How Long Does Food Last in the Freezer?

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Frozen food storage chart plus handy tips for freezing meat, cheese, and produce

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Is that frozen food still safe to eat? How long should you keep food in your freezer? Time to clean it out? See this frozen food storage chart to find out whether you can freeze cheese, how long you can freeze chicken, how long uncooked meat keeps in the freezer, and much more. Plus, get advice on freezing foods to preserve quality.

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

However, food is all about taste. The food’s color, flavor, and texture will start to deteriorate. For example, most food, including cooked meat, will be kept 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, negatively affecting texture and taste. This is one reason why we recommend freezing in bags instead of stiff containers. 

Below is an excellent 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 losing 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 the cheese for?
ProductStore in Freezer
All cheeses except those listed belowSix months
Cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, goat, fresh mozzarella, Neufchâtel, Parmesan, processed cheese (opened)Not recommended
How long can you freeze dairy products for?
ProductStore in Freezer
Butter6 to 9 months
Cream, half-and-half4 months
Ice cream1 to 2 months
Margarine (not diet)12 months
Milk3 months
Yogurt1 to 2 months
How long can you freeze fish and seafood for?
ProductStore in Freezer
Clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, shrimp3 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?
ProductStore in Freezer
All fruit (except those listed below)10 to 12 months
Avocados, bananas3 months
Citrus fruit4 to 6 months
Fruit Juices8 to 12 months
How long can you freeze fresh vegetables for?
ProductStore in Freezer
Artichokes, eggplant6 to 8 months
Asparagus, rutabagas, turnips8 to 10 months
Bamboo shoots, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, endive, radishes, salad greens, watercressNot recommended
Beans, beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, corn, greens, kohlrabi, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsnips, peas, peppers, soybeans, spinach, summer squash10 to 12 months
Tomatoes (overripe or sliced)2 months
How long can you freeze meat for?
ProductStore in Freezer
Cooked2 to 6 months
Ham, hot dogs, and lunch meats1 to 2 months
Sausage, bacon1 to 2 months
Uncooked, ground3 to 4 months
Uncooked roasts, steaks, or chops4 to 12 months
Wild game, uncooked8 to 12 months
How long can you freeze poultry for?
ProductStore in Freezer
Cooked4 months
Giblets, uncooked3 to 4 months
Uncooked12 months
Uncooked parts9 months
How long can you freeze other foods for?
ProductStore in Freezer
Cakes4 to 6 months
Casseroles2 to 3 months
Cookie dough2 months
Cookies3 months
Fruit pies, baked2 to 4 months
Fruit pies, unbaked8 months
Pastry, unbaked2 months
Pumpkin or chiffon pies1 months
Quick breads2 months
Raw egg yolks, whites12 months
Soups and stews2 to 3 months
Yeast breads6 months
Yeast dough2 weeks

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

Frozen bread rolls on parchment paper

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 freezer’s contents by food category to make things easier to find and 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 usually stays 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 the 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!

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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