My 65-Cent Grease Pencil Is My Favorite New Kitchen Tool

updated Sep 22, 2020
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Using a grease pencil to write on a ziptop bag
Credit: Sarah Crowley

A few memorable times in the last couple of years, I had it together enough to make impressive batches of freezer meals. Having 10 or more meals ready to go in the freezer makes such a huge difference in our family’s weeks. I can build in “nights off” from cooking while keeping expenses low and not blowing our takeout budget on a night when we just don’t feel like making dinner. 

Even when I haven’t set aside a Saturday to stock our freezer with meals, I do make it a point to regularly double a batch of what I’m making to freeze for later. This way, I have at least one or two meals that are ready to pull out of the freezer. With a family of seven, being able to pull a meal out of the freezer frequently saves the day. 

A key factor to freezer meals that are helpful and stress-free, though, is knowing what they are!

Mystery bags and containers extend the promise of a minimal-prep meal, but then confound the equation when you don’t know what’s inside, how many servings it is, how long you need to cook it, and what accompaniments you might need. When you need a dinnertime rescue, a frozen enigma doesn’t do the trick nearly as well as a well-labeled meal that’s ready to feed your family. 

This is why my grease pencil is one of my favorite tools. A grease pencil, sometimes called a china marker, is a wax writing tool that writes well on hard, non-porous surfaces, even when they’re wet. They’re often used by construction workers or handymen, who need to write on glass, tile, etc. But it’s one of my favorite tools to use in the kitchen for labeling. And you can get a whole box for around 65 cents per pencil!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

I like to re-use these containers for frozen meals. They are no-waste, and they freeze food in a shape that fits in my Instant Pot or a regular pot on the stove. But I can’t use a Sharpie marker on them like I would with a zip-top bag because, obviously, that’s permanent. Before I discovered grease pencils, these containers would often go unlabeled and contain nicely shaped frozen blocks of who-knows-what. Shame on me, I know: I never took the time to write on a piece of paper or a length of tape. I trusted myself to remember what was inside — and I never did!

A grease pencil isn’t permanent like a Sharpie marker is, but its mark is just as legible. Grease pencil writing won’t smudge or smear in the moisture of a freezer or during the defrosting process. But it comes off easily with soap and water and a few scrubs with a dish rag. 

In addition to labeling frozen food with contents, cook times, and the date, I use my grease pencil to write on glass jars I’ve repurposed for storing homemade salad dressing or to label leftovers or prepped food in plastic containers. The fact that it’s so good at what it does (writing well on tricky surfaces and having sticking power but still being able to be wiped off) really is impressive. I’m actually mad that I went so long with regular markers — or, worse, nothing at all. Now, I have a couple grease pencils stashed away in my junk drawer, and I’m so glad they’re there.

What do you use to label your frozen meals and leftovers?