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. Wow, now I know their uses! Very nice post you have!

    Access Control Gate

    Julie wrote on November 17th, 2009
  2. Peanut butter also works well for polishing silver. My mother and I were unpacking some old junk the other day when we came across this “crystal” food bowl with a couple of pieces of badly-tarnished silverware. I got out the peanut butter, grabbed a wet rag (wet works better than dry) and got to work. They’re not completely recovered yet; I’ve still got a lot more work to do on them. But they look way better.

    GeriMorgan wrote on November 21st, 2009
  3. I’ve heard that wheat flour is also good for smothering grease fires.

    PG wrote on November 23rd, 2009
  4. What ever happened to adaptability? Is that not what makes us human. My opinion is that if we are too specific in one direction, we loose the ability to see all.

    Goes hand and hand with the post on alcohol. Pick your poisons wisely.

    baj wrote on December 31st, 2009
  5. Also Peanut Butter is great for fixing cracks and scratches in CD’s or DVD’s. Smear a mild amount (just covering the top) of smooth peanut butter on them, then wipe them off with a dry rag, and pop them in. Just make sure to wipe off all the peanut butter before putting it in the player. If they are really damaged, it won’t work well, but for those mild scratches, that make your disks skip, it works wonders. We have Netflix, and sometimes we get a disk that’s scratched, we use this trick.
    This is a great post, thanks for the ideas. I’m going to try the oatmeal bath.

    Esther Anders wrote on January 21st, 2010
  6. If you want to lessen your salt intake… Salt can be used to rub out tea and coffee stains on coffee cups.

    Just rinse the cup, put some salt in around the ring that the tea/coffee left, and rub it in with your fingers.

    I had a hard time finding out how to get rid of tea stains when I thought I’d ruined my sister’s cups! But salt works perfectly.

    Good post

    SarahAnn wrote on February 14th, 2010
  7. Very entertaining and hilarious. I laughed out loud to myself several times and my dog just looked at me like I was crazy.

    Lillian wrote on February 23rd, 2010
  8. Mark, thanks for this post. I just died laughing! 😀 Off to find some Borax.

    By the way, sugar + some water makes a great exfoliating paste!

    Natalia wrote on April 21st, 2010
  9. Does that bit with the sugar and baking soda *really* work on roaches? I had to move schools, and the building I am in now is FULL of them (and mice), but the district won’t really do anything about it because they’re having to build a new building anyways. This would be great if it worked.

    Fyre wrote on August 4th, 2010
  10. I hear sugar can be used to make hot wax for hair removal 😉

    Jo wrote on August 9th, 2010
  11. Not what I expected from the title, but a great read still.

    Jeff wrote on November 11th, 2010
  12. Another good use for rice is to make a heat pack.

    Grab an old bed sheet or a similarly tight weave cloth, sew it into a tube of whatever size you want your heat pack to be (consider doing two layers of cloth, sewn separately, if it’s going to be a big tube just in case one layer breaks!), make sure you leave one part open so it can be filled, fill it with rice and sew it shut.

    This is also the best thing you can do with your microwave! Stick that heat pack in the microwave (you can also warm it in the sun all day or in the oven but be careful not to burn the fabric if you use your oven!) until it’s nice and warm and then relax with your nice warm, heavy, awesome rice pack.

    I like one about 5 inches wide an 18-24 inches long to rest behind my neck and along my shoulders. Warmth and stretching!

    Noctiluca wrote on September 22nd, 2011
  13. Rice is great for making rice water, which is very good as a toner. Just rinse the rice once, then leave the rice in water overnight; in the morning, filter out the rice, and you can use the water as a great, mildly astringent, brighttening & clarifying facial toner. Rice water is very good for softening rough skin, so washing your hands in it is also great.

    Sugar is great for making scrubs. I mix grapeseed & jojoba oil, sugar, and essential oils of sandalwood, bergamot & lavender and use it for rough skin on hands, feet, elbows, knees, and anywhere else except your face.

    Milla wrote on September 22nd, 2011
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    stock data wrote on November 1st, 2012
  15. This is a really old post, but another great use for peanut butter:

    Remember when you were a kid and blew bubble gum bubbles that got in your hair?? My mom would use peanut butter to take the bubble gum out without needing to cut the hair :)

    rachel ann wrote on February 28th, 2013

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