When we moved, one of the things we jettisoned was our heating pad. We rarely used it, and I wondered just how much use it would get in a desert environment. It seemed like a logical decision at the time. But, of course, we ended up needing it the first week in our new place.

We realized we would have to do something. I was in favor of just trying to find one at a thrift store. Tim, however, was hoping for something more immediate. Later that day, at CVS, he held up a heating pad and asked if $15 was a good deal. Our last one cost $2 at Value Village. I was not paying $15 to replace it.

Instead, when we got home, I employed a trick a friend once taught me. I grabbed an old sock, filled it with rice, and tied it off with a knot. I put it in the microwave for 45 seconds, then handed Tim his new heating pad.

At times, I even consider this one superior to normal heating pads. For one, it uses less electricity. The rice generally retains heat for upwards of a half hour with only a minute’s worth of microwave use. Even better, you don’t have to worry about wiring wearing out some day, or any kind of electrical short.

Also, the sock often stays on better. With the standard pad — a somewhat flimsy rectangle, never quite long enough to wrap around a limb — you often have to weight it into place. This can mean keeping a hand on it, lying a particular way or simply putting something on top of it.

Whatever method you choose, it’s often inconvenient.

The rice sock, on the other hand, balances quite well. If you fill it less full than I did — or use a larger sock — it will do a pretty good job of conforming to the surface as necessary. Think of it as an early ancestor of memory foam.

You could also use the sock as a foot warmer on cold nights.

Back before electricity, it was common to warm a bed before climbing in. They would heat a brick or piece of metal, and place it toward the end of the bed. It made the otherwise freezing-cold sleeping surface a lot more pleasant.

Good concept, but the rice sock improves on this by not having the tendency to set the sheets on fire. I consider that a major plus. The same effect could be had with a hot water bottle; but a sock and some rice is probably less harmful to the environment than a bunch of rubber. And it’s certainly cheaper.

The only potential downside to this is that heated, uncooked rice has a distinctive smell. It takes a time or two to get used to. Frankly, I find it kind of pleasant and comforting. But it could just be me.

Do you have any frugal shortcuts for common appliances/modern conveniences?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Donna Freedman October 11, 2009 at 2:05 am

You do my frugal mom's heart proud, kiddo. :-)
Linda B. has one of those filled with unpopped popcorn. It smells really good when heated. I guess the only thing to be sure of is not to OVERheat it, lest the corn start to pop.

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2 Shtinkykat October 11, 2009 at 3:25 am

This is a great idea! I'm suffering from bronchitis right now and I think I'll make one to keep on my chest. :-D

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3 Lorna October 11, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I like to put the rice into a small sack which I can stitch closed in a few seconds–but first I add a few pinches of herbs/spices I like! My favorites are cinnamon and cloves or eucalyptus (really great for chest colds). You can use essential oils, but I never have those on hand :)

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4 erincc79 October 12, 2009 at 7:32 am

I was given a pretty sack with dry corn sewn into it as a gift for high school graduation. Twelve years later, I slept with it to ease my back pain during pregnancy. Frugal and fantastic!

Try using jasmine rice – I love that smell. Or like Lorna said, a few herbs like dried lavender or peppermint might add a relaxing aromatherapy aspect.

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5 frugal zeitgeist October 13, 2009 at 1:39 am

Clever! I am most impressed.

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6 My Frugal Lifestyle October 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

I have a few of these as well and I love them! I've done both the rice and corn {I buy the corn feed from Cal Ranch store, because no matter how hot you get it, the corn won't pop}. I also like to double my socks. One inside the other. That way, when the sock starts to get a little dingy and such, I just pull the "outer" sock off and wash it. Also too, I've decorated my socks with puffy paint. It won't get ruined in the microwave and lasts for a long long time. It just helps give my heated socks a personality. Thanks for having such a great blog!

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