BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - Freezing can extend the shelf life of food by months, but preserving the quality of frozen food does require proper handling, said a University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

"The secret to success is to freeze the right foods in the right containers, for the right length of time, at the right temperature, with the right handling," said Glenda Kinder. She offered these tips for freezing foods:

  • Avoid foods that don't freeze well. These include foods with a dairy base of milk, cream, sour cream, cream cheese or yogurt. Items made with mayo-type dressings also freeze poorly.
  • Store foods in freezer-quality bags, wraps and rigid containers. Freezer-quality bags are important because air doesn't penetrate as with other plastic bags. Exhaust the air from the container to prevent freezer burn on the edges of food.
  • Freeze and store foods at zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Use a thermometer to determine the temperature in your appliance. Another indicator is whether a container of ice cream stays brick hard in the freezer.
  • When something is in the freezer too long, quality begins to deteriorate. Recommended freezing time for cooked hamburger is three months; casseroles, three months; pies, eight months; and fruits and vegetables, 10 months.
  • Thaw perishable food safely in the refrigerator or in the microwave to cook right away.

MU Extension guide GH1501, "Freezing Basics," is available online at