It may feel easier to keep track of the foods we store in the fridge, after all, we do tend to check the fridge quite frequently (especially when the hunger hits). There are more straightforward signs when spotting spoiled foods in fridges such as mold growth, wilted vegetables and the like but when it comes to the freezer it isn’t always as easy. Freezing food is an excellent way to prolong the life of our food and this is why so many of us do it. It is also good for those living on a budget because it allows you to stock up on foods while they’re on sale. Besides the convenience of having food on hand freezing food also help preserve the nutrition that some foods have to offer. But have you thought, how long is too long? Does the nutrition value keep if you have frozen food that’s been in your freezer for a year or two years?
Freezing food will slow down the process of them spoiling by helping to prevent bacteria and mold growth. You may not get food poisoning per say if you eat some frozen foods past their keep dates but they will definitely become unpalatable and will deteriorate in nutritional value. To maintain freshness and quality of food together we can look at 15 common freezer foods and when it is time to eat them or toss them.
Freezing fish is a great way to take advantage of a sale, especially if you’re trying to stay on a budget. Depending on the seafood, it can be quite pricey at times and some people save seafood as a special treat. Whichever the case, it is still important to make sure you are storing your seafood for an appropriate amount of time in the freezer. Both breaded and cooked fish can be stored in the freezer for four to six months. Whereas smoked fish can only keep frozen for two months.
Lean fish such as cod, haddock, flounder, trout, and others can keep frozen for up to six months. And lastly, oily fish such as types of mackerels, salmon, tuna, herring, anchovy, and sardines can keep frozen for only two to three months.
Play it safe: Lean fish 6 months, Oily Fish 3 months, Breaded 6 months, Smoked 2 months
Shellfish has a little bit of a different shelf life when it comes to keeping frozen. Cooked shrimp can stay in the freezer for up to six to nine months and frozen shrimp from the store can keep for nine to 12 months. Crab and lobster can both keep for the same time frame which is up to six months.
Frozen clams can keep for two to three months but oysters can only keep for one to three months. Now don’t forget you can eat these safely past their recommended shelf life but to keep the freshness try and stay within those time frames.
Play it safe: Shrimp 9 months, Crab/Lobster 6 months, Clams 3 months, Oysters 2 months
Meat is another expensive food item and is something that many people will stock up on when it goes on sale. We have already learned previously that raw meat can only keep in the fridge for a couple days but by freezing it can help you maintain the quality much longer. To start red meats as well as pork can be kept in the freezer for four to 12 months. Ground meat including beef, veal, pork, and poultry should be kept frozen for only three to four months for best quality.
Further sausages, hot dogs, and lunch meat can be kept frozen for up to two months but bacon should only be kept for one month. Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, and geese) can be kept frozen up to one year. However, cooked and commercially frozen chicken nuggets or tenders should only be kept frozen for six to nine months to maintain their best quality.
Play it safe: Red Meats, Poultry and Pork 12 months, Ground Meat 4 months, Nuggets 9 months
Popsicles are a popular cold treat for kids and adults. They’re a great way to cool off on a hot day all the while quenching a sweet tooth craving. Popsicles come in a large variety of flavors and varieties that there is bound to be a flavor out there for everyone. You should only keep popsicles in the freezer for six to eight months to maintain their best quality.
Some signs that your popsicles may not be fresh anymore are attached ice crystals and or a sticky gummy coating. Always try to keep your popsicles frozen at a constant temperature. Make sure that popsicles, as well as other frozen foods, are the last items to go into your grocery cart and then the first items to be put away when you arrive home.
Play it save: Popsicles 8 months
Frozen dinners are a great way to have meals prepped and ready to go for busy nights. All you have to do is thaw the meal, cook (sometimes cook from frozen) and eat-voila a meal in no time. If you’re a lover of frozen packaged dinners, also known as tv dinners they can last in the freezer for three months. While they may not be healthy for you they do offer convenience.
Another type of frozen dinner would be a meal that you have prepped previously (not always cooked) and stored for later. As long as you properly wrap the meal and store it well you can get three and even up to six months to maintain it’s freshness. Don’t forget to label these meals when you have prepared them yourself so you can keep track of their best to eat by date.
Play it safe: TV Dinners 3 months, Freezer Meals 6 months
We already know that leftovers should only stay in your fridge for three to four days. With that being said if you feel confident that your leftover won’t be eaten up within that time frame it may be best to freeze them. Freezing your leftovers allow you to keep a tasty meal for longer.
Leftovers can keep fresh in the freezer up to two or three months. Make sure not to decide to freeze your leftovers after they have been stored for several days. While the freezer can slow down or completely stop bacteria growth it won’t kill off any grown bacteria that was present prior to freezing.
Play it safe: Leftovers 3 months
Ice cream, sherbert, sorbet and the like make another great treat to indulge in on a hot day. Like popsicles, ice cream comes in many flavors as well as varieties such as dairy, soy, almond and coconut ice cream- there is something for everyone!
Ice cream can last up to three months in the freezer if it is unopened but you have to have some strong self-control to let it last that long. Once you open your ice cream be mindful it should be consumed within one to two months, the same applies to sorbet (that is not a problem for me!). Whereas sherbet can last from two to three months in the freezer opened. If any of these frozen treats completely thaw make sure not to refreeze as airborne bacteria could have ruined your dessert.
Play it safe: Ice Cream/Sorbet 2 months, Sherbert 3 months
Buying vegetables frozen is a great way to keep healthy foods on hand especially if you’re prone to keeping the fresh variety in the fridge too long. Sometimes it can feel like throwing dollar bills right into the trash-am I right?
In some cases frozen vegetables have a vitamin content that is higher, this is due to the veggies being picked at their peak times then flash frozen. When we buy vegetables that are not in seasons it could take weeks to get imported to where you live. When this is the case buying frozen may just be a better choice. Make sure for freshness and quality of the vegetables keep frozen for only eight to 12 months maximum. If you pick vegetables locally or from your own garden and choose to blanch and then freeze them the same time frame applies. However, for optimal nutritional value the sooner you consume them the better.
Play it safe: Frozen/Blanched Vegetables 12 months
Sometimes ordering pizza can get expensive, especially when you calculate the delivery fees. Keeping frozen pizza on hand is a great way to have a meal that your whole family will love on nights that there is no extra time for cooking.
Pizza can be stored in the freezer for up to a year. Considering they can keep for a long time this makes them a great item to stock up on when they go on sale. While it is safe to eat pizza past their recommended time you may not want to. If frozen pizza is stored too long the crust may taste spongy or flavorless (similar to cardboard flavor-no thank you). If it starts to develop a layer of ice crystals on top you may not want to eat it then either, this is a sign that it may no longer taste fresh.
Play it safe: Frozen Pizza 12 months
Unless you have a large family and or bread is a big part of your everyday diet, bread may be a food item that often goes bad on your counter. Depending on the bread you can usually only get up to a week out of it before it starts to grow furry green mold-ick!
To prevent mold growth, freezing bread is a great idea because it allows you to keep it longer. You then can take out what you need at that given time and keep the rest fresh by staying frozen. Bakery bread, packaged bread, and bagels can all keep frozen for up to six months. Frozen bread dough can stay in the freezer for up to a year. And breadcrumbs can stay in the freezer fresh for six to eight months. It is, however, not recommended that you freeze croutons or refrigerated biscuit dough such as any Pillsbury doughs.
Play it safe: Bread 6 months, Dough 12 months
If you’re a firm believer in making your own stock/broth it is a great way to not let food go to waste. Making stock allows you to use the scraps from veggies and meat to make a flavorful base to be enjoyed on its own, in soups, stews, and even casseroles.
Homemade stock can be kept frozen up to four the six months. The longer you keep it frozen the less flavor there will be. So while it may be safe to keep it longer it will start to taste bland. Furthermore, soups and stews can also keep frozen from four to six months as long as they are packaged and stored properly.
Play it safe: Stock/broth, Soup and Stews 6 months
Fruit can be enjoyed on its own, makes excellent ingredients for sweet smoothies, and can be added to many baking dishes. Keeping frozen fruit in the freezer helps you have it on hand for longer with less worrying if it has gone bad or not. Like vegetables, if you’re seeking fruits that are not in season where you live you may just get more nutrient value from a frozen fruit than a fruit that took weeks to get to your grocery store.
You can keep packaged fruit for eight to 12 months in the freezer before they start to lose flavor as well as nutrients. Make sure to keep your packaged fruit sealed and stored properly so they don’t develop ice crystals, this can deteriorate their flavor faster.
Play it safe: Frozen Fruit 12 months
Cheese is another food item that can be expensive, especially if you want to invest in a specialty cheese. Freezing cheese is a great way to stock up on the kinds you love when they happen to go on sale.
To maintain freshness store shredded cheese for only three to four months in the freezer. Hard cheese can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.
Play it safe: Shredded Cheese 4 months, Hard Cheese 6 months
Bagged french fries are an easy side dish to always keep on hand in the freezer, after all, most kids love them! Other frozen potatoes foods include tater tots and a popular breakfast item, hashbrowns.
French fries, tater tots, and hash browns can keep in the freezer for six to 12 months. While like other frozen foods they will keep after that but to maintain flavor and texture try and eat them within the one-year mark.
Play it safe: Fries, Tots, and Hash Browns 12 months
I don’t often drink juice but canned juice is a great way to keep it on hand for when guests are over that can’t go a meal without it. Juice concentrate can also be used to make tasty mixed punches for special occasions. There have been many times that I have found canned juice in the freezer wondering how long the darn thing has been in there.
If you have wondered that too, you’ll be happy to know canned juice can keep in the freezer for one to two years! That is a long time and if you think your juice may be in your freezer for that long it may be best to label it with the date you purchased it to make sure it maintains its flavor, I’m not too sure what four-year-old juice would taste like but I can’t foresee it being great.
Play it safe: Frozen Juice 2 years