Ice Cube Trays–a Frugal Gadget for Every Kitchen

By ERIN TURNER

What I’m going to admit may be blasphemy to many…but I rarely can finish off an entire wine bottle. Please don’t hold it against me.  I really wish I could enjoy more but it just doesn’t agree with me that way I’d like it to agree with me. So needless to say I get stuck with open bottles of wine which eventually go bad.  And it seems like such a sin to glug that beautiful wine down the drain!

So, I’ve found a way to balance my small intake of wine every now and mix that with my frugalness.  Let me introduce to you the wonderful Ice Cube Tray!  Fill an ice cube tray full of your leftover wine and then freeze.  These little cubes of goodness work exceptionally well for all your cooking needs.  Usually about 3 of the cubes = ½ cup of wine. When I make pasta sauces, having a red wine base adds such a rich undertone to the overall taste.  Lots of sauces and other recipes call for a small amount of wine.  It doesn’t seem realistic to open an entire bottle if you just use ½ cup.  So having these cubes in the freezer and ready to throw into the pan is a cook’s dream!

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Fill an ice cube tray full of your leftover wine and thenfreeze.

In the same way, I also freeze cubes of buttermilk.  Typically a recipe will only call for 1 cup or so of buttermilk.  My dilemma usually is two fold: a) I don’t keep buttermilk as a staple in my refrigerator so any spontaneous baking is killed by not having it available and b) if I buy a pint of it for a specific recipe then I’m stuck with leftovers which if not used within a few days goes bad.  Again, I was saved by the wonderful ice cube tray.  This works so well.  Pour your buttermilk into the tray, freeze and then pop out and put into a gallon sized plastic zipped bag.  When you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk, you can just pull out what you need and thaw!  Each cube=2 Tblsps (at least in my tray).

I have to admit, before discovering these sneaky tricks I didn’t own an ice cube trays. Our refrigerator came with a built-in ice maker which eliminated the need for the good old fashioned trays.  While I didn’t miss the acrobatics of carefully filling the trays and ever so slowly tip-toeing to the freezer and attempting to get the tray in without the inevitable spill, I was totally missing out on all the non-traditional uses of ice cube trays.

Thus I headed out to my favorite thrift store and scooped up a handful of them for less than a dollar for a pair.  Seriously, they are abundant and super cheap at the thrift stores and most are in like-new shape. You can also snag them at the dollar store or sometimes I’ve even seen them in the “Dollar Spot” at Target.  What I’m trying to say is this: ice cube trays are everywhere for super cheap.  Go get some!

Frugal Uses for Ice Cube Trays

Pour your buttermilk into the tray, freeze and then pop out and put into a gallon sized plastic zippedbag.

Another terrific trick is to chop up fresh herbs when they are in season, tuck them into the ice cube trays and then fill with olive oil.  Freeze these puppies and you’ll be ready for great sautees’ anytime by throwing a cube of fresh herbs and olive oil into a hot pan!  I’ve also filled them with homemade pesto.  This is the perfect portion size for adding to noodles or sautéed vegetables.

Parents of young children love this kitchen tool for freezing baby food or even using it as a serving dish filled with a variety of chopped-up, bite-sized pieces of food.  Kids love the novelty of their own homemade “Lunchable”!

Ice cube trays work great for making up smoothie packets.  You can freeze yogurt into cubes, as well as juice or any other item you want to add into your morning smoothies.  Just freeze the individual items, remove and place into a bag.  When you want a smoothie, simply dump into your blender and in seconds you’ll have a healthy breakfast or snack!

Another great cooking tip using this gadget, is to fill them with homemade chicken, beef or vegetable stock.  Again, fill the tray with the liquid ingredients and freeze away. Then pop them out when they are frozen and place into a bag which then gets put back into the freezer.  Important key: be sure to label your bags with the contents and I always like to add the measurement of each cube (e.g. 1 cube=2 Tblsps).

Ice cube trays are making a come back in the modern kitchen.  Not as their intended use but for new, updated and frugal uses!  I love using them.  It solves some unnecessary waste in my kitchen by freezing small portions of leftover items.  It also frees up space in my freezer because bags full of these cubes are much more manageable than a container.  Finally, it allows me some flexibility in my cooking and baking but offering me a chance to have items at hand which I normally would not have stocked in my kitchen!

This is repurposing at its very best and I’m confident every modern home will benefit from having a little “throw-back” tool called the ice cube tray in their kitchen!

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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