Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Nov

The Many Uses of Junk Food

A comment on my recent Coca-Cola post mentioned something I’d never previously considered: what if there were legitimate uses for un-Primal “food” items, things like bread, rice, peanut butter, or corn, that didn’t involve putting them in our mouths, chewing, and swallowing? In a previous post on pantry Primalizing, I suggested newcomers donate their off-limits food to those in need. That remains a viable option, but maybe, just maybe, it makes sense to keep a few select items on hand – not to eat, though.

The commenter suggested using cola to clean rust off weights, which I loved for its utter practicality and for being a direct refutation of what soda stands for. Here was a reader co-opting an egregious, offensive, fructosey dietary force to enable a healthy lifestyle, literally using soda to combat soda-induced health problems. Just as the fructose in cola accumulates in the liver and triggers insulin resistance, intense weight training (with shiny, rust-free weights!) improves insulin sensitivity. Pretty perfect, I’d say.

The following ideas and examples may not be so perfectly Primal, but they do represent good ways to extract non-culinary uses out of supposedly culinary items. If you’ve got any of these Neolithic foods laying around, don’t toss them out – yet! You may learn something useful.


As if “healthy whole grains” weren’t bad enough, they had to go and make bread out of the stuff. Bread is pure grain, ground and fused together to form an unholy, dense brick of anti-nutrients, gluten, and lectins. If you’re like most people, you have some laying around the house, and if you’re newly Primal, it was probably the first thing you vowed to avoid. You may even be hovering over the trash can, dangling the bread bag like a loan shark dangles a debtor from a highrise, waiting for one good reason not to let it drop. How about three?

Bread can be used to sop up grease. Here at MDA, we fully support the ingestion of grease, but every so often it hits the floor, or the walls, or the counter – and we don’t support sniveling on the ground sucking up every last drop, or running your tongue across a counter top just to lap up some bacon grease (although that would make for some pretty lurid photos for our “Grok in the Wild!” photo stream). You also don’t want to waste paper towels (which might not even provide sufficient absorption). Instead, pick up a piece of bread and sop that grease right up. Bread’s sopping abilities are proven and time-tested; you can clean entire plates of viscous French sauces with a single baguette slice. Just don’t eat the thing.

Bread can be used to clean wallpaper, walls, and even paintings. Got a smudge or a fingerprint on the wall? Tear off a little piece of basic white bread and rub the spot softly. It should come right off without the use of harsh cleaning agents.

Bread can pick up infinitesimal shards of glass. When glass breaks, especially if it’s ultra-fine and delicate, those tiny fragments can be nigh impossible to pick up. Rather than digging through the closet for the vacuum cleaner, grab a piece of bread and lightly run it over the crime scene. The nooks and crannies (hey, maybe an English muffin works even better) will pick up all the shards you didn’t see.


Perhaps our most fundamental nemesis, sugar is an unavoidable bane in today’s world. Most kids are addicted to it long before they ever encounter that other white powder, and its liquid, high-fructose, corn-derived sibling somehow makes its way into nearly every packaged food item (thanks, government subsidies!). I’d be willing to bet almost every modern Grok reading this still has a sack of the stuff sitting in their pantry, just because. I even use a pinch of it in my coffee. Sugar is obviously here to stay, so why don’t we get some use out of it?

Combine sugar and Borax to make ant poison hotels. We’re not the only ones that love a good sugar fix; ants go mad for it! Mix one part Borax to three parts sugar and put the mixture in a small container with holes. Ants will check in and – contrary to popular belief – check out, but they’ll bring their sweet poisonous bounty home to the colony and infect everyone, like a philandering husband brings VD home from the cheap motel fling. A similar method also works for fruit flies and wasps – mix some sugar with water, heat it up to form a syrup, and stick it inside an empty wine bottle. Flies and wasps will fly in and either become immobilized by the sticky mess or they’ll be too sugar addled to find their way out.

Make flowers last longer with sugar. Even the inanimate world of flora enjoys sugar. Add a tablespoon of sugar to your vase of flowers and mix in about a liter of water. Your flowers will stay fresher, longer.

Sugar can help start fires. Take a tin of sugar on your next camping trip. If you can’t get that kindling to start, toss a handful of sugar on. It will ignite the flames and help get the fire started.

Kill cockroaches. These vile creatures love sugar, but they don’t love baking powder. If you mix the two in equal amounts, the roaches come for the sugar and die from the baking powder. Or maybe the fructose overloads their tiny roach livers?

Clean grit and grime off your hands. Sometimes, soap doesn’t do the trick. Sometimes, you need something physically abrasive to really clean your hands. A handful of coarse sugar, a bit of water, and some frantic rubbing will get almost anything off your filthy hands.


Next to the potato and iceberg lettuce, it’s America’s favorite vegetable! It’s also actually a grain, albeit a grain loaded with sugar and government money, and imbued with an attractive crisp juiciness. We don’t eat it, but are there any non-culinary uses for corn (and its derivative products)?

Ground corn can be used as cat litter. Corn cobs, corn husks, dried corn – you can grind it all up to form a healthy, natural kitty litter. It won’t clump like commercial litters, and it may not hide the smell as effectively, but as long as you sift it each day, corn cat litter is a good way to protect cats from the potentially harmful effects of silica dust from commercial litters. I realize amassing enough ground corn to make litter might be tough for a PBer, but you could always check with local farmers’ markets for corn byproducts (husks, cobs, etc).

Cornmeal can kill athlete’s foot. Fill a large pot or pan about an inch deep with basic cornmeal and add water. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour, then place the affected foot in the pot. Soak your feet to improve your fungal situation. Really makes you wanna eat the stuff, huh? You can also use dry meal as foot powder.


Eggs and bacon have replaced that old canister of oats in your pantry, but don’t throw it out just yet. If you’ve got incontinent pets (or roommates) and a functioning bathtub, you might want to hold on to those oats.

Oatmeal can help with pet accident cleanup. Next time your dog or cat christens your carpet, throw a handful of oats onto the offending area. The oats will wick up moisture and make clean up incredibly simple and far less messy. If this is happening on a regular basis, though, I’d suggest sticking the old guy on either a Primal dog or cat diet, which should result in firm stools that bounce rather than plop.

Take an oatmeal bath. Grind up your oats into a fine powder, add to tub full of warm water (about a cup of ground oats), and stir until it achieves a smooth milky look. Take care getting in, though; the oatmeal makes for a slippery surface. Oatmeal baths are used to soothe eczema, sunburn, poison oak, and basic dry skin. Just don’t drink the bathwater.

Make a dry shampoo out of oatmeal. Grind up a cup of oatmeal and add a cup of baking soda, making sure to mix well. Add a bit to your oily hair and rub it in, allowing it time to soak up the oils. Brush or shake it out and add more as needed.

Wheat Flour

We despise wheat around here. Absolutely loathe it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. Well, use.

Make papier mache glue with wheat flour and water. Boil one part wheat flour with five parts water and you’ve got papier mache glue! Isn’t it interesting that the recipe for papier mache glue – water and flour – is essentially the same as the recipe for basic bread? Yum!


Rice may be relatively inoffensive on the anti-nutrient scale, but it’s still just empty calories. I prefer to use rice in other ways.

Super sticky rice can replace glue in a pinch. Buy some sticky rice and over cook it, using one part rice to three parts water. When you’re finished, it should look more like oatmeal or porridge than rice. A sieve removes the larger pieces, or you can even blend it to achieve a smooth consistency. Store your rice glue in the fridge for later use.

Uncooked rice keeps salt in a shaker from clumping. Salt has the tendency to attract moisture. When this happens, especially in a confined space like a salt shaker, clumping occurs. Add some dry rice to your salt shaker to keep the clumping to a minimum. Of course, with this method, you run the risk of rice occasionally falling onto your food. In the event of rice contamination, dispose of the dish and its contents, sterilize the surrounding area with bleach and (optionally) fire, and go get a hotel for a couple days to let it blow over.

Peanut Butter

Who doesn’t have a forgotten jar of legume butter hidden somewhere in the house? Stop stealing spoonfuls and put it to good use, for once.

Peanut butter can remove water stains on furniture. I haven’t tried this, but the word around the interwebs says applying a thin layer of peanut butter to a water stain will leach out the moisture and leave it good as new. Anyone care to try?

Peanut butter makes good ant bait. Not all ants are pure sugar fiends. Some are a bit more Primal and actually prefer grease and protein, so rather than give up your butter and steak, why not use that peanut butter you aren’t? If your ants aren’t responding to the sugar hotel (bad Yelp reviews?), mix a couple ounces of peanut butter, a tablespoon or two of honey, and a couple teaspoons of boric acid (Borax).

Peanut butter is a good chrome polish. Use smooth peanut butter to polish your chrome. Apply a bit and rub the butter in with a cloth rag.


Hydrogenated soybean oil mixed and emulsified with innumerable other polysyllabic ingredients may actually be useful for something other than making small, dense LDL and ruining tuna salad.

Mayonnaise also removes water rings from furniture. Same as peanut butter, apparently. Add a layer, let it sit for about an hour, then wipe it off. It’s supposed to remove the stains.

Mayo can remove old bumper stickers. You’ve just bought a used car, and you’d rather not gallivant around town boldly proclaiming that “Meat is Murder.” Your fingernails have proved woefully inadequate. What, then, are you to do? Apply a healthy slathering of mayo to the bumper sticker and wait fifteen minutes. The mayo dissolves the glue, and the sticker comes right off.

Mayo can double as furniture polish. Place a tiny dollop of mayo on the furniture and rub with the grain. It’ll give your wood a nice shine, and there’s no need to rinse (unless the smell is really pervasive).

Canned Items

What about all those cans of clam chowder, creamed corn, and kidney beans you’ve got squirreled away in the cupboards? Should you just donate them? Maybe, but you might want to have a little fun with them first.

Make your own heavy bag. Grab a sturdy duffel bag or even just a suitcase, and fill it to the brim with all the crappy canned goods you can find. Use it to run hill sprints or just carry it around for a great workout. Sandbag exercises can apply here, too. Beginners may want to stick to corn, beans, and other smallish cans, but if you’re up for a real challenge, fill your bag with lots of chicken in a can.

Have I missed anything? Are there any other uses for un-Primal “food” items? Share in the comments section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. LOL! Great ideas. Primal ants invade my home every summer and fall. Not a single drop of fat or protein goes unnoticed by these greedy little buggers. Now I have an additional (in addition to orange oil, which they loath) weapon in my arsenal against them.

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on November 10th, 2009
  2. Excellent post! Just what I needed. I only wish I hadn’t thrown away the unopened bottle of Mayo made with soybean oil.

    maba wrote on November 10th, 2009
  3. You know another great use of rice!! When your cell drops in the toilet becuase you forgot it was in your back pocket or you get pushed in the pool by your favorite brother-in-law. You can take your phone apart, put in rice,leave it there for a day and it will dry out. Amazing all the uses for rice!!!

    Courtney wrote on November 10th, 2009
    • Yes!!! A friend of mine asked me for rice because her son took her phone in his little wading pool for a swim.

      I gave her all the rice I had left, she buried the parts in it, and it was good as new!

      FlyNavyWife wrote on November 10th, 2009
    • yes! Rice absolutely saved my Blackberry after a toddler dipped it in water.

      erica wrote on November 11th, 2009
  4. Wow, all great tips. I love the peanut butter for cleaning chrome trick. I also use a mix of sugar and oil as a hand exfoliator in the winter.

    Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman wrote on November 10th, 2009
  5. Astonish your kids by dropping a mint into a bottle of coke and causing a massive explosion!

    PaleoMum wrote on November 10th, 2009
  6. “Or maybe the fructose overloads their tiny roach livers?”

    That is about the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time !

    EdM wrote on November 10th, 2009
  7. Thanks. Just last night my local grocery store gave me a free bag of sugar, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. I can’t put it in the sugar jar, that is still full from the last bag of sugar I bought 3 years ago. (Even before I found primal I never ate much sugar)

    Henry Miller wrote on November 10th, 2009
  8. Plain awesome…

    Lazar wrote on November 10th, 2009
  9. Funny post!
    That reminds me- time to make mayo (I use olive oil, whey and farmers market eggs a la Sally Fallon’s recipe)

    Anyway here’s a great use for sugar (Henry- try it!)
    make a skin softening sugar scrub–
    mix 50% white cane sugar and 50 % oil (like avocado, coconut, sesame, argon etc) with a few drops of theraputic essential oils (your choice). Combine ingredients in a bowl. Scoop some of the scrub onto your hands and massage gently onto your skin for a minute (the scrub will actually tighten like a masque). Leave on if desired for 3 to 4 minutes before showering off.
    This also makes a great gift- esp since the holidays are approaching. You can almost justify buying the white stuff since the organic versions do not work as well!

    marcib wrote on November 10th, 2009
  10. Just about everything you mentioned is great for the compost bin! My bin is full of healthy worms, as I’m slowly adding the bits and pieces I’ve cleaned out of my pantry to the bin, and they love all of it! Especially bread and grains. That beautiful compost will go into my organic garden next spring, wear I grow all kinds of primal veggies.

    Sharonll wrote on November 10th, 2009
    • Where I grow… not “wear”! Sheesh, typing too fast.

      Sharonll wrote on November 10th, 2009
  11. Granulated sugar had but one use in my house – skin exfoliation. It’s the perfect scrub, mix with grapefruit, lemon or essential oils. Truly something good from something baaaaad.

    Hiit Mama - Meredith wrote on November 10th, 2009
  12. Use sugar as a body scrub. I mix brown sugar and olive oil and use it as a scrub in the shower. Rinse it off and you are left with silky smooth skin! No more spending $20 a jar for the “so called Natural Body Care” anymore!

    And what Courtney said above about the rice and the cell phone, really works. I had to do that just the other day, it truly amazed me!

    Krys wrote on November 10th, 2009
  13. Barter. Dried legumes, starches, and grains store fairly easily. In times of chaos, there will still be people who believe those are food, and will trade valuable things for them.

    TXCHLInstructor wrote on November 10th, 2009
    • I like the way you think.

      marnee wrote on November 11th, 2009
  14. “Wow” firearm virgin friends by using cans of Campbell’s MSG and Die Pepsi as high power rifles targets. Gallons of frozen pasteurized milk & fruit juice work well too.

    Grok wrote on November 10th, 2009
  15. Extra loaves of Bread? Make loafers!

    (and I thought my dogs were already overly fond of my shoes …)

    Cloudforest wrote on November 10th, 2009
  16. Frozen rice in a gallon zip lock make a nice pillow insert if you prefer a cool head as you sleep, and rice in a sock can be microwaved for a little bit as a nice warmer if you happen to be cold.

    John Polk wrote on November 10th, 2009
  17. Man, I’m getting plagued by ants in my house. Going to have to give that sugar/borax idea a shot!

    Extreme Fitness Results wrote on November 10th, 2009
  18. My mom used to make the most darling minature flowers using food coloring, elmers glue, and white bread.

    Nancy wrote on November 10th, 2009
  19. I’ve read that mayo can add strength, shine, vitality, etc. to hair

    MariaNYC wrote on November 10th, 2009
  20. Coke is apparently pretty good for toilet stains.

    Tyler (Saskatchewan's Sexiest Blogger) wrote on November 10th, 2009
  21. This is our kid’s favourite use of flour:

    Playdough! Keeps them out of our hair for hours….

    Shmaltzy wrote on November 10th, 2009
  22. When trying to solder water pipes, use bread to ease the trickle that keeps cooling your joint.

    D wrote on November 10th, 2009
  23. The best use for rice is as a grip trainer. Fill up a bucket with rice, put your hand in it, and practice forcefully grabbing and twisting the rice in your hand. This is particularly good for rehabilitation, but it will help anyone looking for a stronger grip.

    Kevin wrote on November 10th, 2009
  24. Beans or oatmeal: grind up fine in a blender & mix with your choice of liquid for a facial scrub.

    Rice makes an excellent hot pack. Use a sock (tie a knot in the end) or sew the shape of your choice & fill. Pop into the nuker for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Nice and hot to ease those sore muscles after lifting heavy things or warming your cold bed in the winter. Add lavender buds for a sooting eye pillow.

    DebFM wrote on November 10th, 2009
  25. I use cornmeal for facial scrub–just lather up a bunch of soap in your palms and mix in a few pinches of cornmeal.

    Shebeeste wrote on November 10th, 2009
  26. Sugar: Feed hummingbirds with a syrup of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Microwave or bring to a boil in a saucepan for two or three minutes, then cool. Provide to your over-wintering hummingbird friends.

    Martha M wrote on November 10th, 2009
  27. You can sew dried rice or beans into little bags and juggle them! Or use a large sack of rice as a punching target.

    Meeses wrote on November 10th, 2009
  28. Sugar also works really well for bleeding cuts. If you slice open your finger in the kitchen with a knife, you can stick it in sugar and continue on with your business without dripping blood everywhere and helping it clot faster.

    Naomi Niles wrote on November 11th, 2009
  29. Peanut butter is excellent bait for rat traps

    rob wrote on November 11th, 2009
  30. Flour, especially chapati flour, can be used to make bombs. I don’t just mean flour bombs like you used on your classmates on the last day of school. I mean actually explosive bang-bang bombs.

    Don’t state troopers in the US carry bottles of Coke in their cars to was blood of the highway after an accident?

    Simon wrote on November 11th, 2009
  31. The very best bait for rat traps are those cheap store bought brownies. I had the rats move to my house back in the 80’s after the neighbors moved out. They were huge. The only thing that would coax these apparently very smart critters out were those cheap brownies. Worked every time.

    dave, RN wrote on November 11th, 2009
  32. I’ve gotta take issue with this: ‘…direct refutation of what soda stands for.’ Soda doesn’t stand for anything, any more than a rock or a chair or arsenic or any other inanimate object. They just are, it’s what you do with them that imparts meaning.

    Alchemyguy wrote on November 11th, 2009
    • Agreed. Someone’s invested too much time exploring the intricacies of his narratives. It may be helpful and motivational to tell yourself that soda or corn or whatever has some symbolism, but that’s in the eye of the beholder and not an attribute of the thing itself.

      Kevin wrote on November 11th, 2009
  33. hmm… saw this first on the BBC show “how clean is your house?” but here’s a use for cola…. apparently if you leave it on long enough it can really dissolve tough deposits on gross toilets.

    inka wrote on November 11th, 2009
  34. Just the fact that you can make GLUE out of wheat should tell anyone why they shouldn’t eat it. Yet I’ve run into dozens of people who insist wheat is super healthy. x__x

    Beans and rice make great filling for small pillows. This year, all my friends are getting eye pillows filled with rice. Dry rice in a bowl is great for holding incense or any other item that needs to be stored upright.

    Oatmeal and cornmeal are fantastic additions to soaps. Making soap is one of my hobbies. The leftovers also make great compost. Better compost = more food next year. How could I lose?

    paleo_piper wrote on November 11th, 2009
    • You can make glue from horses, too, and horses are one of the most potentially Primal food sources I know of.

      GeriMorgan wrote on November 21st, 2009
    • “Dry rice in a bowl is great for holding incense or any other item that needs to be stored upright.”

      Fantastic idea, now when I burn through those candles that come in a glass container, I don’t have to try to heat and remove the mess on the bottom anymore. I can just wipe out the soot, pile in some rice, and add tea lights. I bet I could do the same thing with my bag of dried lentils.

      CriQue312 wrote on July 25th, 2010
  35. I already use corn for cat litter – it’s called World’s Best Cat Litter. No yucky stuff in it and it works great!

    P.S. I don’t eat wheat, corn, or soy either. I am a carnivore.

    Tiki the Cat

    Tiki wrote on November 12th, 2009
  36. Great article! I’m definitely going to have to try the peanut butter for one of my water stained tables. Cola works great for cleaning driveways too!

    Shala wrote on November 12th, 2009
  37. Wheat flour: The only effective way I’ve found to get oil stains out of clothing…. get oil or grease spots on that shirt? Rub in flour BEFORE washing and let it sit. The flour will absorb the oils and then wash right out.

    Laura wrote on November 13th, 2009
  38. Peanut butter, honey, oats can be used for mice traps. Cold weather up here in Minnesota brings them into my garage and they’ll be here until spring warms the outside. I’m already seeing their little brown bodies fleeing from my dogs and me and their little poops all over the garage. October was cold. Last year, they made paper nests in my car engine. NOt this year!
    Peanut butter war on the mice.

    mcoz-09 wrote on November 13th, 2009

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