We all know the benefits of being healthy, but actually implementing it can be incredibly tedious. There’s the meal prep, the cooking of the meal prep, the storing of the cooked meal prep and freezing of the meal prep so you don’t have to do this all over again.
We’ve seen the stars make it look so easy. From Ashley Graham to the Kardashians, it’s clear to see that planning ahead is the best way to stay on top. It’s the basis of almost every nutritionist’s meal plan, and one of the best ways to stay ahead is to freeze your food.
The internet is full of helpful guides that tell us how long our food will last in the freezer. Charts abound suggest raw chicken breast will freeze up to nine months, while cheese only lasts up to six months. Those guides are pinned as life-savers as they offer us protection from the dangers of food safety gone wrong. At least, that is what we used to think.
According to the USDA, those guides aren’t referring to safety at all, because all frozen food is safe to eat, provided it was safe to eat at the time it was frozen. This could completely change the way we prepare and eat food.
The USDA says: “Because freezing keeps food safe almost indefinitely, recommended storage times are for quality only,” adding, “Food stored constantly at 0 degrees Fahrenheit will always be safe. Only the quality suffers with lengthy freezer storage.”
All those online charts are still indeed helpful, but they’re simply suggesting the optimum freezing times for the best quality, not for the relative safety of the piece of food you’ve frozen.
Take a banana, for example. Frozen, the tropical fruit will be safe to eat until the end of times. However, it will only taste good and maintain its white color and creamy texture for about three months. The USDA explains why freezing is a safe method of storage:
“Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.”
Freezing also deactivates any bacteria, yeasts and molds that may be found in your food. Just remember that once you thaw your food, these microbes can become active again. If you’re still in doubt, check the odor of your frozen foods. Some foods will develop a rancid or off-odor when they are frozen for too long, and should be tossed. Even if they look okay. Don’t risk it.
Also, remember that some foods may not look picture perfect once you take them out of their icy chamber. Use your gut judgement to determine whether it’s safe to eat, but if you feel the quality of the food isn’t good enough to serve the frozen item on its own, use them to make a soup or stew.
Write down the guidelines for the foods you typically eat on a piece of paper or sticky note ,and whack it on your fridge or freezer so you never forget – personalize it by putting freezing “end-dates” on them to stay truly on top of things. This method will guarantee your healthy food always tastes great and inspire you to keep going. Good luck.