Ice Cube Tray: 20 Tips for Best Frugal Use

Posted by on Jul 26, 2015 in Common Products - Uncommon Uses, Frugal For Everyone, Product Information, Recipes | 42 comments

ice cube tray

A variety of ice cube trays – different colours, sizes, shapes and materials.

In many homes, the ice cube tray is an often overlooked item tucked away on a high shelf in the back of a cupboard. This is especially true nowadays when many refrigerators come equipped with ice-makers. It certainly isn’t something considered to be a money-saving kitchen tool. But it sure can be.

Before starting on the list for best frugal use of the ice cube tray I thought it worthwhile to first provide some basic tips:

  • Know how much each cell of the ice cube tray holds. That way you will know how many cubes you will need for a specific purpose. Each cell in the ones I use for serious freezing equal 2 Tbsp. (1/8 cup);
  • Once the cubes are frozen, transfer from the ice cube tray to freezer bags, seal, and label. I freeze mine in small batches 4 (1/2 cup) or 8 (1 cup) cubes to a baggie, then I place the baggies in a larger bag, keeping them all together. That way it’s easiest to grab the right amount without having them all frozen together;
  • When working with sauces like Pesto and Persillade (recipe below) you can do a cleaner job if you spoon the sauce into a ziplock baggie, cut off a small corner and squeeze to fill the cells;
  • It isn’t necessary to blanch foods frozen in an ice cube tray (and transferred to freezer bags) since they are normally frozen for short-term. My rule of thumb for this is: Less than four months storage ideal, six months maximum;
  • It is totally necessary to label the bags properly. Once frozen, everything looks the same;
  • For plain cubes – To make them clear and not add a nasty taste to a drink, boil the water first before using it to fill the ice cube tray.
    ice cube tray

    Simple Persillade ingredients – parsley, garlic and olive oil

Now on to the list.

The Ice Cube Tray as Money/Time Saver:

  1. If you have a small amount of wine leftover after a party, what do you do with it? Turn it into ice cubes to be prepared next time a recipe calls for a little shot of wine;
  2. Have you ever bought one of those little cans of tomato paste and used only a tablespoon or two of the paste? Make ice cubes and store them for the next time you need a small amount;
  3. How about those recipes that call for ½ a cup or so of buttermilk and buttermilk only comes in quart/litre size? Use what you need and cube the rest;
  4. Stop wasting food – it’s quite amazing how much you can save by using up your leftovers. The smallest amounts can be frozen in ice cube trays to be added to soups or stews;
  5. You probably won’t find a better price on herbs than right now. Take advantage of that and freeze herbs for winter use. Finely chop the herb, place in the cells and cover with extra virgin olive oil, water or herbal tea, depending on how you plan to use the herb;
  6. Parsley is growing rampant in my garden so I’ve been freezing loads of Persillade. This is a great addition to add zip to sautés, tomato soup, chicken soup, mashed/roast potatoes, and tired carrots. You can stir a cube or two into pasta – with or without the optional choices of parmesan cheese or pine nuts. It can be spread on french bread which can then be toasted or it can be spread on fish or meat before baking or grilling. A truly versatile sauce.
    • PERSILLADE RECIPE: So easy. Blend together 4 cups parsley, 4 garlic cloves and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze.
      ice cube tray

      Persillade cubes

  7. Do you have basil in the garden? Make up a large batch of Pesto, without the cheese, and freeze in ice cube trays. Add the cheese once you’re ready to use the Pesto. To give you an idea how much you will need – for a penné dinner for two I only use 2 pesto cubes;
  8. If you have favourite recipes that calls for a mix of herbs, chop the herbs fine, put in the ice cube tray, cover with some liquid called for in the recipe and freeze together. Example: A favourite roast chicken recipe calls for 2 Tbsp. basil, 1 Tbsp. rosemary – I mix them together, divide into 2 cells, cover with olive oil and freeze. A pot roast recipe calls for 2 Tbsp. thyme and 1 Tbsp. rosemary which I cover with beef broth. You not only save a fair bit doing this, it also makes life nice and easy.
  9. Turn your herbs into herb butters and freeze them in the ice cube tray. To use, remove while still frozen;
  10. Turn some of your iced tea into ice cubes, with or without chopped lemon. You won’t be weakening the tea when you pour it over these cubes at serving time;
  11. Kids love this one. Buy chocolate milk on sale and make cubes for chocolate slushies – Simply blend the frozen chocolate cubes with regular milk;
  12. Make and freeze non-dairy milk cubes for smoothies;
  13. More smoothie goodies. Puree spinach or kale (at their best price in season, even better when you grow it yourself) and pour into an ice cube tray – 4 cups spinach leaves (approximately 1/4lb/140g)  turns into 12 ice cubes in the 2 Tbsp. cells of my ice cube tray. The equivalent to 1 cup would be 3 cubes;
    ice cube tray

    4 cups spinach or kale end up as 12 cubes

  14. The next time you’re making soup stock, make extra and boil it down a lot, then freeze. Beautiful for a quick start to soup, to add flavour to rice or quinoa, nice to throw in a stir-fry and more;
  15. Whipping cream on sale? Stock up, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. This seems to be one of those items that is called for at the most unexpected times. Having some cubes on hand will save time and money;
  16. How about eggs? When they’re on sale, stock up to freeze. Add one egg to a cell (medium works best) or you can separate them and add the yolks to one tray and the whites to another.
  17. Make up a large batch of cookie dough and spoon into ice cube trays. When frozen, transfer to freezer bags, seal and label. Next time you get that phone call to say visitors are on the way, run to the freezer, not the store. Grab a bag or two of cookie dough cubes and bake. Your visitors will walk into a welcoming house that smells of fresh baking – can’t get better than that.                                                          A couple of Extras:
  18. Chop up some lemon peel, add some vinegar and freeze. Throw a cube down the garbage disposal unit once a week to keep it clean and smelling nice;
  19. Ice cube trays make great ‘small item’ organizers for the kitchen junk drawer, the workshop, the laundry room and the sewing room;
  20. They’re also a super place to store your earrings, rings and other small pieces of jewelry. 

These are my favourite ways for using an ice cube tray to save time and money. How about you – do you have any creative ideas to add? Share in the comments below – I always love to hear from you.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

42 Comments

  1. Really clever ideas, Lenie, that have never crossed my mind. Not that I have ever tried to think of what to do with say, pesto, that I don’t use for the simple reason that I always cook as much as I need. Any leftovers can be heated for another day.

    • Catarina, I have all these herbs growing in my garden and I do have to find a use for them. Chopping them up and freezing them in ice cube trays is the absolute easiest prsesering method. and of course, I grow the spinach and kale so no cost organic smoothies for me for quite some time. I love it.

  2. I love this post! What great tips Lenie. I love the earring idea the trays would fit perfectly in a draw and you could stack them.

    • Hi Pamela, the trays do stack nicely, aren’t you the clever one because I never thought of that. Great tip.

  3. Holy Cow! I have to find my ice cube trays! Or buy some. This are amazingly inventive, Lenie. So many great idea, but I love the cookie dough one the best! Great for a single person like me, who loves home made cookies but hates to make a whole batch for just me:)

    • Hi Jacquie, they are kind of fun, aren’t they? The other day I was out shopping and I saw ice cube trays with snapon lids – gotta get some of those. Just think, I could make up the pesto and persallade and leave them right in the trays. Colour me lazy but happy.

  4. What a great post! I tried the ice cube tray frozen herbs. It works great. I really like your idea about freezing in small batches 4 (1/2 cup) or 8 (1 cup) cubes to a baggie and then put it into a larger baggie. Thanks for sharing. I will definitely be sharing this one.

    • Thanks Sabrina – never thought that an ice cube tray would become one of my favourite kitchen tools but it has. The labeling is important. The other day I must have been too tired and put a pesto and a persillade tray in the freezer without labeling them and of course, when I noticed them I really couldn’t tell which was which so I guessed – hope I’m right or we’re going to be having some surprise suppers.

  5. These are some really creative ideas, Lenie! I love the one about making ice tea cubes for ice tea. I hate, hate, hate when my drinks get watered down so this is perfect! I also love the one about freezing milk cubes for smoothies. I never thought of that, and I’m sure it would make the smoothie nice and frosty! Yum!

    • I like freezing the smoothie stuff – makes blending one so easy and I’m always up for easy. It also saves a pile since you buy on sale and sales on those products tend to be really good. This year my garden is going absolutely wild and I keep picking spinach and kale which just keeps growing like mad so with a little bit of luck I should have enough cubes to last the winter.

  6. Great tips. I can’t tell you how many almost full tins of tomato paste I’ve wound up throwing out. I’ll freeze it next time. I have a few herbs growing (not as many as you), so may freeze some of those in cubes too. When my daughter was a baby, I made some of my own baby food. I froze the pureed food in ice cube trays and then stored in plastic bags in the freezer. It was easy and quick to take out one or two at a time and defrost in the microwave (being very careful not to leave any heat pockets) or on the stove.

    • Isn’t it true about those tomato paste cans? Most recipes call for 1 or 2 Tbsp. so the cubing saves on that one item alone. As for baby food – you are way younger than me because we could make our own baby food but the microwave was still a thing of the future – way of the future. But that is absolutely a great use for the ice cube tray. Good warning about the heat pockets.

  7. Brilliant ideas Lenie! It occurred to me that even though canned evaporated milk is cheap, I end up throwing away 2/3 can! We only ever use it in mashed potatoes and that’s likely to be just once or twice a month. I’m going to give this a try! Thanks for these frugal living ice cube tray ideas.

    • Patricia, actually I know it works just fine for evaporated milk, I’ve done it. It’s all those little savings that can really add up in the long run.

  8. Lenie I enjoyed all your posts but I can say without hesitation this is my absolute FAVORITE so far! I enjoy cooking but living alone means lots of those bits and pieces of leftovers and sometimes I don’t even bother with a recipe if I know it means I’m going to have to figure out how to use up the left over ingredients. These are such terrific ideas I created a PDF (my favorite Firefox add-on!) of the post to reference for my next shopping trip! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

    • You’re welcome Marquita – I love it when my posts are well received like this one. Maybe the 31DBBB is paying off, no? Actually, these are such fun posts to do that I wish I could do more of them but I’m trying to keep them to one a month – afraid I may run out of topics otherwise.

  9. Great ideas, Lenie! I keep an extra ice cube tray on hand for freezing small quantities of things, but your list takes it to a whole new level. I have to agree with your point about labeling. I always think I’ll remember, but never do. Imagine my daughter’s disappointment when I offered her vanilla ice cream, but it actually turned out to be cauliflower puree! And finally, #17 is my favorite!

    • Meredith, with your girls those cookie dough cubes would be just the thing. When our boys came home from school we would always have tea and cookies. Wish I had thought about the ice cube tray thing back in those days – fresh baked cookies everyday, wow.

  10. My fridge makes ice so I never thought I needed an ice cube try. After reading your post, Lenie, I’m having second thoughts.

  11. Lenie, I just love all your great ideas for using ice cube trays. Who knew so many things could be done with these simple devices? Of course, I particularly like the food ones. The cookie dough one is brilliant…I’ve got to give it a try. Thanks for the marvelous tips.

    • Hi Susan, if there was a vote on the favourite use, the cookie dough one would win. I like the green cubes for smmoothies and my garden is producing like mad so I’m making more of those everyday. Easiest way I know to preserve food – the most time-consuming part is washing the blender of food processor afterwards.

  12. These are all great tips, especially the one about freezing bits of leftover wine or an egg per tray space. I’ve made a new friend who is really frugal, which in turn has made me be more conscious of what I waste than ever.

    • Hi Jeri, I would love to meet your friend – being frugal seems to be “in-thing” right now, thanks to the recession. I think that event made people take a good look at how much they waste so I guess all things eventually end up for good.

  13. Hi Lenie

    I never thought about it till now. This is an amazing post. You listed so many brilliant ways one can use the Ice cube tray. These ideas are just amazing.

    Thanks for sharing. Take Care

  14. Lenie

    Another gem from your blog.

    I am always buying cheap ice cube trays and also save and keep the little shaped plastic containers for example – empty Ferrero Rocher chocolate boxes…As I am always freezing my herbs and sauces whenever I manage to buy them in bulk. I transfer these to zip lock bags once frozen ready to use in curries. I do like the idea of saving the cookie dough. Sometimes the shaped ice cubes with herbs like mint give the drinks a wow factor.

    • Mina, love your mint idea – wouldn’t that be just the thing to add pow to a glass of iced tea? I have often thought how cool it would be to freeze different pieces of fruit, covered with wine, to add when serving a punch. I think having those little cubes bobbing around would look really neat.

  15. Hi, Lenie

    I was amazed your list of saving the left-over. I know some of them and now I can save some more food and money. I hated to waste food so that I finished the whole plate even I was full. Now I just need to buy some more ice trays.

    Thanks again! – Stella

    • Hi Stella, welcome to my blog. I’m with you, hate wasting food and also like things easy. I love being able to buy on sale or pick from my garden and freeze – with no fuss – for later use. Once you get started using the trays you may even surprise yourself with more creative ways to use them. Have fun.

  16. It seems so obvious now that you have pointed it out. Freeze it. I have always done that with fruit but never thought of it for other things like wine and sauce. Will do this in the future. Thanks.

    • Hey Tim, everything becomes obvious after the fact, doesn’t it. I hate wasting food – keep hearing those echoes, eat it because there are millions of hungry kids around the world who would be grateful to have this (I now know this to be true). I also like things easy and using ice cube trays has done both for me. No waste, less fuss.

  17. What a superb post, Lenie! Those are all fabulous ideas! I love the idea of freezing the leftover wine to put into sauces. Not that I often have leftover wine, but on occasion, I get a wine I don’t like and this is a good way to use it up!

    • Hi Doreen – Someone once gave me a bottle of red wine, which I can’t tolerate, gives me fierce headaches. It is however, perfect for cooking with and as theys say, the rest is history LOL

  18. Lenie — you publish the most useful posts! I actually don’t have any ice cube trays, having moved recently. But I will get them because these tips are terrific. It does annoy me that I have to buy a whole bottle of wine just to add a small amount to a recipe. I love your tip about cutting the corner of a plastic baggie and using it a a funnel.

    • Hi Jeannette, when you go buy some ice cube trays you’re going to have a bigger selection that we used to. I got mine at the dollar store and I think they are just the cutest things. That wine thing was always an annoyance and usually I ended up using vinegar or lemon juice instead – with wine cubes on hand I don’t have to.

  19. How on earth do you come up with all these amazingly clever ideas?? Who would have thought of using these for earrings and rings! I’m always trying to organize my jewelry. And this is genius for not wasting food – espesh love the tomato paste and iced tea concepts. You go girl!

    • Hi Krystyna – funny you should mention that because my ice cube tray use actually evolved from those little tins of tomato paste – it seemed that came with instructions that read “use 1 Tbsp., throw the rest away”. Hated that so the ice cube tray idea was born.

  20. Another post I’m sharing with my Facebook friends because of all the great tips! Love the wine cubes and ice tea cubes. Oh, and have to do the spinach/kale cubes. What a great way to add to my morning protein shake!

    • Hi Rose – the cubes you mentioned are all my favourite ones too. The spinach/kale cubes are super – I use them also as a side vegetable for suppper and because they are already pureed, it only takes a minute to steam them maintaining all their nutritional value.

  21. I like your tip about wine ice cubes. The alcohol in the wine lets it still freeze?
    I use something similar, when I am having a barbecue, I will make soda ice cubes. If someone is drinking coke, the ice cube will melt but not dilute the drink.

    • Thanks for the tip about the soda cubes – that is one I’ll have to add. The wine does freeze so I guess there isn’t enough alcohol in wine to prevent that or maybe the freezer is cold enough. Never thought of that. Anyway, I know it works and I guess that’s all that matters.

  22. I don’t even own an ice tray. I need to purchase one. I had no idea you could do so much with them

    • Jason, you are a frugalist and you can save quite a bit using the ice cube trays. I think once you start, you’ll end up really appreciating their many uses.