This? Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl...
July 7, 2010 1:36 PM   Subscribe

It's not uncommon to take Rice Krispies (a commercial mass produced finished product) and turn it into Rice Krispie bars (a homemade treat). What other finished products do normal people regularly convert to something else?

I'm trying to think of some examples of hacking that normal people do, especially repurposing or reusing finished products. Emphasis is on average people. There are a lot of interesting things being done with Ikea furniture for example, but I'm interested in things that most people have heard of or done.

Bonus points for big transformations. (Which the Rice Krispie example doesn't get since it turns food into... food.)
posted by Ookseer to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Some people turn a deck of cards into a house of cards. Does that count?
posted by parkerjackson at 1:39 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Chex mix.
posted by nitsuj at 1:41 PM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

The white particle board shoe racks are great. I put my computer in one while I was in college to protect it and give me a shelf right there. I have some plants by the window on one right now and use the underneath part as a shelf.
posted by theichibun at 1:42 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What other finished products do normal people regularly convert to something else?

Cream of mushroom soup and french onion soup mix are two other food items that are rarely used for their putative purpose (i.e., making soup).

Large wire spools are often used to make tables.
posted by jedicus at 1:46 PM on July 7, 2010

The Grocery Bag to Trash Bag conversion is quite common (but perhaps slightly outside of your parameters).
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 1:47 PM on July 7, 2010

Brown paper bags = book covers.

Old toilets and sinks = planters

Old CD = drink coaster

Vinegar or baking soda = all purpose cleaner

1/2 Oil drum = BBQ grill

NyQuill + some other stuff = Crystal meth (at least that's what Target tells me when I try to buy more than two bottles at a time)

Double record album = weed de-seeding platform

Computer = Unlimited free porn appliance

Pretty much anything = bong.
posted by bondcliff at 1:52 PM on July 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: S'mores.

Plastic grocery bags become repurposed as garbage bags.

Plastic tubs (from margarine, butter, cottage cheese, etc.) are repurposed for storage of leftovers.

Ketchup is used to clean copper pots.

Newspaper is repurposed as packing material (especially for packing dishes for a move) and for birdcage liner.

Wine bottles sometimes repurposed as candle holders.

Panty hose are used to wrap around a frame to interpose between a speaker and a microphone, to minimize hisses and pops from vocalizations.
posted by darkstar at 1:53 PM on July 7, 2010

The Guardian newspaper in the UK has a list of suggestions going back years as to what you can do with the containers for camera film.
posted by biffa at 1:53 PM on July 7, 2010

Go to any crafts fair where there minimal entry requirements. You will be amazed at how many items have been repositioned into "artistic statements".

I once saw a lady with a whole booth of milkbones that had been turned into decorations by gluing on google-eyes, sequins, etc. Here is one set of instructions I found.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2010

My family and I regularly turn Corn Flakes into corn flake bars, exactly like Rice Krispie bars only more delicious.
posted by hepta at 1:59 PM on July 7, 2010

I'm not sure there is a lower bound for this sort of thing, since it's usually just called 'cooking', perhaps turning water into ice-cubes?

My second thought was that almost anything can be used as an improvised weapon.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:08 PM on July 7, 2010

Best answer: Milk crates as furniture? Hell, there's even a lifestyle 'zine.

See also, 2X4 and cement block bookshelves.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:09 PM on July 7, 2010

Puppy Chow, which is composed of chex mix, chocolate, powdered sugar, and probably some other stuff.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 2:09 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure there is a lower bound for this sort of thing, since it's usually just called 'cooking', perhaps turning water into ice-cubes?

Bottled water may be a commodity, but it is not normally thought of as a finished product in the same way that Rice Krispies, milk crates, and cinder blocks are.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:11 PM on July 7, 2010

Response by poster: Lots of great ideas so far!

I'd definitely like to focus on stuff that everyone has seen before, like the wine bottle candle holders, BBQ from oil drum, newspaper as packing material, etc.
posted by Ookseer at 2:12 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

newspaper + flour + water = paper-mâché
egg white + pigment = tempera
mud + kneading + heat + chemicals + heat = glazed pottery
vegetable trimmings + egg shells + coffee grounds + grass clippings = compost
posted by crunchland at 2:18 PM on July 7, 2010

Macaroni necklaces.
Popcorn balls.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:19 PM on July 7, 2010

Best answer: Anyone who grew up relatively poor (or has been a student) has seen jelly jars repurposed as drinking glasses.
posted by Skot at 2:20 PM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wheelchairs make agreeable camera dollies for the broke.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:20 PM on July 7, 2010

Best answer: Clothespins as Chip clips
posted by Think_Long at 2:25 PM on July 7, 2010

12 c (3q. / 2.75 liters) very strong coffee (chocolate flavored is best)
2 lb / 1 kilo light brown sugar
4-6 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 liter 190 proof grain alcohol

Bring coffee to a boil in dutch oven or large pot. Gradually add 2 lbs. light brown sugar and return to boil stirring constantly. Let cool until room temperature. When completely cool, add the vanilla and grain alcohol. It is ready to serve.
posted by crunchland at 2:30 PM on July 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

Freezer paper cut to make a stencil to print a design on fabric.
posted by hot_monster at 2:53 PM on July 7, 2010

In my family, Nilla Wafers were only purchased in order to make banana pudding. Similar story for Chocolate Wafers, which I think only still exist to make the old-fashioned freezer cake shown on the box.

Also, Mane and Tail Shampoo is made for horses, yet many humans swear by it for their own hair. I would imagine that more Mane and Tail is sold for human use than it is for horses. Similar story with Bag Balm -- made for cow udders, softens human hands beautifully! You can probably find both of these farm-animal products in Walgreens or CVS.
posted by chowflap at 2:53 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Kitty litter to soak up oil in the garage or to provide traction on an icy walkway.
Baking soda used as a toothpaste, fridge deodorizer, or just about anything else other than baking.
Coca Cola used to loosen rusted bolts.
Car tires used as planters, soles of huarache sandals, tree swings, boat bumpers.
posted by zombiedance at 3:01 PM on July 7, 2010

A nun in my grammar school made us take waxy bread wrappers from supermarket sliced bread, and "wax" the classroom floor under each of our desks! Long ago, and far away.
posted by Elsie at 3:01 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

bags of bean varities + big glass bottle + electric hooziewhatsits = fashionable table lamp

hard plastic cassette tape holder + glue + twine = decorative trim painting stencil

inverted tomato cage + strings of lights = Christmulkah tree
posted by mcbeth at 3:37 PM on July 7, 2010

Best answer: Bag of frozen peas as a cold compress for injuries

a plain door across two short file cabinets for a desk

boards across concrete bricks as a bookcase
posted by lazydog at 4:08 PM on July 7, 2010

chowflap - I don't know the true history of Bag Balm (although it is awesome!), but I don't think that Mane and Tail actually was ever really used for horses, I think it's just a marketing ploy
posted by radioamy at 4:45 PM on July 7, 2010

Styrofoam cup lampshade
Pop bottle - bike wheel windmill
Film canister = you put your weed in there
posted by Hardcore Poser at 5:19 PM on July 7, 2010

Dunno if it's because of priming or where I grew up, but everything I can think of right now is food-related: mixing crumbled shredded wheat cereal with Elmer's glue and food coloring to shape them into holiday wreath ornaments, using crushed corn flakes as a coating for chicken, using packaged Ranch dressing as a seasoning.
posted by rhiannonstone at 5:38 PM on July 7, 2010

egg white + pigment = tempera

Tempera is usually made with egg yolk.
posted by OmieWise at 5:47 PM on July 7, 2010

Best answer: ooh, I'll play.

In the "processing the processed" category:
  • graham crackers + butter = graham cracker crust
  • jello + alcohol = jello shots
  • mushroom soup + tuna + egg noodles = tuna noodle casserole
  • hot dogs + refrigerated dough = pigs in a blanket
  • saltines + butter + sugar +/- chocolate = saltine toffee candy
  • 7-up + cake mix = 7-up cake
  • root beer + ice cream = root beer float
  • Cool-whip + pudding + cream cheese + Nilla wafers = "tiramisu"

    In the "handy household hints" category:
  • fake flowers + tape + pen = hard-to-lose pens
  • cinnamon + sugar = cinnamon sugar
  • cup + rice or beans = incense holder

  • posted by metaseeker at 5:55 PM on July 7, 2010

    egg yolk. Right you are. Inexplicable brain fart.
    posted by crunchland at 6:56 PM on July 7, 2010

    Freezer paper cut to make a stencil to print a design on fabric.

    Freezer paper is used in quilting. You copy your pattern onto the freezer paper, cut out the piece, iron the freezer paper onto the fabric, and then cut the material.

    Crafting repurposes lots of material. Socks into sock monkeys. Pantyhose into pantyhose dolls. Driftwood into lamps. Fabric into quilts. Glass bottles into hummingbird feeders. Oatmeal cannisters into birdhouses. Scrabble tiles into jewelry.
    posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:06 PM on July 7, 2010

    My husband uses the larger prescription pill containers, with the label peeled off, to hold lots of things - mostly hardware bits (nails, screws, etc.) and fly tying stuff (fluff, feathers, fabric, etc). You could also use them to hold beading supplies (beads, bails, clasps, etc.).
    posted by deborah at 9:22 PM on July 7, 2010

    - Frito Pie
    - Cheerios/Froot Loops garland on the Christmas tree
    - Altoids tin into storage container
    - Shoe box into storage container
    - Stolen milk crate into storage container
    - Bleach bottles into plunger holder
    - Bleach bottles into piggie banks
    - Milk bottles/2 liters into bird feeders
    - 2 liter bottles into terrariums
    - Egg cartons into caterpillar craft for kids
    - Styrofoam cup as tiny flower pot (a la lima bean growers in kindergarten)
    - Broken clay pots as lining/bottom strata in new plant pots
    - Tin cans into grease holders, large hair curlers, ashtrays
    - Vinegar into a cleaning product
    - Comb + rubber band + paper = kazoo
    - Paper towel tube into winding device for strings of lights
    - Potato into paint stamp, lightbulb removal device
    - Linen closet into game closet
    - Bed sheet as indoor tent
    - Couch cushions as giant building blocks
    - Baby gate as dog gate (or is it vice versa?)
    - Kiddie pool as tortoise tank
    - Container from frozen, concentrated juice as the first cup you fill after you've mixed it
    - Ice cube tray with toothpicks as popsicles
    - Dead TV as TV stand (on which to place new TV)
    - Giant industrial wire spool as coffee table/outdoor table (

    Also, from years of craft fairs with my mom: anything, I mean ANYTHING, can be a lamp, a clock, an ashtray or some combination thereof.
    posted by Gucky at 9:45 PM on July 7, 2010

    Coco Pops to chocolate crackles - yummo!
    posted by GeeEmm at 12:01 AM on July 8, 2010

    My roomie melts chocolate bars and dips strawberries into it :3 Marvelous treat!

    posted by TrinsicWS at 3:23 AM on July 8, 2010

    Empty wine bottles can be turned into automatic plant waterers with a simple stake.
    posted by soleilMia at 7:13 AM on July 8, 2010

    Hobnobs/digestives into cheesecake base, or fridge cake.
    posted by mippy at 8:35 AM on July 8, 2010

    Hm...paper towel rolls become toy parts for kids? And for finished food products-->new dish, you might want to check out Ceil Dyer's The Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Jars, and Cans or whatever it's called. My favorite transformation is, ahem, Bacardi rum cake with yellow cake mix and jello pudding powder. Yah really.

    People turn circuit boards into frames and coasters and other artwork sometimes. I've known etsy-ish women to make napkin rings into necklaces. Which reminds, I bet Mefi veteran orange swan knows a million repurposed projects...
    posted by ifjuly at 8:39 AM on July 8, 2010

    Popsicle sticks into art projects!
    posted by questionsandanchors at 9:07 AM on July 8, 2010

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