How Long Does Food Last in the Freezer?

Frozen food storage chart plus handy tips

May 17, 2021
Frozen Food
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How long should you keep food in your freezer? Time to clean it out? See this frozen food storage chart to find out whether or not you can freeze cheese, how long you can freeze chicken for, how long uncooked meat keeps in the freezer, and much more. Plus, get advice on freezing foods the correct way to preserve quality.

Technically, frozen food will last forever if stored at 0 °F.  However, we’re talking about safety here; foods will not be dangerous to eat. 

However, food is all about taste. The color, flavor, and texture of food will start to deteriorate. For example, most food included cooked meet will keep for a few months before quality begins to suffer. No matter how well foods are packaged, air sneaks in and moisture gets sucked out; this results in freezer burn which affects texture and taste negatively. This is one reason why we recommend freezing in bags instead of stiff containers. 

Below is a great chart for people who use the freezer often to store food for a long time. You might be surprised to find that you can freeze most foods much longer than you imagined without a loss in quality.

NOTE: These times assume that the freezer temperature is maintained at 0°F (-18°C) or colder. The storage times are for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe almost indefinitely.

How long can you freeze cheese for?

Product Store in Freezer
All cheeses, except those listed below 6 months
Cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, goat, fresh mozzarella, Neufchâtel, Parmesan, processed cheese (opened) Not recommended

How long can you freeze dairy products for?

Product Store in Freezer
Butter 6 to 9 months
Cream, half-and-half 4 months
Ice cream 1 to 2 months
Margarine (not diet) 12 months
Milk 3 months
Yogurt 1 to 2 months

How long can you freeze fish and seafood for?

Product Store in Freezer
Clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, shrimp 3 to 6 months
Fatty fish (bluefish, mackerel, perch, salmon) 2 to 3 months
Lean fish (flounder, haddock, sole) 6 months

How long can you freeze fresh fruit for?

Product Store in Freezer
All fruit (except those listed below) 10 to 12 months
Avocados, bananas 3 months
Citrus fruit 4 to 6 months
Fruit Juices 8 to 12 months

How long can you freeze fresh vegetables for?

Product Store in Freezer
Artichokes, eggplant 6 to 8 months
Asparagus, rutabagas, turnips 8 to 10 months
Bamboo shoots, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, endive, radishes, salad greens, watercress Not recommended
Beans, beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, corn, greens, kohlrabi, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsnips, peas, peppers, soybeans, spinach, summer squash 10 to 12 months
Tomatoes (overripe or sliced) 2 months

How long can you freeze meat for?

Product Store in Freezer
Cooked 2 to 6 months
Ham, hot dogs, and lunch meats 1 to 2 months
Sausage, bacon 1 to 2 months
Uncooked, ground 3 to 4 months
Uncooked roasts, steaks, or chops 4 to 12 months
Wild game, uncooked 8 to 12 months

How long can you freeze poultry for?

Product Store in Freezer
Cooked 4 months
Giblets, uncooked 3 to 4 months
Uncooked 12 months
Uncooked parts 9 months

How long can you freeze other foods for?

Product Store in Freezer
Cakes 4 to 6 months
Casseroles 2 to 3 months
Cookie dough 2 months
Cookies 3 months
Fruit pies, baked 2 to 4 months
Fruit pies, unbaked 8 months
Pastry, unbaked 2 months
Pumpkin or chiffon pies 1 months
Quick breads 2 months
Raw egg yolks, whites 12 months
Soups and stews 2 to 3 months
Yeast breads 6 months
Yeast dough 2 weeks

Note: When freezing liquids or foods with liquid, be sure to leave space in the container for expansion.

Frozen bread rolls

Food-Freezing Tips

  • To freeze or not to freeze? Foods that shouldn’t be frozen include eggs in shells and food in cans. (Once food is out of a can, it may be frozen.) Pressurized liquids also shouldn’t be frozen, as they can expand and burst.
  • Freeze at 0°F (-18°C). To retain vitamin content, color, flavor, and texture, freeze items at peak freshness and store at 0°F or lower. Food stored constantly at 0°F will always be safe to thaw and eat; only quality suffers with lengthy freezer storage. (However, freshness and quality at the time of freezing will affect the condition of frozen foods.)
  • Label foods for easy identification. Write the dish name/contents, number of servings (1 quart=4 servings; 1 pint=2 servings), and date on containers or bags.
  • Freeze individually. To prevent sticking, spread food to be frozen (berries, hamburgers, cookies, etc.) on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Then place in plastic bags and into the freezer. Freezer burn happens when food isn’t stored properly in the freezer, causing moisture to escape and turn into ice crystals. Although the food is still edible, this coating of ice “burns” the food, causing it to have a drier texture and less flavor.
  • Avoid freezer burn (ice crystals) by using plastic freezer bags instead of storage containers. You’ll often see a layer freezer burn with ice cream. Food with freezer burn is still edible but it has a drier texture and less flavor. 
  • Freeze for guests. Most cookies freeze well and thaw quickly—a convenience when entertaining. Simply cover a plate of assorted cookies with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put it in the freezer.
  • Freeze foods more quickly by placing them directly against the side of the freezer.
  • Organize your freezer by food. Arrange the contents of the freezer by food category to make things easier to find and to minimize the time the freezer door is open.
  • Leave the freezer be. If power is interrupted or if the freezer is not operating normally, do not open the freezer door unless absolutely necessary. Food in a loaded freezer will usually stay frozen for up to 2 days. 

Refreezing Foods

  • Once food has thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through defrosting.
  • After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. And if previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion.
  • If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry, or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly and kept at 40°F or below at all times.

Effects of Freezing

If frozen for too long, the quality of some foods will suffer. Here are some examples:

  • Canned ham … will become watery and soft
  • Cottage cheese, sour cream, cooked eggs, yogurt, mayonnaise … texture will suffer
  • Crumb toppings … will become soggy
  • Fried foods … may become rancid
  • Home-stuffed whole poultry on carcass … may become contaminated due to freezing or thawing
  • Lettuce, cabbage, radishes, green onions, celery … will become mushy
  • Milk, cream, custard, and meringue filings … will separate
  • Sauces heavy in fat … may separate or curdle
  • Whipping cream … may not re-whip

If any food changes from its original color, this doesn’t mean that the food is unsafe to eat, but it’s a sign that it will not necessarily taste the same or it will lack flavor.

Learn More

Discover the best way to freeze blueberries! Plus, find out how to freeze other foods, such as cookies, corn, and spinach.

Do you have any freezer storage tips? Let us know in the comments!


Adapted from Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA

Reader Comments

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freezing vegetables

I didn't see anything in this article about blanching. I always blanch my garden vegetables before freezing. I think it helps preserve taste for the long run and even makes the look better. I do blanch tomatoes before freezing to remove the skins and chop them up to fit flat in the freezer bag. There are blank address sticky labels available to mark the date and item with before freezing. I freeze my bacon but use parchment paper and freeze them in three strips that way I don't have to thaw out the whole pack to get a few pieces. I use rubber bands to fasten on the original label and keep them in a nice little pack.

Freezing blueberries

Approximately how long will it take to freeze these individual pans of blueberries?

fresh blueberries

The Editors's picture

Blueberries aren’t big to begin with, so it shouldn’t take much longer than an hour for fresh berries to freeze unless your freezer is already pretty full. If that’s the case, let the blueberries sit in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours.

Frozen cooked meat

In your guideline it says for cooked meat 2to 3. Does this mean years ? Thanks

Cook Meat

The Editors's picture

Cooked meat can be kept frozen for 2 to 6 months. 

Cooked bacon (store bought

Vacuum sealed how long freezer life


I take exception to 'dono's' description of honey. It is definitely NOT bee 'sh*t, as it is expelled from the front not rear end of the bee. The pollen is ingested and chemically changed in the bee's abdomen. It is then regurgitated to another bee and then another and so on, reducing the water content each time until it contains approximately 20%. It is then deposited into a wax cell for storage. So I guess that you could call it bee spit if you were so inclined, but it's obviously not the other item mentioned. Get your facts straight and watch your language. Thank you.

Freezing food

I purchased a Food Saver machine and have saved money and time especially if the food is purchased on sale. The food is always fresh months after I have frozen it. Best thing I ever bought.

Shelf-life time for freezing food depends on multiples factors.

Shelf-life time of every freezing food depends on multiple factors and, due to that, there's not a single chart around that is 100% real. It's mostly based on recommendations, renewal of products (assuring the roll of the economy) and limited and not always related facts and attempts.

Some food are considered as "non-perishables" and yet some official shelf-life put them on a 1-2 years shelf-time at most. One of such example is the honey. Real pure honey can last decades even if opened while fake (brown sugar) or over-filtered honey can barely last 5 to 6 months. Due to that, both real pure honey and fake over-filtered honey (watered-down) are rated with the same expiration dates. Real pure honey can't spoil (as it's already a 100% spoiled product created within the bees' body. It's 100% bee shit made from digested sugar (crystallized), acid and vitamins you find in pollen that doesn't spoils.) and can only crystallize (crystallized sugar, acide and vitamins separates) which can be reverted by simply heating it up. What's spoiling in real pure honey is the foreign material that find its way into the container such as tiny pieces of whatever was put into the container like the food that might have been dipped (or a spoon).
The same can be said about real maple syrup. Maple Syrup doesn't spoil at all. It's such a non-perishable that the one way, in Quebec in Canada, that allowed a maple storage syrup to discover that over 2,000 liters of maple syrup in barrels was replaced with water barrels was the fact that the water barrel showed signs of rust while maple barrel doesn't rust at all even after 10 years of storage. Maple Syrup is made of vegetal-based sugar (crystallized like honey), synthetic sugar and few vitamins + minerals and plant acids you find in the trees. The thing that spoil the maple syrup is actually the container and not the maple syrup itself.

ANY food kept below the 0F can be usually kept indefinitely as long as there was never any kind of partial defrost involved. This is where some people might not have noticed or remember that one day the power got cut out or that their freeze has a defrost system that raise the temperature enough to allow the fans to extract the humidity from the freezer. (This allow the freezer to avoid any accumulation of ice in it.) If your freezer is one of those tomb models that has constant ice build up on its sides and properly close down air-tight, it's one of those freezer that can store for a LOT longer than other freezer that has a defrost system implemented.

Even so, there are a few things to know about how long frozen food can last in a freezer (even a no-defrost one).
1) How much water is in the food.
High-water food tends drastically change its molecules during the Thawing process as water expand when frozen. Meat, vegetables and noodles in soups are a great example. Soup that gets frozen for a long time will become mushy and soft as the frozen water in the solid food will shrink and make said solid food fragile (soft).

2) Is there any parts that are heat or cold resistant?
Remember that all parts of the food might not freeze evenly. Some part might take a lot more time to freeze and, during this additional time, it might develop a small amount of bacteria. Large bones are an example of such thing as they tend to retain the meat's heat longer and so can develop small amount of bacteria. While all the bacteria will be dead frozen by the time you defrost it, there might be some spoil or unappetizing area around it. If left alone, the dead bacterial might attract more (new) bacteria too. This is why it can be risky to freeze certain types of mushrooms as some tend to have a certain resistance to cold on top of having high rate of bacterial development even during the thaw phase.

3) Is there any kind of mineral or substance that might end up as toxic or bad during thawing?
While small amount of minerals or other substances might not be "bad", high rated food might become toxic. Food with high rate in iron, for example, will oxide quite fast during the thaw phase which involve too much water. Such a thing will create rust in the food, which is toxic. This is why it's suggested to quick-boil high-iron&water food like spinach if it was frozen and to eat it within the next 1-2 hours.


my challenging have been frozen in my freezer for about 13 months can I still eat them?

Can freeze MUCH longer than that

With proper wrapping/sealing/containers you can freeze most foods much longer than these recommendations.

Though it is centered around lean meats, here's a more comprehensive handling of the topic that discusses aspects of the question that can be extrapolated to most any frozen food:

Freezing bread

My mother in law recently passed away. She stock piled food, I mean WOW! There are 10 loads of bread that have been in her freezer since 2012! Are they safe/good to eat?

Freezing Bread

The Editors's picture

According to USDA guidelines, it’s recommended that you not consume bread that’s been frozen for longer than six months. Since the bread you found has been in the freezer for six years, we would not recommend eating it!

Shelf Life

For me, I feel like a good rule of thumb is to take a break from freezing foods every so often and just focus on emptying the freezer and eating what I already have a little at a time. I don't see the point of freezing so much stuff that I don't even know what's in there. I don't want to find a piece of meat that's ten years old and have to wonder if it's going to taste disgusting and either wind up wasting it or force feeding it to myself/family.

One way I avoid forgetting what I have is by keeping a running list, which serves as an inventory of both my freezer and deep freezer. I write down the date it was frozen, what was frozen, its location, and whether it was cooked before freezing it. This helps me to know what to eat and in what order. Also, writing directions on the packaging for reheating casseroles and such really helps save time. I don't want to dig out various cookbooks each time I need to check the directions for the cooking times and temps of various dishes.

still a newbie...

I've always been super weird about eating food past it's "date" or whatever... I just recently learned that it really is okay and my parents weren't just lying to me so food wouldn't get wasted! anyways I ended up here because I was going through the freezer for dinner possibilities. we've got a thing of ground turkey, and a large piece of pork. I don't know much about pork, no idea what kind of 'part' it is... it's large, and the label just says "natural pork" (I think it's organic or something). I can't remember which is which but one is approx. 4 years past sell by date and the other around 6. normally I would be like no way, BUT- they were both frozen in their original, unopened, vacuum-sealed packages; both packages still fully intact and neither has been exposed to any air at all; the entire time they've been stored in our full size upright deep-freeze, and though I forgot to peek at the actual temp that freezer has been turned down as low as it will go ever since we first turned it on... it's as cold as a freezer can get. the ground turkey came in a hard plastic package with thinner flexible plastic sealed across the top. it's seal is very sturdy, but because the meat doesn't reach quite all the way to the top, the small gap between meat and plastic has allowed a layer of frost to form and block my view of the meat. I won't know if it still looks good or not until (if) I open it. the pork on the other hand was shrink-wrapped in a super thick, entirely clear (besides a small square of label) plastic, and provides me with a fantastic view of the meat... and to my surprise (since I'd already seen it's date) it still looks great. still completely pink/red, no discoloration whatsoever. not even a tiny spot of frost bite forming. it looks as if it was frozen very recently, and only the sell by date on the label gives away the fact that it wasn't. so, the turkey still needs to be inspected of course (I'm not sure of the effects that frost can have on meat in general... I'm still fairly new to cooking as well) but other than that I'm good to go right? I've thoroughly read this whole page and it feels like that will (at least mostly) be the general consensus based on the info I've got about the meat. I'm still pretty insecure about my cooking skills though so I did want to ask and make sure.
and if I AM good to go... what the hell do I do with it?! the only pork I've ever cooked in my entire life (besides basic bacon, sausage and country ham) was pork chops. I cooked them once. over a year ago.... and I don't even know what kind of a 'piece' of pork this is. all I know is it's huge... if I placed it in my crock pot as is there wouldn't be any room left for anything else. lol I'm lost... helppp!


yeah I totally meant to type 'freezer burn', NOT 'frost bite'. I knew something felt odd as I wrote that, but for a little bit I just couldn't remember freezer burn at all!

frozen hamburgers

I found some pre-shaped hamburgers in my freezer. They have been there for approx. 5 years. Could I still safely make Bar-B-Q out of them??

how long will hamburgers keep in the freezer

The Editors's picture

Hello, Amy. We would not recommend cooking and eating 5 year old hamburgers.

Proper Packaging and Low Freezer Temps Make a Big Difference

I think these guidelines must be for freezers attached to fridges that don't get too much colder than freezing, for items in store packaging. I have two full-size, frost-free upright freezers that are kept at or below 0 degrees. I use vacuum seal bags, Tupperware intended for the freezer, and in some cases like freezer jam and pesto, glass jars. Kept at zero or below, and in airtight/vacuum sealed packaging foods will keep much longer than these guidelines. There is a possibility of textural degradation over time, depending on the food and packaging, especially prepared foods and fruits and vegetables that by their lumpy nature have some air in the packaging, but as long as the food has been kept frozen it should be safe to eat. If I run across veggies in the freezer that have freezer burn I use them in my next batch of stock - fruit ends up in sorbet. After removing all the store packaging, I vacuum seal all my meat heading to the freezer, and it does not get freezer burn. I have used it, with no noticeable difference in texture/taste, after it's been frozen 3 to 4 times longer than these guidelines. I garden, and have learned that I can grow things that hog space like tomatillos and basil every other year, prepare and freeze the harvest and it will keep until the next harvest of that crop, two years on. Carefully prepping food headed to the freezer and maintaining a very low freezer temperature makes all the difference.

frozen foods

This is something that I have been researching for many years now. I can tell you that most of their times listed here are wrong. At least double all their times listed and on some of those add half of that to the doubling and you'd be closer; without affecting the taste. Stored at freezer temps it will be safe indefinitely.

Freezing veggies, zuke bread

green beans, blanched and frozen in a zip lock bag (sandwich size)-put 2 of them in a large zip lock bag and we use them for up to 1 year since they need to be cooked after being unfrozen. We routinely use the 2 zip lock bag approach with zucchini bread and have found no issue with eating it up to 1 year after freezing. We do try not to wait so long, but you know large freezers.

Freezing food

Your article, How long can you freeze food?, would be more accurate to ask, How long is frozen food good for. Food can be frozen forever, but at what point is it unsafe to eat.

Home made peperpot dish

How long frozen peperpot is good to eat. Need an answer.

Freezer storage times

I have found by personal experience that results vary wildly! The best thing to remember is that if it has been stored at zero degrees or below, was in good condition when it went in your freezer and was safely defrosted and cooked. It WILL be SAFE to EAT. It may or may not be nice to eat but that's another thing :)

Whole Frozen Chicken

Thank you so much for this information as I have had the Chicken for at least 3 or 4 months.
So this tells me it will still be good to use for Thanksgiving. Again I thank you for all your great information. I have bookmarked this information for future reference.

frozen chicken

The Editors's picture

Thanks for taking a moment to comment, Debra. Your chicken should be fine to cook and enjoy for Thanksgiving. Happy holidays!

Freezer Storage (all articles pertaining to this subject)

thank you much for this article....i now have the chart in my phone in a special file so that I can now refer to it when needed!

storing the storage chart

The Editors's picture

Thank you for considering this information “special,” Shellie! We appreciate your interest in the Almanac and! Happy days—

Freezing food chart

What is the method of wrapping food? Any difference using a vacuum seal?

how to wrap food to be frozen

The Editors's picture

We are going to align with the US Dept of Agriculture on this one: Proper packaging helps maintain quality and prevent freezer burn. It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its original packaging, however this type of wrap is permeable to air and quality may diminish over time. For prolonged storage, overwrap these packages as you would any food for long-term storage. It is not necessary to rinse meat and poultry. Freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If you notice that a package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer, the food is still safe to use; merely overwrap or rewrap it.

About vacuum packaging, we defer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation: