Apartment Homesteading: Growing Sprouts in a Milk/Juice Carton

Materials: Empty Carton, Funnel, Scissors, dry beans

No shed updates this week. Jean’s parents will be visiting us soon. They’ll be here for a few weeks so I wanted to leave enough for them to do to keep them out of trouble while Jean and I are at work.

Instead of a shed update, here’s the first article of I what I hope will be a fairly regular series I’m calling apartment homesteading. Subjects may include horticulture, food preservation, alcohol fermentation, animal husbandry, materials re-purposing, function stacking and whatever else we can come up with. All these activities will be extremely small scale, typically low overhead and low maintenance.

A sprout is a germinated seed that has grown for 3-10 days. You might also call it a seedling.  Sprouts are tasty and healthy additions to salads, sandwiches and all kinds of cooked dishes. Some common sprouts are mung bean and alfalfa. If you do a google search for “health benefits of sprouts,” there are a myriad of articles that come up with loads of good information. Here’s a distillation of what I have gathered:

Seeds and Beans and Nutrients

  • The Good
    • Step 1: Pour Mung beans into a carton. Hint: Use a funnel
    • A seed/bean is chock full of energy and nutrients. It has everything a plant needs to survive for the early part of it’s life. This is why when you’re starting seedlings they don’t need compost or very nutrient rich soil. The seed includes kind of plant survival kit.
  • The Bad
    • Step 2: Snip off the corners of the carton
    • Our bodies have a hard time breaking down seeds/beans into nutrients we can use. It takes more energy and can lead to issues like gastrointestinal distress.

Getting those Nutrients: Cooking Seeds and Beans

  • The Good
    • Cooking seeds/beans can help us by performing part of the digestion process for us.
  • The Bad
    • Seeds/Beans lose nutritional value when cooked. This typically occurs when seeds/beans are boiled because the nutrients leach into the water which is typically disposed of.
    • Cooked seeds and beans can still cause gastrointestinal distress because of various indigestible proteins and sugars.
    • Cooking beans/seeds still takes energy albeit negligible and not your body’s.

Getting those Nutrients: Sprouting Seeds and Beans

  • The Good
    • Sprouting seeds/beans performs part of the digestion process for us.
    • Nutritional value is largely retained.
    • Gastrointestinal distress is reduced because some of those troublesome proteins and sugars and broken down and used by the young seedling.
    • (Subjective) Sprouted seeds and beans taste better than cooked seeds and beans
  • The Bad
    • Step 3a: Fill the carton with water
    • Sprouting takes some work and a bit of forethought.

How to Sprout Seeds and Beans
This video explains the process I use to sprout my beans and seeds. I’ll outline the steps below:


  • Rinsed out juice/milk carton. We typically use a 1/2 gallon almond milk carton.
  • Funnel
  • Scissors
  • 1/2 cup of mung beans. In the Austin area you can get mung beans for a reasonable price at Sprouts or Fiesta. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can try other types of seeds/beans.

The Steps

  1. Use the funnel to pour the mung beans into the carton.
  2. Cut off the top four corners of the carton.
  3. Fill the carton with water and let the beans soak for 10-12 hours.
  4. Twice a day fill the carton with water and then let it drain out through the holes in the top.
  5. Step 3b: Let the beans soak for 10-12 hours. Hint: Use labels
  6. After five days, cut open the carton and remove the sprouted beans.
  7. Step 4: Fill the cartons with water twice a day and drain them
  8. Rinse beans well before serving.

Basic Mung Bean Sprout Stir Fry


  • Vegetable Oil (2-3 Tablespoons)
  • Sliced Onion (1)
  • Minced Garlic (3-5 Cloves)
  • Sprouted Mung Beans (1/2 – 1 Carton)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Cooked rice or noodles

The Steps

  1. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan or wok.
  2. Saute the onion under high heat.
  3. Add the garlic when the onion is translucent.
  4. Move the onion and garlic to a bowl after they begin to brown.
  5. Toss the mung beans sprouts into pan/wok and cook for 45 seconds.
  6. Add the mung beans to the onion and garlic mixture.
  7. Add soy sauce to taste.
  8. Step 5: After five days cut open the carton
  9. Serve with rice or noodles
  • Ginger
  • Tofu
  • Egg

Sprouted mung beans

Step 6: Rinse well. Sprouted mung beans will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Mung Bean Stir Fry: Onion and garlic browning

Mung Bean Stir Fry: Toasting the mung sprouts at high heat for 45 seconds