When it comes to both food safety and avoiding waste, an easy solution is to “throw it in the freezer” and enjoy it later. But how much later? You might be surprised to learn that while all foods in your freezer remain safe to eat as long as your freezer is cold enough (zero degrees), regardless of storage time, the taste, texture and flavor all decline with time in the freezer.
You can freeze most foods, but steer clear of eggs in the shell, or foods in cans (remove from the can before freezing). And some foods don’t freeze well — including mayonnaise-containing foods like tuna or chicken salad, and foods in creamy sauces.
Once thawed, make sure to handle all foods with the same food safety guidelines as fresh, perishable foods. While freezing does inactivate any food-borne bugs (like bacteria or mold) in your frozen leftovers, they’ll begin to grow again when the food is thawed out.
So whether you’re buying chicken breasts in bulk, or tripling a recipe to freeze leftovers for a later meal, check out these recommended national health guidelines for frozen food storage to maintain optimal taste, texture and freshness.
FOOD — MONTHS IN FREEZER
Ground Beef — 3-4 months
Uncooked roasts — 8-12 months
Uncooked poultry — 9-12 months
Soups/Stews — 2-3 months
Casseroles — 2-3 months
Meat Balls/Meatloaf — 2-3 months
Bread — 1-2 months
Hot Dogs/Lunch Meat (opened or unopened) — 1-2 months
Bacon/Sausage (opened or unopened) — 1-2 months
Ice Cream (opened) — 1-2 months
Fresh Vegetables/Fruits* — 5-6 months
(*fresh produce loses original texture with freezing for any amount of time. Best used for soups, stews, or in blended mixtures.)