Frozen foods have no expiration date
Although frozen foods have a much longer expiration date than fresh foods, they do, in fact, have a limited shelf life. The concern is not so much food safety, but rather quality control. Frozen food isn’t always stored properly, which can lead to damage such as freezer burn or other types of contamination.
| Frozen meals are not as tasty as fresh meals
Unfortunately, this myth really depends on whose cooking! All things being equal, though, you can make some delicious and nutritious meals using frozen foods.
| Fresh foods are more nutritious than frozen
Most people assume that fresh is always best, and frozen produce is strictly for convenience's sake. But turns out, freezing produce actually helps to retain vitamins and minerals that would otherwise be lost if stored at room temperature or in the fridge.
A 2017 study compared the concentrations of select nutrients in fresh and frozen produce, including broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans, green peas, spinach, blueberries, and strawberries. The findings show no significant differences between vitamin contents in fresh and frozen produce. In fact, frozen produce actually outperformed fresh produce that had been stored for five days in the refrigerator, because fresh produce loses nutrients over time.
You're not compromising by purchasing frozen produce. In fact, you may be getting an even more nutrient-packed product.
| All frozen foods are highly processed
Though this was once the norm for frozen food, today's freezer aisles are packed with healthier options made with fewer ingredients, and more wholesome ones at that. Your best bet? Read the label. The longer the ingredient list, the more likely it is to have additives and preservatives.
| Food past the sell-by date can't be frozen
The sell-by date is not an indicator of food safety, but instead lets the retailer know how long to display the product before taking it offs the shelf. In fact, grocery stores will often sell food past the sell-by date at a significant markdown.
If you freeze food after the sell-by date, it may not be at peak freshness, but it's still safe to freeze and eat later.
| Frozen food expires
If you're scared to use those frozen peas hiding in the back of your freezer from times gone by, don't be. FoodSafety.gov states on their website that, "frozen foods stored continuously at 0 degrees F or below can be kept indefinitely." They do provide guidelines for how long to freeze foods, but these guidelines only indicate the period of time in which the food will be at peak quality, because texture and flavor can begin to deteriorate with time.
| Freezing food kills bacteria
Freezing food does not kill bacteria; rather, freezing below 0 degrees F inactivates any microbes, bacteria, yeasts, and molds present in food, according to the USDA. Once you thaw frozen food, that same bacteria your food went into the freezer with will become active again, and can even multiply under the right conditions (usually between 40 and 140 degrees F).
| Food can go into the freezer in its original packaging
As tempting as it is to transfer those chicken breasts from fridge to freezer in their original packaging (guilty), these packages weren't meant for freezing. Meat packaging, for example, is often permeable to air, which can invite bacteria inside, not to mention cause freezer burn. You're better off unwrapping and rewrapping everything in freezer-safe wraps or bags, making sure to let out as much air as possible.
When freezing vegetables, it's important to first blanch them to prevent enzymes from damaging color, flavor, and nutrients, as well as to destroy any microorganisms that might be lingering on the surface
| Refreezing thawed food is unsafe
This seems to be one of the most pervasive myths about frozen food, and maybe that's because it's partially true. According to the USDA, frozen food that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours should not be refrozen. However, it's perfectly safe to refreeze raw or cooked food that has been thawed in the refrigerator, although the texture may be compromised due to the moisture loss that comes with thawing.
| Frozen food is more expensive than fresh
We've hit nutrition and food safety, now it's time to talk about money. It is to be expected that frozen hash browns or French fries are more expensive than a couple of potatoes, because you're paying for someone else to do the prep work for you. However, there are ways to shop the produce aisle that will save you a buck or two. For example, try purchasing out-of-season produce (like berries in the winter) from the freezer aisle. And a frozen family meal can run the gamut from $4 to $10, which is certainly a cheaper alternative to getting takeout on busy weeknights.
| All frozen food is high in sodium
You would be forgiven if you assume this is true. After all, a decade or more ago, many frozen foods were not the picture of healthy meals.
Today, however, many food manufacturers are working to meet demands of health-conscious consumers. That means they’re creating lots of low-calorie, low-sodium foods that are filled with vegetables, grains, and lean proteins.
Scan nutrition labels, and you’ll find many sodium totals are near 650 milligrams, a reasonable amount for a frozen meal (well, even home-cooked meals, too). Read the label, too. If you don’t see sodium or sodium chloride on the label, all the salt comes from the food in the meal.
| Refreezing previously-frozen food is bad
Frozen foods that were thawed in the fridge and not on the counter can be returned to the freezer. However, if you thawed the food on the counter (a serious no-no!), the food cannot be returned to the freezer safely. In fact, you might want to consider throwing it out entirely. Find out how long you can safely leave food on the counter.
When food sits out in the “danger zone” (40°F - 140°F) for more than two hours, it’s a bacteria bonanza. At this temperature, bacteria grow rapidly. That could leave you sick from any number of bacteria that live and multiply on raw meats, including E. coli and salmonella.
One thing to consider: refreezing sometimes compromises the texture and flavor. It’s not ideal to give your frozen food a second run, but it is safe if you’ve thawed it properly in the first place.
| Frozen food expires
If you’ve been horrified to find frozen corn or strawberries from your high school days in your parents’ freezer, you shouldn’t be. Truly, food can be saved indefinitely as long as it’s stored at 0°F or below the entire time, according to FoodSafety.gov.
However, most people aren’t great at storing foods in the freezer properly, so there is a window of time during which food is at its highest quality. FoodSafety.gov offers a list of Recommended Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer.
| It’s too late to freeze by “sell by” dates
“Sell by” and “use by” aren’t on/off switches for your foods. They don’t turn bad like a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight.
Instead, they’re dates that let grocery store stockers know it’s time to rotate their inventory—or mark it down for quick sell. If your food reaches either of these dates before you’ve had a chance to eat it, you can freeze it.
Of course, the “sell by” date often means the food will be at its best quality then. Freezing it at this later point may reduce the quality, but it’s still perfectly safe to freeze it now and eat it later. Just be sure to package it properly for the best storage.