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posted: 7/18/2012 6:00 AM

Chopsticks good for more than eating noodles

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Disposable wooden chopsticks are often taken home by kids after eating out. You might throw them away without ever using them, or you may have a small collection in your junk drawer. While I wouldn't go out and buy disposable chopsticks to use around the house, if you have some from eating out, you can put them to use.

Here's how:

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Teach kids to use them: Learning how to use chopsticks can help improve kids' fine motor skills. So instead of letting kids use chopsticks as drumsticks or tabletop swords, teach them to use the utensils for their intended purpose. Visit robsworld.org/chopsticks.html for tips. Let them practice during lunch or dinner. For a fun transfer activity, grab a bowl and some small items to pick up, such as erasers or craft pom-poms. Visit therapyfunzone.com/blog/2010/05/chopsticks for details. Or make your own game of Pick Up Sticks. For a reminder of the rules of the game, visit ehow.com/how_2051017_play-pick-up-sticks.html.

Dry baggies: Place a few chopsticks in a Mason jar and hang your washed zip-enclosure baggies on them to reuse. One reader, C.T. from Canada, shares: "I liked to wash and reuse freezer and lunch baggies, but I didn't have a convenient way to dry them. I stuck some chopsticks in a couple of pieces of leftover Styrofoam and presto, I have two bag dryers that hold three bags each. They may not be pretty, but they're functional." Or make a baggy dryer by re-purposing an old toothbrush holder, inserting chopsticks or dowels into the holes.

Skewers: If you don't have skewers, use wooden chopsticks. You can toast marshmallows or pit cherries. Another reader, Jean from New York, shares: "We had company over for dinner and were short three ears of corn. I didn't want it to look like I didn't have enough, so breaking the corn in half didn't seem to be the best solution. I did end up breaking them in half, but I used wooden chopsticks I had stashed away in a kitchen drawer to make 'corn on a stick.' It looked as if I planned it all along."

Knitting needles: Sharpen wooden chopsticks with a pencil sharpener and sand the surface with fine sandpaper so the yarn doesn't catch, and you have a pair of knitting needles.

In the kitchen: Use chopsticks to remove toast from the toaster, or poke them into plastic packaging for easy removal. You can use them to lift a pull-tab off a can, to stir drinks, or to level off ingredients in a measuring cup. Another reader, Lilly from Illinois, shares: "When cooking bacon, use chopsticks to move the bacon from the packaging to your pan, and to flip and move the bacon to a plate when it's done. The chopsticks won't scratch your pan, and they make the job easy."

Planting: Use a chopstick to make holes for the seeds when planting, or as a plant stake.

Remove hair from the drain: Another reader, Raven from New Hampshire, shares: "Remove the drain cover and use a chopstick to remove any hair that may be forming a clog in the drain."

Clean in small areas: Use chopsticks to help you clean car vents, remove grime from behind faucets, dislodge mud from the bottom of your sneakers or pull lint from your lint trap.

• 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 St., Kansas City, MO, 64106, or sara@frugalvillage.com.

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