When I was little, my mom used to take my brother and me to the local dairy. She would buy fresh organic milk directly from the farmer—that was how serious she was about making sure her kiddos grew up with strong bones and teeth. Milk is great for baking and essential for hot chocolate—with marshmallows, of course—and is a surprisingly handy home helper as well. Learn about some new ways milk can safeguard your health and your wallet too. If you've scored big on milk savings, try out these handy home helps and skip the pricey alternatives altogether!

1. Polish your shoes

Milk makes a handy-dandy shoe polisher.

  • What to do: Take a soft cloth (like microfiber or organic cotton), dip it in some cool milk, and run the cloth across your shoes. Buff and dry for a high shine.
  • Cost savings: No need to buy shoe polish after all! (Kiwi polish, 2.5 oz, $16.45 at Walmart)

2. Repair cracked china

Fine cracks in china can be devastating, especially if the piece is a family heirloom. But this unusual use for milk can salvage your treasure.

  • What to do: Place the cracked item into a pan filled with milk. Bring the milk to a boil, and then immediately turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes until the cracks disappear. The protein in the milk acts as a natural fiber to make minor repairs.
  • Cost savings: Expect to spend between $20 and $200 on a replacement for your cracked china piece. Or refurbish it with milk—for free!

3. Remove ink stains from fabric…and fingers

No one likes discovering their fabric or their fingers are stained. But milk can help in both cases.

  • What to do: For fabric, soak the stained area in milk (give it up to 24 hours for best results). For fingers, dip a halved fresh lemon into milk, then scrub your fingers to lift the stain.
  • Cost savings: Commercial ink and stain remover can be pricey (Amodex ink and stain remover, 4 fl. oz., $8.65 at Walmart).

4. Sub-in for shaving cream or gel

Finding out you've run out of shaving cream or gel is not the best way to start the day! But no worries—milk can help you out of your bind.

  • What to do: Run to your fridge, pour a little cup of milk, add in some powdered milk if you have it to make it thicker, then dip your razor into the milk as you shave.
  • Cost savings: Are any of the alternatives pleasant? Leave un-shaven, buy a pricey shave cream because you don't have time to coupon shop ($3.94 for Gillette ultra sensitive skin shave gel at Walmart), shave dry (yuck!!), or use milk.

5. Make tasty pancakes

My mom never throws away spoiled milk. Instead, she makes buttermilk pancakes (spoiled milk = buttermilk).

  • What to do: Just use the spoiled milk in place of buttermilk in a pancake recipe (or any recipe).
  • Cost savings: No need to buy a whole gallon of buttermilk ($2.46 Producers Buttermilk, 1/2 gal. at Costco) or throw out a whole gallon of spoiled milk ($3.69 average cost of milk nationwide, CNN Money).

Note: If you need buttermilk and all you have is fresh milk, you can also make your own buttermilk (my mom does this a lot). Just add a bit of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to the milk to turn it into buttermilk.

6. Ease "fire mouth"

If you realize only too late that there were fresh chilies in that-thing-you-ate, or that the latte wasn't "very warm" but "scalding," milk can ease your discomfort.

  • What to do: Drink a cup of milk to soothe the ache in the sensitive tissues of your mouth, gums, and tongue.
  • Cost savings: No need for expensive "sore mouth" rinse after all (Orajel sore mouth rinse, 16 fl. oz, $5.38 at Walmart).

7. Soften dry hands

If your hands have a tendency to react strongly to dry air, cleaning agents, or other harsh conditions, milk is a great stand-in for pricier commercial moisturizers.

  • What to do: Soak your hands in a shallow pan of cool milk up to three times per day. You’ll soon notice the dry, flaky areas of skin and calluses diminishing.
  • Cost savings: Skip the costly deep moisturizing creams (Aveeno skin relief fragrance free body moisturizing lotion, $6.97 at Walmart).

8. Help your garden grow

With competition from weeds, pests, the elements, and more, even the richest soil in a garden needs all the extra advantages it can get! Milk can give your garden the edge (bonus: in addition to enriching soil, milk has natural anti-fungal agents as well).

  • What to do: Mix one part milk with four parts water and pour into a watering can. Then water the soil and enjoy your healthy, growing garden.
  • Cost savings: No need to buy costly commercial fertilizers (Miracle Gro, $9.83, 5 lb. at Walmart).

9. Stop overeating

Of course you can take smaller bites, chew each bite longer, or take OTC or prescription (read: pricey) appetite suppressants. But why not just drink some milk instead?

  • What to do: As it turns out, drinking one 6 oz glass of milk 15-20 minutes before a meal can help you eat less. How does this help? It’s milk's "protein plus liquid" combination working its magic.
  • Cost savings: Even at Walmart, where prices are typically lower, you can expect to spend between $15 and $30 for appetite suppressant pills. Plus, these pills can have side effects—why risk it, when you can just enjoy a glass of milk.