Eating healthy, home-cooked meals is important, but finding the time to shop, prep, and cook every day can be challenging. Meal delivery services like Freshly take the work out of dinnertime by delivering fresh, prepared meals right to your door. With Freshly, you can enjoy delicious, nutritious meals in minutes just by heating them up.
One of the great things about Freshly is that the meals arrive already cooked and ready to eat. But if your schedule changes or you want to stock up, you have the option to freeze your Freshly meals to enjoy later. But how long will they last in the freezer before the quality starts to deteriorate?
How Freezing Affects Food
Freezing food slows down the activity of bacteria and enzymes that cause it to spoil. Very cold temperatures prevent most microbes from growing, essentially putting the food in stasis until you’re ready to thaw and eat it. However, freezing doesn’t completely halt the effects of time on the food.
During prolonged freezing, the components that make up the food continue to undergo physical and chemical changes:
- Water inside the food crystallizes and expands, rupturing cell walls
- Fats can oxidize and become rancid
- Proteins deteriorate
- The texture may become mushy
These changes affect the flavor, texture, aroma, and appearance of the food. The longer the food stays frozen, the more deterioration occurs. But the extent depends on factors like the type of food, ingredients, packaging, and freezer temperature.
How Long Do Frozen Meals Last?
In general, commercially prepared frozen meals like Freshly will last in the freezer for:
|Freezer section of a refrigerator (0°F)
|Standalone freezer (0°F)
|Deep freezer (-10°F or colder)
At 0°F, the cold temperature keeps food safe indefinitely by preventing microbial growth, but the quality will deteriorate over time. Colder temperatures slow down chemical reactions that cause the quality loss.
How to Maximize Freshly Freezer Life
You can extend the freezer life of Freshly meals by following these best practices:
- Freeze immediately: Don’t let Freshly meals linger in the refrigerator. Freeze them as soon as possible after receiving your order.
- Seal tightly: Make sure meals are stored in airtight packaging or containers. This prevents freezer burn which dries food out.
- Freeze individually: Freeze meals in individual portions rather than whole bags. This makes it easier to thaw only what you need.
- Rotate stock: Use oldest frozen meals first and move new deliveries to the back. Follow a first-in, first-out system.
- Monitor freezer temp: Keep your freezer at 0°F or below. A freezer thermometer can help track this.
- Eat within recommended time: Discard any meals that have been frozen longer than the recommended shelf life for your type of freezer.
How to Tell if Frozen Freshly Meals Are Bad
Despite your best freezing efforts, Freshly meals that have been in the freezer too long will show signs of deterioration. Check for these before eating:
- Frozen solid: Food that won’t thaw after 24 hours or is still partially frozen may have been kept at unsafe temps.
- Odd texture: Extreme mushiness, dryness, or change from original texture.
- Strange scent: Rancid or unpleasant odors.
- Discoloration: Unnatural colors or excessive milky white ice crystals.
- Mold: Fuzzy or discolored spots on the food.
If you notice any of these issues when preparing your thawed Freshly meal, it’s best to be safe and throw it out. The quality has likely diminished or bacteria may have grown during the freezing time.
Thawing and Reheating Frozen Freshly Meals
To enjoy Freshly meals that were previously frozen, you’ll need to properly thaw and reheat them first:
- Refrigerator: Thaw overnight in the fridge.
- Cold water: Submerge pouch in cold water, changing water every 30 mins.
- Microwave: Heat at 30% power for 2-4 mins, then separate or break up food.
- Oven: Preheat to 400°F and heat for 10-15 mins.
- Stovetop: Heat in sauce pan with 1-2 tbsp of water for 8-12 mins.
- Microwave: Heat at 60% power for 1-3 mins. Check and stir.
Always bring meals to an internal temperature of 165°F. Reheating thawed frozen meals thoroughly kills any bacteria that may have developed and makes the food safe to consume again.
The Bottom Line
With proper freezing and storage methods, Freshly meals can last for up to 6-12 months in the freezer without significant quality loss. Use freezer bags, monitor freezer temp, and follow first-in, first-out meal rotation to maximize freezer life. Thaw and reheat fully before enjoying your frozen Freshly meals.
Freezing gives you the flexibility to stock up on Freshly meals or save leftovers for later. Just be sure to freeze meals promptly after delivery and adhere to recommended freezer storage times. With some simple planning, you can enjoy delicious Freshly meals on your schedule.