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Why You Should Keep Chalk in Your Kitchen—and 11 Other Surprisingly Handy Items You’ll Use All the Time

Here's what you should keep on hand in the kitchen to speed up cooking and help organize your space

Disabled man opening drawer in kitchen at home
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Make sure you have these in your kitchen

While there are certain items that should always be kept in the kitchen—pots, pans and knives, to name a few—there are plenty of others that are extremely useful that you may not think of storing in the heart of your home. “When it comes to keeping items handy in the kitchen, non-kitchen items may prove invaluable—for instance, keeping chalk handy can be useful,” says lifestyle blogger Chantelle Hartman Malarkey.

Even beyond the chalk, you might consider these hacks extraordinary uses for household staples. That’s because these handy items solve all sorts of common kitchen conundrums. So read on for all the kitchen hacks that use unexpected items and are just as handy as unconventional aluminum foil uses, surprising uses for coffee or household vinegar uses.

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You might think both chalk and laundry are a stretch to keep in the kitchen, but hear us out: There are several techniques for how to get oil stains out of clothes. But chalk, Malarkey says, can be an extremely useful method for removing stains from clothing or fabrics. “Chalk will absorb the oils and grease stains that keep the dirt on clothing,” she says. “It’s a great SOS trick to have on hand.” So next time you’re cooking and grease from the pan hits your shirt, remove any excess food with a towel, then rub the chalk on the grease to absorb it. Then wash the shirt later to completely remove any stains.

Planning Board
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Planning board

Though you might be tempted to keep the family planning board in the home office, this handy item may make even more sense in the kitchen. “These boards are great to keep schedules on track, planned trips on everyone’s radar and to-do lists at everyone’s fingertips,” says Malarkey. (Not to mention, if your planning board is slate, it can provide another use for your chalk.) From helping you remember kids’ soccer practices to posting reminders about an emergency plan, a planning board is crucial in this high-traffic area of the home.

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Scissors can do a whole lot more than cut paper. They can open packaged groceries, safely separate six-pack rings that hold soda or beer cans together so wildlife can’t get caught up in them, open a wine bottle without a corkscrew and help you trim any fresh organic herbs you might have ready in the kitchen. “I use scissors in the kitchen almost every day,” says Malarkey. However, when using your scissors, remember to wash them between uses before applying them again to any food items. “And make sure to dry off the scissors completely when wet, so they don’t rust,” she says.

Fresh green chopped herbs in ice cube tray
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Ice cube trays

Even if you have an ice dispenser on the outside of your fridge, you should still have a few of these compartmented trays. Culinary nutritionist Laura M. Ali, RD, says they are one of her favorite kitchen tools and can do a lot more than hold ice to chill your drinks. “These are great for freezing things like extra tomato paste, herbs, leftover pesto and even broth.” The majority of recipes call for a tablespoon of an ingredient, but why let the whole jar go to waste? “Freezing the leftovers in an ice cube tray means you’ll easily be able to pull a tablespoon or two from the freezer when you need them and cut back on food waste.” They’re also great to keep inside a drawer to corral small items like thumbtacks, rubber bands and twist ties.

Manual gas lighter gun for cooking with fire. The gas burner is ignited by gas ignition
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Candle lovers can rejoice knowing this item is a must-have for the kitchen. You can use it to restart the pilot light if you have a gas stove, and you’ll always be happy to know where to find one instantly when it comes time to light those celebratory birthday candles. Malarkey says she grabs her lighter “before grilling or to light scented candles around the kitchen and house.” To keep everyone in your home safe—as well as your house itself—keep your lighter out of reach of little ones, and remember to apply the safety tab on your lighter, if it has one.

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An acrylic easel—or even a retro wooden one— is a great go-to item for the kitchen, even for people who don’t think they’re very artistic. “An acrylic easel can be used for everything from propping up cookbooks to easily reading a recipe to decoratively storing cutting boards,” Malarkey says. You can even use this item to show off gold-star homework or adorable kids’ artwork. An easel can also help you stack bills or mail in a way that doesn’t let important items get buried in a pile—and prevent you from paying bills or returning forms on time.

Marble Organizing Tray
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Marble organizing tray

Kitchens are one of those spaces professional organizers declutter every day. But one item that might keep your kitchen organized longer is a marble organizing tray. These are usually found in the bathroom, says Malarkey. “But a marble organizing tray is perfect to add to any kitchen countertop because it looks nice and is functional.” It can help you organize dish soap, rubber bands and any of those small items that are usually scattered in your junk drawer. “I have also seen people organize napkins and salt and pepper shakers with them,” she says.

Binder Clips
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Binder clips

Though usually found in the office, binder clips are one of those MacGyver tools that can be useful in so many creative ways beyond clipping papers together. They can quickly seal potato chip bags and hold parchment paper to the sheet pan for baking recipes. Already doing those things? Malarkey says you can get even more creative with them by using them to tame that tangle of power cords we all have sitting like a spaghetti bowl on our kitchen counter. You can also use them as guide rails to keep horizontal bottles from rolling around inside the fridge or even make a smartphone stand.

Corner Organizer
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Corner organizer

If all your kitchen drawers are stuffed and you can’t fit one more thing inside any of them, there’s another handy way to organize your cooking utensils: with a corner organizer. Floss Kelly, co-founder of TileCloud, points out that unused kitchen corners tend to become dust-gathering, dead space. “Use a corner organizer to transform previously inaccessible storage space into a functional area,” she says. “These organizers are designed to make your corners work for you, providing easy access to items and optimizing your cabinet space without the need for a full renovation.”

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We all know toothpicks are great for helping to keep teeth clean. But these tiny wooden sticks are just as essential for cooking and baking. Sure, we probably saw our grandmother use one to test if a cake was done, but they have many uses besides that. They can help you pick up tiny bits of food to taste-test while cooking and pin appetizers together to make mini kebabs. They’re also the perfect size and shape to clear out any cooking gunk that may have seeped into the crevices of your stove or clear debris from your kitchen scrubber brush.

Shower Caps
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Shower caps

Of course it makes sense to keep shower caps in the bathroom—or even in the mudroom to put on your head before a dip in the backyard pool. But these head coverings have a super power in the kitchen too. Microwavable shower caps can be used to cover bowls or plates before you put them in the microwave, says Malarkey. The shower cap will help seal in the heat better than leaving the bowl wide open, which is great for items that should be steamed. When using this item, make sure the cap completely covers the bowl with a snug grip, and wait until the food cools down before eating, as it will be even warmer than usual.

Command Hooks
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Command hooks

These tiny hooks allow people to affix practically anything to a wall—even cooking utensils. “Command hooks in the kitchen can also hang dish towels from walls with ease,” says Malarkey. If you place a straight line of them along a wall, you’ve cheaply and effectively added a new rack to your cooking space. To avoid stains on the walls, remember to carefully clean and dry your cooking utensils before adding them back to the wall. Plus, they’re absolutely clutch for giving you a place to store your house keys so you never lose track of them again.


Michelle Mastro
Michelle Mastro is a lifestyle, travel and culture writer covering home, cleaning and more for Reader’s Digest and other publications. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring U.S. national and state parks, reading and catching up on her movies-to-watch list.