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.
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.
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).
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!
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.