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28. November 2019

Garden DIY: Reusing milk cartons

I'm reusing milk cartons to freeze lots of things from my kitchen. It's really convenient, try it!

Två mjölkpaket med fruset innehåll i en frysbox. Reusing milk cartons, frozen carton in the freezer.

Plenty of rhubarb juice in my fridge, I'm going to use it to make mulled wine later. Reusing milk cartons like this is just a lifesaver.

 

Many of you who have seen images of my freezer these past few days might have noticed the milk cartons in there. What are they for? Well, you can, of course, freeze milk (I don't really like drinking thawed milk though, but you can use it for cooking.) The cartons are perfect for freezing plenty of other things though. The Swedish cartons have plastic lids, which makes it possible to reuse them like this. So clever!

 

More about milk cartons: How to grow carrots in a carton

 

Reusing milk cartons – what for?

If you grow your own vegetables at home, then I'm sure you can reuse the milk cartons for a number of different purposes. Here are a few suggestions:

 

Juice

I often make my own juice here at home, preferably with a small amount of sugar. I just throw the fruit in the steam juicer in summer. Unsweetened juice goes bad in no time, and that's why I think it's better to freeze it. I freeze all kinds of juices, for example, rhubarb, plum, apple, and cherry. It's just the perfect solution when you need something festive for your kid's birthdays. I also enjoy using the juice for non-alcoholic mulled wine during the holiday season. Just add the traditional spices, it's so delicious!

 

Strained tomatoes

It's just so convenient to keep a few cartons of strained tomatoes around, and the freezer is the perfect place to store them. When I harvest my tomatoes, I often get a lot of them at the same time. I don't always have time to use them all for ketchup etc. So instead, I just throw a bunch of them into the blender and freeze the strained tomatoes in the cartons. When you want to make meat sauce or perhaps a tomato soup, then you just need to grab a carton from the freezer.

 

Soup and broth

Why not freeze broth or a soup base with tasty vegetables and herbs? Make a big batch, blend it and pour it into the cartons.

 

Fruit compote

I often freeze unsweetened fruit compote and fruit/berry sauces in the milk cartons. For example apple sauce.

 

Berries

Small berries like blueberries and currants fit nicely into the cartons.

 

And much more...

You can freeze a lot of things in milk cartons. For example leftovers, broth and beaten egg whites. Just remember that you can't treat these cartons like a regular jar with a lid, where you open and close it at your pleasure while getting the amount you need for the day. When you freeze, make sure that you don't fill the carton with more than you can use within a few days.

 

Read more about Garden DIY: Storing grass clippings

 

Cleaning the cartons

I usually just rinse the cartons with a little bit of dishwashing liquid right after emptying them. After that, I turn them upside down to let them dry properly. Don't forget to rinse the lids too. And don't worry if there are still some traces of milk in a recently cleaned carton.

 

Labeling

I always label the carton with a word or two. Use a waterproof marker to write on the lid. You can of course also write on the carton too, but this can be a bit tricky if it's damp.

 

Close the cartons

The best option is, of course, to use cartons with a lid. This opening is usually large enough for a little funnel. Use the lid to close the carton.

If you want to freeze compote, jam, stews or similar, you might need to open the carton itself to be able to pour it in. Afterward, I just fold the top and put some tape around.

 

Using the contents

The most convenient solution is probably to let the contents thaw in the carton before you pour it. I do it this way when I'm for example dealing with fruit juices. But this method is better for strained tomatoes or fruit compote:

  • rinse the carton in lukewarm water for a little while
  • cut the top of the carton and tear a larger opening
  • squeeze the contents into for example a stew, or put in a bowl

This way, you don't have to deal with messy leftovers inside of the carton.

I don't exactly need to stock cartons, we go through plenty of them every week. Our family consumes 3 gallons (around 12 liters) of milk every week. I know this for sure since we special-order organic milk to our local general store here in our village. We get the milk at the same time as we pick up any old plant parts that the store wants to get rid of (I use it for composting), twice each week. I haven't ever experienced going without cartons when I need them.

I hope this article gave you some ideas on how you can start reusing milk cartons at home. Do you have any other tips?
/Sara Bäckmo

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