5 Surprising Uses for Common Kitchen Items

May 8, 2012

By Eric Steinman;

While it may seem like there may be nothing to eat in the house, that doesn’t mean the contents of your kitchen pantry (or fridge) is totally without use. There exist a great number of little known uses for common kitchen items that are just not exploited enough. Here is a brief sampling of a few, some you may know, but there are some bound to surprise:

Baking Soda

Baking soda and baking powder are both used as leavening agents in baking (baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate while baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate together with acidifying and drying agents) and most people know at this point that baking soda is great for absorbing unwanted smells in your carpet or fridge. However, baking soda is also good for keeping your green vegetables a desirable shade of green. If you add a bit of baking
soda to boiling water before you cook vegetables like asparagus and broccoli it will prevent your vegetables from turning dull. But be careful, adding too much will turn your veggies bitter. Half a teaspoon is probably enough in a large 4-quart pot, but you might want to experiment a bit to find the right balance.

Olive Oil

Out of shaving cream and needing to get some of that stubble removed from your face (or legs)? Don’t resort to soap, which can be drying and irritating. Grab the olive oil from the pantry and get to work. Use warm to hot water to get your face (or legs) ready and then massage a bit of olive oil onto the area primed to be shaved. Then go to town. Works just as good, if not better, than conventional shaving cream/lotion.


Most people know about the cleaning properties of vinegar when it comes to household chores, but few would think to pour vinegar over their head. But it is true. Vinegar works wonders in removing conditioner and hair product build up in your hair. Just work about a cup, or less, of white vinegar through your hair and then rinse clean. While you may smell a bit pungent for an hour or two, your hair will be reborn.


One of the most satisfying and nourishing breakfast foods, oatmeal is also great on the outside of your body. Long considered a bit of a folk remedy, a cup of oatmeal (well broken down into a powder using a food processor) and then added to a hot bath will help greatly with rashes, poison ivy, eczema, and general skin dryness. Don’t bother spending $8 on the colloidal oatmeal bath packets sold in store – this option is far cheaper and just as good.


Milk is an exceptionally versatile ingredient; this stands without argument. However if you have more milk than you can drink you could always use it as a fungicide or fertilizer in the garden. Many farmers and gardeners swear by the use of diluted milk solutions on their crops and gardens to fortify the soil. Some grape growers apply a diluted milk solution to stave off mildew.

Your question(s): Are you making good use of these food items? (post your comments below)

About the Author: Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon App├ętit among other publications.


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