People Are Just Discovering This Brilliant Use for an Empty Broth Carton

published Nov 27, 2023
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A view of several shelves dedicated to Pacific Foods stock and broth cartons, on display at a local grocery store.
Credit: The Image Party / Shutterstock

As a mother of five and an avid home cook, I’m constantly on the lookout for smart ways to stretch my grocery budget and repurpose kitchen “trash.” For instance, I love tricks like using scrunched up aluminum foil to scrub out my casserole dishes, and making chicken stock out of rotisserie chicken bones or Costco’s chicken bouillon (which saves so much storage space and cuts down on waste). So when I heard about another space-saving, trash-reducing trick, I couldn’t wait to try it.

During the busy holiday season, instead of relying on a frozen stash of stock, which may not be enough, or spending the time making my own, I buy cartons (and cartons) of chicken stock. Having ready-to-go stock saves me time and energy and is so worth it — anything to streamline when I’m cooking for hours on end to prepare for a feast! But that’s not all.

When I recently saw a post on Cook’s Illustrated’s Instagram that featured the very same type of chicken stock cartons I use so many of during this time of year, my scroll came to a screeching halt. The post suggested using empty chicken stock cartons to make DIY ice packs. Freezing water in the cartons makes keeping items cool on-the-go so much more efficient, while also offering a smart way to repurpose trash before it goes into the recycling.

Rather than having to go out and buy ice when you’re traveling with a cooler for the holidays or for a summer BBQ, you’ll have some solid, long-lasting ice “bricks” ready to go. And instead of dealing with melted ice in a cooler, the cartons contain the water once it melts — this means no digging through ice and water to retrieve items, and no mess to clean out afterwards. Plus, you can use it dozens of times!

Another reason to love this hack is that it means you don’t have to rely on or store reusable ice packs. While I love the convenience of ice packs, and we use them regularly for our kids’ lunch boxes, there are a few things I don’t love about them: First, they aren’t usually cold enough to keep large spaces like a big cooler cold enough. Additionally, they need to be stashed in the freezer between uses and take up valuable freezer space. 

Using chicken carton “ice packs,” on the other hand, means you can either keep the cartons to use again or discard them, guilt-free, once you’re done using them in a cooler. The point is that you can be flexible if you need more freezer space. 

One thing to keep in mind when using this hack is that you’ll want to leave just a bit of room in the chicken stock container to allow for the water to expand once frozen. Leaving this room means you won’t have any of the lids popping off and the resulting leaking water once the ice begins to melt. 

I’m definitely planning on hanging on to some chicken stock cartons during the holiday cooking frenzy. I can’t wait to use these chicken stock ice bricks to keep our food cool and completely mess-free the next time we go camping or bring a cooler to a long day of soccer games!