Cost Benefits of Freshly Brewed Iced Tea

Today’s Frugal Tuesday Tip comes from guest blogger Melissa. Melissa lives in suburban New Jersey with her husband and 13-year-old son.  She blogs at Frugal Creativity about family, faith, food, and frugal living.


I remember my mom brewing iced tea, probably every day during the summer, for all the years I was growing up. And while I still like it, I’ve probably made my own about five times, ever. It’s easier, I guess, to drink bottled iced tea.

Iced Tea with Pitcherphoto © 2010 Evan Swigart | more info (via: Wylio)I like the sweet fruit-flavored iced tea from a bottle–but I don’t need the extra expense or the extra sugar.  My favorite bottled raspberry iced tea contains 21 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving.  That’s about 160 calories, all from sugar, in a 16-ounce bottle.  (We don’t do artificial sweeteners, so the diet version isn’t an option.)

The cost?  At my supermarket, that brand of raspberry iced tea is $4.99 for six 16-ounce bottles, or $9.99 for twelve.  That works out to about $0.42 per 8-ounce serving.  The individual bottles are even more costly, but for price comparison, let’s use the multi-packs.

Bottled unsweetened, unflavored iced tea–the only brand that my store carries in a multi-pack–costs $6.99 for six 16-ounce bottles.  That’s just about $0.58 per 8-ounce serving.  Seems like a pretty high cost for convenience, to me!

In contrast, these are the prices for tea bags and sugar:

  • Store brand decaf, $1.99 for 48 tea bags (~ $0.04 ea.)
  • Lipton brand, $2.99 for 48 (~ $.06 ea.), or $8.99 for 312 tea bags (~ $0.03 ea.)
  • Store brand raspberry herbal tea, $1.79 for 20 bags (~ $0.09 ea.)
  • Celestial Seasonings Raspberry Zinger tea, $2.79 for 20 bags (~ $0.14 ea.)
  • Domino sugar, 5 pound bag, $3.99 (assuming 2 cups/pound, ~ $0.40 per cup)

Call me incredibly lazy, but I usually drink water instead of making iced tea.  One of these days I’ll make some, though, and the cost comparison is convincing.

Iced Teaphoto © 2008 Pen Waggener | more info (via: Wylio)
Most recipes for iced tea use between 4 tea bags and 8 tea bags per two-quart pitcher (8 servings).  To make strong, sweet iced tea, I’d try using 8 tea bags and 3/4 cup sugar.  Even with the small box of brand-name tea, that works out to about $0.50 for tea and $0.30 for sugar, or $0.10 per serving.

This recipe suggests adding a bag of flavored tea to four regular tea bags.  So let’s say we use 4 brand-name tea bags ($0.25), one Raspberry Zinger bag ($0.14), and 3/4 cup sugar ($0.30).  We’re still spending only $0.69 for two quarts, or less than $0.09 per serving.

Just for fun, let’s figure the cost of the lowest-priced tea we can make.  We need only four bags of brand-name tea from the jumbo package (about $0.12) and no sugar.  That’s about 1-1/2 cents per serving.  The bottled teas, remember, cost between $0.42 and $0.58 per serving!

Of course, your cost will be lowest if you brew tea that’s not as strong, not as sweet, and not raspberry-flavored.  But even if you go for strong, sweet, flavored tea, it’s still far less expensive than bottled tea.  As a bonus, when you brew your own iced tea, you’re not adding empty bottles to the landfill or the recycle stream.

How goofy is it that I’ll try any new cooking or baking recipe, but I don’t make iced tea?  Do you?

3 thoughts on “Cost Benefits of Freshly Brewed Iced Tea”

  1. We always make homemade iced tea as it is very simple and we do not add sugar. We do like to add a flavored herbal tea bag if we want a change. Sun tea is so easy so don’t even need to use electricity. We set a large glass jar in the sun for the day. Thanks for confirming that saving money and not having all those bottles is a great way to stay simple.
    I may have to post about making tea on my blog! Thanks for the idea!

    Alyzabeth’s Mommy

  2. A glass of tea keeps me going through the entire day. It’s not yet been proven it strongly energize me and even on my night shifts I tend to never get tired of doing my task and cool cos it doesn’t make me hungry at all. I love tea stuff and suggest that you also try one.

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