Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Got an ache? Stick a sock on it

The rice sock, aka the 'frugal heating pad,' costs pennies and works wonders. It makes a good ice pack, too.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 4, 2012 10:11AM

Logo: Worried woman momentimages/Tetra images RF/Getty Images

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Loading and unloading a U-Haul truck did a number on my left shoulder. Driving more than 2,500 miles in three and a half days wasn't exactly healthful, either.

Fortunately, I have a clever and cost-conscious daughter who reminded me of the "frugal heating pad." That's why I'm writing with a sock full of hot rice on my shoulder.

That's uncooked rice, by the way.

Making a rice sock is as simple as it sounds: Pour some raw swamp seed into a sock, tie a knot in the footwear and pop it into the microwave. Nuke until very warm. Apply to sore spot. Aaaahhhh.

In this blog post, my daughter also suggests that rice socks would make good bed-warmers on cold winter evenings. Back in the day, people used heated bricks or pans containing live coals to warm up freezing sheets before climbing in. Sometimes these items would be left in place all night.

"The rice sock improves on this by not having the tendency to set the sheets on fire. I consider that a major plus," Abby says.

Now that I've moved to Alaska, home of the icy percale, a rice sock could become my best nighttime friend. One for each foot, maybe.

Hot and cold

Not everyone uses rice. I've heard of flax socks, wheat socks, oatmeal socks, popcorn socks, even cherry-pit socks. All such contents conform nicely to the sore spot, vs. a stiff heating pad that you may have to hold in place (on a shoulder, for example).

Not everyone uses socks, either. Some stitch little bags from scrap material, or buy pretty fabric and make these things as gifts. They're particularly appreciated by expectant mothers, according to Jennifer Chait of the Pregnancy & Baby website.


"If you like, you can add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the dry rice," Chait says,   making the experience aromatherapeutic as well as warm.

It's also possible to put rice/cherry-pit/whatever socks in the freezer. According to Beth of My Plastic-Free Life, iced rice is quite nice as a headache remedy.

A throbbing noggin is a distinct possibility, because my stuff is mostly still in boxes. It needs not only to be unpacked, but meshed into the home I'm sharing with a friend. Frugal ice pack, here I come.

More on MSN Money:

Oct 6, 2012 12:24PM
Never tried it, but I wonder if the cheap non-clumping type of clay cat litter would work for this.  It would be less prone to attract pests, particularly in hot, humid climates.
Oct 4, 2012 8:44PM
Hey, you can buy that sock that Shilling is selling and use that.  Might have to wash the blood off first though. . . .
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.