There's a lumber yard right in the center of my little town that has funny or quirky sayings that change every few weeks on its outdoor sign. Recently, the sign read, "Ban shredded cheese. Make America grate again." How "grate" is that political and food pun all in one?

America could be grating more if we all used our cheese graters for more than just grating cheese. A simple, inexpensive box grater, or even a simpler flat grater, can do so much.

1. Veggies. A cheese grater can also grate all sorts of vegetables for salads, soups, sneaking into pasta sauces, turning them into ingredients for bread or cake, and more.

Grating butter Stop waiting for that butter to reach room temperature and just grate what you need. (Photo: Julija Sapic/Shutterstock)

2. Butter. How often do you have to wait to make cookies or pie crust because your butter is frozen and it needs to come to room temperature? If you grate frozen butter, you can use it immediately.

3. Citrus zest. A microplane is usually used for grating citrus, but if you don't have one, the smallest holes on your cheese grater will make an acceptable substitution.

4. Tomatoes. Grating tomatoes is the easiest, fastest way to make tomato sauce. Cut the tomatoes in half and start grating. When you're done, the skins will be all that's left in your hands and you can toss them. (Or better yet, compost them.)

Garlic bulbs, grater, fresh garlic in a dish Grating garlic requires careful attention so you don't begin to grate your fingers. (Photo: Stephen Gibson/Shutterstock)

5. Garlic. Quickly add garlic to your cooking by grating it right over the pot or pan. Watch your fingertips and knuckles with this one since garlic's small size brings your skin in close contact with the grater.

6. Hard boiled eggs. Grate eggs for a salad topping or to mix up a quick egg salad.

7. Potatoes or other root vegetables. Forget frozen hash browns. Make your own quickly by grating potatoes or other root vegetables (or a combination) for fresh hash browns.

Grater and grated chocolate on a wooden surface Grated chocolate becomes melted chocolate in a snap. (Photo: StepanPopov/Shutterstock)

8. Chocolate. Chocolate melts more quickly when grated instead of chopped.

9. Toast. If you need bread crumbs, toast some bread and then run it over your cheese grater. I love how this eliminates the need for the food processor and makes cleaning up easier.

10. Frozen bananas. Grate a frozen banana or two and drizzle with chocolate sauce for a treat.

11. Charcoal. Grate a small amount of hardwood charcoal (not chemically treated) into kosher salt — about 1 tablespoon of charcoal per cup of salt. Pulse them together in a spice grinder and you'll have a smoky finishing salt. (via Bon Appetit)

Non-food uses for a cheese grater

Search for cheese grater on Pinterest, and the kitchen tool suddenly becomes fodder for a crafter or decorator. Here are few of the easier, more practical non-food uses for a cheese grater.

12. Jewelry holder. This tutorial will show you how to turn a simple box grater into a holder for earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

13. Outdoor lighting. Put a votive on a table. Stick an old cheese grater over it. (The rustier, the more charming.) Voila, instant rustic outdoor lighting. Be careful, though. The metal on the cheese graters will get hot.

14. A pencil, kitchen utensil, mail, flower holder. Turn an old box grater upside down. Screw it to the wall. Put things in it.

15. Soap. Grate leftover pieces of soap, melt them in a pan, pour into a mold, and then make a new bar of soap.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.