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updated: 4/18/2012 3:39 PM

Coconut oil has many uses outside the kitchen

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Coconut oil is versatile and affordable. It's the oil of choice for frugal families. Keep some on hand to use in your kitchen for cooking and a myriad of other uses around your home.

How do you use coconut oil? Here are a few ideas:

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Homemade deodorant and toothpaste: It's cheaper to make your own deodorant than to buy over-the-counter products. One reader, D.L. from Florida, shares: "As a part of my new 80/20 raw lifestyle I have really been putting a great deal of effort into thinking about not just what I put into my body, but also what I put on it. Everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream. If you wouldn't eat it, maybe you shouldn't put it on your skin. I have been using frugal and natural alternatives for several healthcare products."

D.L. shares the following recipes for homemade deodorant and toothpaste, both of which make great use of coconut oil:

Deodorant: Mix equal parts organic virgin coconut oil (melted), baking soda and corn starch and store in jar. Apply with your fingers or a cotton ball. The best time to apply deodorant is right after a shower and/or before bedtime.

Toothpaste: Mix 2 tablespoons melted virgin organic coconut oil (helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay) with 3 tablespoons baking soda, 20 drops peppermint essential oil and a few drops liquid stevia. Store in a jar. Coconut oil is anti-bacterial, so no need to be concerned with dipping your toothbrush in the jar.

Popcorn: Coconut oil is what the theaters use, and it's so good! Another reader, Tonya, shares: "We pop our popcorn in coconut oil on the stove in a big pot. When it's done, all I add is a bit of salt and it's just like going to the movies! My kids beg for my homemade popcorn!"

Season cast iron: While many people season their cast iron pans with animal fat, you can use coconut oil with wonderful results.

Hair and skin: You can use organic, unrefined coconut oil on your hair and skin. On hair, you can use it as a leave-in conditioner, hot oil treatment (wash hair after treatment) or as a styling gel. You should notice results within a short time.

Another reader, Cheryl from Ohio, shares: "It also cools hot flashes when you put a heavy coating on your scalp and hair (towel over pillow) and on your feet before bed. Wash it out of your hair in the morning. It leaves hair silky soft and helps with frizzy hair from humidity, too. I experienced fewer night sweats during menopause when I did this. Replace your moisturizer or makeup remover with organic extra virgin coconut oil. It's good for fighting acne or as an aftershave as well. It can also be applied and used as a bug repellent."

If you ever need to remove gum from hair, coconut oil can work to get it out. It smells better and is less messy than using peanut butter.

Homemade pancake mix: If you make your own bulk pancake mix for your pantry, use coconut oil. Another reader, Karen from Kansas, shares: "Coconut oil is a good choice over shortening or vegetable oil if you are storing baking mix recipes made with all-purpose flour at room temperature, because it doesn't go rancid at room temperature."

• Sara Noel owns Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO, 64106, or sara@frugalvillage.com.

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