How Long Does Food Last in the Freezer?

Do you ever come across something in your freezer and wonder how long it's been there? And if it's even still safe to eat? As much as I hate throwing out food, I'd hate giving my family something that would make them sick even more! How do you know if something is still good?

Luckily, there is a simple answer to that question. Technically, things can't go bad in the freezer (as long as the freezer has been plugged in and at 0 degrees the whole time). Which means that chicken you pulled out from your great aunt's freezer from 7 years ago will still technically be ok to eat (true story, not mine ;) ). The real concern when it comes to freezing food is how long you can store it before you start to compromise the taste/texture. While contracting some disease may not be a concern, we definitely don't want to eat nasty-tasting chicken or old freezer burned ice cream!

In general, a good rule of thumb is 3 months. Most things can be kept in a freezer for 3 months without compromising the quality, but there are many, many exceptions! Some foods will not even make it 3 months, and many foods can actually last much longer than that, such as uncooked meat (except raw ground beef, which should be cooked/thrown out around 4 months).

One sign that something may not taste the freshest is if ice crystals have begun to develop- like when you pull out a half gallon of unfinished ice cream just to find that half the carton is full of ice crystals! If you find ice crystals on your breads, meats, etc, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to taste horrible- but proceed with caution for your tastebud's sake because it's a pretty good indicator! Another sure way of knowing if something has been in the freezer too long is the smell. Are you familiar with that icky freezer burned smell? It's not pleasant, it's unmistakable, and it's a sure sign that it's time to throw that food out!

To really know how long things will last in your freezer, you just need to give it time and experience! Every freezer is going to be different, and it's important to know what your freezer can handle and how long it can store certain foods. I know my large deep freezer allows me to store things for several months. Just last week I pulled out a freezer meal (Creamy Italian Chicken) that I had made before having my son... in 2017. It didn't smell funky so we gave it a shot and it cooked beautifully! And tasted really good as well ;).

It will also really depend on how something is packaged! If you throw something in a little sandwich bag and toss it in the freezer, it might not even make it 3 months. But if you use freezer paper, special freezer storage bags, or vacuum seal something, it's going to last much longer!

Below I have included a couple different charts I found that can be helpful when trying to figure out how long you can store something in the freezer- but remember, these are just general numbers- you know your own freezer better than anyone else!


    Camille Hoffmann
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
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