How to freeze food and for how long

This simple guide will show you how to properly freeze food and for how long.

How to freeze food and for how long

Buying in bulk can save you big money, but the problem is how to eat all that food before it goes bad. Today, we show you how to properly freeze food and for how long, as well as how to thaw then reheat frozen food.

There are quite a few mistakes that people make when freezing food, many of which may seem like a no-brainer. The first is that they leave it too long before freezing.

The best time to freeze food that you’ve bought is as soon as you bring it home from the supermarket.

If you’ve just cooked a big meal and want to freeze leftovers for later in the week (or month), then you should let it cool slightly before placing it in the freezer. If the leftovers are too hot, the temperature in your freezer will rise, meaning it will take longer for the food to freeze and could potentially thaw other foods.

When you put home-cooked meals in the freezer, it’s a good idea to place a bit of sticky tape on the container, with the date you put it in the freezer. Then, using the quick reference below, you can monitor your frozen goods and know what you can eat and what you need to throw out.

To avoid freezer burn, make sure the food is properly wrapped and airtight. Freezer burn occurs when foods have been exposed to air during freezing. While you can still eat food that’s been affected by freezer burn, the taste and texture will be affected. It’s best to use airtight containers or zip-lock bags to ensure your food stays unaffected.

Another great idea to preserve the integrity of frozen food is to buy it just before you get to the register and to have an esky or cooler bag in the car when you return from the supermarket. That way, your frozen food will be at its coldest and, when you get to your car, you can pop in any frozen foods you’ve bought and they’ll stay frozen until you get home. Place frozen foods in the freezer as soon as you get home – don’t give them time to thaw.

Use this chart as your guide to maximum freezing times for a wide range of foods.

Raw meat

  • beef mince: three months
  • beef steaks and roasts: six months
  • lamb mince: three months
  • lamb cutlets, chops and roasts: three to six months
  • pork mince: two months
  • pork chops and roasts: three to six months
  • bacon, ham, prosciutto: one month
  • sausages: three months

Raw poultry

  • mince: three months
  • chicken pieces: six months
  • whole chickens: 12 months
  • duck: three months

Raw seafood

  • white fish fillets: six months
  • salmon, trout or other oily fish: two months
  • shellfish: two months

Cooked/prepared foods

  • beef and lamb casseroles: three months
  • pork casseroles: one month
  • vegetarian casseroles: six months
  • cooked and shelled prawns: one month
  • cooked leftover meats: two months
  • soups: four months
  • fresh pasta: three months

Baked goods

  • cakes: four months
  • pancakes and crepes: two months
  • bread: eight months
  • pastries: eight months
  • muffins: 12 months
  • fruit cakes: 12 months
  • pies: four months

Dairy products

  • butter, salted: 12 months
  • butter, unsalted: three months
  • margarine: six months
  • hard cheeses, such as cheddar: three months

The best ways to thaw food

Foods such as cakes muffins, pastries and biscuits are ideally thawed at room temperature. To avoid food becoming soggy during thawing, make sure you remove food from packaging.

Foods with medium moisture content, such as pasta, sliced bread, frozen veggies or home-cooked meals can be reheated from frozen. Freeze cooked meals in single serving sizes for faster thawing and reheating.

Any meat, fish, fruit and food with high liquid content should be defrosted in the fridge to avoid bacteria growing during the thawing process. When thawing meat, ensure you leave it at least a full 24 hours (or longer) to allow ice crystals to fully break down. Also, place it on a plate to catch any juices.

When defrosting fruit, place in a single layer on top of a paper towel to absorb any liquid.

And here’s another money-saving tip: make sure your freezer is always well packed, because it takes less energy to cool and circulate the air that keeps your food frozen.

Do you have any freezing food tips for our members?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    KB
    30th Nov 2017
    11:45am
    Should bread be in the freezer?
    Polly Esther
    30th Nov 2017
    12:05pm
    can be but I question eight months.
    Should also be done in small lots I have found as it can tend to go off rather quickly once defrosted.
    Happy day :-))
    Rosret
    30th Nov 2017
    12:10pm
    Its fine in the freezer and it stays fresh for the entire loaf......and it stops me eating it at will!
    The pom
    30th Nov 2017
    2:21pm
    I like to keep my bread in the freezer as it is easier to spread the butter when making my sandwiches.
    Kathleen
    30th Nov 2017
    11:57am
    Buy half price specials! This just saved me $50 on a $120 grocery order. Don’t wait to buy what you run out of, buy the specials and stay ahead of the prices. Toilet paper, tea, basics that you keep a supply of!
    Rosret
    30th Nov 2017
    12:12pm
    You can only buy things you "don't like" on special.
    Chocolate, wine and delectable foods just disappear twice as fast.
    Puglet
    30th Nov 2017
    12:42pm
    Kathleen and Rosret - I do buy expensive and extravagant coffee beans and in larger quantities than I need. I now freeze them in bags that contain a week’s worth and they stay fresh. Rosret, I bought hand-made gourmet chocolate for my kids to beat the Price Rises - not a good idea!

    Has anyone frozen butter?
    Ginty 01
    30th Nov 2017
    1:06pm
    I freeze butter regularly, don't even bother wrapping just leave it in its own wrapping. Lasts ages.
    Pamiea
    30th Nov 2017
    1:12pm
    Havent tried freezing butter but I certainly freeze cheese. I buy in the kilo blocks and cut roughly into four quarters, wrap in gladwrap and freeze three. Saves cheese going mouldy. It slightly affects the flavour but not worth worrying about.
    Anonymous
    30th Nov 2017
    1:43pm
    I buy those kilo blocks of cheese (the cheapest ones), and just leave them anywhere in the fridge (no freezing) .... and each block lasts me about 6 to 8 weeks, and never goes mouldy or bad (maybe I have a low fridge temperature, I haven't checked the temperature for years, ha ha).

    30th Nov 2017
    1:37pm
    Anyone on an age pension should be on easy street regarding the cost of food. My single age pension is $894 a fortnight and I spend $200 on food so that leaves $694 a fortnight for all other stuff ..... my bank account is increasing by thousands every year because I only very rarely spend the full $894. Food affordability is no problem whatsoever for me. As long as an age pensioner has no debts, no big medical expenses and no mortgage/rent ..... then living on the age pension in Australia is easy, easy, easy!!!
    The pom
    30th Nov 2017
    2:29pm
    I find living is easy on the pension as I don't smoke, drink alcohol or gamble and rarely travel anywhere. My 5 year old car has less than 25,000 kilos on it. Library books cost nothing to borrow, and there is enough on free to air TV, much of it being rubbish, but some gems if you look for them. Well into my 80's I find life quite easy.
    Anonymous
    30th Nov 2017
    7:56pm
    Great positive posts guys . So refreshing to read instead of the usual whinghing posts on how the pension is never enough
    Liverpool Anne
    1st Dec 2017
    9:26am
    I always wrap my baked goods including bread, in 2 layers of plastic. This prevents ice burns and cakes can be baked ahead of time for competitions and thawed 2 days before the event.
    Blossom
    1st Dec 2017
    8:21pm
    Polly Esther.
    You don't have to keep the whole loaf of bread out of the freezer. Take out the number of slices you need, re-close the packet/container and put the rest back in the freezer. We have been doing that for at least 50 years.
    Blossom
    1st Dec 2017
    8:25pm
    I have been told by more than one refrigeration tradie that you shouldn't pack a freezer too tight, epsecially in front of the fan vent. You make it more difficult for the air to circulate through your freezer, it is less efficient, deteriorates tyour freezer sooner + it uses more electricity therefore you are not making as much in savings as you think you are.


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