freezer-food-storage-times

Freezer Food Storage Times

freezer-food-storage-times

The most popular modern food preservation method is a freezer. Except for the risk of power loss and the resultant spoilage (if more than ~24 hours), freezing food is simple, easy and convenient.

A common question about freezing food is how long will food last in the freezer? Here is some helpful information about frozen food in the freezer, and guidelines for ‘shelf life’…

Be sure that your freezer is at least 0 degrees F (-18°C), preferably -5 degrees F (-21°C). Check this by getting yourself a freezer thermometer and leave it in your freezer for several hours before measuring.

I use this one:
Taylor Classic Series Large Dial Fridge/Freezer Thermometer

Though food will freeze at 32°F, you really should keep your freezer at 0°F or less.

Why? Because low temperature microbes will still develop below 32°F, but are very much stalled at 0°F or below.

Note: Shelf life of freezer food is approximately doubled at 0°F compared to 20°F!

Note: Temperature Versus Food Storage Shelf Life

 
Tip: Keep your freezer fairly full for energy efficiency. Fill it with food, not air. It takes less energy to keep foods at freezing temperatures than it does keeping air at freezing temperatures. If the power goes out, the frozen foods will help maintain freezing temperatures for a time (an air filled freezer will warm rapidly).

 
Foods will eventually spoil in the freezer. Some microbes will still grow at low temperatures, albeit very slowly (the colder it is, the slower they reproduce).

Most freezer food charts (freezer shelf life) that I have seen are related to food quality and/or nutrition – not necessarily spoilage. Most recommendations generally are such that freezer foods should be consumed within a year. This is a good rule of thumb. Most foods frozen beyond one year will have lost much of their quality, and although they may not be ‘spoiled’, the nutritional value and taste may be quite less than appealing.

 
Tip: How To Know If Your Freezer Thawed And Froze Again When You Were Away

The following freezer food shelf life times are sourced from foodsafety.gov and other sources. Real world experience demonstrates that freezer foods will store much longer than this (we keep our freezers way below zero)! However I would think they’ve built in a margin of safety. It’s a guideline nonetheless.

 

Freezer Food Shelf Life Storage Time

Meat (ground) 3 to 4 months
Meat (fresh, steaks, roasts) 6 to 12 months
Pork 6 to 8 months
Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.) 12 months
Hot dogs 1 to 2 months
Lunch meat 1 to 2 months
Bacon and Sausage 1 to 2 months
Leftovers (cooked meat) 2 to 6 months
Butter 5 to 6 months
Cheese (hard) 6 to 12 months
Cheese (soft, shredded) 4 months
Eggs (removed from shell) 12 months
Milk 1 month
Fruits 12 months
Vegetables (cooked) 1 month
Vegetables (uncooked) 12 months
Onions (uncooked) 3 to 6 months
Baked (cakes, bread, pies, biscuits) 6 months

(data source: foodsafety.gov, Encyclopedia of Country Living)

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66 Comments

  1. WOW, Bacon 1-2 months! I have used bacon that was a year old without getting sick or noticing any deterioration. I’ve got two pounds now that I froze last spring, I think.

    Good article, but I think, like canned goods, you can actually store frozen foods longer than they say.

    1. On the bacon I don’t agree. I have stored bacon in the freezer for much longer than that. I have bacon in the fridge I am eating that is 1 month old in there. Bacon was carried for months by people traveling across the plains for months in the open air.

    2. I think our bacon these days is vacuum sealed which makes it much less likely to spoil if frozen for longer periods of time. I have a vacuum sealer and use it to protect my ground beef before freezing it in smaller packages so that I can buy in bulk for less. And yes, it saves for much longer vacuum sealed. They now flash freeze the vegetables and they last much longer and the quality is still good.

  2. I had venison that was over three years old that looked and tasted like it was a day old. It all depends on how you package it.

    1. Yes, I’m using ground venison that we processed last fall. Still perfectly good. I wrap in freezer paper and place in freezer bags.

  3. I vacuumn seal any food that I want to last longer and have had no issues. I agree I have bacon that lasts a lot longer than 1-2 months.

  4. Hmmm. That reminds me that I have had a ham in there for quite a while. I should probably use it soon.

  5. I suspect that these time frames are a bit short, in order to get people to throw food away so they will buy more food. Just like canned foods.

    That is an interesting fact about the temperature. I did not know that microbes will still develop at those temperatures. Good info to have on hand.

    1. They’ve found life in underwater volcanic vents, thriving at over 500 degrees. I see no reason that those same lifeforms wouldn’t survive at 0.

  6. I haven’t seen the bottom of the deep freeze for probably fifteen years. I wonder what’s growing down there? :)

  7. I’ve eaten frozen food longer than the chart with no problems. I blanch vegetables (as partially cooked) for nearly a year and they are fine. With raw fish I freeze them in water so no freezer burn, and eat a year later.

    Living way up north in winter has its small advantages. I buy my meats in bulk and put them in coolers outside as my free freezer in winter where the night temps range from -10 to 30 below zero on average.

    When I was paying off my CCs to save money and buy my preps years ago, I used the outdoor freezer and I used frozen jugs of ice from outside in the refrigerator to keep it below 40 degrees. I didn’t use electricity for my refrigerator for 3-4 months out of the year for a few years, converting it into a temporary “ice box”.

    Back in those days I thought of everything to save money for I had to pay off 17K in loans in 3 1/2 years and my income was as poor as a church mouse. That is also when I researched edible wild foods and converted to a wood stove. Good practice when SHTF.

    1. @ Stardust.

      What an excellent idea with the frozen jugs in the refrigerator. We use two coolers outside to supplement our refrigerator/freezer space, but I like not using electricity to keep the frig cold. We will have to give that a try this winter.

      1. I fill all the ’empty’ spaces in my freezer with milk jugs, gallon and 1/2 gallon, of water. This ballast minimizes the air space, provides handy chunks of cold for coolers and gives me piece of mind if there’s a power outage.

        My freezer stays between 0 and -10F and those big chunks of ice reach the same temp and hold it for along time. When I need more space I pull out a jug or two and let them defrost only to pop them back in when necessary.

  8. Ohhhhh K, I want everyone to remember the source of the chart that Ken displayed;

    “(data source: foodsafety.gov, Encyclopedia of Country Living)”

    Did anyone notice the .gov there? AND probably backed up by the food industry and those that want to “keep us safe from ourselves” thank you FDA. As everyone here will probably agree there are billions of pounds of food discarded every year due to “best-by” dates, another recommendation I take with a shot of Gin.

    Personally I double wrap or vac-seal everything that goes in my freezers (and date it), yes I keep my freezers at -10F. I also purchase a full beef every 3 years and have them vac-pack everything as they process it. I have little to no freezer burn or spoilage. As far as degradation of quality, well that grilled T-bone steak I had Monday was mighty good, that little puppy was in the freezer for 4 years.

    Seriously 12 months on Beef and 8 months on Pork, I don’t think so Mr. “YOU’RE ALL GOING TO DIE” .gov. Heck I have over 30 pounds of Butter frozen….. Going to have one heck of a large hunk of toast to use all that before 6 months…. HAHAHA

    When I find things like Bacon on sale, I will get 30-40 pounds (if needed), split it up, double wrap it and freeze or can it, some as old as 3 years. And guess what, still ticking here.

    Sorry Ken, but I have to disagree with the standard “recommendations” you outlined here, and I know you’re just passing on information, so not criticizing you by any means, just those where you got this info. Of course it’s the same .gov/FEMA that recommends 3 days’ worth of food and we all know what a GREAT recommendation that is.

    I will agree the “bad bugs” will continue to grow even at very low temps (even -10F), but again, I’m still here harassing Ken at the golden age of 63, so not a big worry here, ya just need to learn to cook food properly. Now if the power goes out, that a totally different story… Time to start canning all that frozen foods and eating like a crazy fool that I am.

    I’m wondering how my Dad made it to 75, Mom to 94 (so far), my brothers all older than me, and I’m 63 without the .gov telling us how to live? Yet they cannot continue without being $19.4 TRILLION in debt? Hummm

    JMHO
    NRP

    1. Yeah dad 86 and mom 81. Mom still golfs twice a week and bowls once a week. Amazing they made it.

  9. When we purchased our two freezers(different times) the sales man explained the difference between a frost free and the one you defrost.

    Frost free freezers heat up to remove the ice build up, hence so does your food in that freezer so your “shelf life” deteriorates along with that convenience.

    Freezers you have to defrost will preserve your food for a longer term. That is why both of ours I defrost, every year just as summer begins or when fall is about to set in. Today or tomorrow I will be cleaning out the large one for the up coming year.

    1. @ antique collector

      I would agree with you on the defrost cycle, almost.

      I have (2) 23CuFt upright freezers and keep them 95% full all the time, even if I need to put water bottles in there to fill the room. The defrost cycle on these does not warm the “recording thermometer” on either unit the slightest (maybe 1 deg.); although I can see the temp change sharply when I open the door for more than 3 minute; one of the biggest problems with upright freezers.

      You may have a different make/model, but mind seem to work fine. Maybe because it’s the very low humidity here in the 4-Corners, can’t say for sure.

      NRP

      1. NRP

        It could be related to the humidity, like you, we/I keep them full including water in 1 gallon cardboard cartons as they hold the cold longer than plastic. Learned that trick from my mom years ago :-).

        At times the humidity can rise, but nothing like after a monsoon in Phoenix..whew, take a towel with you to keep dry.

  10. OK- I will disagree also.

    I have bacon that is about 1 1/2 years old and it is just fine. Food that comes wrapped in the heavy plastic such as bacon, I don’t re-wrap. Other meat that I buy when on sale (hamburger) gets done over in vacuum sealed bags.

    I’ve always had the impression that the short date recommendations were for looks and texture(freezer burn) not that it was unsafe.

    1. aka

      I don’t have a vacuum sealer, but I do put anything I store in the freezer in a second plastic freezer bag, squeezing as much air out as I can. I just checked my freezer thermometer and it says 11 below zero.

      1. @DaisyK

        I do that too sometimes. If it something that I go through a lot of I keep around 10 lbs in freezer bags and like you get rid of as much air as possible. The rest if packaged in that saran wrap type stuff gets the vacuum seal bag.

      2. daisy if you want a vacuum seal look on You tube for the submersion method. Basically it is submerge all but the zip loc and the water presses the air out completely zip and remove from the water. It makes a descent vacuum for free. just use good freezer bags.

  11. Going to be much spoiled food in Florida due to power outages. How many days can a freezer stay cold in the temperatures of that area?

  12. This chart is so funny!

    I have ground beef, no special treatment, in the chest freezer stored and bought in October, 2010!!!

    It is in 1 lb. packages, wrapped in those plastic thingys slaughter houses use( like the 5 lb. packages most stores use for ground beef). Yep–lots of ground beef stored since 2010.

    I know it was 2010 because I had broken toes (May, 2011) when the 10 month old freezer died a slow death and moved the frozen food not damaged to the new freezer provided by the manufacturer.

    So, I am eating frozen food 6 years old this month!!

    I have other meats bought from a store (out of date meats) and they are fine and many years old.

    Chart provided by meat packers maybe??

  13. @NRP

    If the electricity does go out what energy source will you use for canning? Do you have a natural gas or propane stove and refrigerator or electricity from the grid? If the latter, how long will your generators keep them going? How long would you anticipate it taking you to can all that you wish too?

    I’m moving into unfurnished apartment soon and have been thinking about a small freezer to buy items on sale. However, I’m in earthquake country and I’m making the assumption for worse case scenario where gas and electricity both out. I’m left with a small butane portable cooking stove with 12 fuel canisters. There are condo rules which prevent other forms of cooking in unit. So I’m torn between small refer or small chest freezer.

    I thought I’d learn something from your answers. And in a really worse case scenario are you going to burn your unlimited supply of TP for fuel?
    (couldn’t resist that).

    1. LadyWest, if NRP ‘s TP stash caught on fire the flames could be seen in space! LOL

    2. @ Ladywest

      Very good question….

      I’m a Home Brewer and have a Brewing stand that has 3 100,000 BTU Propane burners, 2 double propane mobile cook burners, a 50,000BTU propane single burner. Also I have 3 100-pound 4 25-pound, 3 30-pound and 1 40-pound propane bottles full, all in addition to the 500 gallon tank hooked to the house, the house stove does not need power to burn. So basically I’m set there. Oh and let’s not forget the Charcoal burners and Wood Stove that could be used if needed.

      As far as gen’s and power to run the freezers that’s also not a problem at all. Only problem may be the number of “spare” canning jars, since this is the end of harvest and canning I’m down to around 30 quarts and 50 pints not filled.

      Maybe overkill but that’s what I do, live the lifestyle and be prepared.

      NRP

      PS, I don’t want to burn my TP, as full of it as I sometimes sound I will need every sheet I have…. HAHAHAHAHA…. FYI 400+ rolls is not really that much, is it? Considering I’m trying to get to 5 years supply. :-)

      1. @NRP and others

        I know this came up before but check what your ‘canner’ is OK with. Most canners have a limit on how many btu’s (?) or how hot before the canner is damaged/ I think that is why some say not to use on stove tops using propane.

        1. @ aka

          I have been using the same Micro Pressure Canner on propane for well over 25 years, never a single problem; I have used it on the 100K burner but keep the flame down somewhat. I use the old “flames shooting over the top of the cooker” as a guild.

          But that’s a good idea to check your particular cooker.

          NRP

    3. @ Ladywest

      I’m figuring I could can both big freezers and the small ones in about a week….. and have plenty of gen/fuel for that, plus a year or two.

      NRP

  14. Not sure where that list came from but if I went by that, I’d have to throw away everything in my freezers. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to continue breaking the rules.

  15. I’m getting beat up pretty bad for this article ;)

    Similar to ‘best by’ and ‘use by’ dates, I presume that .gov nutritionists may have deemed a certain amount of quality, texture and nutrition loss at the given recommendations (I don’t have the specifics). This is how they do it for the dates on the food you buy in the store…

    Related:
    Use by, Sell by, Dates

    Sell by and Use by Dates

    I too have consumed foods beyond each of these recommendations without issue, and I (and Mrs.J) package our frozen foods well, and our freezer is VERY cold.

    Freezer temp. also has a lot to do with it (the colder the better).

    Hopefully the ‘relative’ time references are helpful to some of you… for example frozen hot dogs, lunch meat, bacon &amp sausage will not last as long as a frozen hunk of meat comparatively, etc..

    Oh well… I didn’t feel like a doom & gloom article today so I threw this one out there for your consumption ;)

    Time to cover my head with my arms and hands as the beatings continue…

    1. Ken,

      Do not feel bad it was a good discussion to keep us from slip sliding :-) on our frozen foods.

      You do a good job, it is the “guy/ladies fault” for leading you astray. lol

    2. Ken,

      After I read your article, I decided to check my freezer. The temp of -11 was good. But I decided to get out one of my two pounds of bacon. It “expired” April 2016. I used some of it to make Spanish Rice. I hope I live to post again on this site!

      1. Hahaha! I’m sure you will survive…

        Hey all, look at it this way… A deep pantry must go along with good food rotation! Eat that old stuff and get some new stuff in there!

      1. Ken, Twinkies last forever. I know the heartburn I get from hotdogs seems to last forever…

    3. NRP, I swear, the last time I bought a stack of TP (last week), I did say to Mrs.J while in the isle looking for the best deal… “I wonder what NRP would do, and how much he would get?” We both laughed… and settled on the 2-ply Scotts brand. But I digress…

    4. And on the chart about bacon–who in their right mind would freeze bacon if it only has a shelf life of 2 months??

      I’ve had bacon in my fridge longer than that! :-)

      1. OMG, I have definitely witnessed bacon going nasty in the fridge well before 2 months! ;) much less in fact…

        Must’ve been ‘bad bacon’ I suppose. A bad pig.

        1. Ken,

          Was it bacon purchased from grocers, or home processed?

          I always check the expiry date on bacon, and have had good luck in fridge (but my fridge is very cold)…Pretty sure I have used it up to expiry…(and I think the expiry is quite long..months)…

          1. @Anon, Grocery.

            With that said, normally, bacon does not last anywhere near that long in the fridge here because it gets eaten before 2 months ;) (actually it’s typically gone within days, a week, no more than two…)

            We do have some frozen bacon, but we’re pretty good about rotating the foods out of the freezers.

          2. Ken

            Well, ours is usually eaten pretty quick, too…

            Regard to aka, and comment “once it is open” well, that is a whole different situation…once open it does not last so well.

  16. About five yrs ago, was listening to the radio, and they had a Health Inspector/Food Inspector, on from the Canadian Government. His purpose was to (or she, can’t recall) to give advice on food stored/frozen..

    He said the question had come up often how long something was safe to eat, if well frozen, and they had researched it, and it was pretty much forever. A man called in. His wife had died yrs ago, and he only gotten around to cleaning out freezer. He had a Frozen Turkey in there, at least ten yrs old. The inspector assured him, as long as it had been continuously frozen, at proper temp, it was safe to eat. Might have freezer burn ..but..

    1. Canadgirl,

      I swear I read an article where Russian scientists uncovered a frozen mammoth in Siberia and cooked and ate some of the meat.

      I have eaten out of our freezer Alaskan salmon that was over 3 years old. Still very tasty…

      1. Bill Jenkins Horse

        Pretty sure I read same/similar article…hang on …

        “Mammoth meat was never served at 1950s New York dinner, says researcher.

        Woolly mammoth was never served at a lavish 1950s New York dinner where rare and extinct species were trumpeted as being on the menu, a researcher has said after putting leftover meat through DNA analysis.

        The Explorers Club soiree became folklore after it was said to have included 250,000-year-old extinct mammoth. Meat from a giant ground sloth was also promised.

        But a DNA analysis from a fist-sized piece of meat kept as a souvenir showed something more mundane: sea turtle.”

        oh dear…

  17. @NRP,

    There isn’t a toilet paper sale that I don’t think of you buddy…hehehe, I grab a bunch, knowing I will never catch up to the King of TP.

    We have deer meat that is a couple of years old. Tastes pretty good. The hubby would be pretty mad if I threw out that good back-strap. That is stuff is gold….

    Did have some ham that got freezer burnt. Nasty tasting. Someone (cough, cough hubby) didn’t seal the bags good enough. Lot’s of meat ruined.

    Time for deer season again. We have camera’s set up on the lease. Seen turkey, deer and hogs. So hopefully we will fill those freezers up for awhile.

    1. @ Texasgirl

      Ahhh yes, hunting season again soon, will have to sit on the porch with a Hot-Buttered-Rum and see which little Bambi will be filling the bottom of the freezer this year….. It’s so rough living in a rural area.. hehehehe
      And thanks for reminding me, need 4 rabbits to replace the one’s eaten this year.

      FYI, don’t even try eating the wild geese they are terrible tasting and a real Itch to clean…. NASTY-YUCKO!!! Heck, even Blue would not eat it. Just go buy Safeway and pick up a couple, much better.

      I will agree sometimes I have a seal leak, it’s aggravating to lose a nice roast or even a pound of burger.

      NRP

  18. My experience with bacon, lunch meat etc. is that once opened it’s good for about 2 weeks.

  19. The way that hurricane is looking might find people emptying their freezers and using them for small boats. A lot of food is going to spoil in that storm.
    If it does tear up the whole East coast you wonder if it will affect people’s ability to vote…

    1. Bill Jenkins Horse

      I think it will affect voting…Even if folks are not in bad shape and unable to vote, I imagine there will be a lot of exhaustion and discouragement. A sort of “I’ve had as much as I can handle….I will NOT venture out (even to vote)”.

  20. Ken.

    As Hurricane Matthew moves in on me tomorrow and I will most likely experience a power outage. I have to say you put up some good prep articles the past couple of days.

    See you on the other side of the storm. Hope it doesn’t do a loop ;0)

  21. Ken, this is a little off subject…

    Florida Governor states there is only 8 days of fuel in all of Florida. It would interesting to know how many days of food there is. These people will lose the food in their freezers pretty quick without power and ice. How are they going to distribute it with all the damage?

    This is an abject lesson for all. Hope people are paying attention to this. ..

  22. This August enjoyed some antelope steaks harvested Sept. 2014. They were wrapped back then in regular butcher wax paper. Some minor discoloring on the edges of the meat, but otherwise delicious. I agree if you buy your frozen veggies in the plastic bags produced for grocery stores, the contents will get freezer burn after about six to nine months.

  23. I think the way food is packed makes a huge difference. We have had frozen cooked turkey from 6 or 7 years ago that was sealed up in foodsaver bags that was indistinguishable from what I packed up last Christmas. Our freezer is in our basement so it doesn’t have to deal with big temperature swings and it is usually quite full.

  24. Don’t mean to disagree, we process our own deer, fish, fowl and vegetables, freeze butter, bacon, all kinds of fruits and have not had a problem with any of it. We use butcher grade plastic wrap, then freezer paper. We just used a pack of venison from Nov. ’11, was a red, no smell and tender as the first piece of the deer.

  25. Freezing food- I come a family of farmers. I used to spend copious amounts of time helping prepare things for canning and freezing. The actual amount of time a thing can be stored is HEAVILY dependent on how it was handled and processed. Botulism is a real concern regardless of how you store food. As long as you are diligent about cross contamination, a clean work space/tools, and the food you are preparing to store: most things can be frozen for 6mths to a year. There are some things you can store for over a year but it’s not recommended. No matter how careful you’ve been, even in a freezer things break down. It takes much longer, but it’s a process that is not stopped by canning nor freezing. From the comments I’m reading of people eating something they froze yearS ago I’m going to guess a deep freezer (either chest or stand up) is being used not a standard freezer attached to the fridge. Those are designed to better maintain below 0 temps and are ideal for people who need long term storage. The standard freezer is not nearly as efficient nor ideal for storage beyond a month.

    Also, and maybe this is somewhere else on the blog, why no talk of using a root cellar?

  26. So, inquiring mind wants to know, how long have you held food in the freezer and it was just fine? As-purchased or vacuum-sealed? Meat, fish, fruit, veg, juices, pastry, dairy? Thanks.

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