The next time you're preparing for a trip, you might want to place a quarter in your freezer. Yes, you read that right ... and no, we're not kidding. Basically, if you put the quarter in a cup of frozen water, you'll be able to tell if your home lost power while you were away — and whether or not your food might have spoiled.
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This is a travel hack shared by @emerald_outlaw on TikTok. The trick involves freezing a cup of water, then placing a quarter on top. If your electricity goes out while you're gone, the contents of your freezer (including the cup of water) will thaw. As a result, the quarter will sink.
When the power comes back on, the water will refreeze, and the quarter will be deeper in the cup. The final depth of the quarter will indicate how long your power was out, and ultimately, how long the food in your freezer and refrigerator might have been exposed to warmer temperatures.
So, why does this matter? Well, food that's kept at warmer temperatures can go bad. According to to the United States Department of Agriculture, without electricity, "a freezer full of food will usually keep about two days if the door is kept shut; a half-full freezer will last about a day."
Meanwhile, if food in the refrigerator has been kept in an environment warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours, it should be tossed, according to the USDA. The same goes for anything that might have come into contact with juices of raw meat.
All that said, this hack will let you know if your food was exposed to warmer temperatures, if at all. Ideally, you'll want to come back to find the quarter in the same place, on top of the frozen water. But if the quarter has sunk, you may want to examine your food and toss anything that looks (or smells) off.
Can you use ice cubes for this hack?
For best results, fill a cup with liquid water, then freeze it. This will allow the quarter to stay flat on top of the ice. If you use ice cubes, it will be more difficult to compare the final position to its original placement.