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Get Started: How Long Do Meals Last?

One of the most frequent questions we get asked at Once a Month Mom is  how long do meals last? How long can you keep them in the freezer before they get freezer burn and go bad? Using a freezer inventory worksheet is one way to keep track of your meals and make sure you use them before they’ve succumbed to freezer burn, but this post on preventing freezer burn is a great resource for not only how long to keep the meals, but for ways to wrap and store them so that you get the maximum amount of “freezer time” out of your food!

I highly recommend checking out that post, as well as the links Tricia lists at the bottom of the post, but the short version is this: most food items will keep 3-6 months, if wrapped and stored properly. Of course, if you’re anything like me, you enjoy “cooking” from the freezer so much that meals are barely kept for more than a month before they get eaten!

With freezer cooking it is rare that the food goes “bad” as much as it loses quality. The longer the meal is in the freezer the longer it is exposed to opening and closing doors and susceptible to freezer burn. The USDA states “Because freezing keeps food safe almost indefinitely, recommended storage times are for quality only.” The microorganisms aren’t growing as they would be in a refrigerator, organisms are frozen; however, the longer you leave the dish in the freezer the less appealing it can become. I have eaten meals that have been in the freezer for nearly a year and still lived to tell about it though! :)

This list can be used as a general guideline for keeping common items in the freezer.Some of us like guidelines though, so here are some to keep in mind:

  • Fruits and Vegetables – 8-12 months
  • Poultry, uncooked – 12 months
  • Poultry, cooked – 4 months
  • Fish – 3-6 months
  • Meat, Roasts, Steaks, etc; uncooked – 4-12 months
  • Ground Meat, uncooked – 3-4 months
  • Meat, cooked – 4 months
  • Cured or Processed Meats – 1-2 months
  • Casseroles – 2-3 months
  • Soups and stews – 2-3 months

How long do you store your freezer meals? Any tips or tricks to share with Once a Month Mom readers? We’d love to hear them!


7 Responses to “Get Started: How Long Do Meals Last?”

  1. Heidi says:

    I choose out of the meals about 4 things and make 4 meals of each. I do this 1-2 times a month. With a mixtrue of the new items, and items from previous months we do not duplicate meal during the month. So my items stay in the freezer up to 4 months. I have not had any issues. We have an upright frost free deep freezer. Always label because you will forget what it is, and how to fix it.

  2. Katie says:

    Are there different recommendations for frost free vs. frosty freezers? I usually put short term things (or warmer things) in my frost free freezer on my fridge, while I have a NOT frost-free freezer for long term stuff.

    • Tricia says:

      There is usually less quality of life on items in a frost free freezer because it freezer burns faster but there aren’t any real conversions to compare to.

  3. Stacy Baldwin says:

    I’m thinking about getting a Food Saver. Does anyone have any experience using one? Does it prolong how long you can keep the food frozen?

    • Kelly says:

      I love my foodsaver. I use it for a lot of things. And yes it definitely helps to keep the food longer.

    • Andrea says:

      I have had a foodsaver for years. I love it and am already on my 3rd one (we use it constantly & my first was a hand-me-down). I use it for leftovers as well, because you can “boil in bag” the leftovers(soups & stews) and have almost no cleanup. Cheese lasts much longer and I buy a lot of clearanced items (ground meats, chicken breast, etc) and repackage them in the vacuumm bags before freezing. They last months longer than in the store packages, without freezer burn. You can quick thaw by dropping the bag in a bowl of cool water.

  4. [...] and pastas. There are a world of things that you can prepare easily and freeze just fine. And the food keeps for 1-3 months, so if life gets busy, you don't waste your efforts.   Day in and day out I hear from my [...]

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