Chances are, your freezer is full of leftovers. Half a pan of lasagna from last week? It’s in the freezer! Fresh blueberries that started to go soft? They’re in the freezer! Using the freezer is a great way to reduce food waste and cut down on your weekly grocery bill. However, two questions are frequently asked when it comes to determining if food is safe to freeze,
- Will the food in the freezer ultimately “go bad” and need to be thrown out? And…
- Is it safe to freeze food that is about to expire?
Understanding the answers to these questions will help you determine what food items can safely be frozen and for how long.
When It’s Safe to Freeze Food
It’s important to remember that frozen food will not “go bad” or develop unhealthy bacteria as long as it stays frozen. But, while frozen foods will stay edible in their frozen state, the longer the food stays frozen the greater the likelihood that the taste and texture will be negatively impacted.
When freezing your own food at home, don’t leave it in the freezer longer than 3 months. This timeline applies to anything you’re freezing yourself – raw meats, cooked meats, prepared foods, breads, and frozen fruits and vegetables. This is typically the amount of time that can pass before food that’s frozen in a conventional home freezer begins to develop freezer burn. Think of freezer burn as the “evil villain” lurking in your freezer. It slowly covers once-delicious and safe to freeze foods with frost and gradually removes the moisture from them.
When food covered in freezer burn is thawed and cooked, the flavor is less prominent and the texture tough and stringy. Careful packaging can help protect against freezer burn and extend the life of your frozen food, but the simple fact remains, if you want your food to taste the best that it can, be sure it eat it sooner rather than later!
Tommy’s Superfoods’ vegetables are flash frozen at peak flavor and freshness. Using this method greatly enhances both the quality and shelf life of our products, and substantially delays the risk of developing freezer burn. We recommend checking the “Best By” date on the package for all Tommy’s Superfoods products.
Evaluating What is Safe to Freeze
If you’re committed to reducing food waste, it’s important to know how to evaluate when the foods in your refrigerator or pantry can be safely frozen.
Most grocery items will contain labeling such as “Sell by,” “Best if used by (or before),” “Guaranteed fresh,” or “Use by” with a date following the terminology.
The “Sell by” label is a guide for the store indicating how long they can display the product for sale. In this case, it’s important to purchase the product before the date expires. The product will still be safe to eat for some time after, but the taste or freshness of the item will gradually diminish.
The other three labels also refer to taste quality, not food safety, and are guidelines for peak flavor and freshness. Many bakery items are labeled this way. Days-old bread may not be as soft as its fresh-baked counterpart, but it’s still edible.
The one label that is very important to pay attention to is the “Expiration Date.” This date refers to when the food needs to be used by – no ifs, ands, or buts about it! When you consume food that has gone past the expiration date, you put your health at risk. Food that’s past its expiration date is not safe to freeze! Don’t do it!
Take a look at the food in your refrigerator or pantry with a close eye for the various labeling terminology. If you know the opened container of pineapple juice will not be finished before the expiration date, freeze it right away. For food containing labels designed for freshness and taste, freeze as close to or before the date as possible. In cases such as bread, you may be able to freeze after the “Guaranteed fresh” date has passed but be aware that you’ll need to toast the bread or use it for croutons or breadcrumbs as the texture will be drier once it is defrosted.
More Food Safety Tips
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services offers consumers a handy guide for safe storage of foods that may not contain expiration or use by dates. It’s worth printing out a copy to place on the door of your refrigerator so you always have the information close at hand.
In addition, if you’re wondering how long fresh fruits and vegetables will last, take a look at Tommy’s Superfoods produce shelf life guide. This handy guide allows you to compare the shelf life of common fruits and vegetables when stored at room temperature, in your refrigerator and in your freezer. It’ll help you to ensure that your food tastes great and is stored properly.