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Freezing Foods 101

Written by Avance Care registered dietitian Chris Thompson, MS, RDN, LDN

Amid a pandemic, we’re stocking up on groceries more than ever. Are some of these foods starting to go bad before you use them? Freezing foods is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of household staples. It also prevents the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold that can lead to food spoilage, food poisoning, and money down the drain. The quality of our food can be protected by following a few easy tips for safe freezing.

General Freezing Tips:

  • Make sure your freezer is at or below 0°F for food safety1
  • If purchased frozen, keep foods in their original package
  • Before freezing, label each package with the food, name, and date
  • Freeze in serving sizes appropriate for your meals and cooking needs
  • Rotate foods – keeping oldest foods in front of the freezer and using them first
  • Make it easy to navigate – stack similar foods together
  • Leftovers? Use freezer containers, moisture-proof paper to prevent freezer burn, and zippered plastic bags meant for freezing

Leftover Raw Veggies?

  • Blanch vegetables to lengthen freezer life
    • Immerse veggies in boiling water for one to three minutes
    • Immediately immerse them into ice cold water to stop cooking
    • Lay on kitchen towels to air dry
    • Freeze in airtight plastic bags once dry
    • These foods will last for a long time, but quality deteriorates the longer they go unused

Leftover Raw Fruits?

  • Freeze raw fruits to extend their shelf life
    • Clean and rinse fruits
    • Lay on kitchen towels to air dry
    • Process however you’d like (for example, cut up whole strawberries or leave blueberries whole)
    • Freeze in airtight plastic bags
    • Just like veggies, frozen fruits last for a long time, but quality deteriorates the longer they go unused.

But How Long Do My Proteins Last?2

Look below for a quick reference as to how long common household proteins and meats last in the refrigerator and freezer.

 

Food

Refrigerator

Freezer

Steaks, Chops, Roasts

3-5 days

4-12 months

Cooked meat

1-2 days

2-6 months

Ground meet, uncooked

Ground meet, cooked

1-2 days

3-4 days

3-4 months

2-6 months

 

 

 

Poultry, whole

1-2 days

1 year

Poultry, breast, thigh, wings

1-2 days

9 months

Cooked poultry

3-4 days

2-6 months

 

 

 

Eggs, fresh, in shell

3-5 weeks

Do not freeze

Egg substitutes, opened

Egg substitutes, unopened

3 days

1 week

Do not freeze

Do not freeze

 

 

 

Bacon

1 week

1 month

Sausage, raw

Sausage, pre-cooked/smoked

1-2 days

1 week

1-2 months

1-2 months

 

 

 

Cheese, hard/processed opened

Cheese, hard/processed unopened

3-4 weeks

6 months

6 months

6 months

Cheese, soft

1-2 weeks

6 months

Cottage/ricotta cheese

1-2 weeks

Do not freeze

Cream cheese

1-2 weeks

Do not freeze

Butter

1-2 months

6-9 months

 

What Foods Don’t Freeze Well?

  • Fresh tomatoes, lettuce, celery, any kind of salad, custard, mayonnaise, hard cooked eggs, sour cream, raw potatoes, unblanched veggies and foods made with these ingredients.
  • These foods are safe to eat when frozen, but quality is drastically impacted.
  • Don’t freeze unopened canned or jarred foods as are likely to explode.

Thaw Food for Safety

  • Thaw foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter, as bacteria live and thrive at room temperature.
  • Need it quicker? Thaw frozen meat, poultry, or fish in cold water that’s changed every 30 minutes.
  • Even quicker? Remove store wrapping, put meat, poultry, or fish in a microwave safe dish and defrost on low or defrost settings in the microwave oven.

Freezing food is a great way to prevent food waste, have access to pre-prepared sides, and can save money in the long run. If you have any questions about freezing food, please reach out to your Registered Dietitian.

 

 

  1. https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/refrigerate/freezing-101
  2. https://www.eatright.org/-/media/homefoodsafety/multimedia/downloads/keepit-cool-refrigerator-storage-chart.pdf?la=en&hash=9D60B8382F446D0FE0B9B75A1557E4BAA09281B6
Chris is a Registered Dietitian at Avance Care’s Apex and Holly Springs locations. He loves experimenting in the kitchen, staying active, playing and watching sports, spending quality time with his two dogs, and reading Muhammad Ali quotes.
Categories: Education,  Nutrition
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