How a Penny Can Protect You During Your Vacation

I love hearing about cool tricks that don’t cost a penny. OK, this one costs a penny. Just one penny.

Before you leave on an extended vacation (or, frankly, even an overnight), fill a small container with water and freeze it. Then put a penny on top of the ice container. If the power goes out while you’re away–which, sadly happens all too often in the Chicago Parent readership area–the ice will melt and the penny will drop to the bottom of the container. If that happens–even if the ice has re-frozen–seeing that penny at the bottom of the container will tell you that the power was out, possibly long enough to have ruined the food you kept there.

Without the penny, chances are the food could have thawed and re-frozen before your return. And you won’t know the food went bad until, well, you serve it to your family.

Great tip, huh? It comes from Steve Ash, Service Director for, a do-it-yourself appliance repair resource. His other tips are more generic, but just as important:

Refrigerator: Consume or discard any perishables before you leave. No one wants to come home to the smell of spoiled milk.

Garbage Disposal: Run a cycle to clean the unit and prevent odors from any buildup hiding beneath the drain while you’re away. Add a cup of vinegar to your rinse for an extra-deep clean.

Washer: Leave the lid/door open to let the basin dry completely. Chances are you’ll have plenty of laundry to do upon your return, so you’ll want the washer to be empty and fresh. And don’t forget to disconnect the unit’s water supply.

And, finally, before you walk out the door, unplug everything, including your dishwasher, washer, microwave and coffeemaker to conserve energy. And, of course, turn off and unplug the iron. If you have any worries about a potential flood, consider disconnecting the water supply to your appliances as well, particularly if you’re planning and very long family vacation.

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