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Food Safety Issues/How long can commercially prepared frozen dinners stay in a freezer?


My mother has been in a nursing home for two years and may come home at some point.  She has an upright freezer full of commercially prepared and packaged frozen dinners.  How long can they be safely stored in a freezer and still be safe to eat?

Hi Jack,

Foods that have been continually frozen are safe to consume for many years.  The real question is how long are frozen foods of high quality that you want to consume?  Old frozen foods, while perfectly safe to consume, may have an old, freezer-burn taste which is not very appetizing, though perfectly safe. Other quality changes that can occur with old frozen foods are changes in color, texture and flavor.  Again, this is not harmful, just not very appetizing.

I would try one of the dinners in your mother's freezer and decide if the taste and quality are acceptable.  If so, then your mother will have many meals available to her when she returns to her home.

Good luck with your mother and I hope she will soon be able to return to her own home.

Happy New Year.


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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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