Finally! A use for white rice

Ok, so I’m a fan of brown rice — it’s just about all I buy and cook any more, and I’ve even got my husband not complaining about it, which is always a plus! White rice has nothing on brown rice, nutritionally speaking. So… maybe it’s not exactly the food of the devil, but just as with its color, white rice pales in comparison to brown. I’m so used to the flavor of brown rice that when I happen to eat plain white rice (which is rare, because usually the only time I eat it is at a Mexican or Chinese restaurant, and it’s pretty well seasoned), it tastes kinda like styrofoam. Just sorta “blah.”

However, I do have an excellent use for white rice (which many of you may already know about) — hot packs! I recently saw a post by a doula, about how she always keeps a rice sock in her “doula bag” for when she goes to a labor. I’d heard about that before, actually, numerous times, but had never done it because, well, I’m not a doula, and I just never decided to put rice in a sock and sew it up for the heck of it. But, when I found out I was pregnant, my mind started turning over with all these things I wanted to do while pregnant and/or have in place before the baby came; and to read that post, I thought, “If I don’t do this now, I’ll forget about it, and then I won’t have a rice sock in labor, when I need it!”

So, since brown rice is more expensive than white rice (and brown rice is a health food, and white rice is, well, “not quite”), I bought a bag of white rice at the grocery store next time I went. [And got a deal, because there was a four-pound bag that had gotten a hole in it, and a few ounces of rice had spilled out, so I was able to buy it for $1 — yes, 25 cents per pound! Ok, so maybe that doesn’t rock your world, but I’m also a frugal nut, so that’s a thrill for me. ;-)]

Anyway, I had some old socks of my husband’s — the big, long tube socks that go nearly up to his knees — and I put about half the bag (two pounds) of rice in one sock, and sewed up the top. It’s easier if you use a funnel to pour the rice into the sock; and I hand-stitched the socks closed, using a whip-stitch, but it would be even faster and easier if you have a sewing machine and can just zip-zip make a seam or two to sew them shut. I made two of them, and enjoyed them so much, that I got some more rice and some more old socks and made more rice socks — in different sizes, as well, sometimes cutting down the socks, so they wouldn’t be so big. I think you can also put in some essential oils or fragrances, so that they smell like lavender or whatever when you heat them up, but I didn’t have anything like that, so didn’t use any.

To “use” them, just heat them up in the microwave. There may be some “trial and error” as to how long you can cook your socks. I made a couple of small ones from my 5-year-old’s old socks, and put them in the microwave for 5 minutes, and forgot about them. Then I wondered what smelled like burnt popcorn… The smell dissipated, and I think it’s okay to use; but if you’re going to use them in labor, you probably don’t want to be smelling burnt rice while relaxing. Also, if they get too hot, you’ll need to make sure you don’t burn yourself — they probably won’t be scalding hot just from picking them up, but if you keep them on you (particularly right on your skin), then they can become much too hot (so, just as with a heating pad, don’t use them on someone who can’t tell you if it’s too hot).

The first night I made the rice socks it got really cold, so I heated up my two long rice socks, and put them in bed, to warm up where my feet go — like the old-fashioned hot water bottle. Ahhhh… lovely! Because they were so long, I could have them reaching from my feet up to my torso, providing warmth all along the way. However, because they were so long, they were sometimes unwieldy, which is the main reason why I made smaller ones. My kids think they’re neat, and also enjoy having them heating up their feet at night.

When I began to miscarry, I frequently felt a desire to have heat on my abdomen, but it wasn’t always feasible to have a heating pad on me (while cooking, or otherwise being on my feet and active). These rice socks came in handy, though. I was able to tuck a bit of the sock into my waistband, and just have the rest of it hanging down, right where it felt best. And it was completely portable, with no cords to get tangled up.

Another use, particularly for the smaller socks, was for hand-warmers when it’s cold outside. I had heated up several of them for just that purpose, when we went out searching for a Christmas tree to cut down (there are some advantages to rural living!); but forgot them at home. But as cold as it is this year (it snowed the last day of summer in Colorado!!), I think most people in the US will also be able to put this idea to use.

I’ve also put them on my car seats, so that it’s not quite so cold when I sit down — especially good for leather! (At least, it’s good for not having that shocking cold right on your legs and tush; I don’t know if it harms the leather itself… but then, my car is a ’97, so it’s not exactly like I’m ruining a $30,000 car if it does.)

And, it’s like having an extra heating pad, at least for a while, without the expense of buying one. While watching a movie, I had the real heating pad on my stomach because it felt good, and had the hot rice socks at my feet and draped on my legs, because they were cold.

How long the heat lasts depends on a few different factors — obviously, how hot the sock is to start with has something to do with it. The heat can last for hours under the right circumstances — one morning when I woke up, the rice sock was still giving off heat because it had been under the covers and also next to my body; but another morning, even though it was still under the covers, it was cool because it was shoved to the foot of the bed.

Finally, you probably won’t want to stuff the sock full with rice — having it big and bulgy can be awkward to use in some situations, such as making it nearly impossible to drape over a woman’s back, though it might be preferable for a small hand-warmer. If you’re going to make one, you might as well make two — one to use and one to heat up.


6 Responses

  1. I love this idea! I had heard of it before but just in passing and didn’t know if you were supposed to use white rice, brown rice, (even heard beans), and how/how long you were supposed to heat them and if they were one time/long time use. So this post was very helpful. I can’t take anti-inflamatories during pregnancy, and it makes a very big difference for my pain level, so heat packs can be very helpful, but all mine are lost after our recent move!

    • btw I also only use brown rice when I can get away with it. Use it so much for cooking that when I use white rice (like for a nice chicken dish, I find it takes the flavor of chicken better than brown rice given what spices I use), I always have to end up making two batches because I overcook the first one! (white rice cooks so darn FAST compared to brown rice)

  2. A local LMT and doula recommends beans over rice because they stay warmer longer. I use white rice for the same reason you do, Kathy – it’s cheap. (-:

    • I hadn’t heard about doing beans, but I wondered if they would work the same. I tend to buy beans because they’re cheap and so good for you, but my family doesn’t really care for them, so I don’t actually *cook* them that often, and have a cabinet full of beans. {blush} 🙂

  3. I used to use rice socks to stimulate letdown when I pumped, way back when, over two years ago! Feels like so long ago…! I found rice socks particularly helpful, as opposed to the other trick: hot washcloths which you need to put in hot water every few minutes. I think smaller socks would work best for pumping, particularly when you don’t have a hands-free pumping system.

  4. Our doula brings one to every birth and leaves it as a gift for the mother – it’s great!

    Our last doula let us borrow an expensive Crabtree and Evelyn rice/herb pack, and I put it in the microwave for too long… Burned it to a crisp, and it smelled horrible from there on out – had to throw it away and buy her another one. 🙂

    Love rice socks!!

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