Does freezer food go bad? How long do freezer meals last in the freezer? The good news is that most freezer meals should last 3-4 months in the freezer without any spoilage or loss of quality. Any busy mom and on-the-go businessperson will join me in testifying how important saving time and money is; but it isn’t a savings if you let your meals spoil! I know the disappointment of opening a freezer meal and find that it has been sitting in the freezer for too long. How can you ensure this doesn’t happen? Keep reading to find out.
Does Freezer Food Go Bad?
You don’t want to serve your family a meal that has gone bad or is freezer burned. You’re not saving anything if you make meals ahead, but then have to throw them out. And no matter how carefully you package them, they will go bad eventually. Check the dates on your frozen meals to ensure they are consumed before the four-month period is up. If they look questionable or has an off smell, it’s best to discard them immediately.
Tips on Storing Freezer Meals Properly
There are a number of things that you can do to help ensure that your freezer meals last as long as possible.
- Keep them tightly sealed in quality bags or containers and store them at 0°F or lower in the freezer. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, “freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes – bacteria, yeasts and mold present in food. Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage.”
- To help keep the food fresh, use a vacuum sealer or a resealable zipper bag to prevent air from getting inside.
- Make sure not to overcrowd your freezer, as this could cause your food to spoil faster than expected! Leave some air flow between them
- Label all of your frozen meals with a USE BY date. Check out the labeling tips below!
- Avoid refreezing thawed food and only thaw foods just before you are ready to use them.
Types of Foods You Can Freeze
You can’t go wrong following any of the fantastic recipes in the FreezerFit database. (Sign up to get full access to our recipe database and more!) But if you are trying to freeze your own favorite recipe or ingredients, what foods are best for freezing?
- Most proteins like chicken, beef, pork, and fish can be frozen safely for up to 4 months without going bad (as long as they are stored properly)
- Hard cheeses and most milk products
- Eggs (beaten lightly with a fork)
- Vegetables like broccoli or carrots
Proper Labeling of Your Freezer Meals
Labels are EXTREMELY helpful. If you prepare a lot of meals in bulk, it can be confusing telling them all apart once they are frozen solid. The labels should display:
- the recipe name,
- cooking instructions, and
- most importantly… a USE-BY date (90 days after meal prep)
I recommend printing these labels on computer paper or water-resistant stickers and taping/attaching them to your bags PRIOR to meal prep.
Signs Your Freezer Meal Has Gone Bad
If you’re unsure whether a freezer meal has gone bad due to being stored too long in the freezer, check for the following signs. The first one is an off smell; if your food smells different than usual, it’s probably a sign that it’s gone bad and needs to be discarded immediately!
Additionally, changes in texture, such as discoloration or slimy patches, may indicate that the food has been contaminated with bacteria or other microorganisms during its storage period in the freezer. Please don’t eat any food if these signs are present! When in doubt, throw it out!
How Long Do Freezer Meals Last After Being Thawed?
Another question people often ask is how long frozen meals last after being thawed out? Generally speaking, thawed foods should be cooked within 24 hours of being defrosted, so they don’t go bad before being consumed! Toss them in the slow cooker or Instant Pot and get cooking.
Once cooked, they should be refrigerated immediately (within 2 hours), just like fresh food, so they don’t start spoiling again due to exposure to room temperature air (which encourages bacteria growth).
Summary & Conclusion
Most foods can safely be stored for up to 4 months in a proper airtight container within your household’s refrigerator/freezer without spoiling. Still, certain signs such as an off smell or changes in texture may indicate that your food has gone bad before its expiration date – so make sure to discard anything that looks questionable immediately!
Happy freezing and cooking, everyone! By following the tips in this article, you can look forward to many high-quality freezer meals for you and your family!
P.S. Here are a couple more great freezer meal tips!
- Don’t forget to add a layer of foil under your freezer bags to protect them from any spills or messes in the freezer and be sure to rotate your meals regularly so that none of them get forgotten at the back! Check out these freezer organization tips.
- When you’re ready to cook a frozen meal, take it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the night before so that it can thaw out slowly and evenly overnight.