The truth is, theoretically, frozen food can last forever. Why? Because freezing food stops bacteria from growing. If bacteria does not grow on the food, it will not cause sickness however it is important to note that the longer your food stays in the freezer, the more its quality reduces.
This drop in quality is usually due to a term called “freezer burn” which is the result of air touching food. It leaves the food bland and limp after it is cooked. A dead giveaway is the formation of ice crystals on the food item or grayish-brown discoloration.
Generally, most foods can last three to six months without getting affected by freezer burn, however you can increase their shelf life by wrapping the foods in a freezer wrap or putting them in a freezer-tolerant container.
It is advisable to take stock of what is in your freezer regularly so you can know what needs to be thrown out and what should be saved. If you’re feeling meticulous you can also label all your food items with their name and date then keep a corresponding list pinned to the fridge
door to tell you what is available without you digging around.
Below are the varieties of foods and how long they can stay in the freezer. This does not mean that once they pass the time frames they are inedible, they will be safe however they may not taste as great as before.
1. Cooked Meat: Before putting cooked meat in the freezer, make sure it’s fully cooled. If steam gets trapped in your wrapping it will allow bacterial growth and invite in the freezer burn prematurely. Cooked meat may include:
- Sausages from chicken, turkey, pork or beef: 1-2 months
- Ground beef, turkey, pork, and lamb, including burgers: 3-4 months
- Steaks, chops, and roasts: 1-2 months
- Ham: 1 month
2. Raw Meat: Use a freezer wrap or vacuum sealing and remember that it will only be safe for three to five days in the fridge after thawing out. Raw meat may include:
- Chicken, turkey, pork, or beef sausage: 1-2 months
- Steaks, chops and roasts: 4 months – 1 year
- Ham: 6 months
- Chicken and turkey: 1 year
- Hot dogs: 1-2 months
- Bacon: 1 month
3. Bread Products: Bread easily thaws so it doesn’t need to be heated after freezing. Such products include:
- Baked bread / rolls: 2-3 months
- Baked cookies : 6-8 months
- Cookie dough: 3-6 months
- Baked, unfrosted cake: 2-3 months
- Baked, frosted cake: 1 month
- Baked pies: 1-2 months
- Baked muffins: 6 months – 1 year
- Pancakes: 3 month
- Waffles: 1 month
4. Seafood: They must not be exposed to air and vacuum sealing is advised when dealing with them. Examples include:
- Lean fish (flounder, sole, cod, snapper, and, perch): 6 months
- Fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel): 2-3 months
- Cooked fish: 4-6 months
- Smoked fish: 2 months
- Raw Shellfish: 2-3 months
- Lobster: 1 year
- Crab: 10 months
- Fresh shrimp, scallops: 3-6 months
- Clams, mussels, oysters (live): 2-3 months
5. Fruits: Fruits freeze well and can last months like that. Examples include:
- Citrus, e.g., oranges: 3 months
- Berries, bananas, and apples : 9 months – 1 year
- Stonefruit (cherries, peaches, plums) : 9 months – 1 year
- Most vegetables: 8 months – 1 year
6. Soups, stews and broths: Soups can freeze for up to three months and stew meats can keep for three to four months.