Food as a Household Tool: The Other Uses for Food Besides Eating

Jul 27, 2009 | By: Christie Wilcox

Featured, Food

We all say we want to eat healthier. But then, there we are, Aisle 3, starting lovingly at the cheesy puffs and thinking well, just one bag… After all, healthy foods aren’t always the best tasting, and if you store up on them, they’re just lying around the kitchen, waiting to be used. What good are they then?

Well, now there’s more reason than ever to have some healthy foods around the house. As if it’s not enough that they’re better for us, providing us all kinds of metabolic benefits and even helping us ward off disease, they’re actually useful household items! Here are some fantastic uses for some every-day health foods that just might surprise you.

Peanut Butter Goo Gone

I’m willing to bet that most of you have had peanut butter in your life, and many of you actually like it. It’s delicious, inexpensive, satisfying, and remarkably healthy. Sure, it’s got a lot of calories, but that’s not a reason to knock it too much. It’s fats are mono or poly-unsaturated, which promote cardiac health, and since it’s chock full of protein, Vitamin E, fiber, folate, and Vitamin B3 (as well as a few other goodies), it can help you feel fuller longer than other snack worthy foods. Heck, studies have even shown that those who eat peanuts every day eat less at other meals, aiding them in losing weight and feeling great. Not only that, but you can use peanut butter instead of regular butter in most recipes, making you cakes or cookies truly unique and delicious as well as a little healthier.

Peanut Butter, thanks to maggiephotos

Peanut Butter, thanks to maggiephotos

Not only is it a good for you, it’s handy to have around. Ever had a stubborn price tag that just wouldn’t come off? Rub a little peanut butter over the area and rub off gently with a cloth – it removes the glue easily and effectively, and is way cheaper than Goo Gone or other chemical complexes. You can also use it to clean leather: rub a small amount in and work it into the leather with circular motions and remove with a buffing cloth. Of course, you will have peanut-scented leather… though you can mix in a bit of perfume oil to help counteract this. The most unlikely use that just might help you out: lubricant. Peanut butter is a fantastic lubricant, and whenever you need to get blades slip sliding or just about anywhere else you can use WD-40, you can use peanut butter. After all, who actually HAS that stuff around whenever you need it? Even better, use it as a shaving gel – the same lubricating effects work great for razors – and the oils in it are natural skin moisturizers!

Lemon Polish Whitener + Insect Repellent

Sure, they might not be easy to just eat straight (unless you’re nutty like my boyfriend), but lemons are great for us. Like all citrus, they’re packed with Vitamin C, which helps boost our immune systems. Just a tablespoon of lemon juice has 7 grams of the stuff, and a half cup has 100% of our daily nutritional needs. Mixing up some homemade lemonade can be a great way to help fend off viruses and bacteria while refreshing the family on a hot summer afternoon. Lemon and honey are a notorious home remedy for achy throats and generally feeling like crap, and make teas taste all the better even if you’re not sick. And, while you’ve got all those lemons lying around waiting to be turned into sweet treats or delicious refreshments, you might just leave a couple aside for other uses.

Lemons thanks to Merely Mel on Flickr

Lemons thanks to Merely Mel on Flickr

You can polish copper with lemon juice and brass and aluminum plus cream of tatar, saving yourself the cost of expensive cleaners and polishers. You can even polish brass and stainless steel with just lemon juice and salt. And when you’re done with the lemon, throw the rind down the disposal to keep it smelling fresh. You can whiten your whites with a homemade bleaching mixture of lemon juice and baking soda. In fact, there are a lot of laundry uses for lemon juice: you can add it to the wash to help brighten whites and remove rust or mineral stains, mix it with equal parts vinegar to get rid of underarm stain, use it on ink spots to help remove the stain (apply then wash as normal), or spritz it on white clothes (or tennis shoes) and place them in the sun to help brighten whites.

Similarly, adding a tablespoon of lemon to your dishwasher leads to spot-free and nicely-scented dishes. You can make natural cleaners from lemon juice, vinegar and water, or furniture polish from 1 part lemon juice to two parts olive oil. And cleaning your microwave can be a cinch: just microwave some lemon slices and water in a bowl for a minute before you go to scrub. It’ll not only neutralize the smells, but also make stains come off much more easily. On top of that, Lemon is a natural insecticide, and you can spritz it around windows and doors to help deter ants or even on yourself as a mosquito repellent.

If you’re buying fresh lemons instead of pre-packaged juice, here’s a trick: leave the lemons out on the counter to warm up before juicing (or even zap them very quickly in the microwave). This will make the juice easier to extract.

Olive Oil Lubricant Sleep Aid

Olive oil is considered healthy because it’s almost completely comprised of mono-unsaturated fatty acids. These are the ones linked to reduced cholesterol, better “good” cholesterol, and overall improved cardiovascular health. The idea is to replace less healthy trans and saturated fats (found in margarine and butter, respectively) with unsaturated ones like in olive oil to help promote a healthy heart. It’s also been found to lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure. And nutritionally speaking, the more “virgin” the better. Virgin olive oils contain more polyphenols and monounsaturated fats than their less-virgin cousins, but you will pay for it. You might want to keep some cheap stuff around the house for the following uses…

Olive Oil is loaded in monounsaturated fats and lubricants

Olive Oil is loaded in monounsaturated fats and lubricants

One of the simplest uses for olive oil is as a lubricant – which, if you’ve ever spilled some on the floor, you’re well aware of. It’s slippery stuff. Logically, you can use it anywhere you’d use WD-40 or other, less environmentally friendly lubricants, like squeaky door hinges. It’s oily-ness is also great as a polisher. After you’ve cleaned silverware, copper, or metal items, rub a little olive oil on them to prevent streaks and tarnishing. Or, to clean your wood furniture, mix two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice and gently rub in using a cloth. You can also use olive oil to clean and soften leather goods, just let it set in for 30 minutes or so then wipe off any leftovers.

If you have trouble sleeping because of a snoring spouse, have them down a bit of straight olive oil before they go to sleep. It can help lubricate the muscles and prevent the chainsaw from keeping you awake. Olive oil is also fantastic for your skin and hair. Combing a bit through dry hair can help moisturize and de-frizz even in the winter or worst humidity. For a longer effect, rub some into your scalp and hair and leave it in for 30 min before rinsing away and shampooing. Olive oil can be used directly as a moisturizer, or added to a nice warm bath to moisturize all over. With its antioxidants and fatty acids, it’s sure to leave skin soft and supple while helping it fight the signs of aging and the effects of the sun. It’s even been used as a shave gel, giving guys a clean, close shave – so it’s skin benefits are not just for the girls.

Egg Conditioner + Container

Eggs are protein-packed powerhouses. They are complete sources of protein, meaning they supply all of the essential amino acids, and on top of that they’ve got Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, choline, iron, calcium, and potassium in there. Most of the goodies are in the yolk (like the vitamins A, D and E and the choline that’s great for your brain), but it’s also where most of the fat and calories are, too. An egg yolk has roughly 60 calories in it, whereas the white has only 15, and that lovely yellow stuff also contains about 1/3 of the recommended intake of cholesterol. Even still, eggs are unbelievably healthy for you, and if you separate the whites from the yolks, you can pack in extra nutrients into your meals.

Eggs everywhere, but pseudo-melancholy over at flickr

Eggs everywhere, but pseudo-melancholy over at flickr

And, whether you chow down on the white or the yolks, there’s plenty of uses for the rest of the egg. Two beaten yolks, for example, can be used as a fantastic hair deep-conditioner. Just work them into the scalp like you would normal conditioner, wrap in a shower cap and a warm towel, and wait 30 minutes before rinsing with cool water and shampooing as usual. Your locks will be super sleek and shiny afterward! You can then take the whites and mix it with a touch of lemon and honey and use it as a nice facial mask that leaves oily skin refreshed and dry. If your skin is naturally dry, use just the yolk instead – or if it’s mixed, use a little of both.

Egg whites also contain natural foaming ingredients – which you meringue makers are well aware of. When not used deliciously, this natural effect can help remove gum from clothes. Just remove what you can, whip egg whites, apply, then wait 20 minutes and the gum stain should wipe right off.

Even the leftovers from cooking are useful. Egg shells can be used as a make-shift steel wool to help clean pans – a trick particularly useful while camping. Those expert egg crackers among us can turn their left over shells into little seed pots, which boost the soil inside by allowing seedlings to draw nutrients from the shell as well. Or, crumble the shells up and put them in your compost or in your garden for perfectly fertilized soils which naturally repel slugs. Even before you do that, you can rub your finger on the little bit of egg white left in the shell and apply it under your eyes to help reduce puffiness and the ever-dreaded bags. Just let the liquid dry then rinse it off.

Milk Caulking Cleaner

Did you know that cats and people are the only species that have the enzymes to drink milk as adults? While nutritionists do battle back and forth a bit about how healthy it is for you, milk is chock full of protein, and tends to include a lot of other great nutrients like iodine, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, thiamine, and, of course, Vitamin D and calcium. Combined, milk can pack quite the nutritional punch.

Milk is also useful all over the house. If you’re defrosting fish, try putting it in milk instead of just defrosting it – it’ll make the fish tender and taste fresher. You can also make corn taste sweeter and fresher by adding 1/4 cup of powdered milk to the boiling water before you put in the corn.

Milk splash by tambako

Milk splash by tambako

Outside the kitchen, milk can be used to repair cracked china. Before you chuck it out, try putting china with hairline cracks into a pot or pan covered with milk and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. You’d be surprised how many small cracks just disappear! Milk can also clean patent leather – just dab it on, let it dry, and buff it off. Ink stains on clothes can also be removed (if you’re patient) by soaking overnight in a milk bath. After the long soak, just wash the item as usual, and most ink stains will disappear.

And, if you have powdered milk on hand, you can use it to help soothe sunburn and bug bites. Mix two parts water with one part powdered milk and add a pinch of salt to create a milky paste that can be applied to the skin (also works as a great facial). Powdered milk can also be used as a homemade makeup remover – 3 tablespoons of the powder with 1/3 cup of warm water mixed well will help remove stubborn makeup without chemicals and will rinse off clean. Or, for a full-body effect, add a half a cup of powdered milk to bath water while it’s filling and enjoy a spa-like experience at-home.

Even if it’s gone sour you can use milk around the house. Pour sour milk down the toilet to help clean your septic tank, or add it to your compost to boost nutrients. Or use it to clean tarnished silverware. Just place the silverware in sour milk for 30 minutes, wash in warm, soapy water, and buff with a soft cloth for a brand-spankin’-new shine.

Coca-Cola Drano Cleaner

OK – these guys are not health foods. Sodas are notoriously bad for you, and alcohol can reverse many of the health effects of other foods when drank a lot (though there is some evidence that small amounts of alcohol daily might be good for you). But, just to be fair, if you have some not-so-healthy things like soda or alcohol lying around, you can use them up without ingesting them. The end result is better for your health while saving you money on other expensive chemicals.

Coke is so acidic is clears battery terminals

Coke is so acidic it clears battery terminals

Your 2-liter bottle of soda will do wonders on a clogged drain, for example – just think about THAT the next time you think of drinking it. Got nasty oil stains on your driveway? Pour soda on the stains and let it soak in before rinsing with a hose. Or, take a little regular Coke and spray it on your tires and allow it to dry to have nice-looking, dirt-resistant wheels. And have you ever left a pan on the stove too long only to return to nasty, impossible-to-scrub burnt places? Try boiling some Coke in the pan – I’ve heard it works like magic! You can even use soda to clean your toilet. Pour it in, let it sit for an hour, then flush away – porcelain will look like new! You can even use soda to clean the corrosion from car battery terminals or loosen a rusted bolt by taking a cloth soaked in it and leaving it on for several minutes. Coke can be such a good solvent that, in several states, police officers carry a couple 2-liters of Coke around to remove blood stains from accident scenes. Seriously.

Vodka Disinfectant

Vodka, while more often used to kill brain cells, can also be used to kill odor causing bacteria while leaving a scentless finish. Try spritzing some in your smelly sneakers or on clothes you want to wear more than once to keep them smelling fresh day after day. In general, this effect also helps remove mildew and other mold stains. Vodka spritzed on the body also works decently as an insect repellent. And, if you get stung by jellyfish or covered in poison ivy, splash vodka on the affected areas. It helps neutralize and denature the compounds involved so you feel better, faster. And, quite shockingly, it can make your hair healthier – just add 3 tablespoons to a 12-oz bottle of shampoo.

Eating them is good, too.

Of course, you’ll be getting even more benefits if you actually EAT these foods instead of using them around the house – but the alternative uses are good to know anyhow, right? And anything that gets you to keep healthier foods around the house where you might snack on them instead of unhealthy ones is a bonus. Besides, you’ll notice there’s no neat household uses for chips or candy bars – so there’s no good excuses to have them around!

  • Monk

    Coke always scares the crap out of me…

  • Monk

    Coke always scares the crap out of me…

  • Brian’s Baby

    Using Mayo in ur hair is like using a hot oil treatment. Wrap with a warm towel for 30mins. Then rinse out and shampoo like normal.

  • Mommyo5

    This was great! I am going to try several of the ideas.  Thanks so much :)

  • Lipo

    Great ideas. But Can i consider them as healthier foods?? Because we know that coca-cola and Vodka doesn’t good at all. 

  • Half Time Drill Driver

    how you can use various foods as tools to help you around the house.  Great read.