10 Foods You Can Use 100 Ways (Cooking, Cleaning, Beauty & More)

 reading time: 16 min

In honour of #earthmonth and this past Earth Day on 22/04/22 I am going to share with you 10 versatile multi-purpose foods in today's blogpost that you can use in at least five different ways such as for cooking, cleaning, body, and more – with the total of household and beauty uses for the listed items summing up to 100! 🤓 This blogpost was inspired by Meghan Livingstone's article on 6 Multi-Purpose Foods For Cooking, Cleaning & Body.

As you all probably know by now, I'm not only a huge foodie, but also a big believer in minimalism and a zero waste or low waste lifestyle. This blog post is supposed to remind both you and me of all the wonderful versatile ways to use everyday food items that you probably have sitting in your cupboard already!

1. Baking Soda

Here in Germany, baking soda isn't as common as for example baking powder (which is usually a mixture of baking soda and a weak acid such as cream of tartar as well as a release agent such as cornstarch) – and while I don't always use it for baking, it has been a staple in our household for years as a natural cleaning product. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste that you might know from certain baked goods. Sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda, is a powerful abrasive and can be used in various ways, such as:

1) for baking, as a leavening agent, e. g. for my vegan lemon and elderflower buttercream layer cake
2) for cleaning, especially oven, shower, tiles, sink, drains and toilet
3) to remove any burnt food in pans and saucepans (or on the grill): combine with hot water and scrub
to make your coloured clothing brighter and your whites whiter, as well as naturally deodorizing and cleansing your laundry: add 1-2 tsp of baking soda to your laundry detergent, e. g. my homemade chestnut detergent; it also softens the water which means you can get away with using less detergent, plus it helps keep your washing machine clean!
5) to freshen the air, helps get rid of unpleasant odours, e. g. for sneakers or the fridge
6) to freshen up carpets and upholstered furniture: generously sprinkle baking soda over the carpet or upholstery, and allow to sit there for some hours to absorb any odours; vacuum up the baking soda
7) to wash you hair as part of the no-poo method
as a hand scrub when doing an at-home manicure
as a foot soak: dissolve 3 tbsp of baking soda in a warm bath, soak and gently scrub feet
10) to make DIY deodorant: combine equal parts of cornstarch and baking soda, and add liquid coconut oil until creamy
11) to make DIY mouthwash: add 1/2 tsp of baking soda to half a glass of warm water
12) to make DIY toothpaste

2. Lemon

I never really used to care much for lemon – until I learnt that vitamin C is an important factor in iron absorption. Adding a vitamin C-rich food like citrus fruits and an organic acid like lemon juice to your meals, increases the absorption of iron by 3 to 4 times!! So I now drizzle lemon juice basically over every meal I eat, haha. Lemon juice also kills bacteria and is therefore great for cleaning as well. Some of the most common ways to use lemon juice in the household include:
13) to drink in water or make lemonade, or in salad dressings
14) to prevent cut apples and cauliflower from turning brown; also keeps guacamole green
15) as a natural disinfectant for fruits and vegetables: squeeze 1 tbsp of lemon juice in to a spray bottle and remove pesticides or dirt
16) to freshen the fridge
17) to clean the kitchen sink and stainless-steel surfaces
18) as a natural bleaching agent to brighten whites and remove stains: pour 1 cup of lemon juice into the washer during the wash cycle; your clothes will also come out smelling lemon-fresh
19) as a homemade glass and window cleaner: mix 3 tbsp lemon juice per cup of water, place in a spray bottle for easy cleaning; for tough water stains or marks on glass, use a sponge dipped in straight lemon juice
20) to clean cutting boards and wooden utensils: after washing your wooden kitchenware, cut open a lemon, and coat surface with lemon juice; allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, rinse with hot water and dry well; for a more intense treatment, combine with sea salt (see below)
21) to descale tea kettles and coffee makers
22) as a facial cleanse to zap zits and blackheads, as well as for natural cleanse and exfoliation
23) as an effective nail cleanser and hardener, combined with olive oil; also whitens and brightens yellowing nails
24) to rinse blonde hair to bring out natural highlights

BONUS TIP: Lemon essential oil can be used to remove sticky labels from glass jars or stainless steel containers!

3. Vinegar

Ugh, the smell of vinegar! But it's worth it, I promise. It's one of the cheapest, cleanest, most effective and most natural cleaning products out there! Plus, the shelf life is basically endless. If you can't stand the smell of this acid solution, look into orange vinegar instead, or make your own by adding orange peel to white vinegar! Vinegar can be used for cooking, pickling, and other domestic uses as well, such as:

25) mix
apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar with olive oil to make a vinaigrette and other salad dressings
26) mix apple cider vinegar with soy milk to create vegan buttermilk, e. g. for my vegan lemon poppy seed "buttermilk" scones
27) f
or an acidic hair rinse: add 1-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar to 1 liter of water to rinse your hair
28) to make your own facial toner: mix 1 part
apple cider vinegar (or less, if your skin is sensitive) with 2 parts distilled water, and use to spray or wipe your face
29) to clean your tooth brush: combine 1/2 cup water with 2 tbsp white vinegar or apple cider vinegar and 2 tsp baking soda; mix well and leave the head of your toothbrush in the mixture for 30 minutes; rinse well with water before you use it
30) to pickle vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers or garlic
31) for cleaning, especially windows, tiles, floors and other surfaces (do not use vinegar on marble, granite and other natural stone surfaces!)
32) to remove stains on clothing and brighten whites: add 1/2 cup to wash water with your laundry; also makes the water soft (never add vinegar to chlorine bleach!)
to remove rust from garden sheers etc.
34) as a cheap, effective rinsing agent to get your glasses, plates and other dishes sparkling clean: pour vinegar into the rinse aid dispenser of your dishwasher; it also cleans the dishwasher itself: pour 1 cup of white vinegar into empty dishwasher and run it for a short cycle
35) to make a herbal oxymel: combine 1 cup apple cider vinegar with 1 cup raw honey and about 1/2 cup of fresh herbs, and let infuse for at least a week in a closed jar in a dark, cool place

4. Coconut Oil

This topical beauty has had a huge increase in popularity over the past decade or so, which is probably due to its possible benefits for hair, skin and health, as well as its pleasant smell. The edible oil derived from the coconut palm fruit turns solid at a temperature below around 25 C / 78 F, and has a smoke point of 180 C / 350 F, which makes it suitable for cooking, but not serious frying. Personally, I prefer to use it for various beauty practices, as well as DIY projects, however it can be used for a lot of things, such as:

36) as a fat source for cooking, especially Asian recipes, e. g. my spicy pineapple coconut curry
38) to make your own chocolate
39) to make your own deodorant: mix 2 tbsp coconut oil with 2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt, plus optional essential oils
40) to make your own lip balm 
41) to make your own toothpaste
42) to make your own hand soap
43) for oil pulling
44) as a nourishing hair mask
45) to cleanse your skin (oil cleansing method)
46) as a natural moisturiser and mild sunscreen for legs, arms and elbows
47) to treat small cuts, minor sunburn and dry skin
48) as cuticle oil to treat your nails
as massage oil, or to make your own massage bars / lotion bars
50) as personal lubricant (avoid using any oils with latex contraceptives as it can corrode the latex and make the condoms ineffective!) and/or to make your own intimate hygiene oil for women and men
51) as furniture polish and shoe shiner
52) to make a DIY bird feeder
53) to improve your dog's digestion by mixing some coconut oil into your dog's food; massaging a small amount of coconut oil into your pet's coat also helps to get healthy shiny fur, and to prevent or treat conditions such as flea allergies, mites, itchy skin, eczema and dermatitis (you should still go to the vet in this case!)

5. Olive Oil

Unlike coconut oil, I use my extra-virgin olive oil mostly for cooking (it has a smoke point of about 195 C / 380 F), and sometimes for my hair, but I don't really like the smell of it on my body, which is why I use the sweet, tropical coconut oil for most things beauty like I said. Tastewise however, there are few things that are better than a slice of roasted French bread dipped in olive oil with a bit of garlic... Other than that, you could use it in these ways:

54) for cooking and in salads, e. g. for my garden focaccia or my vegan Greek salad
55) as a moisturizing, detangling hair mask
56) to moisturise your skin, soften cuticles and hands
57) as an exfoliator: mix with 1 tsp of sugar, and scrub your face or your hands
58) as a shoe polish
59) to buff stainless steel and brass surfaces to a brilliant shine
60) to remove sticky labels e. g. from glass food jars you want to reuse
61) to treat cutting boards, salad bowls and other wooden utensils: rub light coating of olive oil all over to nourish the wood and prevent cracking and discolouration; let the oil sit for about 5 minutes, then buff with a soft cloth

6. Sea Salt

Of course, salt is mostly known and used for flavouring food in the kitchen, however, this is not the only household purpose. Unlike rock salt, which is mined in underground salt mines, sea salt is avtively produced by the evaporation of seawater. One of the most common types is the Mediterranean fleur e sel or flor de sal, which is pictured above. If you have sea salt at home and are wondering what else to use it for, here are some ideas:

62) to season sweet and savoury meals, e. g. my herbed garlic butter or my no bake caramel fingers
63) for a detoxifying bath, especially dead sea salt: add 1 cup to your bathwater
64) to make a foot or body scrub, mixed with oil such as coconut oil or olive oil
65) for inhalation or a nasal rinse
66) to clean wooden cutting boards: sprinkle coarse salt onto your cutting board and rub it around using half of lemon or a scrub brush; rinse with hot water

7. Corn Starch

As the name suggests, corn starch is the starch derived from corn or maize. It was traditionally used for "starching" laundry as well as for making sauces and slurries, which is what I mainly use it for. What's important is that you always mix cornstarch with a small amount of cold liquid before stirring it into a hot liquid to avoid lumps, then bring to the boil briefly to unfold the thickening effect. Also: don't mix any starch with oat milk or rice milk as these are usually produces with the help of enzymes called "amylases". Amylases convert starch into several types of sugar, which means that the starch will break down quite quickly – and your pudding will remain liquid.
In general, corn starch can be used in the household in a number of ways, such as:

67) as a thickening agent in sauces, gravies, soups, custard etc., e. g. for my old fashioned blackberry cobbler
68) as homemade dry shampoo: for blonds, mix equal amounts of cornstarch with baking soda, and brush throughout your strands to absorb any excess oils; for dark hair, add cocoa powder to the blend
69) to make your own deodorant: mix 2 tbsp cornstarch with 3 tbsp coconut oil and 2 tbsp baking soda to form a paste
70) to reduce chafing between thighs: apply directly to the skin
71) to get rid of blood stains on clothing or table linens: make a paste of cornstarch mixed with cold water, cover spot with paste and rub gently into the fabric, put in a sunny location to dry, then brush off remaining residue
72) to polish silverware: mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl to form a paste, use a damp cloth to rub the mixture onto silverware; when the paste dries, brush it off and buff the silver with a soft cloth
73) for a homemade cheap milk bath: add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cornstarch to bathwater, along with 1/2 cup baking soda, 2 cups powdered whole milk or coconut milk, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil for a nice scent
74) to give your pet a dry bath: rub a small amount of cornstarch through your pet's fur

8. Black and Green Tea

Are you a tea or a coffee person? (I'm a tea person, but I also do love the smell and taste of milky coffee every now and again.) Did you know that the only real types of "tea" are black, green and white tea (as well as the less known yellow tea, oolang tea and pu-erh tea) which all derive from the same tea plant called Camellia sinensis?! Other "teas" like peppermint tea, roiboos tea, chamomile tea, rosehip tea etc. are technically not tea, but herbal infusions. Now that's some tea for you!
To broaden your horizon even further, here are some ideas on how to use your tea:

75) to brew a tea such as my vegan London fog, or to make ice tea
76) to make your own kombucha
77) as as natural fertilizer: add wet or dry tea leaves from brewing tea (or old tea that will not be drunk) to the soil of your houseplants
78) to give naturally dark hair a temporary boost of colour and shine: rinse your hair with cold black tea
79) to make an antioxidant-rich face mask: mix 1 cup of strongly brewed cold green tea with 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 1-2 tsp lemon juice; apply to face and leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse with cold water

9. Rice

Second after bread, the food we eat the most in our family is probably rice (on a par with potatoes). I just love rice. My favourite kind is jasmine rice, which is slightly more sticky than for example the long and slender basmati rice, which is what we mostly use for cooking (I prefer basmati for more "saucy" meals). And then there is short-grain rice of course which is great for making rice pudding or even sushi! But of course, cooking isn't the only use for rice. Here are some more great ways to use rice in the household:
80) for cooking, especially Asian and Mexican dishes, e. g. my pumpkin lentil dahl or my peanut green Thai curry
81) as a weight for blind baking your pies instead of pie weights from the store, e. g. for my vegan egg custard tart (you won't be able to cook or eat the rice afterward, but you can use it over and over again for blind baking!)
82) to create a heat pack / hot compress / heating pad to alleviate sore shoulders, lower back pain and menstruation cramps or to brighten up a chilly day: stuff old socks or an old sheet with rice and an essential oil of your choice, tie tightly with string and heat in the microwave for 1 minute; can also be used as an ice pack by chilling it in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes
83) to make your own rice milk
84) to make your own conditioning hair rinse
85) as a facial cleanser to soften and brighten skin: make rice water by placing rinsed rice in water, drain, and splash rice water onto your face
86) as air freshener to remove odours in closet, car, bathroom, near the litter box or any area that could benefit from some air freshening; you can add 10 to 20 drops of essential oils
87) to clean and freshen up your coffee or spice grinder: grind 1/2 cup of uncooked rice until pulverized; the rice will soak up the oils lingering in the grinder as well as sharpen the blades
88) to clean out oddly shaped bottles and vases with narrow necks: put a handful of uncooked rice along with some warm water and a small squirt of dish soap in your bottle or vase, and swirl the grains around; that will provide gentle abrasion to scrub away dirt and grime
89) to save your wet cell phone by putting it in a bucket or bag with dry uncooked rice; this has been debunked as a myth, but it actually worked for me when I dropped my phone into the ocean in Thailand a few years ago!; make sure to turn the phone off, if possible, and remove the battery and SIM card, and leave for 24 hours or longer
90) to keep hand tools from rusting: place them in a can of rice to absorb any moisture; this works especially well for pliers, screwdrivers and hammers

10. Oats

Did I say rice was the most eaten food in our home? I might've lied. It might actually be oats – because I eat oatmeal basically every single day 🤪 Rolled oats are super cheap and a great whole-grain staple. However, there is more to oats than just a filling breakfast, such as using oats in one of these ways:

91) for oatmeal, granola, pie crust, crisps, pancakes etc.
92) to make your own oat milk
93) as a face mask: mix ground oats and water or almond milk to form a paste, apply to your face and leave on for about 15 minutes before washing it off
94) as a gentle facial exfoliant or face wash: coarsely grind 1 cup of oats, add 1 tbsp of brown sugar or white sugar (or honey for very sensitive skin), 1 tsp sweet almond oil or coconut oil or olive oil, and 3 tbsp almond milk; apply in circular motion to face and neck; rinse with warm wash cloth
95) to soothe a sunburn: grind up oats and mix with some milk to form a paste, apply to your skin for about 15 minutes before gently wiping if off
96) as a bath soak: place 1 cup of plain oats in a cheesecloth or some old pantihose and put that into your tub so the oats won't clog your drain afterwards; add a few drops of lavender essential oil or a pinch of dried lavender; soaking in this aromatherapy solution for 15 to 30 minutes will cleanse and soften your skin and lock in moisture
97) to get rid of smelly odours: keep an open container of oats in the fridge to absorb odours
98) to create your own modelling clay or DIY play-dough for your kids to play with: mix equal parts of rolled oats and flour with a little water and perhaps a few drops of fun food colouring to form a clay-like consistency
99) to make your own artisan oatmeal soap that will exfoliate the skin naturally and helps to reduce skin irritation and itching, which makes this perfect for sensitive skin: add 2 tbsp rolled oats or ground old-fashioned oats to your soap mixture
100) as a gentle natural pet shampoo: mix 1 cup of ground oatmeal with 1/2 cup liquid Castile soap and 1 quart of warm water in a container, shake well and use to rinse your dog's, cat's or guinea pig's fur

Do you know any more uses of the foods I listed? Comment down below!