The Smartest Thing You’ve Never Thought to Do with Empty Berry Cartons (Plus, 5 Other Ways to Reuse Food Packaging)

published Mar 19, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
overhead shot of a craft table, with someone pulling ribbon from the reused strawberry container, holding ribbon.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik

With each new year that rolls around, I tell myself I’m going to be a less wasteful human — especially when it comes to food packaging. However, I often find myself back at the recycling bin, reluctantly tossing in empty containers and pushing away the cloud of plastic pollution statistics (yikes!) that hovers above my head. Despite even my best efforts to introduce reusable items into the mix, the inevitable carton or container manages to squeeze in from time to time. So, in an attempt to reduce waste (and guilt), I gathered some of the most simple yet crafty ideas to reuse “single-use” packaging products on the internet. Happy hacking!

1. Broth Carton Ice Pack

I’ve never once envisioned a greater purpose for an empty broth carton, so when I saw Cook’s Illustrated’s Instagram post about how one could be converted into an ice pack, I started to wonder what else I’ve been missing. I tried this out myself with a clean Trader Joe’s vegetable broth container, leaving enough room for the water to expand, and the result was so much better than a rock-hard plastic alternative, or a crunchy bag of frozen peas. The box freezes consistently throughout, and the paper is surprisingly smooth. This trick also works with milk or coffee creamer cartons.

2. Produce Carton Ribbon Holder

My mind was actually blown when I realized the large produce containers that typically hold strawberries or grapes make the perfect ribbon holders, as this TikToker shared. After thoroughly rinsing out the carton, just peel off the label, thread the ribbons through the holes at the base, and you’re done! A quick paint job can totally upgrade the look if you want the holder to match other craft supplies or pop as an accessory.

3. Egg Carton Bowls

Empty egg cartons can be transformed into bacon grease holders, seed planters, junk drawer organizers, and even fire starters. Of all the ways to reuse classic paper cartons, however, the most aesthetic and creatively fulfilling option has to be turning them into decorative paper clay bowls. As eco-friendly DIYer Sibia Torres Padilla demonstrated, all you need to do is thoroughly soak two large egg cartons in water, blend them together (a non-food blender is recommended for sanitary purposes), and squeeze out the excess liquid. Next, mix in a cup of flour and a pinch of salt, and then knead the contents together to create a doughy paste. You’ll want to use existing bowls as molds for the paste — Sibia recommends lining them with (compostable) cling wrap for easy removal — and then allow for the paste to dry and shrink. Once all the moisture’s gone, the bowls can be painted, ModPodged, and decoupaged as desired. You can use nearly any paper material, so napkins, tissue paper, and photos are all fair game! 

4. Eggshell Plant Fertilizer, Blender Blade Sharpener, and Pan Scrubber 

On the topic of eggs and sustainability, I had to highlight the versatility of eggshells, which creator Mairym Monti Carlo impressively broke down in an Instagram Reel

  • Phase 1: Save about two-dozen eggshells, storing them in your freezer to avoid mold. When the collection is complete, rinse the shells, stick them in a large pot, and add water, bringing everything to a simmer on medium heat. Then, cover the pot and let it sit overnight. The next day, drain the eggshells and lay them out to dry while using the calcium carbonate-packed water to nourish your plants. 
  • Phase 2: Throw the dry eggshells into your blender and mix them until you have a grainy powder. (This will leave your blender blades freshly sharpened!). Store this new “cleaner” in a sealed container. 
  • Phase 3: Sprinkle the powder onto any old kitchenware grease stains, add dish soap, and scrub! 

5. Yogurt Container Snack or Paint Cups

@athomewithshannon Starting an entire series today on all my favorite #reusable #momhacks for #earthday 🌎 Follow along for little ideas that make a difference! #momsoftiktok #momhack ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show

This one’s for anyone who spends a lot of time with young kids. Empty yogurt containers, whether they’re six or 32 ounces, are easy to reuse as snack cups or paint jars. Of course, larger containers can also be used to collect food scraps, or to store leftovers.

6. Glass Jar and Bottle Containers

Here’s a friendly reminder to save your glass jars and bottles! Remove labels with hot water and dish soap or baking soda if needed, and then use them for literally anything in the realm of kitchen organization, hydration, or plant propagation. Get creative with acrylic paint or give them a vintage-inspired DIY

What’s your favorite way to reuse food packaging? Let us know in the comments below!