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Can You Save Any Money Making Your Own Ice Cream?

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My addiction to saving money is matched only by my penchant for ice cream. It’s a good thing I inherited my mother’s skinny genes!

I recently asked my husband for an ice cream maker for my birthday. (I’m a DIY nut diving into homesteading, one food group at a time.) Now I want to know if we’re actually saving money making homemade ice cream.

Upfront Costs

The challenge of saving money by doing-it-yourself is the upfront cost.

We brew our own beer, but had to spend $109 in equipment to make our first batch. If you sew your own clothes, you have to stitch past the roughly $200 it costs to get a decent sewing machine to sew your first skirt. You can see where I’m going.

With ice cream, your only upfront cost is the ice cream maker. Phew. Hubs bought me the Doniver 1-quart machine, which on Amazon costs $60.

For another $8.64, he snagged the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book.

Store-bought Vs. DIY

A pint of Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream at my local Stop & Shop costs roughly $4. Prices fluctuate and coupons lower the price, of course. But $4 is average.

So how much does making your own vanilla ice cream cost?

I like the Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream recipe, which calls for the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 cups milk (I use whole)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

When I crunch the numbers to determine the cost of the amount called for in the recipe (instead of using the cost of the entire item…for instance the cost of two eggs versus the cost of a dozen), here’s how the math looks.

  • Cream – $2.14
  • Milk – $.24
  • Sugar – $.33
  • Eggs – $.41
  • Vanilla – $.83

Cream is by far the most expensive ingredient in a batch of homemade ice cream. If only I owned a cow! But I digress. Back to the calculator.

The cost of one batch of homemade vanilla ice cream adds up to $3.95, just a nickel less than buying a pint.

But wait!

My homemade batch makes one quart, which is the same as TWO PINTS. So my ice cream machine makes twice as much ice cream for essentially the same cost. That means homemade ice cream costs half of what it does in the store.

Except: The fancy pants ice cream maker.

It wasn’t a huge investment, but at $60, it certainly adds to the cost of homemade ice cream. Let’s amortize the $60 ice cream maker over one year. And let’s estimate that I make one one-quart batch of homemade ice cream every other week, which adds up to 26 batches a year.

Each batch of homemade ice cream costs me $3.95 x 26 batches a year = $102.70. Mix in the $60 ice cream maker, and the yearly cost of homemade ice cream rises to $162.70.

There are plenty of free ice cream recipes online, so I won’t add in the $8.64 Ben & Jerry’s recipe book.

My $162.70 investment yields 26 batches, or 52 pints, which means each homemade pint costs $3.13. Compared to the $4 pint in the store, I’m saving $.87 every time I stir my own batch.

The yearly savings adds up to $23. Whoop-de-doo.

If I amortize my ice cream maker over five years, my ice cream costs add up to:

$102.70 per year x 5 years = $513.5 + $60 ice cream maker = $573.50.

My $573.50 ice cream investment yields 130 batches, or 260 pints over five years. So each pint costs me $2.20. That represents a yearly savings of $93.60.

Clearly, the longer I use my ice cream maker, the cheaper it gets to make my own ice cream, until my only real cost is the ingredients.

Which takes me back to the cow. I need to get my hands on a cow.

Julia Scott founded the coupon and money blog, BargainBabe.com.