With the uprise of natural disasters and emergencies that require us to leave our homes unexpectedly (i.e., hurricanes or tornadoes), this quarter-in-a-cup trick can help prevent you from getting really, really sick (or even save your life!).
If the power goes out while you’re gone, and you have perishables stacked in your freezer, you might need to throw them away. But what if the power returns before you do? You’ll never know if your freezer (and fridge – if the two are connected) was running the whole time – or not.
The cup quarter trick has been around for awhile, but recently went viral due to a Facebook post by Sheila Pulanco Russell, from North Carolina.
As Sheila explains in her post, all you need is a quarter and a cup of water. Put the water in the freezer until it’s frozen solid, and then take it out and put a quarter on the top of the ice. Return the cup (with the quarter) back to the freezer.
When you return from home after you’ve been away for awhile, check on the cup and see whether the quarter has moved to the bottom of the cup. This way, you’ll know whether your food was refrigerated or unrefrigerated while you were gone. If the quarter moved to the bottom of the cup, you’ll know that the power has been out for quite some time, and everything in the freezer had a chance to thaw, and could be at risk for food poisoning.
If the quarter is found in the middle of the cup, the food is still likely okay, but Sheila advises, “if you don’t feel good about your food, just throw it out.”
Ideally, you want the quarter to have remained at the top of the cup – exactly where you left it. This way, you know your freezer’s contents have stayed frozen the entire time.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than four hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut.” However, if you’re leaving for an emergency, or gone out for a trip, it is likely that you won’t be home within four hours to check.
So if you get home and the quarter is at the bottom or the middle of the cup, and your food smells bad, or has some discolouring, it is probably best to just throw it out and avoid any type of food-related illness to begin with.