Unitasker Wednesday: Frozen Food Safety Monitor

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

When I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having my freezer break on me, I’ve simply noticed the smell of rotting food and ice cube trays filled with water to tell me that such a tragedy has taken place. I was unaware that in addition to this effective method of identifying a broken freezer, I also could have had a device tell me the exact same thing! Introducing the Frozen Food Safety Monitor:

Yes, the Frozen Food Safety Monitor tells you when your freezer is no longer working based on a complicated series of colorful liquids. When the colorful liquids are in the bottom of the device and not the top of it, then your freezer is no longer working! So, in addition to having rotten food, you also have a monitor to tell you that your food is rotten — how about that! Rotten food and a monitor. Fantastic!

(Seriously, if the device could somehow make a beeping noise or posses some way to alert you before your food went bad, well, that might have some sort of a purpose. Would it really be all that difficult to fashion a sensor, alarm, and battery to this contraption to give it an alarm?? Sigh.)

Thanks to reader Bluenewts for introducing us to the gem.

37 Comments for “Unitasker Wednesday: Frozen Food Safety Monitor”

  1. posted by HeatherHLP on

    I am pretty sure these are to tell you if your food has gone bad during a power outage or something while you were away.

    We use a similar (cheaper) method for the even that the power goes out for an extended peiord of time, ruining your food, then when the power comes back on re-freezing the food. We fill a ziplock bag full of ice cubes. If we return from a trip and notice the power had gone out (blinking clocks etc) we check the bag of ice cubes. If it clearly melted to a puddle and refrozen in un-cube like shape, the food in the freezer (and probably fridge) has gone bad. No matter how cold it is when we check.

  2. posted by Allison on

    I read this wondering who could possibly defend this product. HeatherHLP gives a somewhat valid explanation, but I’m confused. If you were gone for an extended period and your freezer went out and came back on, refreezing all of your (now unsafe) food, wouldn’t this device also refreeze? If so, I really don’t understand its purpose other than wasting space and money.

  3. posted by Jessica on

    Well, the liquid is at a frozen state at the top of the unit, and if the freezer were to lose power, the frozen liquid would thaw out and drop to the bottom. If the power were to come back on, the liquid would refreeze – but it would be at the bottom. That would give you the clue that there had been enough loss of power for your food to go bad.

    I do agree that the bag of frozen ice cubes is a much simpler way to do it.

  4. posted by mhb on

    But HeatherHLP, are your ice-cubes COLOR-CODED? And does your bag have numbers and letters on it? Probably not. I’m just saying.

  5. posted by Splint Chesthair on

    Since each of the colors melts at a different temperature, it’s possible to use this as an indicator that your freezer might be going on the fritz, or isn’t getting as cold as it used to. Also let’s you know with a bit more precision than the ice cube method about how long the freezer was off, but still a unitasker.

  6. posted by Mary Sue on

    Do you even bother to read the description of the product before you snark it?

    In the case of an incident the liquids will melt in the following order: Blue = 14 days to consume your frozen food, Blue and Green = 3 days to consume your frozen food, Blue, Green and Yellow = 1 day to consume your frozen food. All 4 liquids: Blue, Green, Yellow and Red: Discard everything. From the last time you verified the FreezCube.

  7. posted by Olga on

    It seems like a funny idea (and I like the ice cube suggestion for a cheaper alternative), but having dealt with several power outages during storms, one of which lasted 4 days, I’ve actually wished I had a way to determine how high the temperature of my freezer rose to determine whether any of the food was safe to keep. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of questionable food, some of which was probably fine, just to play it safe. I actually am contemplating getting this product.

  8. posted by Harald on

    I love unitasker Wednesdays, but safety devices are unitaskers by design, and probably not a practical subject for this column. Nobody seems to object to a smoke detector having only one purpose. :)

    The ice cube trick is cute and practical, but not entirely safe. Frozen foods can deteriorate or go bad before your ice cubes melt enough to be a puddle, especially in this day and age of cold-adapted bacteria like Listeria. The liquids in this cube melt at different temperatures, (presumably) below the freezing temperature of water.

    Also, bags of ice cubes will slowly congeal over time anyway, making it hard to distinguish “normal activity” from “power failure”. If you’re going into your freezer often enough to change the bag of ice, you don’t need this device.

    For people who are away for periods of time (business travel, vacations, cottages, etc.), I actually think this one is useful. In my humble opinion, of course!

  9. posted by cdelphine on

    so the comments start to make me think that this is actually useful… but who has room in their freezer for this? And does your power go off/freezer break that often? Also, whether or not food is safe to eat would depend on the food wouldn’t it? Those frozen peas are probably okay.

  10. posted by Another Deb on

    I just like it as a science toy to demonstraye melting points. Another device to search for at yard sales!

  11. posted by Splint Chesthair on

    It’s only the size of two golfballs.

  12. posted by Kim on

    We have a weekend place and we use ice cubes to tell if the power had been off an extended period of time. I actually think this IS a good idea. Maybe not for your freezer at home if you never leave for extended periods of time, but for vacation homes or hardly used extra freezers.

  13. posted by Jay on

    According to the website, the product is tiny, only 1.8 by 1.8 by 1.8 inches.

  14. posted by Kathryn on

    Available on clearance for 10 bucks from drugstore.com. On average, at least once a year we lose power for more than a day (the price one pays for living in old-growth, urban-forest suburbia with a poorly designed grid of overhead lines and lots of 80-year-old trees).

  15. posted by Anita on

    I’m with Harald, this can be a useful safety device, IF (1) you’re away for extended periods of time, (2) keep food in your freezer during your absence, and (3) have reason to worry about extended power outages.

    For those of us with only one home, not experiencing frequent power shortages, and who don’t travel as often or for as long as we’d like (i.e. not long enough to worry about frozen food), this is a colourful waste of space and money.

    As for me, I… er… check the state of my ice cream quite frequently enough to not worry about anything going bad without my knowledge ;)

  16. posted by Rue on

    Honestly, if I wasn’t sure if the food was safe to eat, I’d just toss it. Waste of money? Yes, but the freezer shouldn’t break so often that you have to throw out several freezers’ worth of food. If that’s the case then it’s time for a new freezer!

    It might be useful if you’ll be away on vacation for an extended period of time, or maybe even for a vacation home that you don’t go to very often. But for general use I’d say not worth it.

  17. posted by Harald on

    Agreed. Many/most people don’t need this. For those who do, it’s an elegant solution to the problem.

  18. posted by RRR on

    My power used to go off at least once a month. When it was only off an hour or less, I didn’t clean out the freezer. When it was off two days, I always cleaned out the freezer. It was when it was off for 8 hours or so that I didn’t know what to do. It would have been nice to know what the temperature got to …

    Luckily, they seem to fixed the power problem in my neighborhood.

  19. posted by Dia on

    Seeing this, (which reminds me I need to clean out my freezer!) I’d agree that those of us with one home & infrequent power outages are prob fine.
    I also was reminded of a time our (ancient) fridge had gotten too cold, & we had a jar (tea? Water?) in it that when tapped, froze from that side throughout the jar before our eyes – supercooled liquid!! It was so fascinating, & my biologist hubby was able to explain what happened & why :)

  20. posted by Loren on

    My sister landlord SWEARS there isn’t a problem with the freezer and therefore won’t replace it. She could use this.
    Like 95% of the Unitaskers I can see how this COULD be useful. But I won’t be buying it and 80% of the rest of the population probably doesn’t need it either.

  21. posted by WilliamB on

    The color code is elegant.

    The item I find to the be the ultimate unitasker is a melon baller. I have used both knife and baller extensively (years of using each). The knife is faster, makes less mess and creates less waste.

    Maybe we should have a contest. Readers proposed the ultimate unitasker, Our Hosts decide some finalists, we vote.

  22. posted by Ruth on

    This is really pretty cool. However, I only have a rubbish icebox in my fridge, so everything has to be eaten within 3 days whether or not the fridge had electricity. I’ll get this for the real freezer I dream about.

  23. posted by TL on

    As someone whose home is prone to power outages that can go for days at a time, I think this is a damn fine invention. When the power comes back on, you have no way of knowing if the temperature got to an unsafe level.

  24. posted by Kathy on

    Looks enough like a frozen treat that i’d probably eat it.

  25. posted by Shalin on

    Clever, interesting, yet without value…

  26. posted by Karyn on

    @WilliamB – Hey, a melon baller is one unitasker I find worthwhile! :-D It takes next to no space, and in my experience it’s LESS messy than using a knife, because the juice stays inside the cut melon half instead of pouring out all over the cutting board and beyond. Plus, all those little melon balls piled up in the bowl just add to the aesthetic side of the experience–for no more time than it takes to use a knife. ;-)

  27. posted by Rod on

    As a conscientuous Unclutterer, I freeze a gallon jug of vinegar and cut it out of the jug and put it and a box of baking soda in a pail in the chest freezer. If the power goes out the contents of the freezer are blanketed in a protective pool of carbon dioxide to keep the food from oxidizing and not allowing insects and rodents to breathe. Just kidding.

  28. posted by Michelle on

    From Cottage Life magazine: fill a shot glass full of water and let freeze, then drop a penny on top. If you’re away for an extended period of time (eg. 2 week vacation or if you’re a cottager) just check to see where the penny is when you get back. If it’s not on top, you know the power went out long enough for things to defrost while you were gone.

  29. posted by SandyO on

    I live in a neighborhood where most of the residents are only here during the winter and leave for 6+ months at a time. I’ve never understood why people leave food in a freezer all summer and expect it to be good when they come back. We are subject to frequent power outages and hurricanes. If you have a vacation home, clear out the freezer before leaving it for an extended time. The frozen food monitor is cute but I wouldn’t trust it.

  30. posted by Marie on

    For the poster who asked if people lose power that often: The main utility pole for our development is at the corner of a busy intersection with frequent left turns, and some impatient idiot flies into the pole at least twice a month. The homeowner at that corner used to have waist-high bricks walls bordering his property, but he stopped fixing them because the insurance wouldn’t pay anymore after so many hits.

  31. posted by WilliamB on

    @Karyn: Not for me! Even after a decade or more using the baller as a kid (my mother liked the look as well). I’m guessing that the difference between your cutting and your balling skills isn’t as big as it is for me.

    (ahem) I notice you didn’t address the waste issue.

  32. posted by Sooz on

    You are all missing the VERY EASIEST way to monitor your freezer: put a single ice cube on a shallow saucer on a flat surface in your freezer. If you see that it’s melted into the saucer (even if it re-freezes), ditch the food in the freezer.

  33. posted by CrimsonCrow on

    When I first saw the posted photo, I thought this item was the size of a coffee grinder. And I thought it was ridiculous!

    Then, I read up on it a bit.

    In the end I will probably be buying one! It is quite small and it indicates safe time frame for using frozen foods that may have thawed, not simply THAT they thawed.

    I live in rural Maine. We have power outages all the time! I mean it. Sometimes the outages last for only a few minutes, most often a few hours and once for more than two weeks. They occur in hot summer weather, during ice storms, thunder storms and sometimes, it seems, just because. Obviously, a cold winter’s day is the best time for an outage because one can put all the food safely outside, the bears being in hibernation.

    Having this “gem” just might give me the information I need to make truly safe choices.

  34. posted by Juniper Jupiter on

    HA!

    It reminds me of this little gem:
    http://www.vat19.com/dvds/days.....ounter.cfm

    Don’t know if it’s been posted on Unclutter or not, but USE A POST-IT!!! BAHHH!!! XP!!

    Oh, BTW, Semi-long-time-lurker, first time poster!!! Cheers! :D

  35. posted by Karyn on

    @WilliamB – I don’t waste any more cantaloupe with a melon baller than I do with a knife–and I waste less juice, in the bargain. ;-) You surely don’t throw away the “ridges” in-between the perfectly-balled hollows, do you? I scoop those up, and they make nice little curls or shavings which look very nice interspersed with the melon balls.

    Anyway, I’m not making it for a party. I’m making it for myself. And if I were making it for a party, I’d just refrigerate the less-perfect shavings for later snacking.

    Bottom line: It works for me. But I’d still like to know how you cut the melon with a knife without getting melon juice all over the cutting board!

  36. posted by Ferdzy on

    To continue the melonball tangent, they aren’t unitaskers! In addition to uh, balling melons, I use it to scoop out cookies, meatballs, truffles, falafels and other such items. It’s not the most-used item in my kitchen but it’s not the least-used either by a long shot.

  37. posted by Susan on

    The trick my grandmother taught me was to freeze a half-full small plastic cup of water by tilting it so it froze at an angle. Then put it upright and leave it in your freezer. You can tell in a glance if the temperature in the freezer has become high enough to melt the water – the newly frozen surface will no longer be at an angle.
    I use a small plastic cup and about 4 ounces of water. It takes up very little space in the freezer.

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