As long as your freezer is working at its optimal level, keeping food consistently at 0°F, the food inside will be safe to eat indefinitely. There’s no safety concern with anything that’s been properly frozen. The real issue is just how much you’ll actually enjoy it, as some foods might not have the taste or texture you prefer when eating something a year later.
Not willing to risk eating leathery meat? We don’t blame you. Luckily, there are plenty of official guidelines that can help you figure out if something’s been in the freezer for too long. Just make sure you label your groceries before you stash ’em away, so you can count up the months.
Related: The Most Important Tool for an Organized Freezer
The 5 Things You Probably Always Have in Your Freezer
1. Ground Beef
With a package of ground beef in the freezer, you’re only minutes away from a spontaneous grilling session, Taco Tuesday, or a hearty meatloaf. This home cook’s staple is a breeze to freeze and can stash safely for up to three to four months, according to the USDA. (Ditto for turkey, veal, pork, and lamb, for that matter.) If you’re storing it for a while, consider wrapping the store packaging tightly in aluminum foil or placing it in a zip-top freezer bag.
Read more: Here’s How Long Ground Beef Will Last in the Freezer (and How to Store It)
For safety’s sake, you don’t need to remove chicken breasts from the grocery store container before freezing. But for flavor and protecting the moisture inside the chicken breasts, it’s best to repackage. Use a vacuum sealer or zip-top bag, then put the chicken in the freezer for up to nine months.
Read more: Here’s How Long Chicken Breasts Will Last in the Freezer (and How to Store Them)
3. Fruits and Vegetables
Freezing fruits and vegetables is the best way to enjoy summer when the leaves start to turn. There are a few strategies you’ll need to know (flash freezing, blanching, etc.), but it’s easy. And we’ve got all the steps so you can freeze fruits and veggies for up to eight to 12 months.
Read more: Here’s How Long Fruits and Vegetables Will Last in the Freezer (and the Best Way to Make Them Last)
It’d be nice if all of us could have fresh bread in our kitchens on a daily basis. That probably isn’t possible. You can freeze it, though, for three to six months. Just wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap before tossing it in the freezer. And follow our advice on how to defrost and heat it up.
Read more: Here’s How Long Bread Will Last in the Freezer (And How to Store It)
5. Ice Cream
Ice cream that has been kept frozen should be good up to the expiration date. If you want to keep your ice cream extra creamy and free of ice chunks, there are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind. For example, don’t keep it on the door and do add a layer of plastic wrap between the ice cream and the lid.
Read more: Here’s How Long Ice Cream Can Last In the Freezer (and How to Store It)
Some Additional Ingredients You Probably Freeze — And How Long They’ll Last
One to two months
Soups and Stews
Two to three months
Fatty Fish (Salmon, Mackerel)
Two to three months
Lean Fish (Cod, Flounder, Mahimahi)
Whole Poultry (Chicken, Turkey, Duck)
Egg Whites or Egg Substitutes
What Not to Freeze
- Shell eggs
- Canned food
- Prepared salads (like chicken, macaroni, and tuna)