Cooling Off with DIY Ice Cream


Homemade ice cream can be a great way to cool off in the summer heat, and making it yourself means endless flavor possibilities.

But the costs will definitely add up. Here’s a breakdown of how much you should expect to spend to make plain vanilla ice cream at home, as well as a few good recipe options for more decadent and creative flavors.

There are a few different machines you can buy to make ice cream, which is why prices can vary so widely. The recipe we’re using comes along with the user manual for a basic Cuisinart ice cream maker that costs $49.95 (not too shabby considering some ice cream makers cost upwards of $300).

Different machines also employ different procedures. Some ice cream makers require you to freeze a canister for nearly a day, then plug it into a base and fill it with ingredients for ice cream that’s ready in minutes. Then there’s the compressor ice cream machine, which is more like an ice cream maker you might find at an ice cream shop, with built-in refrigeration so you don’t need to use your freezer at all. Not surprisingly, these are the more expensive machines.

You can make your own ice cream “machine” at home as well, which we’ll explain later. Now for the ice cream itself. Let’s take a look at the ingredients.

1 Pint Heavy Cream

Heavy cream, of course, is the most important ingredient in real ice cream. Unfortunately, a pint of it can cost you almost as much as you’d spend on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But making your own at home gives you control over just how much of each ingredient you’ll be eating.

Price: About $3.29 a pint

¾ Cup Sugar

Sugar is pretty cheap, and the great thing about making ice cream yourself is that you can decide to put more or less sugar depending on your taste. And if you’re diabetic, you can even add a safer sweetener like stevia instead. And if you are using sugar, a little less means fewer calories but still a nice texture.

Price: 67 cents (Based on $1.79 per pound)

1 Tablespoon Vanilla

We’re talking about real vanilla extract here, since it’s natural, not imitation vanilla. You’ll want your ice cream to taste good after all, and imitation vanilla extract can have a bitter aftertaste, as notes.

Price: $1.80 (Based on $3.59 an ounce)

1 Cup Whole Milk

This particular recipe calls for whole milk in addition to heavy cream, though there are some recipes that only call for whole milk and others that call for half and half in place of both.

Price: 60 cents (Based on $1.20 a pint) Adding it Up

In total, if you’re getting the same machine we used, you’ll spend about $56.31 on your first batch of ice cream, which is about five cups’ worth, and the ingredients alone will cost you more than you’d spend on store-bought ice cream. For each additional batch, you’ll spend about $6.36 per batch.

But Safeway brand vanilla ice cream, for instance, costs just $1.99 for 1.5 quarts. And since homemade ice cream is more expensive, you never really recoup the costs of the machine.

Are There Any Ways to Save?

Attempting to buy all of your ingredients in bulk to lower your costs probably won’t work unless you plan to consume several quarts of ice cream per week since it’ll only be a couple of days before your remaining dairy products go bad.

But there is at least one recipe that just might lower your costs a bit: two-ingredient ice cream made with just cream and honey.

But if you enjoy making homemade desserts, DIY ice cream with an ice cream maker will probably be worth the extra money.

Is the cost of an ice cream maker too much to for your budget? Here are some ways to make ice cream without a machine, and even without even without a freezer!

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