How Long Does Food Last in the Freezer?
Freezer foods keep indefinitely, but most health and food safety organizations recommend eating frozen food within three to six months of freezing for peak freshness and flavor.
In many households, the freezer is a critical player in the fight against food waste. The habit of letting food go bad in the fridge can cost hundreds of dollars a year, and once it goes to a landfill, it slowly rots and turns into methane — a greenhouse gas that exacerbates climate change. But alas, the freezer can only hold so much food. With bags of frozen produce, raw fish fillets and a roster of make-ahead meals all jostling for space in compact bins, it’s not surprising that many freezer items get pushed to the back and forgotten about for months or even years. Naturally, it begs the question: How long does food last in the freezer?
In this guide, we’ll talk about the lifespan of frozen foods, the consequences of freezer burn and how something as simple as upgrading your freezer food storage can help your food stay tasty for longer.
Freezer Food Never Spoils
Theoretically, foods can stay in a frozen state forever. Yup, you read that correctly. As long as your freezer temperature is set to 0°F or below, your frozen food items will never expire, go bad or pose any health issues. The reason? In extremely cold temperatures, bacteria essentially go into hibernation, which means they aren’t multiplying and producing the waste products that normally cause food spoilage. When temperatures rise, the bacteria “wake up” and return to business as usual.
So, this means you can eat last year’s Thanksgiving leftovers without any issues, right? Not so fast. Just because you can safely eat the food that’s been chilling in your freezer for more than a year doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it. Eventually, the dreaded freezer burn will set in, zapping the delicious flavor from your food and giving it an unpleasant aftertaste. (Discoloration, ice crystal formation and a plasticky odor are also telltale signs your food has been hit by the dreaded freezer burn.)
Freezer burn is pretty much inevitable in foods that are left frozen for a long time, but there are ways to keep its unpleasant effects to a minimum. One of the easiest steps you can take to keep your frozen foods tasty is to store your food in freezer storage containers that seal in moisture and keep air out.
How Long Does Food Last in the Freezer?
Of course, the best way to avoid freezer burnt food is to consume your freezer food within a reasonable time frame. As a general rule, you should use your frozen food within three to six months of freezing.
That’s just a general rule, though. For your convenience, we went ahead and made a list of the recommended time limits for common freezer foods. For a more detailed list, check out this handy chart from the Food and Drug Administration and this guide from the Food Market Institute.
- Bacon: 1 month
- Beef: 4-12 months
- Chicken nuggets or patties: 1-3 months
- Cooked poultry dishes: 4-6 months
- Corned beef: 1 month
- Ham: 1-2 months
- Luncheon meat: 1-2 months
- Rotisserie chicken: 4 months
- Sausage: 1-2 months
- Crab meat: 4 months
- Fish, raw: 6 months
- Fish, breaded: 3-6 months
- Shucked clams, mussels and oysters: 3-4 months
- Shrimp, shellfish: 12 months
Breads and Desserts
- Bread: 6 months
- Cookie dough: 2 months
- Ice cream: 2-4 months
- Fresh pasta: 2 months
- Sherbet, sorbet: 2-4 months
- Baked cookies: 8-12 months
- Ready-to-bake pie crust: 2 months
- Butter: 6-9 months
- Buttermilk: 3 months
- Cheese: 6 months
- Margarine: 12 months
- Yogurt: 1-2 months
Fruits and Vegetables
- Apples: cooked, 8 months
- Asparagus: 8 months
- Berries, cherries: 4 months
- Bananas, peeled: 1 month
- Green beans: 8 months
- Cauliflower: 10-12 months
- Carrots: 10-12 months
- Eggplant: 10-12 months
- Grapes: 1 month
- Guacamole: 3-4 months
- Mushrooms: 10-12 months
- Potatoes, cooked and mashed: 10-12 months
- Spinach: 10-12 months
- Turnips: 8-10 months
- Juice in carton or pouch: 8-12 months
- Main dishes or meals, hot or refrigerated: 2-3 months
- Soy crumbles and hot dogs: 9 months
- Soy meat substitutes: 12-18 months
- Tempeh: 12 months
- TV dinners: 3-4 months
Upgrade Your Freezer Food Storage with W&P
Here at W&P, we’re constantly looking for fresh ways to elevate our eating and drinking experiences. Freezer burn, while not harmful to your health, decreases the quality and flavor of your frozen meals, increasing the likelihood of tossing your food in the trash. With reusable food storage containers and other sustainable kitchen products, you can maximize your at-home dining experiences while minimizing your impact on the planet.