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!

TAGS:  humor

About the Author

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.

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76 thoughts on “The Many Uses of Junk Food”

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  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.

  2. Excellent post! Just what I needed. I only wish I hadn’t thrown away the unopened bottle of Mayo made with soybean oil.

  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!!!

    1. 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!

    2. yes! Rice absolutely saved my Blackberry after a toddler dipped it in water.

  4. “Or maybe the fructose overloads their tiny roach livers?”

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

  5. 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)

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. “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.

  12. 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.

  13. My mom used to make the most darling minature flowers using food coloring, elmers glue, and white bread.

  14. I’ve read that mayo can add strength, shine, vitality, etc. to hair

  15. When trying to solder water pipes, use bread to ease the trickle that keeps cooling your joint.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. I use cornmeal for facial scrub–just lather up a bunch of soap in your palms and mix in a few pinches of cornmeal.

  19. 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.

  20. You can sew dried rice or beans into little bags and juggle them! Or use a large sack of rice as a punching target.

  21. 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.

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

    1. 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.

  25. 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?

    1. “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.

  26. 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

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. I’ve heard that wheat flour is also good for smothering grease fires.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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

  35. Very entertaining and hilarious. I laughed out loud to myself several times and my dog just looked at me like I was crazy.

  36. 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!

  37. 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.

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

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  41. 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 🙂