A Frugal Fact: The 6 Most Valuable Grocery Store Products Known to Man

When it comes to utility, not all products are created equal. In fact, some products have so many uses beyond their advertised purpose it is truly amazing.

So if value can be defined by versatility then, clearly, not all products provide you with the same bang for your buck.

Sure, everybody knows about the incredible versatility of duct tape; it is absolutely legendary in terms of the number of ways it can be used.   Heck, I even wrote a popular article a while back that showed how duct tape can fix your personal finances.

Did you know there are other versatile items out there besides duct tape, many of which can be found in your local grocery store?   It’s true.

In fact, savvy grocery shoppers often take advantage of these highly versatile products to save money by using them for alternative applications.

After some exhaustive research, here is my official list of the six most valuable grocery store products – along with a partial list of their many uses.

Oh, yeah… and here’s the obligatory disclaimer: no, I haven’t personally verified all of these tips.   So, please, use them at your own risk.

1. Vinegar

When it comes to grocery store products, vinegar is liquid gold. People have been using it for ages – and not just for cooking and preserving foods.   Vinegar’s versatility is virtually unmatched; there are literally hundreds of potential applications. Aside from its primary applications, here is just a small sample of all the other things vinegar can be used for:

1. Disinfect wood cutting boards.
2. Soothe a sore throat; use 1 tsp of vinegar per glass of water, then gargle.
3. Fight dandruff; after shampooing, rinse hair with vinegar and 2 cups of warm water.
4. Remove warts; apply daily a 50/50 solution of cider vinegar and glycerin until they’re gone.
5. Cure an upset stomach; drink 2 tsp apple cider vinegar in one cup of water.
6. Polish chrome.
7. Keep boiled eggs from cracking; add 2 tbsp to water before boiling.
8. Clean deposits from fish tanks.
9. Remove urine stains from carpet. (Heh. Hopefully, it’s animal urine!)
10. Keep fleas off dogs; add a little vinegar to the dog’s drinking water.
11. Keep car windows from frosting up; use a solution of 3 oz. vinegar to 1 oz. water.
12. Clean dentures; soak overnight in vinegar and then brush.
13. Get rid of lint in clothes; add 0.5 cup vinegar to rinse cycle.
14. Remove grease from suede.
15. Kill grass on sidewalks and driveways.
16. Make wool blankets softer; add 2 cups distilled vinegar to rinse cycle.
17. Remove skunk odor from a dog; rub fur with full strength vinegar and rinse.
18. Freshen wilted vegetables; soak them in 1 tbsp vinegar and a cup of water.
19. Dissolve mineral deposits in drip coffee makers.
20. Deodorize drains; pour a cup down the drain once a week, let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse.
21. Use as a replacement for a lemon; 0.25 tsp vinegar substitutes for 1 tsp of lemon juice.
22. Make rice fluffier; add 1 tsp of vinegar to water when it boils.
23. Prevent grease build-up in ovens; wipe oven with cleaning rag soaked in distilled vinegar and water.
24. Kill germs; mix a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
25. Unclog shower heads; place in a pot with 50-50 solution of vinegar and water, bring it to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.
26. Shine patent leather.
27. Make propane lantern wicks burn longer/brighter; soak them in vinegar for 3 hours, let dry.
28. Act as an an air freshener.
29. Soften paint brushes; soak in hot vinegar then rinse with soapy water.
30. Remove bumper stickers and decals; simply cover them with vinegar-soaked cloth for several minutes.
31. Prolong the life of fresh-cut flowers; use 2 tbsp of vinegar and 3 tbsp of sugar per quart of warm water.

All of these vinegar applications, and scores more, can be found at this informative site.

2. Baking Soda

Aside from its primary use as a baking agent, baking soda is another grocery item with an almost countless number of applications.   For example, among other things, baking soda can be used to:

1. Deodorize your refrigerator; put an open box in the fridge.
2. Remove odors from shoes.
3. Keep drains clean and free-flowing; use 4 tbspns of soda and flush with hot water.
4. Keep your underarms smelling fresh.
5. Soften your skin.
6. Relieve diaper rash.
7. Relieve sunburn; apply a paste of soda and water.
8. Extinguish small grease and electrical fires.
9. Polish silverware.
10. Clean your refrigerator. (Or your neighbors, for that matter.)
11. Remove cat box odors; cover the bottom of the box with soda, then top with kitty litter.
12. Clean and remove stale odors from thermos bottles and coolers.
13. Make dried beans more digestible by soaking them in a solution of baking soda and water.
14. Make wild game taste less, well, “gamey.”
15. Remove oil and grease stains from laundry; add baking soda to the wash water.
16. Remove stains from marble, Formica or plastic surfaces; apply a paste of soda and water.
17. Remove grease from garage floors.
18. Clean vegetables and fruit; sprinkle some in water, then soak and rinse.
19. Wash garbage cans.
20. Clean and remove odors from your dishwasher; just run it with soda instead of soap.
21. Inhibit smoldering butts in ashtrays.
22. Clean shower curtains.
23. Keep teeth or dentures clean. (Preferably, yours.)
24. Relieve indigestion and heartburn; drink 0.5 tsp of soda in 4 oz of water
25. Use as a mouthwash and/or relieve canker sore pain; gargle with 0.5 tsp of soda in 4 oz of water
26. Remove baked-on food from pots and pans; soak in soda and water for 15 min.
27. Relieve bee sting pain.
28. Make homemade Play Dough; combine 1.25 cups water, 2 cups soda, 1 cup cornstarch.
29. Remove feathers more easily when scalding a chicken; just add to the water.
30. As a windshield water repellent.
31. Clean canvas handbags.
32. Shine chrome and stainless steel.

For even more baking soda applications, check out this site.

3. WD-40

You can’t get a gallon of milk at your local Home Depot, but you can often find WD-40 in a grocery store!   WD-40 was originally developed as a water repellent and corrosion preventer, but today the manufacturer claims the product has over 2000 uses.   But, Len, if there are 2000 uses why isn’t this product listed at number 1? Well, the answer is two-fold: 1) because most of those 2000 uses are just variations of the same basic applications; and 2) this is my list and I’ll do as I want. (So there.)

Here are 20 of the more arcane ones which have actually been verified by the manufacturer according to Snopes:

1. Removes road tar and grime from cars.
2. Loosens stuck zippers.
3. Untangles jewelery chains.
4. Keeps pigeons off the balcony. (Apparently, they hate the smell.)
5. Lubricates prosthetic limbs.
6. Protects silver from tarnishing.
7. Keeps ceramic/terracotta garden pots from oxidizing.
8. Keeps scissors working smoothly.
9. Lubricates squeaky home and vehicle door hinges.
10. Lubricates gear shifts and deck levers on riding mowers.
11. Eliminates squeaks from kids’ swings.
12. Makes home windows easier to open. (And it’s safer than a hammer!)
13. Helps stubborn umbrellas to open and close.
14. Restores and cleans vehicle roof racks.
15. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans.
16. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles.
17. Removes residual duct tape adhesive.
18. Cleans bugs off of grills and bumpers.
19. Displaces the moisture and allows a car to start when sprayed on the distributor cap.
20. Removes black scuff marks from floors.

4. Coca-Cola

Paul Michael wrote an article for Wisebread that highlighted 51 potential uses for Coke (or any other cola product, for that matter).   Here are some of the more interesting ones:

1. Remove grease and blood stains from clothing and fabric.
2. Clean oil stains from a garage floor.
3. Remove rust. (My mom said she used to do this as a kid do get corrosion off her bike – I guess she didn’t have any WD-40!)
4. Loosen a rusty bolt. (Another WD-40 trick. Am I the only one here beginning to think Coke is a main ingredient in that stuff?)
5. Tenderize and add extra flavor to a pot roast. (Okay. Let’s see WD-40 do this!)
6. Kill slugs and snails.
7. Help a lawn become lush and green.
8. Prevent an asthma attack.
9. Defrost a frozen windshield. (I prefer using hot coffee – black – but that’s just me.)
10. Clean burnt pans.
11. Neutralize a jellyfish sting.
12. Clean car battery terminals. (I’ve done this before.   It works!)
13. Entertain the kids by creating an exploding fountain. (With the help of a pack of Mentos.)
14. Make your hair curly.
15. Age documents and photos.
16. Clean tile grout.
17. Make better compost. (The the acidity and sugar feeds microorganisms.)
18. Remove gum from hair.
19. Remove stains from vitreous china.
20. Clear up swimming pool water.
21. Deodorize laundry.
22. Remove dye from hair by pouring Diet Coke over it.
23. Remove marker stains from carpet.

5. Fabric Softener Sheets

Who hasn’t used fabric softener sheet at least once in their life?   Most of us though use them to make our clothes soft and remove static cling as they come out of the dryer.   But did you know that these versatile sheets can also:

1. Repel mice and ants.
2. Act as a mosquito, bee and yellow jacket repellent; tie one through a belt loop.
3. Prevent dust from settling on computer monitors.
4. Dissolve soap scum from shower doors.
5. Eliminate wastebasket odors; just place them in the bottom.
6. Prevent dust from settling on Venetian blinds; wipe them down and no more dust.
7. Deodorize stinky shoes.
8. Keep stored tents and sleeping bags smelling fresh.
9. Prevent musty suitcases.
10. Collect cat hair. (No word on whether it works on dog hair too.)
11. Act as a car or room air freshener.
12. Prevent thread from tangling; run a threaded needle through a sheet before sewing.
13. Collect sawdust resulting from drilling or sandpapering.
14. Eliminate odors from dirty laundry; place a sheet at the bottom of a hamper.
15. Remove splattered bugs from cars; scrub with a wet sheet.
16. Clean baked-on food from pans; put a sheet in pan, fill with water and let sit overnight. Sponge clean.

6. Paper Towels

What the heck can you do with a paper towel besides sop up spills?   Plenty!   Paper towels can also:

1. Act as a quick-and-dirty lumbar pillow. (You’ll need to use the whole roll, of course.)
2. Remove silk from fresh corn; just run a damp paper towel across the ear.
3. Act as a coffee filter. (I’ve done this before in a pinch and it works well.)
4. Keep lettuce fresh longer; wrap around lettuce head to soak up excess moisture. (I’ve done this for years.)
5. Prevent frozen bread from getting soggy as it thaws; simply place a paper towel in the bag before freezing.
6. Provide temporary sunburn relief; lay a damp towel across affected skin.
7. Clean your can opener; close the opener over a paper towel edge and turn the crank.
8. Keep cast iron pots rust-free; placed in clean pots, they’ll absorb moisture.
9. Remove crayon from chalk boards; place a paper towel over wax, then press a warm iron over towel.
10. Remove candle wax from carpet and upholstery. (Use the same method as above.)
11. Sprout seeds; place a few seeds between damp towels, then keep damp for two weeks.
12. Act as a cheap place mat.
13. Strain fat from broth; place a paper towel in colander and pour the broth through it.
14. Protect Christmas tree ornaments during storage.
15. Prevent bacon splatter in a microwave oven.
16. Remove residual grease from sewing machines; run the first few stitches through the towel.

Well, that’s it. Remember, these are only partial lists for each of these products.

If you have any favorite special applications for any of these items, don’t be shy!   Share them with the rest of us!


  1. 1

    Bill Verde says


    Great list. This would be a fun present to give at a wedding shower or for a housewarming–along with your list of course.

    Good ideas!

  2. 2


    I didn’t know that about Coca-Cola. Good to know. I’d also like to add Borax, you can use it for many things other than a laundry booster, especially if you mix it with baking soda and / or vinegar. It often is the base for many kinds of make-it-yourself soaps and cleansers.

  3. 3


    this is an awesome list. i can tell you put lots of time into this. i have heard some weird things about baking soda and vinegar but your list takes the cake.

    • 5


      @Bill: I think that is a great idea too. Thanks for stopping by.
      @LittleHouse: Borax? Interesting, thanks for the tip – I’ll have to check that one out. It’s been a while since I’ve heard of Borax. I remember my high school shop class used to have a Borax dispenser that we used at our wash-station.
      @James: Thanks, James. Hopefully, you learned a new application or two that saves you money in the future.
      @Kimberly: The Honeybee and I tried it while we were on the East Coast last month and it seemed to work for me – but not so much for her.

      • 8

        Mary says

        She’s right! I wrap carrots, celery, peppers, etc in paper towels before I put in a plastic bag.

        Does anyone else think that maybe Coca-Cola is not something we should be putting in our bodies? Imagine what it does to your insides. I’m glad I don’t drink soft drinks!

        Vinegar and baking soda together works even better in the drain.

  4. 11

    Sandy L says

    Well, since you put WD40 on the list, duct tape has got to be up there as well.

    Vinegar is definitely #1 on my list.

  5. 12

    Douglas says

    Fabric softener sheets keep more than bugs away. Deer tend to munch things in the garden, but most of them don’t like the smell of the dryer sheets. I cut 1 cm. strips off a sheet and tie them in the plants at nose height for the deer. Works for us so far. In smaller plants, somewhere near the top seems to work.

  6. 13



    I am amazed at what some of these products can be used for….

    I re-use plastic packaging as plant pots, and plastic bags act as mini green houses..

    • 14


      @Sandy: You’re right. I think duct tape is the king of them all.
      @Douglas: Thanks for the tip! :-)
      @Richard: It is amazing, isn’t it? Just curious, what kind of plastic packaging are you talking about?

      • 15

        Harry Larsen says

        Plastic packaging used for plants: I’ve used milk jugs for larger plants (sunlight degrades it quickly), cottage cheese tubs for medium plants (cold weather makes them brittle), and yogurt containers for seedlings. if you’ve got a cold frame, these containers survive longer.

        • 16

          Harry Larsen says

          forgot to say that I cut the milk jugs either in half, or remove about 3/4 of the top so the ‘handle’ stay intact.

  7. 17


    I knew a lot of these but not many for fabric softener sheets because I don’t use them at all. I’ve used cola to take dead bugs off a windshield before, although you don’t want to get it on your paint! I like using vinegar + baking soda to help clean out the garbage disposal.

  8. 18


    Great list, but I have a problem. My wife made me print it out so she could stick it on the refrigerator, but, because the list is bigger than my fridge, I may need to go shopping for a new one. Maybe I can use a super small font and buy my wife a magnifying glass instead. What do you think?

    • 19


      @Jen: Then judging by your admonition, can I assume we can add yet another application to the list for Coke? (Paint remover!)
      @Joe: LOL! Well, either that or maybe you can get a long extension cord and some duct tape and then attach the computer monitor to the fridge! ;-)

  9. 21


    Great list. The list of uses for Coca-Cola should give people ample reason to think twice before guzzling a can. If something cleans tile grout, do we want to be regularly drinking it?

    Admittedly, I have had more than enough over the years and am now trying to cut it out of my diet. Saves money too.

    I’ll keep that list handy. I frequently talk about water being a much better substitute for colas, but this reinforces my thinking. I’ll save this one. Very good post, very useful.

    • 22

      andrew says

      That’s kind of a silly reason not to drink come since vinegar and baking soda are on the list. They are both just as acidic and caustic as Coke.

  10. 23

    The_Don125 says

    Great list!

    I do have one criticism though. WD-40 is a water displacer (hence the name, “Water Displacment – 40th Attempt”), not a lubricant. For short-term use as a lubricant, yes, it’ll work, but if you search “bicycle wd-40″ (without the quotes) in your favorite search engine, you’ll find numerous articles on why WD-40 is not intended as a lubricant, especially not for a bicycle.

    Save lubrication for oils actually intended for lubrication, and your gadgets perform considerably better, for longer.

  11. 25

    Chris says

    I’d be careful to recommend hot coffee to defrost a windshield (even in jest). You could crack the windshield easily by doing that…

  12. 27

    mikeyo says

    Baking soda as a refrigerator deodorant is a myth that arm & hammer is trying to get us to believe. It doesn’t work. Just clean your refrigerator every once in a while.

  13. 28

    Brian says

    Just about everything that a paper towel can do, a wash clothe or other towel can do just as well and when you’re through, you can toss it in the wash and re-use it.

  14. 29


    @Mikeyo: It’s not a myth. As I understand it, the chemical properties of baking soda are well suited to absorbing odors produced from both acids and bases due to it being nearly ph neutral (actually, it’s a very weak base).
    @Brian: Very true. The obvious downside, of course, is it’s not very convenient. Thanks for stopping by, B! :-)

  15. 30

    atropos says

    You got close, but you almost hit an even better solution right on the nose.

    You mentioned using paper towels as coffee strainers, but it should be the other way around.

    You’ll often find more coffee strainers per pack than you would paper towels for a fraction of the cost, and of course the strainers come in less packaging.

    Sorry if someone already mentioned this.

  16. 31

    atropos says

    I also meant to mention that Pigeons, like the vast majority of birds, don’t have a developed sense of smell.
    So I’m doubting it’s the actual smell of WD-40 that’s making them leave the balcony.

    I’m really done now! :)

    • 32


      What a brilliant suggestion re: coffee filters for paper towels (assuming they are absorbent enough)! Are they? I figure they can’t be TOO absorbent because they are designed to act as a water filter. I bet they would be good when scrubbing strength is more desired than absorbency.

      Maybe the WD-40 makes the ledge too slippery? Just a thought. Thanks for sharing! :-)

      • 33

        atropos says

        They do a pretty decent job, actually! Nothing to clean up a massive spill with; about on par with the C-fold towels you find in public restrooms.
        To give credit where credit is due… It was an old coworker of mine who sent me a list of things to do with coffee filters… Enjoy! ;)

        1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
        2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome… Coffee filters are lint-free so they’ll leave windows sparkling.
        3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.
        4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
        5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
        6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.
        7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.
        8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale..
        9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
        10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
        11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.
        12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters…
        13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. It soaks out all the grease.
        14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great “razor nick fixers.”
        15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.
        16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.
        17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
        18. Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.
        19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.
        20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies. Saves on having extra bowls to wash.
        21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.
        22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.
        23. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.
        24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book.
        25. Use as a disposable “snack bowl” for popcorn, chips, etc.

        • 34


          Beautiful! Absolutely love #11 and #13. Thanks for sharing. (It looks like I should have titled my article “The 7 Most Valuable Grocery Store Products Known to Man!”)

  17. 35

    yami says

    another use for distilled vinegar is fabric softener if you happen to be prone to allergies or sensitive to fragrances. it works just as well as downy or such and is cheaper too. measure it out the same as you would any other fabric softener and your done.

      • 37

        yami says

        just use the white distilled vinegar. and no it doesn’t leave your clothes smelling like apple cider. at least i don’t think it would unless you used vinegar made from apple cider.

    • 39


      Well, not to get too anal about this, but Mikeyo said it was a myth that flat out didn’t work. :-)

      Even the link you referred to didn’t go that far. It even affirmed the chemical properties that allow it to soak up odors, but stated that it didn’t work effectively. And while that may be true – there was no evidence presented to back that claim up. :-)

      Anecdotal evidence from my own personal experience is that my refrigerator stays fresher smelling when it has a box of baking soda in it. I do understand your mileage may vary.


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