keep the freezer door closed so the inside of the freezer stays as cold as possible,” said Stack. Thawed or partially thawed foods that were in your freezer can be safely refrozen if the food has not gone above 40 degrees. You may see some changes in the quality of the food but it will still be safe to eat. Any food that has thawed and was above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours should be thrown out.

10. Is frozen food less nutritious than fresh food?

Nope, not at all! “The good news about frozen foods is they retain their nutritional value and may be higher in some vitamins than foods like vegetables that were harvested many days before you but them and eat them,” said Stack.

Here’s how to stop your fridge from freezing your food

We’ve all had the misfortune of opening the fridge to find our precious box of blueberries has been frozen. It could be fruit, vegetables, meat, or even dairy—accidental fridge freezing can be disastrous. While you may still be able to eat your perishables (especially if you’re cooking them), the expansion of water molecules caused by freezing may completely alter the taste and texture of your food.

Freezing can completely alter the taste and texture of your food.

But before you pull your hair out and curse your fridge manufacturer, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent accidental food freezing from ever happening. Whether it’s the top shelf or the crisper drawer, we’ll walk you through each step and precaution. We can’t guarantee you won’t have to call a repairman, but at least you’ll be able to rule out the more obvious problems.

1. Check the Fridge Settings

Before you do anything, check your fridge’s temperature settings. The dial isn’t always the most accurate method of regulating temperature, so even if it seems like it’s sufficiently high there may be other factors conspiring to freeze your food.

ADVERTISEMENT

If the temperature setting is too low, then you’ll obviously want to turn it up a bit. Just be careful you don’t set it too high. (The ideal temperature range for the interior of your fridge is 38-42°F.) The last thing you want is for your food to get too warm and become a haven for bacteria and other opportunistic microbes.

If your fridge is getting old or not that good to begin with, using a separate thermometer may give you a more accurate reading. You can find cheap analog thermometers or fancier digital wireless versions that allow you to monitor the temperature without even opening the door.

Credit: Getty

Check the temperature settings on your fridge. They might be too low.

2. Identify Problem Areas

If your food is still freezing even after turning up the temperature settings, try to determine the area of the fridge where it’s occurring. According to GE, the most common problem areas are the top shelf, the bottom of the fridge (crisper drawers and meat pans), and door shelves.

ADVERTISEMENT

As long as it’s confined to one area, it should be pretty simple to remedy. All you have to do is keep your most temperature-sensitive foods out of that area. However, if the fridge cavity overall is still too cold, there may be a more serious issue at hand.

Credit: Getty

Refrigerators don’t have a uniform temperature inside. Check the user manual for instructions on where to put meat, cheese, dairy, etc.

3. Keep Food Away From Vents

Once you’ve determined the problem area, check to see if it’s near a vent. Most fridges have a cooling vent above or on the side of the top shelf. This is where most of the cold air comes from, so keeping food away from here may prevent freezing. (A 5-inch radius should do the trick.)

If the problem area is a door shelf, you may want to adjust its position. Some side-by-side refrigerators (particularly older models) feature a vent that funnels cold air from the freezer into the fridge. This outlet is usually located on the wall that separates the fridge and freezer, and will likely blow freezing cold air all over everything around it. Relocate the shelves to avoid this cold air.

ADVERTISEMENT

If you have a bottom-freezer model—an increasingly popular model for modern homes—and you notice that the problem areas is around the bottom of the fridge compartment, then it is almost certainly due to air venting from the freezer. However, it may also be due to a simple lack of food in the fridge! (More on that below.)

4. Check the Freezer Settings

So you’ve moved your food away from the vents but it’s still freezing? The problem might still be the freezer. As mentioned, there are a lot of factors at play, one of which is your machine’s freezer-orientation, and a bottom-freezer fridge may be particularly troubling. Remember from science class that heat rises, so the bottom section of the fridge is probably going to be the coldest.

One solution is to turn up your freezer temperature settings, although you should be careful not to raise it too high. Anything north of 0°F will facilitate bacterial growth and accelerate food spoilage—yes, even in a freezer!

ADVERTISEMENT

Another option is to make sure that your ice maker is not constantly running. This could also make your freezer too cold and subsequently cause your refrigerated foods to freeze.

5. Store More Food!

This may seem like a dumb solution, but it’s actually valid. GE explains how if the food at the bottom of your fridge keeps freezing, it could simply be because your fridge isn’t fully packed.

Refrigerators need to be well-stocked to absorb all of the cold air being vented into the cavity. If it is relatively empty, all of the cold air will sink to the bottom of the cavity and freeze your food. So just keep it filled! As an added bonus, a fully stocked fridge will help maintain temperatures—especially in the freezer—and, as a result, use less energy. This is good for your utility bill.

ADVERTISEMENT Credit: Getty

A mostly empty fridge isn’t just sad—it makes the internal temperature less stable.

6. Contact the Manufacturer

If you’ve done all of the above and your food is still freezing, then there is most likely a mechanical issue. From the thermostat to the damper to the control panel, there are a lot of parts that may be malfunctioning.

Your best bet is to check if your fridge is still under warranty and to contact either the manufacturer or the retailer that sold it to you. They can send out a service representative to determine what’s wrong with the fridge. If it’s no longer under warranty, you’ll need to contact your local appliance repairman.

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published on August 04, 2015. The most recent updates include new information, new images, and new product recommendations.
February 15, 2017

Can I still eat the contents of my fridge and my freezer after a power outage?

A lot of people are afraid of getting food poisoning after a power failure. But a power cut does not automatically mean food wastage – far from it. Do not throw out the entire contents of your refrigerator. A power outage can last up to 6 hours without affecting the food in your fridge. For your freezer, this time can go up to as much as 48 hours without having any impact on your frozen food. That gives you plenty of time!

Your fridge

Always make sure your fridge temperature is between 0 and 4°. If it is, your food products will keep perfectly cool for 4 to 6 hours provided you don’t open the fridge door.
N.B. The better stocked your fridge, the longer your food products will keep fresh.

Things you can keep and things you should bin after 6 hours:

Keep Bin
Hard cheese, processed cheese Soft cheese, cream cheese
Butter, margarine Milk, cream, crème fraiche, yoghurt (opened)
Yoghurt Dishes and desserts prepared with raw eggs and cooked eggs
Eggs

Vegetable juice (opened), fresh fruit juice, cooked vegetables (including soups), processed raw fruit and vegetables

Whole fresh fruit and vegetables Dishes and products prepared with meat, poultry, fish and seafood, whether raw or cooked
Pasteurised fruit juice All ready meals and leftovers

Your freezer

The temperature should go no higher than -18°. This will keep the foods frozen for 48 hours, as long as you do not open your freezer door and your freezer is properly stocked. Frozen foods keep each other cold, which helps them keep longer. Having said that, if the freezer is only half-stocked, the foods will remain frozen for 24 hours.

Please note: if your freezer is a freezer compartment inside your fridge, these preservation times are shorter.

What to keep and what to bin:

For refreezing For quick consumption To be binned

Food products with the centre still hard

Blocks of hard cheese

Dishes and products prepared with meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy products, defrosted eggs…

Defrosted raw foods as long as their temperature did not exceed 4°, but only after you have been cooked them Bread, muffins, pastry without cream filling and defrosted fruit …whether raw or cooked!

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you deal with a power failure:

  • Keep the fridge or freezer door closed to prevent warm air getting in.
  • Cover up your fridge and freezer with a blanket. This will help keep your foods cool for longer.
  • Even with very cold outdoor temperatures, we strongly advise against putting food products outside unless they are properly packed.
  • If you know in advance that the power outage is going to exceed 4h, we advise you to stuff your freezer with bottles of water and ice cube trays, snugly fitted up against the food products, before it starts.

Source: bulletin de l’Agence Fédérale pour la Sécurité de la Chaîne Alimentaire

How Long Can You Freeze Your Meals Before They Go Bad?

Making your meals ahead of time and freezing them to keep fresh until you’re ready to eat them seems like a pretty fool-proof plan. But what exactly are the rules that come with meal freezing? How long do they stay good for when they’re chilling in your freezer? Is there anything that’s off-limits when it comes to freezing meals? Can you get sick if you eat them after they’ve been frozen for too long?

To get to the bottom of these questions and more, we asked Ken Immer, president and chief culinary officer at Culinary Health Solutions, to take us through the best practices for freezing meals. Here’s what he had to say about the dos and don’ts of meal freezing.

How long can you freeze meals for?

When it comes to the shelf life of the meals in your freezer, Immer says there are a few factors to take into consideration in order to make that call. “First is the water content of the item in question,” he explains. “As a rule, liquid-based meals will freeze best (i.e. soups, stews, sauces). They will also last the longest in the freezer. I would say up to a year or more, but we really shouldn’t be thinking about freezing anything more than a few months, honestly.”

Why do meals with a high water content stay good for so long? “These items will be almost ‘immune’ to any sort of freezer burn because any meats or tender vegetables will be encased in the icy liquid,” Immer explains. “Most other cooked foods do have a short freezer life if you want to maintain texture and quality of the meal. They will start to dry out unless kept very well sealed. A vacuum seal is best.”

What can you freeze?

Liquid-based meals like soups are your best bet for freezing, not only because of the way that they freeze but for how easily they can be reheated. “They can be heated up directly in a pan, for most things, and do not require any pre-thawing,” Immer says. “Lightly cooked vegetables are the next thing that freezes well. Those without any sort of sauce work best and can be kept separate. This is actually how all frozen vegetables you buy at the store are made. They are quickly blanched-or briefly boiled or steamed, and then plunged into ice water to stop the cooking-and then frozen by laying them out (you can use a cookie sheet) to freeze quickly and separately.”

If you had hopes of freezing meat that you already cooked, Immer says you’ll need to be diligent about your storing methods. “Cooked meats by themselves (i.e. not in a stew) don’t do all that great in a home freezer because they generally lose moisture in the freezing and thawing process as well as during the actual freeze itself,” he explains. “Vacuum sealing can be a way of making this work, but we do not recommend it. Casserole-type foods are similar to stews and will tend to freeze well as long as they are cut into small portions, and the portions frozen separately, and they can include cooked pasta. However, by themselves, pasta does not freeze well, neither do grains when they are generally “plain.'”

Do they lose their value?

“Generally, freezing at home will tend to degrade the quality and texture of pre-cooked foods,” Immer says. “This is mostly because our home freezers are too warm. Commercial freezing of cooked foods generally happens at -10F or below, and it happens quickly. This doesn’t allow the ice crystals to form in a way that will degrade the food, especially with meats.”

If you’re really into the idea of freezing meals, Immer has a recommendation that will help preserve the quality. “If you do freeze in your freezer at home, be sure to cool the item to be frozen to room temperature first, and then do not open the freezer door for several hours while the item freezes completely.” Also, the smaller portions you can break your meal down into, the better the freezing/thawing process will be.

“A big hint for freezing is to make what you freeze into individual portions/units so that it freezes separately, and you can remove/thaw only exactly what you need when it’s time,” Immer says. “It can take a lot of free space in your freezer to be able to do this because it generally means you need to lay things out on a cookie sheet and stay flat and level until completely frozen. But the good news is that once things are frozen this way, it does allow for easy storage of the items. If you freeze in large pans or portions, you have to pull the whole thing out, it extends the thawing/heating time (potentially degrading the quality), and is not as appealing to prepare once frozen.”

Can you get sick from frozen meals?

According to Immer, the likelihood of getting sick from frozen meals has to do with the method you use to freeze and thaw your meals. “Foods need to be cooled to room temperature first before going into the freezer, but you don’t want to leave anything sitting out too long before going into the freezer!” he says. “This is especially important for casserole-style foods. Allow them to cool slightly, then cut them up to speed up the cooling process for each piece, as the ‘center’ of a really thick lasagna can stay hot/warm for a long time, and this is where potential food-borne pathogens start to develop.”

The process of freezing stops these pathogens from being able to develop, but the thawing process opens that possibility back up again. “The pathogens may or may not ‘die’ in the freezer,” he says. “This can be mitigated by heating to a high temperature for several minutes when reheating. However, the item itself might not sustain that high-temperature reheat, unless it’s a soup/stew, which is another reason why they are truly the best items for freezing.”

To avoid this, Immer stresses the benefits of freezing meals in smaller portions, making the freezing and thawing process easier to execute and minimizing the margin of error.

Written by Danielle Page. This post was originally published on ClassPass’s blog, The Warm Up. ClassPass is a monthly membership that connects you to more than 8,500 of the best fitness studios worldwide. Have you been thinking about trying it? Start now on the Base Plan and get five classes for your first month for only $19.