Uses for Old Food: Try 'Em Out

Okay, here are the claims for alternative food uses:

APPLES: This one is pretty well-known. When placed in a closed bag with other fruit, an apple will help speed up the ripening of the other items.

BANANAS: The inside of the peel can be used to polish leather shoes, remove warts (after several weeks of treatment), tenderize a roast (by adding banana peel to the pan), and clean the leaves of household plants.

BEER: Beer, by itself, is an excellent hair conditioner. (Use warm beer, leave it on for ½ hour, rinse.) Mixed with a raw egg, it will give your hair added body. Some beer left in glasses after a party? Pour it into your plants; they’ll thrive on the yeast.

BREAD: Cookies dried out? When tightly closed with a slice of still-moist bread, those cookies will absorb some of the bread’s moisture and soften. Bread can also keep brown sugar soft.

CARROTS: Here’s a reversal: a carrot placed in the bag will help to soften dry bread.

COFFEE GROUNDS: Put them in the ground. Their acidic content makes that a great addition to the soil for acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, and blueberries.

COLA: It can clean battery terminals, loosen rust on nuts and bolts, remove grime from the windshield, prolong the life of flowers, and clear up a slow drain. Coca-Cola (not Pepsi) in the wash can remove the odor of diesel.

CUCUMBERS: Here are just some of the seemingly endless uses for cucumbers: rejuvenate the skin, treat a sunburn, eliminate bad breath, defog the bathroom window, polish shoes, clean stainless steel, and erase pen or crayon marks.

KETCHUP: It’s not easy being green, so if your bleached hair has turned green from the swimming pool chlorine, massage ketchup into it, leave on for 15 minutes, and wash out.

LEMON: Remove sticky foods from surfaces by rubbing them with the pulp side of a cut lemon. Use lemon juice to whiten fingernails. Give your hair blonde highlights with the following mixture: ¼ cup lemon juice and ¾ cup water used as a rinse after shampooing. Finally, benefit from its properties as an insect repellent by applying it to your skin before a summer barbeque or bike ride.

MARSHMALLOWS: Another suggestion for keeping brown sugar from hardening: add a few marshmallows to the bag. (If it’s already hard, see the Q/A on softening.)

OATMEAL: Doctors sometimes recommend treating the itch of poison ivy, chicken pox, eczema, shingles, or insect bites by soaking in an oatmeal bath. You can buy a commercially-prepared product to make the bath for about $6, but you can make your own for about $1. Google “oatmeal bath” for instructions.

OLIVE OIL: Among other uses are these: Use it to give someone you love a massage, keep cuticles from drying out, polish wood furniture, give yourself a facial, unstick a zipper (apply with a q-tip), and/ or remove oil-based paint.

ONIONS: Another way to stop an itchy mosquito bite: put a slice of raw onion on top of it. Also, paint odor can be removed by placing half an onion at each end of the room. It will absorb the odor. No, your room will not smell oniony either.

PEPPER: Websites galore suggest powdered cayenne pepper (and sometimes black pepper) as a way to stop bleeding—external and internal. (Externally, just pour it on. For internal bleeding, 1 tablespoon in a cup of water is recommended.) Yet other links advise treating colds, stomach ulcers, and arthritis with pepper. One site recommends pepper on an animal’s bandage to keep the animal from chewing off the bandage and chewing on the wound.

PEANUT BUTTER: It comes highly recommended for many uses including these: removing crayon from wallpaper, stopping hiccups, cleaning furniture, removing tar and chewing gum, and polishing stainless steel. What else? It’s also recommended for shaving or moisturizing the skin.

POTATO: This is an oldie but still a goodie. When cut in half, a potato is ideal for removing a broken light bulb from a socket. Grated potato is also recommended to cool down a sunburn.

SALT: Use it to remove red wine stains from your carpet and the scent of onions from your hands. If you drop an egg on the floor, pouring salt on the mess makes it easier to clean up.

TABASCO SAUCE® (a blend of red pepper, vinegar, and salt): A few drops in warm water will give you a good cleaner for silver. About 5 drops on an aching tooth can numb the pain.

TEA: Puffy around the eyes? Use a damp, chilled green tea bag applied directly to the skin to reduce puffiness. Got a small cut? Apply a moistened tea bag to decrease both pain and bleeding.

VINEGAR: Of its many uses, here are just a few: it can remove stubborn stickers when the vinegar is painted on them; it can kill weeds growing between sidewalk cracks when sprayed on full strength; it removes vomit odor from clothing or carpet; it’s an effective treatment for athlete’s foot or nail fungus.

VODKA: Spritz some into your sneakers to get rid of odor-causing bacteria. Vodka has no tell-tale odor itself. It’s also an insect repellent.