How Long Can I Store Frozen Food ?

Frozen chicken wings

Freezing cannot improve the flavor or texture of any food, but when properly done it can preserve most of the quality of the fresh product. Knowing how long a particular food can be stored in the freezer is not as simple as it sounds.

The storage times listed below are approximate months of storage for some food products assuming the food has been prepared and packaged correctly and stored in the freezer at or below 0°F. For best quality use the shorter storage times. After these times, the food should still be safe, just lower in quality.

Food Approximate months of storage at 0°F

    • Fruits and Vegetables 8 - 12

    • Poultry 6 - 9

    • Fish 3 - 6

    • Ground Meat 3 - 4

  • Cured or Processed Meat 1 - 2

Several factors influence the shelf life of frozen food besides the type of food.

Was the food properly blanched?

Blanching is scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time. Blanching stops enzyme actions which cause loss of flavor, color, texture and nutrients even in frozen storage. Always follow recommended blanching times.

Was the food packaged in appropriate materials?

Cool all foods and syrups before packaging to speed up the rate of freezing and help retain the natural color, flavor, and texture of the food.
Packaging materials must be moisture-vapor resistant; durable and leak proof; protect foods from off-flavors and odors; and easy to seal.
Good packaging choices for freezing foods include rigid containers made of plastic, glass or aluminum; semi-rigid aluminum foil pans; plastic bags; and flexible wraps including plastic, foil and laminated paper. For best moisture-vapor resistance, be sure to choose bags, wraps and boxes made especially for food freezing.
Allow enough headspace so food can expand without breaking package seals.
Label each package; include the name of the product, any added ingredients, packaging date, the number of servings of amount, and form of food.
Use freezer tape, or pens and labels made especially for freezer use.

Was the food stored at an acceptable temperature?

Freeze cooked foods rapidly to preserve quality.
Freeze and store food at 0°F or lower for the best quality.
Freeze foods as soon as they are packed and sealed.
Do not overload the freezer with unfrozen food.
Leave space among new, warm packages so the cold air can circulate freely around them. When the food is frozen, stack and store the packages close together if desired.
A good policy to remember and follow is "first in, first out". Rotate foods so that you use the older items first and enjoy your food at its best quality.

Warning: Follow safe food handling procedures to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Courtesy of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)