How Long Is It Ok To Freeze Food?

Freezing food is a good way to save time and money, but how long is too long?

After a certain point, the food flavors and texture start becoming suboptimal. Every food is different, but Real Simple has a good starter list.

Are you a big freezer? Do you date your food before putting it in or is it more of, eh, that seems alright approach?

If you have yet to really delve into freezing food, this can help you get started. After all, freezing food is just one of 20 ways to make the most of your groceries without spending an extra cent.

How Long Will Food Last in the Freezer? [Real Simple]

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  1. Fujikopez says:

    Well, you are also paying to keep it frozen, so there are a few extra cents involved. That being said, we own a huge chest freezer and freeze meats, mostly. Hubby is a hunter and we plan on buying a side of beef. My personal rule is to try and use it up before 1 year as long as it’s properly kept in vacuum-sealed bags, and as soon as possible if not. But thing don’t really go BAD, per say, so things that are a little freezer-burnt or old get braised or stewed, or otherwise really dressed up so you can’t tell.

    • Tunacrab says:

      It takes more energy to cool and maintain an empty space of air than it does a solid. Assuming you keep your box plugged in all the time, adding things to the fridge or freezer actually saves energy.

      • Tunacrab says:

        Th savings is admittedly negligible, but a great way to justify keeping the fridge full of beer!

    • edman007 says:

      It doesn’t really cost any more, you are going to have the freezer on either way and the contents does not effect the energy used, the only extra energy used is used when you put stuff in it and the freezer has to freeze the food. After the the rest of the energy is lost by way of insulation and the air that is lost when you open it, with more stuff in the freezer less cold stuff leaves the freezer and it needs to spend less energy cooling air after you open it

  2. wrongfrequently says:

    I’m not a big freezer since I have a small freezer, but I do date everything and buy bulk meat and freeze small portions.
    My parents seem to think that the freezer is a cryogenic magic box that restores life to foods, I have discovered that my father keeps his graying luncheon meat in the freezer for god only knows how long. When I offered to throw out (and replace ) some gray salami he said “oh don’t worry I’ll just re-freeze it” They are both children of the depression.

  3. rpm773 says:

    I bake my own rolls and bread at home and freeze them, as the go stale quickly otherwise. 45 seconds in the microwave and they’re fine.

    Homemade pasta sauce and soups are made and frozen as well. Great for heating up after a long day out on the road or coming home after business trips.

    • Fidget says:

      Do you par-bake or fully bake before freezing? Bf and I are just getting really into making our own breads this summer, and will need to start doing something other than “Let’s just eat all of it now.”

      • rpm773 says:

        I bake them all the way, and then let them cool on the counter at least 90 minutes. You don’t want the plastic bag to steam up and then freeze.

        I’ve read about par-baking, and that’s a great idea. But I want to grab one and go when I’m hungry.

        Yeah, one of the biggest tricks to baking your own bread is not eating it all in the ensuing 6 hours :)

  4. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Hmmm…I can’t remember how long the Cornish hen has been in there, so maybe I better not eat it this weekend after all.

    I can eat the Velveeta salsa dip instead! :)

    • nybiker says:

      I’m glad I read your comment re the hen & dip in the ‘what are you making this weekend’ story so that this comment makes sense to me.

  5. Osi says:

    Heck yeah, here in AK, deep freezing fish caught during the summer is awesome for winter meals :) I know of people who have multiple freezers full of fish and veggies just for the long winter months.

  6. speaky2k says:

    The main thing that makes food go / taste bad is air, especially oxygen. A guy at work likes to fish, but his wife hates fish, that means he only gets to eat them when she isn’t around. So when he catches a fish, he puts it in a milk carton full of water and freezes the fish surrounded by water. He has said that he once found a fish that had been in his freezer over 5 years, thawed it out and it tasted as fresh as one that was only in a few months.
    I have frozen fruit before, and I have found that if I wash the fruit so that it has a thin cover of water when it gets frozen, it will keep longer. Of course with fruit it gets soggy when it thaws, but eating frozen berries straight from the freezer is a nice treat in the summer.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      That’s a good trick, with the fish; it’s similar to how they flash freeze right on the boat. Another way to do it is put the fish in the freezer for maybe a half hour, then dunk them in ice water to form an ice glaze. Takes up less room than a big block of ice and achieves the same protection.

      • PatrickPortland says:

        Yeah, that’s how I buy some frozen fish and chicken. Oddly, I’m willing to pay for a glaze of ice some times, yet I still get irked at the 2% “solution”-pumped chicken at my grocery store.

      • sonneillon says:

        Sort of. IQF (Instant quick freeze or blast freezing) is superior to that because the risk of this method isn’t the bacteria associated with air. The risk is that the ice crystallizes and breaks down the protein bonds in the fish itself. It’s why when you thaw fish and refreeze it and thaw it again the fish turns to mush (roughy is the exception it can be re-frozen and re-thawed). The fish is edible and probably will not make you sick but it is not palatable. If the fish was frozen and it was hole and really fresh I could imagine it being good for a few years, but to be honest I throw out anything thats in the freezer more than a year just to keep it clean.

        • huadpe says:

          The other good technique for larger batches is to go to a good hardware store and get a block of dry ice, and use that (broken carefully to smaller pieces) to quick freeze the item(s) in question. Either dry ice or liquid nitrogen are the coldest things you can get your hands on usually (though don’t ACTUALLY get your hands on them unless you like frostbite). Quick freeze = smaller ice crystals = better texture.

  7. Starfury says:

    We have a small chest freezer in the garage that we store mostly frozen meat in. I’ll buy on sale, stock up and then consume it until the next time it’s on sale. Since my last bill from PG&E was $70 (4 bed house w/ AC) I don’t think the freezer costs me all that much to run each month.

    And speaking of meat…Raley’s has Tri-Tip on sale and I’m off to buy half a dozen after work. Freezer is getting empty and it’s kind of sad to see it that way.

  8. brianisthegreatest says:

    I buy what I eat in a week or two, and don’t go beyond that for what I need. I live upstairs so, I really like to keep it minimal with shopping in general and what I would have to carry up the stairs at one point. This is good to know, however.

  9. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I think the oldest frozen thing I have eaten is like 2-3 year old meat. I usually use that for freezer stew or freezer chili, as the spices do wonders to meat that’s a little dry. That said, I do think there is some 6-7 year old fillet minon’s in my freezer.

    • outoftheblew says:

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one. We cleared out my friend’s house after a year of her house not being lived in, and I took home some of the stuff from her fridge and freezer. I threw out a LOT, but there were some steaks that were over a year old. We just cooked them this week.

    • Wireless Joe says:

      We stew old freezer stuff with a lot of spices and call that gumbo.

  10. Difdi says:

    The last time my mother cleaned out her deep freezer, she discovered a tupperware container of frozen strawberries…that had been in there for 20 years. They looked and smelled alright, but nobody had the guts to try eating them…

  11. veg-o-matic says:

    FOREVER.

    Because I have no problem eating thawed suboptimal mush.

  12. nakkypoo says:

    If you vacuum seal it and keep it at -8c (roughly) or lower, you can keep it frozen indefinitely. Unfortunately it’s pretty hard to get 100% of the air out and keep it that cold permanently.

  13. nakkypoo says:

    Are you a big freezer?

    Wait, what? No, I am not a big freezer, but I do have a big freezer.

  14. Rodan says:

    Get it straight from the US Dept of Agriculture.

    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Focus_On_Freezing/index.asp

    Next, amazing website re-invents wheel.

  15. BobOblah says:

    I ate vacuum packed sliced turkey that was 5 years beyond the expiration date. Aside from being a bit tough, it was fine. And I freeze everything–all of my weekly meals are frozen so that all I have to do is grab a meal before I head out to work, and always have something available to eat when I get home late. Sure, taste tends to deteriorate after a few weeks, but that’s why we have ketchup. :)

  16. Randell says:

    From a safety stand point it can last as long as it is not thawed and refrozen. The quality suffers over time. The less oxygen the better

  17. BigSlowTarget says:

    http://www.stilltasty.com/

    Ask the internet and ye shall receive

  18. Jevia says:

    Some meat gets frozen for around a year. I tend to buy a turkey or ham when they are on sale during the applicable holidays, even though we go elsewhere to eat, then defrost them later when relatives are visiting us.

  19. JulesNoctambule says:

    My grandmother was cleaning out her deep freezer one day and found the top tier of my aunt’s wedding cake. . .from her wedding a decade earlier. My aunt stuck it in the microwave and dared my uncle to take a bite. He did! Then spit it out and said it was absolutely vile.

  20. Incredulous1 says:

    If you go to your in-laws and have Thanksgiving Turkey dinner one year and the next year you go there you are served Thanksgiving Turkey pot pie using the priors years left overs – that’s 1 year too long in the freezer.

    I know now which year to see my family for dinner!

  21. Squard says:

    StillTasty.com is an excellent reference for food storage

  22. lizk says:

    We try to stick to a 1-year rule, but have broken that rule many times. We bought a 5 lb. bag of mixed veggies at a club store and used them in soups and stews for probably 18 months afterward. I didn’t really notice a difference in taste. If the food is packaged right (least amount of oxygen possible), it can last way longer than that realsimple.com list indicates.

    I also like to cook in huge quantities and freeze individual servings for quick lunches at work or a food supply for my partner when I’m out of town on business. Burritos and lasagna are perfect for this.

  23. Chongo says:
  24. Tiandli says:

    I think it’s a good rule to eat frozen meats the day they thaw, the day after at the very latest. If it sits too long thawing in the fridge, it seems to catch up to it’s true age quicker. I’ve found it starts to develop a pungent smell and taste faster than fresh meats.

  25. madtube says:

    I love buying my meats in bulk and freezing them. My wife and I will go the PX and stock up on meats. When we get home, we divide them up to serving sizes, vacuum seal them, and freeze them. To avoid large ice crystals, put everything you are about to freeze, that is not already frozen, in the fridge for a few hours. That gets the core temp to just a couple of degrees above freezing. That way, when you chuck it in the freezer, it will freeze quicker. Quicker freeze results in smaller ice crystals. Smaller crystals results in less cell perforation.

    Yes, I am a food geek. Thanks Alton Brown!

  26. Emperor Norton I says:

    I still have a 5 lb. package of Best Kosher hot dogs bought at the factory store from 18 months ago. That’s when the idiots at Sara Lee shut the company down.
    They’re easily the best hot dogs ever made & they’re still in the factory sealed package.
    I will have to partially thaw them to break them apart & then refreeze them, where they will last a few more months.
    I opened up a package recently & they were still perfect!

  27. AI says:

    I’m not sure if food ever gets unsafe to eat in a freezer if kept properly frozen. However unsafe and completely tasteless and disgusting are different things. Raw meat gets tasteless and disgusting somewhere between 6months and 1year. Things like sausages can be good even after a year. Vegetables such as peas and corn in a bag are good after a year as well. Bread only lasts a 3-4months before it’s stale.

  28. webweazel says:

    One of my relatives has a PhD in freezing. She could feed the 5th Army for a week on what she has in 1 freezer. She’s never had an issue with quality, no matter how long something has been in the box.
    Vacuum sealers are the only way to go.
    Here’s a tip: for those vacuum sealer bags, on the top strip, (between the edge of the bag and where the seal is formed) is the portion you’ll be cutting off later to open the bag. On this strip, write the following with a Sharpie: (left) ITEM, (center) PORTION, (right) DATE. For example, pork chop, 2, 7-10 (2 pork chops frozen this month) OR hamburger, 1LB, 6-10 (1 pound of hamburger frozen last month). You get the idea. This way, it is easy to cycle out the older stuff before starting on the newer stuff.
    Another tip: for stand-up freezers, get plastic baskets for the freezer that will fit two just right on the shelves. Label them. Put all the chicken in one, pork in another, beef in another, and so on. Cuts down on digging for things, you can see quickly what you’re running low on, you can pull out a whole basket and rummage through while the freezer door is shut, saving energy.

  29. AnthonyC says:

    If the stuff you’re freezing stays frozen constantly, at a low enough temperature, it should last indefinitely, especially if it is sealed and can’t react with the air.

    You get into trouble if you thaw and refreeze, or expose unsealed stuff to oxygen each time you open the freezer. So, I would guess long term freezing is probably better if your freezer isn’t frost-free. Frost-free freezers work by raising and lowering the temperature (up to 32 degrees, then back down) to get rid of moisture. Anyone tested this?

  30. cozynite says:

    Ha. My boyfriend just made me throw out my loaf of bread from the freezer yesterday. I bought it fresh (and pre-sliced) back in February and promptly put it in the freezer. We tried to eat a few pieces yesterday. It was a bit stale. I guess 5 months is a little too long.