What do you do with your milk cartons when you’ve finished the milk? Do you crush them and hide them in your burnable rubbish bag and hope no one sees you? Do you rinse, dry, open, flatten, tie with approved string, and put out for recycling on the appropriate day? There is an easier way to recycle your milk cartons- reusing them. Lightweight, strong, waterproof, easily cut, and malleable; there are hundreds of ways to reuse milk cartons and save you money in the process. Here are just a few ways of using milk cartons in the kitchen.
Milk cartons make great drawer organisers. Remove the spout section of the carton and cut the remainder in half lengthwise. By inserting the open end of one half into the open end of the other you have an open box. The length of the box can be adjusted by simply moving the two halves in or out. Four of these boxes fit neatly into the average drawer and are a handy way of separating utensils or other small items. Cut the bottom off another carton and you have a small square container perfect for storing those pesky chopstick rests that are always getting lost in the drawer.
Cooking Oil Disposal
An environmentally friendly way of disposing of used cooking oil is to fill a milk carton with newspaper and pour the (cooled) oil over the top. The newspaper will soak up the oil and taping the spout closed ensures no oil escapes from the waterproof container.
Disposable Cutting Boards
Opened out milk cartons can also be used as disposable cutting boards. These are particularly useful when preparing meat, fish or garlic. Peeling an opened carton into two creates two disposable sheets perfect for placing under fried food. The paper side of the sheet absorbs oil while the waterproof side stops it seeping through to the plate.)
Useful for Cooking
Milk cartons have many uses when cooking, too. Especially in the average Japanese kitchen where space is at a premium, disposable cooking implements make good sense.
Cut both ends off a milk carton and open it out into a flat sheet of four panels and you have a great onigiri helper. Place a sheet of seaweed over the carton and then a layer of rice just off centre of the seaweed so that it is over one of the middle panels of the carton. Top with fillings of your choice and “roll” the carton into a triangle. Press firmly on all three sides and open out. This long roll can be taken as is on a picnic or other outing and cut just before serving.
Milk Carton Baking Dishes
Milk cartons do not melt in the microwave so make great cake tins, chawan mushi bowls etc. For a log cake cut the spout off a milk carton and then cut out one panel to make a three-sided box. Fold down the open ends to make a tin shape. Simply place the cakemix or egg custard into the carton and microwave as usual. Running a butter knife around the sides of the carton will make it easier to turn out your cake.
Frozen Deserts Too!
The same carton cake tin can be filled with ice-cream and broken cookies, chocolate or fruits to make a great ice-cream cake. Mix the filling of your choice into softened ice-cream and spoon into the milk carton. Place in the freezer for 2 hours or until firm and cut the pack away to reveal your ice dessert.
How about freezing whipped cream in a milk carton so you always have it on hand? After whipping the cream spoon it into a clean, dry milk container and freeze well. Then, simply cut off as much cream as you need (carton and all) and reseal the pack before returning to the freezer.
Great Leftover Container
Leftover curry can be frozen in cut down milk cartons to avoid yellowing your plastic containers. (No lingering curry odor either!) Their long narrow shape makes milk cartons great space savers in the freezer. Left over soup can be poured into a milk carton, sealed shut (I use a clothes peg) and popped in the freezer. When you are ready to use the soup just defrost it and pour it straight from the carton. (See a sample of the carton.)
With this multitude of uses the problem is not what to do with your empty milk cartons but drinking enough milk to meet your demand for empty milk cartons!
© 2004 H. Fukase.