Posted by Gradual Millionaire on August 18th, 2015

The Holy Grail of Frugal Drinks – Homemade Iced Tea

After diligently searching Amazon and making trips to both Walmart and Target tonight, I finally found it – the perfect pitcher for iced tea. Our plastic pitcher was starting to show signs of cracking, while at the same time I’ve been reading about the negative effects of using hot water in plastics (chemical leaching). It’s a little sad how much time I invested into finding the right pitcher, but I wanted a glass pitcher with a thick, sturdy composition that could handle near-boiling water and would not need to be replaced for a long time. Oh, and it had to be under $15. I guess I could have gone for metal or ceramic, but there’s just something about a glass pitcher of iced tea on a summer day that looks and tastes exactly the way it should.

Target ended up coming through for me as it usually does, with a sturdy glass pitcher at $12. This baby looks like it can handle the heat of brewing for a long time to come. I had seen this one on Amazon and it had consistently positive reviews, but it was $20 there and I’d refused the pull the trigger on it.

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My new pitcher

In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m an avid iced tea drinker. My dad passed on the affinity for the cold beverage to my siblings and me from an early age, On just about any day, you could find Arizona tea, Snapples, or a pitcher of fresh brewed tea in the fridge.

Having just gone through a 100-ct box of Lipton tea bags, I started to wonder how much this tea-drinking habit is costing me compared to other alternatives. Being the nerd that I am, I pulled up a calculator and started running the numbers. Here’s what I came up with for the cost per glass of a home-brewed iced tea:

100-count Lipton tea bags = $3.50

4-lb bag of granulated sugar = $2.50

2-qt pitcher of tea = 4 tea bags + 3/4 cup of sugar (the recipe can vary. Most recipes call for 4-8 tea bags, but I find any more than 4 to be too strong, personally. I sometimes use a full cup of sugar, but that’s more for a Southern-style sweet tea and is a lot of sugar for regular consumption).

4 tea bags = $0.14 ($3.50 / 25)

3/4 cup sugar = $0.32 (4 lb = 8 cups. $2.50/8 = $0.3125 rounded up)

I’m going to assume the cost of water and and the electricity for heating are negligible. So, we’ve got a total of $0.46 for a 2-qt (64oz) pitcher of iced tea.

Considering there are 8 cups of iced tea in a 2-qt pitcher, we get somewhere between $0.05 and $0.06 per 8-oz serving of tea. That’s right, just a nickel per cup!

I like to fill up my 18-oz glass bottle for work most days, so this costs me only about $0.13 each day, compared to the $1.75 I would spend getting a drink at the vending machine or at one of the local coffee shops. At 5 days a week, this could work out to about $32 in savings each month. Even if you compare it to buying bottles of iced tea at the grocery store, the difference is pretty substantial. Also, it’s healthier and better-tasting to make your own real tea than to buy the artificial tea-flavored drinks that are most common. The only close alternative to home-brewed tea is Lipton Pure Leaf iced tea, which is made with real tea, sugar, and water – nothing else. But, at around $1 per bottle in a pack ($1.79 individually) they’re pretty expensive for what they are.

All if this works out to make homemade iced tea the cheapest drink besides plain water that I know of. What other drinks can you get for a nickel these days?