Frozen veggies nutrition and roasted chicken food
BravissimoS/istockphoto

Stocking the Freezer? Here’s How Long Your Favorite Foods Will Last

View Slideshow
Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more
Frozen veggies nutrition and roasted chicken food
BravissimoS/istockphoto

Cold Comfort

Maybe your most recent freezer sweep will yield some surprises: slices of homemade bread that have crumbled beyond use; freezer-burned fruit stored for healthy shakes never made; and those long-forgotten, once-pink (pork?) chop. Read on for a sampling of guidelines that are not only practical but also economical, an easy reference for stocking up on sale items to freeze for future use.


Related: How Long You Have to Safely Eat Unrefrigerated Foods

Hotdogs
Juanmonino/istockphoto

Hot Dogs

Time: One to two months

FoodSafety.gov notes that its guidelines for freezer storage are for quality only, since frozen foods stored continuously at zero degrees or below can be kept indefinitely. Keeping this two-month maximum suggestion (for both opened and unopened packages of hot dogs) in mind for hot dogs that don’t taste like your freezer, don’t let all those unused Fourth of July frankfurters linger. Consider bringing them back for Labor Day.


Related: 12 Foods You Don't Have to Refrigerate

Patty of hamburger steak in a freezer bag.
yukimco/istockphoto
Frozen meat which has been vacuum sealed and placed inside a fridge freezer.
Matthew de Lange/istockphoto

Fresh Meats

Time: Four months to a year

Whether it’s steaks, chops, or roasts, fresh meat including beef, pork, lamb, and veal does well in the freezer. That means the steaks on sale now for summer barbecues can be enjoyed come that first nip in the air. Plan a “goodbye summer” barbecue to ease the transition.

Repacking uncooked chicken to store in freezer
Jodi Jacobson/istockphoto

Chicken

Time: Nine months to a year

FoodSafety.gov notes that whole chickens or turkeys will retain their quality for up to a year in the freezer. If the poultry is stored in pieces, it suggests using the chicken or turkey within nine months.

Frozen fish in a plastic bag on a table. Frozen food
Qwart/istockphoto

Fish

Time: Two to eight months

When it comes to finned fish, the guidelines vary widely. What’s considered fatty fish (bluefish, catfish, salmon or tuna, for example) is best within two to three months. So-called lean fish such as cod, flounder, and sole are best within six to eight months, while other lean fish including pollock and sea trout have a four- to eight-month window.

Raw frozen and peeled shrimp background. Pile of frozen shrimps  .Close-up of frozen shrimps. A lot of royal shrimp macro shot
bigtunaonline/istockphoto

Shellfish

Time: Two to 18 months

The guidelines are also broad for various shellfish. Fresh crab meat or lobster maintains maximum quality for two to four months, while frozen shrimp, according to FoodSafety.gov, can last up to 18 months. If you want to check the status, note if dry spots or discoloration has developed on the frozen raw shrimp. That means freezer burn has begun.

Bacon
laughingmango/istockphoto

Bacon

Time: One to two months

It’s the worst feeling when you have a hankering for a BLT but you’re missing the “B.” Avoid that scenario by keeping a package of bacon in the freezer. Unopened, the bacon will remain at best quality within two months of use. As with all products, be sure to freeze before the expiration date.

Ham and cheese sandwich fixings
MSPhotographic/istockphoto

Deli Meats

Time: One to two months

When the deli counter lines are long at the grocery store (especially at locations that don’t offer an ordering kiosk), it’s tempting to stock up for the long haul. After all, making an endless array of sandwiches for school lunches looms ahead. Whether it’s deli-sliced meats or pre-packaged selections, luncheon meat that’s frozen should be consumed within a month or two for best quality.

Soup in a container for further freezing. Frozen food
Qwart/istockphoto

Soups

Time: Three to six months

Soup lovers have long been freezing their favorites, with recommendations for hearty soups best when eaten within three months and broths still in their prime within six months. Remember to freeze in an airtight container or freezer-safe plastic bag.

Leftover pizza
adolfolazo/istockphoto

Leftover Pizza

Time: One to two months

In many households, it’s rare to have any slices of takeout pizza left over. But if you do, rest easy knowing this freezer favorite will still taste fresh when you want to reheat it for an easy and quick meal in a few weeks.

Four sticks of sweet unsalted butter in wrappers
smartstock/istockphoto

Butter

Time: Six to nine months

When the holiday baking season rolls around, it’s always a plus to have a stockpile of butter in the freezer, ready to defrost. Take advantage of the sales now, and replace the wax wrapper with foil for best results. 

A large glass bowl with a process of beating eggs for cooking.
Liudmila Mieniailenko/istockphoto

Eggs

Time: Up to a year

As with fish and shellfish, there are countless guidelines when it comes to freezing eggs. FoodSafety.gov cautions that you should not freeze eggs in their shells but should beat the whites and yolks together first. Raw egg whites and yolks (which tend to not hold up as well as whites) can be frozen. And avoid freezing hard-cooked eggs and liquid egg substitutes.

Frozen grated cheese in a bag in the freezer
Qwart/istockphoto

Cheese

Time: Six months to a year

The Center for Dairy Research’s Cheese Storage Bulletin reports that you should freeze the cheese as quickly as possible and thaw the cheese as slowly as possible.  The issue appears to be the formation of ice crystals that can damage cheese texture. Among the Bulletin’s suggestions for best cheeses to freeze are cheddar, Muenster, mozzarella, colby Jack and hard Italian cheeses, while cream cheese, mascarpone, blue cheese, ricotta, and feta are not recommended for freezing.

Nutrition Facts - Icecream in a freezer
Shershel/istockphoto

Ice Cream

Time: One to three months

While most of the time ice cream doesn’t stay in the freezer long enough to go bad, it can. An open container of ice cream should be best when consumed within one to two months, with sherbet at its optimum flavor within two to three months.

A quick store bought Greek yogurt snack
Grandbrothers/istockphoto

Yogurt

Time: One to two months

A random check of expiration dates on yogurt containers in the grocery store can be unnerving. Some may expire within a week; others will be good for six more weeks. Again, take advantage of sales and freeze those at reduced prices, adding another month or two to your timeframe to use once the expiration date passes.

The bottle of frozen milk
Qwart/istockphoto

Milk

Time: Up to four months

While you might not want to drink it (frozen milk often becomes separated and grainy), it might be just fine for your cooking and baking needs. StillTasty recommends you freeze in an airtight container and leave a half-inch of space (or more) at the top, since the liquid will expand as it freezes. Be sure to thaw it in the fridge.

Frozen bread in the home freezer. Long life food storage concept.
Qwart/istockphoto

Bread

Time: Three to six months

Fresh-baked bread is often gobbled up in many households, though it’s often a pricey option. Packaged, pre-sliced loaves can be purchased in bulk, then frozen to have on hand for sandwiches, toast, or stuffing. To freeze, package in airtight containers, or for even easier use, separate into individual bags of two or four slices for easy servings.

Ready frozen meal in a container in the refrigerator. Frozen food in the freezer.
Qwart/istockphoto

Cooked Pasta

Time: Three to eight months

As long as the water’s boiling, you might as well add another box to make enough spaghetti, rigatoni, or penne for tonight’s dinner, with plenty to be frozen for use later. Separate the macaroni into individual airtight containers or freezer-safe plastic bags for individual portions (and quick meal prep).

A bag of frozen white rice on a wooden kitchen work top
Duncan Cuthbertson/istockphoto

Cooked Rice

Time: Six to eight months

Ready to be added into soup or turned into a pan of homemade fried rice, cooked rice already on hand is a timesaver (especially when you’re not wanting to splurge on pricey, pre-cooked rice packages). Date the packages before freezing to ensure the time frame, a practice good for all frozen items.

Frozen Pieces of Banana on a Sheet Pan
Candice Bell/istockphoto

Bananas

Time: Two to three months

Cutting ripe bananas into slices and freezing a few to a bag creates a great start to a healthy shake or smoothie. Blogs are filled with suggestions on freezing, but our favorite method just might be slicing them on a baking sheet, freezing for an hour and then storing in individual bags or containers. 

Small pile of frozen raspberries, Frozen raspberries, Plastic container of frozen raspberries,
Pinkybird/istockphoto

Berries

Time: 10 months to a year

Though berries can be found in stores nearly all year, taking the in-season fruit, especially from farmers markets, and freezing it for later use ensures a great taste. Whether it’s raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries, wash and pat the berries dry before freezing. Again, using a cookie sheet helps prevent clumping once you bag them up later. 


Related: How to Freeze Vegetables and Fruits for Winter

Frozen avocado chunks
Merrimon/istockphoto

Avocado

Time: Three to six months

Another popular ingredient for healthy shakes (or, of course, guacamole), the avocado can be frozen. Depending on your planned use – or personal preference – you can freeze them by first mashing or pureeing them, or simply cut them into slices or chunks. Some recommend adding a squirt of lemon juice to minimize any discoloration.

Frozen greens in a bag on a cutting board
Qwart/istockphoto

Spinach

Time: 10 months to a year

We’ve all bought those oversize bags of fresh spinach with good intentions, but when they don’t pan out, freeze the rest to use in stir-fry dishes, soups, or stews. First wash it and cut off the stems, blanch for two minutes, chill in ice water, and then drain before placing in airtight containers or freezer bags.

Frozen food vegetables pumpkin, stocks healthy life.
Qwart/istockphoto

Carrots

Time: One year to 18 months

If frozen raw, the texture, taste, color, and nutritional value of carrots deteriorates so blanch them before freezing. Alternatively, dice or chop them finely for future use in recipes.

Food for the winter. Frozen vegetables. Container with frozen mushrooms.
elena_hramowa/istockphoto

Mushrooms

Time: Six months to a year

Fresh mushrooms should be steamed or otherwise prepared before freezing for best results. Wash mushrooms thoroughly, then slice, steam, or sauté them before packaging them for freezing once cool.

Homemade Roasted Delicata Squash
bhofack2/istockphoto

Squash

Time: 10 months to a year

Squash often overwhelm summer gardens, but if you cut and blanch up the summer bounty, you’ll be thanking — and not cursing — them come winter when you make zucchini bread, vegetable chili, or even a pasta dish with from-the-garden squash.

Frozen red tomatoes
Qwart/istockphoto

Tomato

Time: 2 months to a year

Tomatoes are another popular garden bounty that can be frozen for use all year long. But if you freeze them uncooked, they become mushy when thawed. Cooking tomatoes before freezing will preserve the quality for up to a year.

Frozen basil leaves (basilius) in ice cubes with fresh basil on a wooden table. Frozen Herbs. Frozen food concept
Qwart/istockphoto

Fresh Basil

Time: Up to six months

Freezing fresh basil to sprinkle it in pasta, make pesto, or just add flavor year-round. Options for freezer prep include simple wash and freeze, blanch and freeze, or simply chop (in a food processor) and freeze. Ice cube trays offer the ideal freezer container, with the herb ready for use in sauces, pastas, and more.


Related: 10 Pantry and Freezer Staples Worth Buying in Bulk