How To Use Grease Pencils

So you throw leftovers in the fridge and go on with your busy life. Of course. But then you find yourself rummaging through a pile of mystery containers wondering how long whatever-this-is has been in there...

The only thing that feels worse than throwing out perfectly good food is eating food that looked fine but had actually expired.

grease pencils

grease pencils

No? You've never done that? Me neither. Ahem.

Sharpies work fine on disposable sandwich bags. For everything else, I've tried using label makers, writing on masking tape and sticking it to containers, even rubber bands with pieces of paper tucked into them. Meh. Label makers can get expensive and the other options are clumsy at best. So my ears perked up when I heard about grease pencils on The Splendid Table (great radio show for food lovers) and how you can use them to label glass jars and plastic containers to keep track of food stuffs. Since it was a holiday episode, they were mostly talking about writing on wine glasses so you don't lose yours at parties.

I couldn't believe it. People put their wine glasses down at parties?? And why haven't I heard of grease pencils before? Apparently they've been around forever, are cheap to buy in bunches, and wash off almost all surfaces. I had to have them.

Marking the date with a grease pencil. It washes off!

Marking the date with a grease pencil. It washes off!

Turns out I did have them. In the shop! We use them to mark raw materials like wood and metal; I just never knew them as "grease pencils". Grease pencils (aka wax pencil, china marker, chinagraph pencil, or nerd pen) are made in different ways. Some are like regular pencils so they need to be sharpened with a knife or pencil sharpener, others self-sharpen with a little string that spirals paper off the pencil as you pull on it. The pencils we have (pictured) are similar to mechanical pencils: you twist the end and a slim stick of marking wax comes out. We like these because they're easy to clip to our pockets in the shop and you can push the wax back down into the plastic casing.

grease pencil 3

They're so common for industrial, craft, and artistic applications but it never crossed my mind to bring them into the kitchen. Huh. Changed forever.