How Long Foods Really Last in the Freezer (It’s Shorter Than You Think)

Unsure if items in your fridge are past their prime? See our guide to commonly kept freezer items for the answer, and how to use them up before you have to throw them out.

When it comes to stocking up on basics (and for last-minute, hanger-fuelled cravings) the freezer can be your best friend. It extends the lifespan of food by putting the brakes on bacterial growth, making our busy lives that much more convenient.

But we’re all guilty of throwing unlabelled, butcher-wrapped food into that icy abyss without a plan as to when we’ll use it (beyond “someday soon”).

To stay safe and prevent food-borne illness (and unnecessary food waste) it’s important to use proper freezing and thawing techniques and checking to make sure your freezer is the proper temperature of -18 °C or lower.

But even if you do everything right, how long are frozen foods  really good for?

We reviewed Health Canada’s safe food-storage guidelines, and found that the rules vary significantly depending on how food is processed.  We’ve put together a freezer timeline of commonly kept items (and which foods are best not to freeze, period) so you can make sure the contents of your freezer remain ready to eat.

And one essential tip before we start —  make it a habit to keep blank sticky labels and a Sharpie in the kitchen drawer, so you can write the date on everything you’re about to park in the freezer.

Meat and Poultry

Whole roasts, birds  and steaks can last up to 12 months in the freezer before they need to be thrown out, so go ahead and buy your Thanksgiving turkey early. Ground meat and smaller pieces last significantly less time in the freezer than their whole counterparts (a larger surface area means more opportunity for contamination). So, if that ground beef has been kicking around for more than 2-3 months, toss it, and if you have chicken breasts or thighs that have been in there for more than 6 months, it’s time to say sayonara.

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