How long can you keep frozen food for?

A well-stocked freezer is a mum’s best friend, so here’s our guide to safe storage times for all those frozen foods

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Batch cooking meals to store in the freezer is a must for busy mums and also makes economical sense. It’s important to make sure the food is stored correctly and, if you’ve snapped up a two-for-one supermarket offer and want to freeze the extra item, do it before the ‘use by’ date. Don’t forget to label containers with the date and contents, and check the temperature on your freezer thermometer – it should read -18 deg C.

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Safe storage times

Different categories of food can be stored in the freezer for the following amounts of time:

Red meat (and meat-based dishes)

Beef and lamb                4-6 months
Ham/minced beef           3-4 months
Sliced bacon/sausages    2-3 months

Poultry

Chicken/turkey/duck       4-6 months

Fish

White fish (cod, haddock etc)        6-8 months
Oily fish (salmon, tuna etc)           3-4 months
Shellfish                                      2-3 months

Cooked vegetables

Vegetable purées           6-8 months

Cooked fruit

Fruit purees                   6-8 months

Prepared foods

Soups/sauces                3 months
Cakes                           4-6 months
Bread/bread dough        2-3 months

Dairy produce       

Butter                           6-8 months
Hard cheese                  4-6 months   
Soft cheese                   3-4 months
Ice cream                     3-4 months

Expressed breastmilk

This can be stored for up to six months in a freezer, but only for two weeks in the freezer compartment of a fridge.

  • Always freeze breastmilk within 24 hours of expressing.
  • Choose containers that are sterilised and airtight: covered ice cube trays, small sealed bottles or breastmilk bags are ideal.
  • Leave space in the container for the milk to expand when frozen.
  • Defrost in the fridge and use as soon as it’s thawed. Throw away any leftovers.
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How to thaw frozen food

  • Defrost food in the fridge overnight, or if you forget, at room temperature before transferring it to the fridge.
  • Keep food covered and put it on a plate to catch any drips.
  • Don’t try to speed up the process by putting the food in warm water.
  • Use defrosted food within 24 hours unless you’ve thawed it in the microwave, in which case cook it immediately.
  • Reheat frozen food until it’s piping hot throughout, even if this means leaving it to cool down before giving it to your tot.
  • Don’t refreeze food that you’ve previously defrosted and cooked.
  • You can refreeze cooked foods if they were previously frozen raw – for example, you can defrost a frozen chicken breast, cook it in a casserole, and then freeze the casserole.

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