How Long Does Food Last in the Freezer?

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Frozen food storage chart plus handy tips

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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!

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Comments

dave legg (not verified)

6 months 1 week ago

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.

Susan (not verified)

6 months 1 week ago

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

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.

Suzy (not verified)

7 months 2 weeks ago

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

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