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.
Now on to the list.
The Ice Cube Tray as Money/Time Saver:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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.
- 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;
- 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.
- Turn your herbs into herb butters and freeze them in the ice cube tray. To use, remove while still frozen;
- 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;
- Kids love this one. Buy chocolate milk on sale and make cubes for chocolate slushies – Simply blend the frozen chocolate cubes with regular milk;
- Make and freeze non-dairy milk cubes for smoothies;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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.
- 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:
- 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;
- Ice cube trays make great ‘small item’ organizers for the kitchen junk drawer, the workshop, the laundry room and the sewing room;
- 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,