Do you really know what’s in there? Take the time to pull things out and make decisions if I you’ll ever use that food or not. You might want to do an inventory list so you can remember what’s there. Update this list as you use up the food.
Some keys for freezer storage:
The “rule of thumb” for freezing fresh foods (like turkey, hamburger, fresh fruits and vegetables) is that it will keep for one year. Precooked foods and leftovers are best if eaten within three to four months. These time recommendations are for quality not safety.
This loss of quality is what’s often called “freezer burn” and does not necessarily make food unsafe. This can be dehydration, deterioration of quality or just an “off flavor”. Safety wise food can stay in the freezer longer if there has not been any loss of power and the food has been kept at zero degrees. Think quality vs. safety. The US Food and Drug Administration has a great chart online with recommended freezer storage times.
Another key to keeping your freezer items under control and to help with the inventory is to label all items with the description and date. You may think you’ll always remember what’s in that package, but once frozen applesauce can look like gravy and kale can look like chopped broccoli. Mystery food.
If you have find you have a collection of these unknown items….have a Surprise Dinner! Thaw out all of these unlabeled items and serve as a smorgasbord. It may not be balanced nutrition, it may not all go together, but you’ve accomplished several things – cleaned the freezer, learned what’s there and fun (ny) dinner.
When looking at these items and making decisions remember the old saying, “when in doubt about the age, the quality or the safety of a food….throw it out.”
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University