How long should you keep food in your freezer?
It's a great way to save food, but how long can you freeze things for?
We all rely on our freezers - from keeping a stash of frozen veg to make-ahead meals and midweek/Sunday lunch leftovers. But when was the last time you dug into the depths and did a proper audit on what you're actually storing?
Now's a good time to take a look. It could save you money on your weekly food shop if you have food that needs eating. If your freezer needs defrosting, it will be much easier and far safer if there's not much in it.
Can you still use it?
Food can't live forever in the freezer - meat should be used within six months and bread only lasts four to six months. Any longer and the food will still be safe but the colour, flavour and texture will start to deteriorate. Find our guide to freezer storage times on the handy infographic below:
Good freezing habits
Freezers run more efficiently when filled, however be careful to not to pack it too full – air must be able to circulate easily in order to maintain the temperature.Never store away slightly warm foods in the freezer, as these will cause a rise in temperature.When freezing large quantities, use the 'fast-freeze' setting if the appliance has one.Pack and seal items in gusseted bags before freezing to avoid moisture or cold air coming into contact with the food or cross-flavouring occurring.Use square or rectangular containers to store food – they stack well and take up less space. We like Lakeland's Stack-a-Box Containers.When freezing liquids, leave a little space to allow for expansion, so don't fill containers right to the top.Divide items of food that might stick together with baking parchment, foil or freezer paper.Always label containers with details of the contents, date and quantity/number of servings.
The defrosting guide
Freezing is only half the battle! Don't ruin perfectly saved food in the defrosting process by following these steps:
Do not refreeze cooked food one it has defrosted. Raw defrosted food may be frozen once more, only if it has been cooked after defrosting and before re-freezing.Defrosting should follow the manufacturer’s instructions (if available).Defrosting frozen food needs to be done carefully, too. Never leave food to defrost in a warm place (a fridge or cool larder is ideal), cover loosely, and ensure it is thoroughly defrosted before cooking - cook food soon after defrosting.To defrost meat, place it on a tray or plate to catch the juices and always place in the bottom of the fridge. Small pieces should defrost in around six hours, but large joints and turkeys can take up to 48 hours.Meat defrosting in the fridge/microwave should be covered to avoid any cross-contamination.To defrost in a microwave: use the defrost or 50% settings, this will ensure that the outside of the food doesn’t cook during defrosting. At intervals, break up or stir food as it is defrosting. Make sure to cook the food straight away.