Making Affordable Homemade Ice Cream

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Believe it or not, homemade ice cream not only tastes better than store bought, but the cost analysis is comparable. Imagine all the custom-made concoctions you can enjoy this summer!

I’ve always loved the flavor and fun of homemade ice cream. It tastes so much better than store bought. And there is such excitement when an ice cream machine starts churning. The air just bursts with anticipation!

When I was a kid, we would go to backyard BBQs where the hosts would handcrank the ice cream for what seemed like hours. Later, electronic machines took over for the cranks, but you still needed to remember to buy the salt and ice. Nowadays a gel-filled canister takes the place of the ice and salt. Soft serve in a matter of minutes.

Recently, I took the plunge of buying an ice cream maker. One of those fancy-store-the-canister-in-the-freezer kind. Yeah, I know, I’m a sucker for small kitchen appliances.

I had priced out ice cream at the store a few days prior and was amazed at how small the packages had become and how high the prices, even on sale. Not to mention the unpronounceable ingredients!

Since we tend to give our appliances a good run for their money, I knew we could make it work for us in that way. A quick search showed me that Costco’s price was pretty fab for the model in question. It’s not the newest model, but it’s $32.99 right now at Costco. More on the machine once I’ve used it enough to report effectively. (Head’s up! If you make a purchase through that Amazon link there, I do receive a small percentage of the sale.)

But aren’t the ingredients expensive?

Currently, I can buy half-gallons of organic cream at Costco for $6.79, or $0.85/cup. Milk is around $2.55/gallon, or $0.15/cup. Evaporated sugar cane juice, the sweetener I’m now using is $0.80/cup.

I used the recipe from the ice cream maker as follows:

$0.15 – 1 cup hormone-free milk

$1.70 – 2 cups organic cream

$0.60 – 3/4 cup organic evaporated sugar cane juice

$2.45 – Total cost of 1 1/2 quarts of homemade, almost organic ice cream 

Healthier and Cheaper?

Clearly, the ingredients I used were almost as good as it gets. And the price comparison?

In my neck of the woods, ice cream no longer comes in half-gallons. It’s so weird. In fact, one of our preferred brands sells them in 1 1/2 quart tubs. And honestly, I pay a lot more than $2.45 for those tubs, even on sale. Last week their “sale” price was $3.99.

So, the verdict is that homemade ice cream can be more economical and healthier than store-bought. I never thought I would see the day where it was cheaper to make our own.

You can bet that we’ll be making more homemade ice cream, sorbets, sherbets, and frozen yogurt this summer!

0 from 0 votes
Simple Vanilla Ice Cream
Prep Time
30 mins
Chilling Time
2 hrs
Total Time
2 hrs 30 mins
Simple Vanilla Ice Cream is a delight. Made with only four ingredients, it tastes so much better than store-bought.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: homemade ice cream, ice cream, vanilla ice cream
Servings: 8
Calories: 299 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the milk and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Evaporated sugar cane juice takes a little longer to dissolve than regular granulated sugar. Some grains didn't completely dissolve, but I was okay with that.
  2. Stir in the cream and vanilla.
  3. Freeze in the ice cream machine according to the directions provided by the manufacturer of your particular machine.
  4. Once the ice cream has thickened, eat immediately as soft serve ice cream or transfer it to an airtight container and store in the freezer for an additional 2 hours or more.
Recipe Notes

Nutritional values are approximate and based on 1/8 the recipe.

Nutrition Facts
Simple Vanilla Ice Cream
Amount Per Serving
Calories 299 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Fat 23g35%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Cholesterol 85mg28%
Sodium 36mg2%
Potassium 85mg2%
Carbohydrates 22g7%
Sugar 20g22%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 924IU18%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 73mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Paula says

    I didn’t realize how cheap it was to make ice cream. We used to have an ice cream maker and I just loved it! Homemade ice cream beats all!

  2. Stacy says

    I’ve always not wanted to spend money on the ice cream maker, and I figured if we had it we’d eat too much ice cream. Still, it’s tempting. My husband loves ice cream, and so do my son and I.

    I’ll have to look into the cane juice.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      It’s not really juice. It’s evaporated, so it will come in grain form, a little bigger grain than granulated, but smaller than turbinado.

      • Stacy says

        Why do you use that type of sweetener? I’ve been trying to use honey and organic brown sugar, thinking they’re healthier. I tried raw sugar, but it bugged me how big the crystals were–hard to dissolve in baking. I’ve not tried sucanat yet.

        • Jessica Fisher says

          It looks and acts most like granulated sugar but is less processed than sugar. The color difference is amazing. It’s also in my price range, much cheaper than sucanat.

  3. cherie says

    parallel lives
    My cuisinart ice cream maker just arrived
    I got the 2 qt and am looking forward to getting started with it!
    First I need to dig out a designated area for the tub in the freezer!

    My impetus was much the same as yours – haven’t seen a price that propelled me to buy ice cream in ages – and the ingredients are always questionable – as I buy more organic I’d much prefer to make my own choices here as well

    Glad to hear that it’s frugal too!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      IF you can get good prices on the ingredients, it is. Remember I buy in bulk and Costco prices are not the same from store to store.

      • cherie says

        true – just got back from costco myself – no organic cream to be had there – will see what I can grab at TJs – either way I’d rather be purposeful about it – when I have to make it I’ll do it with a plan for it being eaten – in the past I’d wind up with bits and pieces of containers taking up valuable freeer space ;p

        • Donna says

          If you shop at costco and can get the organic half and half, use that for all three of the cups of liquid. I can’t always get the cream at Costco, but the half and half is always there!

  4. Elisabeth says

    I love making ice cream–started last year and haven’t looked back.

    The one thing I’ve started doing to my vanilla ice cream is putting a little nutmeg in the mix. I am over the top about nutmeg and it makes the vanilla taste so YUMMY!

    • Margaret says

      nutmeg? oh…I bet that is good!!! Thanks

  5. Roxanne says

    This book by our local, Columbus Ohio favorite jeni Britton Bauer, offers great flavors–very intense and some unusual. We love the strawberry (especially when we can use fresh locally grown berries) and salty Carmel.

    • AllieZirkle says

      Thanks Roxanne for this book suggestion!!! I requested it at my local library in AZ, and I might just purchase it here, after my renewals are up! I would never have looked to include cream cheese, but boy what a treat. Thanks again for the suggestion 🙂


  6. I’d like to see more recipes for homemade ice cream. I’ve been on the fence about buying one. My husband is worried about the texture, he wants it to be close to store bought icecream. My only concern is how to make dark chocolate icecream. 🙂

    Thank you for hosting. This week I shared my chocolate espresso mousse recipe. Darn easy and very tasty.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Believe me, I’ll be experimenting. 😉

    • Janel says

      I just linked up my recipe for a mocha-like ice cream that’s made with coconut milk, cocoa powder and espresso. I bet you could make dark chocolate ice cream by just adding some Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder to your favorite vanilla recipe.

  7. I got my little tub ice cream maker a couple of years ago from Target for – I think – $20. Best money we ever spent (on ANOTHER kitchen appliance). We use a simple, South Beach friendly recipe that is SO easy and takes between 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish.

    You will need:

    1 – 1.4 oz. box Sugar Free Jello Instant Pudding
    1 – 12 oz. can Fat Free Evaporated Milk
    1 C. Low Fat Milk
    1/4 C. Splenda

    That’s it. You mix the Jello (any flavor – the chocolate is good and the white chocolate was amazing!) and Splenda, then add the milk and evaporated milk. Stir it well to make sure the lumps are all broken up and then pour into the (pre-frozen) ice cream bucket.

    Easy goodness! 🙂

    • Kathy says

      Thank you SO much for posting this lower calorie, low cholesterol recipe! I loved the recipe in the original post, but we absolutely cannot eat desserts like that.

  8. I so need to get an ice cream maker, I’ve been saying it for the longest time. This sounds great, thanks!

  9. We’ve been trying to buy all natural varieties of ice cream, but it’s so expensive. I’ll have to do a cost break down for our area to see if making our own would be cheaper. I think our milk costs more than yours, but our ice cream costs less. Doesn’t that seem wrong when milk is a main ingredient?

    • Jessica Fisher says

      It’s really the cream that is the main ingredient. But, you can make ice milk or frozen yogurt that could be more economical depending on the ingredients.

  10. My kids keep bugging me to make ice cream. I have 2 sources for larger amounts of cream which does make it cheaper.

    We’ve also noticed the downsizing of ice cream cartons. We switched from Breyer’s to Costco ice cream for my dh because the Breyers kept getting smaller and stayed the same price.

    I shared a recipe for cake and one for buttercream icing from my new local food cooking blog. Enjoy!

  11. Lee says

    I love my ice cream maker, but it makes a gallon and it’s the old school salt and ice kind, so I usually just do it a few times a summer when we are having people over :). Maybe I should invest in the smaller one and use it more often.

  12. Bobbi says

    Just wondering IF this recipe would be possible WITHOUT an icecream maker?? I do not have one, but wonder if there was a way to make it anyway??? Thanks!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I don’t think so. It’s churning and freezing at the same time. Like whipping cream in a blizzard, basically. So, I think you could only do it in the dead of winter. 😉

      • Bobbi says

        Yeah, makes sense! Guess I will HAVE to ask for an ice-cream machine for my b-day, recipe looks great, cannot wait to try it! 🙂

        • Julie says

          I have seen a recipe where you put the ingredients (probably just a portion of the recipe above) into a quart Ziploc inside of a larger gallon Ziploc filled with ice and you can manually shake it. A friend did it and said it was easy but it’s quite a workout. 🙂

          • AllieZirkle says

            My sister and her family make ice cream in the Ziplocs at the beach. They say it’s fast and delish!

          • Bobbi says

            So you shake shake shake till it gets thicken nicely and then freeze? Sounds like it is worth a try! I am assuming you then take the ice cubes out? I think I will get my kids help to shake…… 🙂

          • Jessica Fisher says

            If you google “ice cream in a baggie” you should find the directions. My sister did it at summer camp when she was a counselor. You can do it in individual servings and then eat out of the sandwich size bags.

    • Jes says

      I’ve been making this without an ice cream maker. I take the cream, sugar, and vanilla and mix it in my stand mixer (could also use a hand mixer) till it’s the consistency of whipped cream, then I slowly incorporate the milk. I put the whole bowl in the freezer and take out and mix with the mixer about every half hour till it’s hard enough (soft serv like). Seems to work fine and since it’s made with so much cream, and starts out nice and thick, it doesn’t get really icy from the milk freezing 🙂 It just takes an afternoon to make, instead of being fast with an ice cream maker.

      • Jessica Fisher says

        Great idea! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. sarah says

    Great timing on this post! I was actually having this exact same conversation with my husband yesterday. After pricing a 1.5 qt. ice cream maker, I found that I would only have to make ice cream about 10 times for it to pay for itself. We prefer a brand that uses only real ingredients (milk, sugar, etc.) and that brand has, in fact, shrunk its packaging and raised its price! Thanks for the recipe!

  14. kara says

    Wow, your milk is cheap! A gallon of milk if about $5/gallon for organic and $3-something/gallon for regular. And here I thought everything was more expensive in CA 🙂

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Nope, only gas and land. 😉

      • AllieZirkle says

        AMEN! That is what I keep telling people. Just gas and land. You know, our auto insurance in AZ is TWICE what it costs in CA… UGH!

  15. We make ours with greek yougurt instead of the cream. A little bit healthier but it’s more expensive that way:) I love to top mine with whatever fresh fruit we have and it makes me feel less guilty:)

  16. Technically if it is 85% or more it is considered organic. So I say it is Organic Ice Cream. This sounds delicious and simple ingredients. Where do you find the evaporated cane juice?

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I have found it at Walmart, Ralphs, and ordered it in bulk from Azure Standard.

      • Donna says

        I have found it in large bags (5 lbs) at Costco in WI.

  17. This makes me wonder if I should look into an ice cream maker as well. It’s been on my mind, especially since my husband makes milkshakes almost every night. He would be over the moon if I was able to make ice cream and it taste better than the store. I know nothing about the makers, so I thought I’d have to hand-crank for hours to make it!

  18. Leslie says

    I grew up eating homemade icecream all summer in GA. However, my family’s recipe isn’t as healthy as your’s. Now living in CA, when we make homemade our friends love us more. It’s amazing how many people have never had homemade.

  19. Jen says

    I lucked out and found the same Cuisinart ice cream maker at Goodwill a couple years ago. It looked brand new and was only $5!

  20. Laura says

    I have this ice cream maker, have had it for almost 8 years now. Can’t recommend it enough. I usually make the vanilla and the chocolate in the manual and a peach. The peach isnt quite as healthy (or inexpensive) since it uses pudding mix and canned milks but its sooo good. Here it is if anyone is interested-

    2 c. peeled, diced fresh peaches (about 4 medium ripe peaches)
    1/2 c. sugar
    1/2 can evaporated milk
    1/2 pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix
    1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
    2 c. half and half

    Combine peaches and sugar, and let stand 1 hour. Process peach mixture in food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Stir together evaporated milk and pudding mix in a large bowl; stir in peach puree, condensed milk, and half and half. Pour mixture into freezer container of a ice cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturers directions. Spoon into air tight container and freeze until firm.

    And for those who asked about the consistency of homemade ice cream, when you first make it is very soft, like soft serve. After you freeze it, it hardens up a lot. I usually put mine in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften enough to scoop it or leave on the counter to soften.

  21. Donna says

    Hi Jessica! I have the exact same ice cream maker and have had it for over a year now. I wasn’t sure how much I would use it when I got it, but once the kids learned how to make ice cream…it became one of our most used appliances! I know you are getting your kids to help you more in the kitchen. Teach them ice cream recipes! My 16 yr old has become quite the expert and is even developing her own flavors. I use the same recipe for vanilla ice cream, but here’s a quick cheat… I buy the half and half at Costco (I see from your grocery shops you do too) and use that for the 3 cups of liquid. Saves me having to buy a big thing of cream. I always have the half gallon of half and half, so ice cream can be made anytime!! lol Great post!

  22. Diane says

    I can’t wait to make this with my grand daughter. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

  23. Elizabeth says

    This model looks intriguing! One quick question: Amazon says you can make about 1.5 quarts in an hour. However, you need to freeze the gel portion for 8 hours. Does the frozen gel only make one run before it needs to be refreezed? So do you really need 8 hours + 20 minutes to make 1.5 quarts? Or can you do several batches with the frozen gel? Just wondering because my family can go through a lot of ice cream in one sitting. 😉

    • Elizabeth says

      I’m sorry, I meant “you can make about 1.5 quarts in 20 minutes.” Not an hour, as I wrote! Sorry!!

    • Laura says

      If you try to use the canister again after making a batch it does not freeze, it is still mostly liquidy. I have done that, and it does turn out okay after you put it in the freezer but for the best results I only make a batch at a time and then refreeze the canister. In my experience it takes a full 8 hours to freeze it.

      • Elizabeth says

        Thanks, that’s helpful!

  24. Holly says

    This is SO timely! The natural ice cream here in Canada is usually $8 unless on sale. I totally forgot about the electric ice cream maker we registered for, and got, for our wedding almost 15 years ago. We don’t use it often due to having to store the part in the freezer. But now that we have the deep freeze, I will have to price out homemade!

  25. Ellen says

    Sooo, is “cream” heavy whipping cream?

    I haven’t priced it out before, but that makes a compelling case for an ice cream maker being a lot cheaper than our current ice cream obsession…..

    But does it make good frozen yogurt? =)

    • Jessica Fisher says

      There are a number of different phrases used to label cream. I think for ice cream, any of them are fine. But, yes, whipping cream would be one of them.

  26. We’ve been making our own ice cream and frozen yogurt now for 7 years. I have an allergy to nuts, so store-bought ice cream was off limits.

    We’ve had success with everything from dark chocolate, mint chip, vanilla, chocolate cherry, mixed berry, raspberry, & cake batter to strawberry cheesecake and apple pie! All these recipes are on my blog.

    Our base recipe uses 1 more cup liquid (we do 1 C whipping cream and 3 C half and half or milk with 3/4 C sweetener) than yours does, Jessica. Do you find it overly rich with the whipping cream, or does the milk help reduce the richness?

    But, I am with you — it’s actually cheaper & much better for you to make your own.

    Look for ice cream makers at garage sales this spring and summer if you are in the market for one 🙂

    • Jessica Fisher says

      It was very rich. One child thought it tasted like whipped cream. But the next batch that I added mint extract didn’t have that taste.

      • that was our experience too – that’s why we decreased the amount of whipping cream and upped the half and half. I’ve found a difference with mint too! Maybe the extract cuts the thickness with a freshness 😉

  27. Tiana says

    I found a great kefir ice cream recipe…kefir being my new favorite ingredient to use in EVERYTHING:)…anyway, I followed this recipe
    but added 1 container (I think 1 lb) of pureed fresh strawberry’s and it was delicious!

  28. Katie says

    I’ve had my ice cream maker for 16 years now and I LOVE IT! I dread the day that it finally dies, because it’s made great ice cream. My MIL gave me the kitchen aid attachments a few years ago (we make a lot of ice cream), and it works very well too.

    Each of my kids have had ice cream themed birthday parties – the kids loved getting to make their own party favors (everyone took home a pint that they made their own mix-ins for). By far, one of the most economical parties we’ve had.

    Looking forward to my peach tree giving some amazing fruit for peach ice cream soon!!

  29. Amanda Yoder says

    Love having this recipe to try, maybe if we got an ice cream maker for a christmas gift, it would make it possible. I’d love to make our own for the better ingredients, but right now we buy Breyers Vanilla (only 5 ingredients-MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, TARA GUM, NATURAL FLAVOR) and while not organic or hormone free, it’s only $2.50-$3 on sale and our ingredient prices are much higher than yours, so it’s still cheaper to buy it in this area :-/ If prices go up, I will have to come back and reconsider.

    What I do what to recreate is chocolate covered vanilla ice cream pops like the Haagen Daasz/Dove bars! Those are expensive, have a lot of ingredients, and the only one without Caregeenan is Haagen Dasz!

  30. Barb says

    does anyone have the instructions for the older cook’s essential ice cream maker Model # K77102

    if so can you scan it and email it to me @ bjfoust@hotmail. com
    till I find out to run it the sooner I can make some ice cream

    thank you BJFoust

  31. Dena says

    You can thaw a package of frozen berries over three rings of dried pineapple then blend with immersion blender. (Or whatever) That makes jam that you can use for pbj or waffles or you can add it to your ice cream mixture and freeze together for a really healthy berry ice cream. You can cut out some of the sugar in the ice cream recipe too because of the pineapple. I used a quarter cup of sugar for two cups ice cream with berry mix.

    • Dena says

      Plus. Two cups ice cream plus berry mix is at least three cups of liquid to freeze.

    • Sounds yummy. Thanks for the tip!

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