Do you know for sure exactly how long you can safely freeze food for, or do you just freeze it and hope for the best? Or maybe you use one of those helpful charts on the internet that tells you the length of time it’s safe to freeze different foods for?

The trouble is, the charts don’t deal with food safety at all, they’re there to tell you the optimum freezing times for foods, not how long it’s safe to freeze them for.

All frozen food is safe to eat, as long as it was safe to eat at the time of freezing. The USDA says that you can store frozen food indefinitely, and that the recommended times are for quality only.

For example, a frozen banana will keep safely for years, but will only taste good and be at optimum quality for around three months. You can keep frozen food in perfect safety until the next ice age, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to taste nice when you defrost it!

Freezing is a very safe method of storing food. It slows down the movement of molecules, making microbes enter a dormant stage, and prevents the growth of microorganisms that can cause food poisoning and make food go bad. Once you defrost the food though, it can activate these pesky microbes and they will re-start the process of food spoilage again.

Tips and Times for Storing Food in the Freezer

  • Your freezer temperature should be set at 0 degrees F, or –18 degrees C.
  • Make sure your food is packaged tightly before you freeze it, and try to remove as much air as possible.
  • Label your frozen packages, or you may forget what they are!

The list of times and foods given below are from the USDA’s freezer guidelines. Remember, these are quality guidelines, not safety ones

Bacon and Sausage – 1 to 2 months

Casseroles – 2 to 3 months

Egg whites or egg substitutes – 12 months

Frozen dinners and Entrees – 3 to 4 months

Gravy, meat or poultry – 2 to 3 months

Ham, hotdogs and lunchmeats – 1 to 2 months

Meat, uncooked roasts – 4 to 12 months

Meat, uncooked steaks or chops – 4 to 12 months

Meat, uncooked ground or minced – 3 to 4 months

Meat, cooked – 2 to 3 months

Poultry, uncooked whole – 12 months

Poultry, uncooked parts – 9 months

Poultry, uncooked giblets – 3 to 4 months

Poultry, cooked – 4 months

Soups and stews – 2 to 3 months

Is There Anything That Shouldn’t be Frozen?

Yes, according to Don’t freeze the following foods:

Deli products

Vacuum packed products

Eggs in the shell

Hard boiled eggs



Sour cream


Cream cheese


Pie custards

Salads and salad dressings (bottled)

Canned fish and unopened canned ham

Uncooked pasta and rice


Apples, melons, lettuce, aubergines, radishes, sprouts, artichokes

Potatoes unless mashed

Carbonated drinks and beer

Hopefully these guidelines should clear up some of the confusion about freezing times and food safety, and just maybe it’ll save you money by preventing you throwing out perfectly good frozen food because you weren’t sure how long you could safely keep it for.