Why You Should Keep A Quarter In Your Freezer

There are several items you might find in a well-stocked freezer, from frozen fruits and vegetables to some carefully packed-away leftovers. However, there's one thing you likely never considered keeping in the freezer that just might come in handy — a quarter. No, you can't use the quarter to whip up any impromptu snacks or quick weeknight dinners, but it serves an equally important function. A simple quarter can give you a good indication of whether the power has cut out in your freezer at any point, giving you a bit of a warning in terms of the safety of your frozen foods.

While you may check the freezer attached to your fridge on a regular basis, this trick can be particularly useful for a chest freezer you perhaps only occasionally visit, or even for your regular freezer after you've been away for an extended period of time. All you need to do in order to set up this particular warning indicator is to freeze a small amount of water in a cup, and when frozen, place a quarter on top of the icy surface. Basically, if the quarter remains atop the ice, you know everything in the freezer has remained consistently solid and properly frozen. If the quarter has sunk to the middle or even the bottom of the small cup, that's an indication that the ice has melted and the food in your freezer is likely unsafe to consume.

Other signs that your frozen food may be questionable

In addition to the handy quarter trick, there are a few tell-tale signs that can clue you in to the status of the items in your freezer. Some aren't necessarily signs that your food has gone bad, but rather that something has happened to compromise the taste of the frozen item. For example, if ice crystals are forming inside the package of those frozen vegetables, that's a sign of freezer burn. Likewise, if your frozen protein changes color or your frozen vegetables become a lot more dull, those items will likely not taste the best when you consume them.

Another thing to watch out for, quite similar in premise to the quarter and cup of water trick, is any type of liquid pooling at the bottom of your freezer. While you may think it's just a result of opening and closing the freezer door too frequently, it can actually be a sign that the freezer warmed up enough at some point to cause at least some of the items inside to thaw out. You'll also want to be mindful of any texture changes, even when the food has thawed — if you've defrosted a bag of mixed vegetables for your vegetable fried rice but the texture is sticky or slimy in some way, there's a good chance that those items have gone bad and you should toss them in the garbage rather than trying to cook with them.