This is the genius hack of the century.

By Stacey Ballis
April 15, 2021
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From pill bottles to shoe boxes, many of the packages we receive and containers we open have those little packets of desiccant floating around in them. It is often weird to see a small packet labeled clearly "Do Not Eat" just hanging out touching all our Advils. And most people just throw them away. But I always save them, because I have found that they are a godsend in my kitchen.

Silica Packets
Credit: Getty / bong hyunjung

What is a desiccant?

Desiccant means drying agent, and the reason they are in your pill bottles and other such products is to prevent things like clumping, moisture-causing damage, and breeding grounds for mold or mildew. They're incredibly effective and most can last between 1-3 years. Which means it's time to think strategically about places in your kitchen that might benefit from the same preventative attributes. Here are 4 genius ways to use desiccant packets in your kitchen.

Keep produce crisp!

I started with chives. Chives are one of those fresh herbs I use all the time, from stirring into my breakfast cottage cheese or yogurt to sprinkling on salads, to garnishing at least half of my dishes when I'm cooking, so I start my week by mincing a large bunch and stashing them in the fridge. But I was finding that by midweek, the chives would start to be damp, and a day or so later, they would get slimy. Then I started taping a small desiccant pack to the underside of the lid of my storage container, and miracle of miracles, I now always run out of chives before any go bad! Ever since, no matter what herb I'm prepping, I always store it with a packet.

This trick also works well with leftover lemon zest, minced shallot, onion, or any other prepped food that has a tendency to stew in its own juices. Mushrooms last nearly twice as long. The good part is that since the packets are very small and can only absorb so much moisture, they won't dry things out. They can't dehydrate your produce but they will keep the dreaded damp at bay, which is amazing for minimizing food waste.

They keep cookies from going soggy

From herbs, it was on to baked goods! I began taping a packet to the underside of my cookie jar lid after baking, to keep my meringue cookies from getting sticky, or my shortbread from losing its crumble. When I send baked goods in the mail, especially in the summer, I am sure to include one desiccant packet in the mix to help keep things fresh in transit.

They keep chips, crackers, and cereal fresher longer

The next arena: the pantry! You can literally just toss a packet into an opened bag of chips or box of crackers and cereal, and the contents will stay crispy much longer. If you are worried about kids (or distracted snackers) accidentally eating one, tape it to the inside of the box lid. If you tend to transfer your pantry items into an airtight container, tape one to the underside of the lid. Rice, pasta, and dried beans all do well with them, as do foods like freeze-dried fruits and vegetables that can start to lose their crispiness once opened.

They keep bread from getting moldy

If you live in a humid place, you might want to use them to keep breads from going moldy too quickly.

No little packets in your house? No problem!

Finally, if you love the idea but don't want to wait to recycle a packet that appears in the normal course of your life, you can order them online!

This story originally appeared on myrecipes.com