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How Long Does Frozen Food Really Last?

Frozen and bagged vegetables are stacked in a freezer.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

There’s a pack of peas that’s been in your freezer for a while now, and you need a vegetable for dinner. Now, though, you can’t remember when you bought them and just how long they’ve been frozen, but does it really matter?

Does frozen food go bad? As it turns out, you shouldn’t start tossing stuff from your freezer right away.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, frozen food will stay good indefinitely if kept in a frozen (aka not thawed and then refrozen). Why? The agency explained that the bacteria which cause food poisoning can’t grow in the freezer. In terms of safety, as long as that bag of frozen veggies or fruits hasn’t been opened, meats have been stored in airtight environments, and milk is kept sealed, any item in your fridge is theoretically safe to eat.

Pyex No Leak 3-Cup Meal Prep Storage Container Set

Keep those frozen foods tightly sealed with these containers.

There are two key elements of freezing foods to know, though. First, just because something is safe to eat doesn’t mean it’ll taste good. Being stashed in a freezer for months on end can result in freezer burn and reduced flavor. For optimal freshness, you can follow this handy cold food storage chart. The best way to use those items is in dishes like soups, chilis, and stews where other seasonings and flavors can help disguise any change in taste.

Second, when storing items like meat and leftovers, you’ll want to be sure they were handled properly. Not all bacteria—like salmonella—are killed by freezing, so if your meat or leftovers were exposed, they’ll still be contaminated when you thaw them. As for leftovers, be sure you’re following proper storage techniques before freezing.

Since we’re all trying to save money on groceries, maybe don’t throw out those peas as soon as you find them lurking in your freezer.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »
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