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18 Alternative Uses for Plastic Milk Jugs

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18 Alternative Uses for Plastic Milk JugsIf you plan on living through a major disaster or economic collapse, you’re going to need a certain amount of ingenuity. Almost everything around you has multiple uses if you know how to think outside the box. Nothing is “just a can” or “just a bag” or “just a milk jug.” Everything can be something more if you know how.

In a post-disaster world where the sanitation service is unreliable at best, you’ll need to recycle and repurpose as much trash as possible. But you should practice doing this now because after the SHTF you might not have time to sit around reading survival books and articles. Here, then, are 18 survival and homestead uses for milk jugs.

1. Make a Mini-Shovel

There are a couple ways to do this. You can leave the cap on and cut diagonally below the handle like this, or you can cut off the handle and the side of the jug below the handle like this. The first method is a little more sturdy, but do what you like. This works best with loose, light soil. You could also use this scoop to clean out ash from a fire pit.

2. Mini-Greenhouses for Plants

If you’ve planted your seeds and they’ve sprouted but it’s still a little chilly outside, cut off the bottom of a milk jug and place it over the plant. The plastic will act as a mini-greenhouse and keep the plant protected from the cold.

3. Keep Plants Warm at Night

Fill jugs with water and place them around young plants in the garden in early spring. During the day, the water will heat up because of the sunlight. At night when the temperatures drop, the heat from the water will help protect the young plants from the chilly night.

4. As Plant Containers

Cut off the top half of a jug and poke four X-shaped holes into the bottom using a razor blade. Now you can fill it with soil and grow a plant on your windowsill or wherever you prefer. But if you have your plants inside, be sure to use a drain tray so you don’t get water everywhere.

5. As a Drain Tray

Cut off the bottom half of a milk jug and place one or more plant pots inside. This way you can capture and reuse the water that drains out of your plant pots. Since there’s a bump in the bottom of most milk jugs, add some gravel to level it out.

6. As a Watering Can

You could also use milk jugs to water your plants. Just poke a couple dozens holes near the top of the jug and in the cap, fill it with water, screw on the cap, turn it over and let the water flow.

7. Make Some Compost Tea for Your Plants

Simply add a bit of compost to the milk jug, fill it up with water, and let it sit in the sun for a day or two. Water your plants with the compost tea to give them a healthy boost of nutrients without using any fertilizer.

8. As Weights to Hold Things Down

Fill the jugs with dirt or water, put the caps on, and use them to hold down row covers or tarps. Windmills or other yard décor that tend to blow over in the wind can also be tied to milk jug anchors to keep them in place.

9. To Store Plant Fertilizer

This ensures you don’t accidentally use a watering can that has fertilizer mixed in on plants you’re trying to grow organically, or accidentally use a jug that your family uses for drinking water. Use a Sharpie to mark the jug as “plant fertilizer.”

10. Store Food

Fill your old milk jugs with things like rice, flour, sugar, coffee, oatmeal, etc. But first, thoroughly wash the jug out with soap and water and set it in the sun for an hour to make sure it’s completely dry. This isn’t ideal for long-term food storage, but it’s convenient for foods you eat on a regular basis. You might need a funnel to get the food in there.

11. As a Funnel

Cut off the bottom just below the handle, remove the cap, flip it over and you’ll have a funnel with a handle. Use it in the kitchen or the garage or wherever else you need it.

12. Keep Your Things Organized

Cut off the tops and fill the jugs with bolts, screws, nails, and whatnot. You could also use the jug to hold your sewing notions. If you have the space, screw the jugs to the wall to free up space on your work bench. If you’re going on a picnic, cut the base off a jug and place napkins in it. Then stack another base on that for your plasticware, and another base on that for sandwiches, etc.

One does not simply throw away a milk jug.

13. Make Fishing Bobbers

This is a great way to multitask. Put your line out with your giant bobber, then get busying chopping wood or building a fire on the shore while you wait. You can’t miss the big white milk jug bobbing up and down when you get a bite.

14. Use as a Water Marker

Empty the jug, screw on the cap, tie a string or fishing line to the handle, and tie the other end to an anchor such as a heavy rock. The jug will float on the water and mark a spot you need to be aware of, such as the spot where there’s a thick stand of seaweed or the place where a large rock scrapes the bottom of your boat.

15. Make Outdoor Lights

This is easy. Just cut off the top half, fill the bottom with a layer of sand, and set a short candle on the sand (preferably a votive candle).

16. Fill the Empty Spaces in Your Freezer

Just fill up the jugs with water (not completely, since water expands when frozen) and put them in your freezer. Your freezer operates more efficiently when it’s full, and if the power goes out it will take a lot longer to defrost. Once it does, you’ll have cold drinking water.

17. Make a Blender

You can make ice cream, smoothies, or milkshakes in a jug. Add your ingredients, put the cap back on, and shake it vigorously. For ice cream or thick shakes, you may need to cut off the top to get the creamy goodness.

18. Make a Dustpan

Cut off the lower half of the jug on the handle side like this. The bottom that will lie against the floor should be flat. Hold the handle at an angle and sweep dirt and debris into the jug. Keep the cap on to keep dirt from going right out the top.

These are just a few of the ways you can reuse old milk jugs. You can probably think of several more as you go about your daily duties around the house and in the garden. If you do, leave a comment and let us know!

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6 Comments

  1. Elizabeth on May 13, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153379486110938.1073741830.544195937&type=3

    Self watering house plant pot. Facebook photo tutorial.

  2. CalvinPi on December 23, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    You can also use the scoop as a bailer for a boat…or anywhere else, for that matter. Bleach bottles with handles also work well.

    Put a light, either a candle or electric, behind a milk jug filled with water and it will diffuse the light. It is particularly effective for turning a flashlight into a lantern.

  3. jessica66 on December 23, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    winter sowing – a little bit more in depth look at starting your plants outdoors in milk jugs – tried it last year. will be doing it in earnest this coming spring. http://www.bachmans.com/files/GardenGuide/WinterSowingGuide.pdf

  4. GRAMPA on December 7, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    if you are fortunate to still have someone alive that has lived in the great depression talk to them and learn for they made everything stretch as far as possible they made everything do multiple jobs Their lives were much more than hamburger helper.
    Grampa

  5. Illini Warrior on December 7, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Two mentions of using milk jugs for food and potable water – just not advisable coming from the experts ….

    They contend you can’t clean milk jugs or fruit juice jugs adequately to completely guarantee that minute bacterial growth media doesn’t remain ….

    • Jod on July 2, 2020 at 1:40 am

      After you wash throughly. Let them set in a water w/bleach solution to sanitize. I can not remember the amounts but it does not take to much bleach per gallon of water. Restaurants have used this method for ages.

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