The freezer is our best friend when it comes to food preservation, but sometimes we forget that it can't keep things fresh for eternity. Here are six types of items in your freezer that probably need to be tossed.
a freezer door open with an ice cube tray, an ice cream pint, and a plastic container of food popping out
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A freezer is something we could never live without. We store everything in there, from bread and veggies to leftovers. But we have to admit, sometimes we treat our freezer like a junk drawer—anything that doesn't have a place in our fridge or pantry may get haphazardly thrown in there. This leads to a lot of disorganization and foods that are forgotten (sometimes for years). If your relationship to the freezer is anything like this, it's probably time to do a little clean-out. Here are six types of items in your freezer that probably need to be thrown out. 

Refrozen Foods

Have you ever defrosted a package of frozen meat or vegetables only to decide last-minute to go out for dinner instead? If you threw those packages back into the freezer, you may want to find them and toss them. Each time you thaw, then refreeze food, you increase the chances for bacteria to grow. The best way to prevent bacterial growth when thawing is to always thaw frozen items in the refrigerator when time permits. If you find yourself refreezing food, make sure you are doing it as soon as possible. Do not refreeze food that has been left out for more than two hours. You may also consider portioning your food item before freezing it so that you only remove from the freezer exactly what you need. And remember to wrap tightly, removing as much air as possible from the packaging to prevent freezer burn.  

Forgotten Leftovers and Meals

Bringing home leftovers after a visit to Grandma's is one of our favorite things to do. Those comfort foods really hit the spot whenever we're homesick. But oftentimes we'll forget about them, and they may end up sitting in our freezer for months, if not longer. Sadly, frozen foods and meals should be eaten within three to four months, according to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. After that their quality degrades significantly. If anything has been in your freezer for more than six months, it may be time to say goodbye. 

Some Freezer-Burned Items

If you ever find something in your freezer that's been completely overtaken by ice crystals, you will likely not enjoy eating it. Although freezer-burned food is not hazardous to eat, the quality of it will be bad. It may also have an unpleasant smell that comes with freezer burn, and the color may be unappealing. The best way to prevent this from happening in the first place is to freeze your food properly by cooling it down completely and removing as much air from the container as possible. It's also best to eat your frozen food within three to six months. If you've deemed your freezer-burned food edible, the best use for it may be in a smoothie or pureed soup, where any change in texture or discoloration may not be so noticeable.

Smelly Ice Cubes

You may be thinking, "Huh? Ice cubes don't smell." Normally, freshly frozen ice doesn't have any particular smell or taste. However, over time ice will absorb scents and flavors from the foods around it. That means if you have a frozen pizza, a bag of shrimp and a pie shell next to your ice tray, you could potentially get an ice cube that smells and tastes like a mashup of all three. Once your ice has absorbed those scents, there's no way to get rid of them. It's best to just throw it out and refreeze a fresh batch. To avoid this problem altogether, investing in ice trays with lids helps. 

Old Ice Cream

We have two problems in our household. First, no one wants to be the one who finishes the pint of ice cream, which results in several practically empty cartons of ice cream in our freezer at any given time. The second is that after a few months, those ice creams aren't tasty anymore. In general, ice cream stays fresh for about three months like other frozen dairy products. It's a good idea to pay attention to the best-by date on the packaging as well. And if you have the same issues as we do, teach your family members from an early age that it's OK to be the one who finishes the pint of ice cream (no shame in that!). Better for it to end up in someone's belly than in the bin. 

Pastries with Cream or Cheese Fillings

When the weather starts to get cooler and the holidays begin to roll in, all we want to do is turn on the oven and start baking. This inevitably leads to the "problem" of having too many baked goods in the house at one time. When there are any extras, we like to freeze them. Most baked goods will keep for a good three to six months, but goodies with cheese or cream in them need to be eaten within a month. Cheese and cream don't do well when frozen for long periods of time (they will separate and change in texture). So, if you don't want all your hard work to go to waste, eat those goodies right away or within a month of freezing. 

Bottom Line

The freezer is such a great way to preserve all kinds of food for extended periods of time, but it won't keep the quality of your food at its best for eternity—which is why it's important to regularly organize its contents. If organizing your freezer has gotten you into a cleaning kick, may we suggest you also look at your pantry and fridge? We've found there was a lot that needed to be thrown out in those areas too.