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How Long Can Ice Cream Last in the Freezer?

25 min read -

Did you buy a lot of ice cream on sale? Did you try to save by buying a bulk size, assuming you could keep it fresh until you actually found the bottom of the container? 

You might want to invite a few friends over for an ice cream social. 

Your favorite frozen desserts aren’t made to last as long as you might think. If you don’t have a big family or a huge appetite, some of your ice cream stash may go to waste. 

 

Dairy Ice Cream

Ice cream always has a printed date on the carton. This date isn’t a suggestion. The manufacturer has rigorously tested their ice cream under all sorts of conditions. The “best by” date they’ve printed should accurately reflect how long their ice cream will continue to taste fresh from the date it was manufactured.

If you’ve never opened your ice cream, it may last two or three months past that expiration date. No potential contaminants have been introduced to the carton, and its seal is still keeping it safe from freezer burn. 

If you’ve opened the carton, it’s wise to toss it out at the expiration date. 

If it still looks good, you may be able to get one or two more months out of it. If ice crystals have formed around the ice cream or a thick layer of ice has formed on the surface, it’s time to throw it out. 

 

Extending the Shelf Life

If you only occasionally indulge, you may want to keep your ice cream around a little longer. Placing the carton in an air-tight container can keep ice or moisture from spoiling your ice cream quicker. You may get another month or two out of your ice cream by using that additional layer of protection.

 

Non-Dairy Ice Cream

Ice cream made with plant milk isn’t exactly made to last. The fats, proteins, and sugars in dairy ice cream work together to preserve the product. A longer shelf life is just an inevitable consequence of its ingredients.

Plant milk is very different from dairy milk. It doesn’t contain the fats, proteins, or sugars that will contribute to a longer shelf life. For that reason, coconut, soy, or almond milk ice cream isn’t going to last as long. 

One popular manufacturer suggests that their ice cream should be fully consumed no later than ten days after opening. If you don’t plan to eat the ice cream every night or if you don’t have anyone to share it with, you might want to limit how much you purchase at one time. It will inevitably go bad before you finish it. Limit yourself to a single pint on your next grocery run.

 

Extending the Shelf Life

There is no surefire way to extend the shelf life of plant milk-based ice cream. Ice crystals will form very quickly on your plant milk ice cream. It’s a better idea to limit the amount you buy or share your stash. When the marked expiration date approaches, ask your spouse or your roommate if they’d be interested in polishing off the pint -- how generous of you. 

 

Fruit Based Ice Cream

Fruit-based frozen desserts like Snow Monkey use pureed bananas and apples to create the creamy, decadent texture without dairy or plant milks. Fruit lasts a very long time in the freezer -- much longer than dairy or plant milk. 

While it’s always a good idea to finish your ice cream by the suggested best by date, you may be able to hang on to fruit-based frozen desserts for just a little bit longer. In Snow Monkey’s case, our pints have a shelf life of 18 months from the production date and expiry dates are listed on the bottom of each pint.

 

Extending the Shelf Life

In an airtight container, frozen fruit can survive in the freezer for up to 12 months. This is the best-case scenario. 

Protect your pint with an airtight container and check it for ice crystals or texture changes. You may be able to get 3 to 6 months past the best by date on an unopened container before the product becomes unusable. 

This longer lifespan makes fruit-based desserts a little safer to buy in bulk.

 

Make Sure Your Freezer is On Your Side

One of the most important factors in determining how long something will last in your freezer is making sure your freezer actually works as intended. Most people just pop their ice cream and vegetables in the freezer and use them when they want them. Some stuff sits in the back of the freezer untouched for years. 

If your freezer is working optimally, you may be able to extend the life of everything you store in it. Regularly defrosting your freezer, monitoring the internal temperature, and clearing it out every few months will keep it working as expected.

 

Defrosting Regularly

A little bit of ice build-up in your freezer is normal, and it’s not a problem as long as the ice is less than ¼ of an inch thick. When the ice reaches or exceeds ¼ an inch, it’s time to defrost. 

If you leave the ice, your freezer won’t work properly. The ice interferes with the components’ ability to regulate the temperature. This can sometimes lead to higher power bills due to your freezer struggling to work.

Defrost your freezer according to the instruction manual it came with. If you don’t still have your owner’s manual, you can probably find it online. Everything you’re saving can be stored in a heavily insulated cooler packed with ice until your freezer is done defrosting. You can put it back in once your defrost has completed, and your freezer assumes its normal temperature. 

While you’re defrosting your freezer, it’s a good idea to look at the dates on everything. Toss the stuff that’s bad. Freeing up space in your freezer will make it easy to keep things organized. You’ll be able to see everything, reducing the chances that you’ll forget about that pint of ice cream and accidentally let it go to waste.

 

Checking Your Temperature

Your freezer is supposed to maintain a steady temperature of a perfect 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The best by dates printed on your frozen food are written to reflect that temperature. Higher or lower temperatures, even if only by a few degrees, can change the way your food holds up. It’s generally better to be a little below zero than a little above zero.

Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature of your freezer every few months. Adjust your temperature knobs if needed, and check again in six to eight hours. If your freezer can’t hold the right temperature, it may need to be repaired or replaced. Find your warranty and check your options if you encounter any problems. 

 

The Takeaway

Ice cream and frozen desserts typically go fast. It’s rare that a household will keep them hanging around long enough to go bad. They’re delicious, and families tend to gobble them up right away. If you have a smaller family or a more health-conscious household, it’s still possible that forgotten ice cream can wither away in the back of the freezer.

If you’re going to buy a lot of ice cream at once, make sure your freezer is clean and working properly. Choose an ice cream you can store for an extended period of time -- like Snow Monkey. But we can’t guarantee you won’t find yourself wanting to enjoy the whole pint guilt-free every single night. 




Sources:

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating 

https://www.allrepairmanuals.com/ 

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/are-you-storing-food-safely 

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