When two economics students make ice cream

by Katie on May 5, 2009

Or rather, when a frugal couple makes ice cream.
Ice cream is my dessert of choice. I could go without ever eating any other sweet thing. But I have a weakness for ice cream. Several months after we started dating, Brandon told me, over a bowl of ice cream, “You know, I think I’ve eaten more ice cream since I met you than the rest of my life put together.” 
Which is impressive, when you consider his age. (He says the same thing every time I make rice. What can I say? Sticking to my swampy, rice-growing area roots.)
When I moved to Arizona, I introduced Brandon’s family to Blue Bell ice cream. There is no other ice cream in Texas. And now, there is no other ice cream for the whole family, either. I have converted all of them, Grandma Mary included. 
But, Brandon and I received a giant, very nice ice cream maker as a wedding gift last June. We opened it and used it for the first time in March. And he really likes it. He likes the ice cream, and he likes the fact that we made it. 
At first, we were just making this orange-flavored (if you can imagine that) sherbet-like blend, that doesn’t require very many ingredients. We made it from the Big Red ice cream recipe my mom uses, but we had to substitute with Orange Crush. It’s more of a slushy frozen treat, rather than creamy ice cream, but good nonetheless. 
After making the orange stuff, we were thinking the homemade version might be the way to go. It didn’t take many ingredients, it was fun to make, and made a giant bucket that lasted quite a while. It seemed like a fairly good deal, compared to $5-6 for a half-gallon of Blue Bell. It wasn’t quite that good, but it was ice cream.
Then, for Easter, since we were on a roll with this ice cream-making, we decided we would make a bucket of homemade vanilla for the family. We just didn’t realize how much would be required. Once we dumped all the ingredients in the bucket, we started to consider whether the homemade version was really worth it. 
So, being the number-crunchers we are, we gathered prices on the ingredients (which took some time to convert all those quarts to gallons and cups to ounces and account for partial egg cartons).
A general idea of the cost analysis: 
Blue Bell wins on price alone, not to mention the time factor involved of gathering all those ingredients and the actual process of making the ice cream. So, in the end, we decided to stick with Blue Bell, and save the Brandon and Katie ice cream for special occasions. 
This isn’t the first time we’ve had spreadsheets dedicated to trivial decisions. I made a similar one when deciding which cookware set to register for: 
I was told, “But Katie, you’re not even buying it. What’s the point?”
“No, I’m not. But I want whoever does to get the best deal on it. It’s the principle.”
If you ask my family, they would probably say “It’s the principle,” is my signature line. For example, I refuse to eat in ball parks – $7 for a hot dog? My parents say, “Katie, it’s okay. We’ll buy the hot dog.”
“No, Mom. It’s the principle. I don’t want anyone spending seven bucks on a hot dog. It doesn’t matter where the money is coming from.”
This exact conversation happened while they were visiting, when I was busy making everyone a sandwich before we left for a spring training baseball game. 
Now, we’ll have to see what calculations we come up with for the $1 burger specials at McDonald’s and Jack in the Box. From previous discussions, we don’t think you can make them cheaper. 

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