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Sep 12, 2010 05:29 PM

Is it still good? AKA Cleaning out the freezer

Since there are only two of us, and most cold weather comfort food freezes well, I have a freezer full of leftovers. I don't write dates on them (probably should), but I think that the food is mostly from this past winter (Nov-March). They are in plastic tupperware. Chili, soup, ziti, lasagna, etc. Should I just toss it all out or start eating it to make room for this coming fall/winter? I don't know how to tell if it is still edible. Thanks

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  1. If it was edible when you put it in, it should be ok now. That isn't that long ago. What I do to make food last longer in the freezer (mostly soup, chili, stews, and food that was braised) is to freeze it in either ziplock bags or vacuum bags. I didn't invest in the Food Saver. I have the poor man's version, the Ziplock pump system that works reasonably well. I then use a Sharpie and write the contents and the date. I used to use plastic containers, i.e. cottage cheese, sour cream, etc, but they take up more room and the food seems to get less freezer burned that way.

    Your pasta may be a little worse off than the chili. But I'd start eating it now so eventually you'll have less to throw away later. Since I started using the bags and keeping an inventory on a piece of paper taped to the front of the upright freezer, I've thrown very little away. (This all started when I had to throw away 3 one pound t-bone steaks away because I forgot about them in the freezer. I don't know what they cost when they went into the freezer, but that was about 25 bucks when they came out. I fed them to the coyotes in the neighborhood).

    1. I am trying to be better about removing air and labeling as John E. suggested. I have an upright freezer, too, and have this fantasy that what goes in will come back out very soon for re-heat and serve. Not so, actually. So when I do pull out a beef stew or a minestrone that I've thrown to the Ice Gods, it generally has ice crystals on top. What I've found works well in this case is a quick rinse under cold water to remove the ice, then a scape of the top layer to remove freezer burn. Reheat and serve, no problems (yet), and no "freezery" taste, at least not with stuff that you can simmer and re-season, if need be, like soups and stews. For stuff like mashed banana, cheese sauce, lemon juice, the "pour into Ziploc and remove as much air as possible" method has worked really well.

      1. Food in the freezer lasts for years if it hasn't been thawed...the quality of some foods holding over others may be evident but it is still edible so personally, I wouldn't throw it away. I agree with the others that you should start eating it to rotate it and have room for new, and it's a good idea to label the food so you'll know what's in there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cherylptw

          I keep a list on the door so I do know what is oldest and what is newest, just not the exact date of entry. I share the freezer w/my roommate so what is left is the stuff that didn't manage to get on the list or is his. I think I have just given myself a week free of cooking.

        2. From a food safety standpoint, you are absolutely fine as long as you did not have a freezer malfunction of some sort.

          From a quality standpoint, it's not so clear ...

          3 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Thanks, exactly what I wanted to hear.

            1. re: viperlush

              Thaw, heat, smell, taste. You can tell freezer burn by the unpleasant, stale smell. Also, fats can turn rancid, even in the freezer, if frozen long enough in a home freezer, which isn't as cold or consistent as a commercial one. If it tastes bad, feed it to the nearest pooch. It will be safe either way.

            2. re: ipsedixit

              I agree. However, usually you can tell it's not worth cooking (the freezer burn will be immediately apparent) before you have to waste time thawing and cooking.

              Potatoes don't hold well, especially. And pasta. Tomato sauces, fruits (except bananas), meat dishes...I've eaten all of these as late as their first birthdays and it still was a pleasant meal.