If you’re committed to a lifestyle of homesteading and prepping, there’s a good chance that you own a freezer that’s fully stocked with the essentials.
From meat to vegetables, you might have thousands of dollars’ worth of food socked away in your freezer.
Author’s Note: If you’re prepping, don’t rely solely on freezing your food. Make sure you have a stockpile of long shelf-life foods, like canned goods and dehydrated foods, in your pantry as well. The freezer food should merely be an accompaniment.
Freezing food for long-term storage is a great way to get ahead – but what do you do when a power outage threatens everything that’s inside?
You can’t necessarily prevent or predict power outages, though having a functional generator and other emergency preparedness supplies can help.
However, you can avoid the all-too-common guessing game that occurs during and after a power outage when you’re forced to ask yourself, “is this food safe to eat?”
It all has to do with putting a coin in a cup of water in the freezer.
It sounds simple, but this technique could help you save thousands of dollars – and help you keep safe in an emergency, too.
Here’s why you should put a coin in a cup of frozen water in your freezer – and how to do it correctly.
Why You Should Put A Coin In A Cup Of Frozen Water In Your Freezer
When we focus on emergency preparedness and survival as preppers, we often think of how to stockpile food and how to make sure we have electricity even when the weather’s bad.
However, very few of us think about how we’re going to keep that food safe in a storm.
If you have a power outage – particularly a long one – there’s a good chance that the food in your refrigerator will spoil.
That’s not always the case with a freezer, though – particularly a well-stocked one where the solidly frozen food serves as additional protection for all the rest.
During a power outage, you might wonder how much your food has thawed – but opening up the freezer to check is a recipe for disaster since it will let warm air in and cause the food to thaw more quickly.
Related: What To Eat When The Power Goes Out
Instead, you should wait until after the storm has ended. The problem with this is that you’ll never really know exactly how frozen or thawed the food was – and you won’t know whether it’s safe to eat.
Enter – the coin in a cup of water trick. This is something you can do before a storm to help you know whether you can safely eat the food in your freezer.
All you need to do is fill a cup with water. Put it in the freezer until it’s frozen solid. Then, place a quarter on top of it and put the cup back in the freezer.
After the power outage, check the cup. If the quarter is still on top, your electricity didn’t go out for a significant amount of time and the food is likely safe to eat.
If the quarter has sunk to the bottom, that indicates that the ice thawed completely and the power was out for quite some time. You should probably get rid of the contents of your freezer to avoid getting sick.
And if it’s in the middle? It’s a toss-up. If your freezer is one that’s attached to your refrigerator (not a freestanding unit), you should get rid of the contents of your refrigerator if the coin is in the center. The frozen food is likely still okay, but the food in your fridge definitely is not.
What To Keep In Mind
Although this method is mostly reliable, it’s not foolproof. There are some other variables that need to be considered here.
For example, the size of your freezer plays a role in how much the ice in the cup melts, as does the position of the cup in the freezer.
We recommend placing the cup in the spot of the freezer where it would be most likely to melt first (like the door rather than deep in the center of piles of frozen food).
That way, even if the ice partially melts, you’ll still have a pretty good idea that your food is safe to eat. Ice is not as dense as water so the ice will float on the water it creates as it is melting.
It’s possible that the ice could melt partially before refreezing and the coin would still be in the same position – but putting your cup in a more telling position will help you determine this.
Of course, you’ll also need to consider how much other food is in the freezer and what the temperature inside the house is.
These can impact how long it takes your food to freeze and thaw, too – and impact the reliability of the coin ice test.
Keep Your Food Safe
In any event, you should follow the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines to keep the temperature of your freezer below zero degrees Fahrenheit and the refrigerator no higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit whenever possible.
You can freeze containers of ice water to help your food stay cooler longer in the refrigerator. If you have any refrigerated items that you won’t use immediately, put them in the freezer to help them last longer, even in a power outage.
Remember, refrigerated food will stay safe as long as the door is kept shut and the power isn’t off for more than four hours.
Frozen food usually stays frozen for 24 to 48 hours as long as the freezer is unopened. Some freezers can keep food cold even longer than that – up to five days, in some cases, and of course, depending on the conditions.
Try putting a coin in a cup of frozen water long before a storm is forecasted. Do this today so you’re prepared for any power outage – especially if you’re living off the grid, you probably already know how common these can be!
The coin in a cup of frozen water hack may not be perfect, but it’s still a great way to determine whether your food is safe to eat – or needs to be tossed. Give it a try so you’re prepared no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.
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