Three Rules of Thumb for Freezer Storage Times
The One Year Rule
The One Year Rule
As a general rule of thumb I never plan to keep things in the freezer more than one year.
Storing things longer than that is simply an uneconomical use of space, electricity and an unnecessary risk that when you go to use your food it won’t be appetizing.
Despite the ‘fresh’ food available in the grocery store daily I still believe food has seasons.
When food is in season and at it’s peak is the ideal time to stock up and freeze some and there is nothing wrong with freezing a year supply but no reason to assume you won’t or can’t stock up again next season.
When it comes to meats I feel the same way.
If you buy in bulk and get more than a year supply share your abundance with others or plan to split the cost and the meat with a friend, family member or neighbor.
The Three Month Rule
When it comes to freezer meals compared to individually wrapped meats, dairy, fruit, veggies and baked goods I use the three month rule.
Only make enough of any given freezer meal to last three months or a single season.
With the three month rule you get the real benefits of freezer cooking. Your constantly using your freezer meals.
Your freezer contents get turned over so you have room for new meals and they aren't in there long enough to go bad.
Plus, if you really think about it, other than a few year round favorites, we eat different things during each season anyway because of the weather.
The exception to this is highly salty foods like bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs and lunch meats. These are only recommended for 1-2 months as they can go bad in the freezer.
The Inspection Rule
We have a natural instinct to not eat bad stuff.
If it looks freezer burnt you probably won’t want to eat it-it's completely safe just dry and unappetizing.
If it smells bad it either is bad or absorbed other smells in freezer (due to poor packaging) and you won’t want to eat it.
We’ve learned that we shouldn’t waste food and that wasting food is like throwing money away but getting sick is a waste too.
So, when in doubt throw it out.
This is the third rule for a reason, package it right and follow the first two rules and you’ll rarely have to deal with this one.
But if you do then simply inspect the food.
Ask yourself if it was packaged well, stayed frozen, looks OK and smells OK.
If so you can probably eat if, if not toss it.
And please remember if it can make you sick it can make your dog or cat sick too!
Want more details? Learn about the factor that influence storage times in the freezer.
Learn more about getting started with freezer cooking.
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