Freezer Cooking: Storage Length and Methods of Packaging

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How you package your freezer meals will determine how well they keep. Food stored in the freezer shouldn’t go “bad” as the enzyme action is slowed down while frozen. Provided that you started with fresh food in the first place and that the food stays frozen the entire time of storage, you shouldn’t have to worry about spoilage. In fact, the USDA says that “frozen foods remain safe indefinitely.”

However, frozen foods can lose texture and taste if not packaged properly or if frozen for too long. This chart offers some guidelines as to how long certain foods can maintain quality.

My general rule of thumb is not to keep things longer than 2-3 months in the refrigerator/freezer and no longer than 6 months in the deep freeze. This is my personal preference, but I’m finding that as my kids grow, we eat things up faster than I can get it frozen. I rarely have to worry about something getting freezer burn these days.

A Variety of Storage Methods

Over the last 12 years of Freezer Cooking, I’ve used a number of different packaging methods. These are what work for me.

  • Freezer Ziptop Bags are great for marinating meats, baked goods, and other items that hold their own shape. You can put soups, stews, or beans in these as well, but the leakage factor is something to consider. One of the benefits of ziptop bags is that they can lie flat, freeze, and then be lined up like books on a shelf. They provide a great way to store a lot of food in a small amount of space. You can reuse bags that you’ve used for baked goods and baking mixes. However, I don’t recommend reusing bags that have contained raw meats.
  • Reusable/Disposable Plastic Containers with Lids are wonderful for storing liquids like red sauce, soups, stews. I also regularly store shredded chicken and taco meat in these which makes reheating super easy. I have a large collection of these Twist ‘n Loc containers from Ziploc. As we use up the contents, I wash them and store them in a box in the pantry so that they’re not exploding out of  my kitchen cupboards.
  • Disposable Aluminum Baking Pans are not everyone’s favorite because they are sometimes difficult to clean, making them hard to reuse. Thus, their name “disposable.” But, they are very convenient, especially if you know you’ll be giving meals as gifts or taking them to potlucks.
  • Glass or Metal Baking Dishes are the longest lasting. If you have a large supply, this is your best bet. Otherwise, you might not want to have all your pans sitting in the freezer when you need to cook something fresh. I have a lot of pans so this is one of my favorite ways to store mashed potatoes, lasagna or other meals that I want to pop straight into the oven. I love this kind of Pyrex dish with a lid because then I don’t need any foil.

There is one more way of storing freezer meals, but I don’t have personal experience with it. Instead, I’ve got a great guest post from Katie of GoodLife{eats} explaining foil-wrapped freezer meals.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Coley says

    I like to use my glass or metal casserole dishes by lining them first with foil or parchment paper, placing all my items in side and then putting them in the freezer for 1-2 hours. Then I pull them out, pop out the frozen block and wrap it again in foil. Then I can stack them like books, just like my ziploc bags, and when its time to bake I just unwrap and pop back in the same shape dish.

  2. I have some Glad “disposable” 8×8 pans that are plastic not aluminum. They also have lids and are sturdier and more washable than the aluminum. They’ve held up through 3 months so far. I like them.

  3. I don’t really like those aluminum things, anyway, as I find they are not very sturdy. I like the idea of using Pyrex, but I only have 2 of them right now. They were bargains at a garage sale, so maybe this year I will keep my eyes open for a few more to use in the freezer. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Gwen says

    Thank you SO much for all of this wonderful information regarding freezer cooking. I have wanted to try it for quite some time, but have felt a bit overwhelmed. Your sight has answered so many questions. I hope to attempt this for the month of November. Thanks again for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

  5. Dana says

    The one tool I don’t hear anyone using or talking about it a food sealer. I have one, love it, and use it a ton. Does anyone else use a food sealer machine?

  6. Dara says

    My suggestion for casseroles is to line the glass casserole dish with plastic wrap, fill it, freeze it, then wrap it well and slide it in a freezer bag. Write on the bag cooking instructions for the hubby or older child. The night before cooking day(varies with defrost time) pull out frozen casserole, unwrap it, put it in the dish it was frozen in and defrost it in the fridge for the day. When I get home from work I will preheat the oven and bake. Ding, ding! Dinners ready.

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