Best Cheap Ice Cream Treats

If you're craving a cool, refreshing, tasty, and cheap ice cream treat, you may be forgiven for thinking that ice cream is ice cream is ice cream. As our panel of six taste testers discovered, however, there's a difference between just okay ice cream treats and those that hit the sweet spot. More importantly, price doesn't seem to matter all that much. We organized a blind tasting of several types of ice cream novelties, including the classic versions of sandwiches, bars, and cones from three budget brands: Klondike, Nestle, and the Kroger store brand. To ensure a more credible assessment of cheap ice cream treats, we threw in ice cream bar samples from two premium brands: Dove and Haagen-Dazs.

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Our Top Pick

Kroger Ice Cream Sandwich

Kroger Sammie Review

Our Picks
Kroger Ice Cream Sandwich

Kroger Sammie Review

Our Kroger ice cream treats review concluded that this in-house brand is a solid choice for a quick, easy, and, best of all, cheap frozen indulgence. The line-up of ice cream novelties in our blind tasting involving two other budget brands included the Kroger Sammie sandwich (31 cents/unit), Kroger Arctic Blaster bar (25 cents/unit), and Kroger Fun Daze Sundae cone (60 cents/unit). In all three categories the Kroger product was the cheapest, and in two fared quite well against the other entries.

Our judges ranked the Kroger Sammie as best in class. They were taken with the crunchy outer chocolate cookie compared with others in the category, which were deemed too soft. "Yum," said one of the tasters, "delicious, nice crunch on the wafer." Others declared that "the ice cream is good -- creamy, sweet, and just right." Our judges' assessment was affirmed by a contributor to Yahoo Voices, whose Kroger Sammie review said the novelty hits the spot, with a cookie that's just the right texture (moderately dry and moderately cakey) and a vanilla center that's satisfyingly sweet.

Due to limited selection in the cones category, the Fun Daze Sundae was judged against just one other, the Nestle Drumstick. The Kroger entry put in a decent showing, falling into place behind the Drumstick. The judges praised the vanilla ice cream and the "flavorful" peanuts atop the chocolate coating, but grumbled about a taste that some deemed too artificial and a waffle cone that was too pliable.

Kroger's Arctic Blaster bar was the brand's Waterloo. The "good ice cream flavor" was noted favorably by our tasters but the hard chocolate shell was dismissed for a taste that was slightly off-putting.

About the nutritional content: The Sammie contains 170 calories and 6 grams of fat; the Kroger Artic Blaster provides 150 calories and 10 grams of fat; and a Fun Daze Sundae delivers a whooping 330 calories and 19 grams of fat.

Kroger sells a wide variety of ice cream products (both novelties and containers of various sizes) and an even wider assortment of flavors. Given the low prices and the results of our Kroger ice cream treats taste test, you can confidently put these goodies in your shopping cart.

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Klondike Original Review

In our Klondike ice cream treats review we compared two products -- the Klondike Original bar (58 cents/unit, Amazon) and the Klondike Classic Vanilla sandwich (58 cents/unit) -- against comparable products from other budget brands, and against two premium brands in the bars category. The results: They equaled or bested even the pricey competition.

The Original Klondike bar tied for first place with the DoveBar, whose unit price of $1.43 set it up along with a $1.60 bar from Haagen-Dazs as the standard to beat in our hands-on tasting of ice cream novelties. According to one panelist, the "ice cream part is absolutely delicious -- the perfect blend of sweet and vanilla" and is accented by the coating's "great rich, but not overpowering, chocolate taste." Several judges referred to the bar simply as "delicious." A blog review of the Klondike Original highlights the thick shell, saying it tastes like chocolate should and is devoid of any waxy mouth-feel.

Klondike's Classic Vanilla sandwich glided into the runner-up spot in our review of ice cream treats. There was some disagreement among the panelists about the product's overall consistency. Some deemed it perfect, with "creamy ice cream and a soft, but not too soft" chocolate cookie holding the center in place. Others didn't care for the outer chocolate layers, described by one as so soft as to be "almost soggy."

Nutrition-wise, the Klondike Original bar contains 250 calories and 14 grams of fat and the Classic Vanilla sandwich delivers a comparatively svelte 180 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.

The lineup of ice cream novelties bearing the Klondike name is filled with the likes of 11 different ice cream bars (e.g., caramel pretzel and mint chocolate chip), three ice cream "kandy" bars (e.g., cookies & cream and caramel & peanuts), four sandwich varieties (including pairings with Oreo and Mrs. Fields), and other novelties, including several with 100 calories or no added sugar.

"What would you do for a Klondike bar?" is a well-known, registered trademark slogan from a company that started out small. Its roots sprouted in Ohio and Pennsylvania in the early 1920's, when the first Klondike bars were ice cream squares hand-dipped into pans of Swiss chocolate. Today the brand is owned by Unilever and is part of the Good Humor-Breyers family.

Available nationwide, Klondike ice cream products will appeal to a wide assembly of eager consumers.

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Nestle Drumstick Review

The Nestle ice cream treats review encompassed three specific products and sparked mixed verdicts from our judges. For this label we included the Drumstick cone (92 cents/unit), Eskimo Pie bar (83 cents/unit), and Vanilla Sandwich (83 cents/unit) in our blind tasting of low-cost ice cream novelties. The final outcome was best, good, and indifferent, for each respective product.

The well-known Drumstick, with its vanilla ice cream nestling under a layer of chocolate coating and splash of chopped peanuts, satisfied the panelists' taste buds. It competed against just one other entry (the Kroger Fun Daze Sundae) and easily emerged the favorite. The panel concluded that the ice cream was "packed with a rich vanilla bean flavor," the cone was "crunchy" and surpassed its rival by far, and overall was "the better of the two." They also noted that it had a "less artificial" taste and feel in their mouths. Consumers who posted comments of various iterations of the original Drumstick theme at Viewpoints applaud loudly, with many asserting this treat is their favorite, reminiscent of childhood and a delicious indulgence in any season.

By contrast, Nestle's Vanilla Sandwich tanked in our review. Only two judges declared it tops, with one calling it the best of the bunch owing to the "soft sandwich" and "creamy, flavorful" vanilla ice cream. The other panelists outweighed the supporters, ranking it last due to a "soggy" chocolate cookie and "just okay" ice cream.

The tasting panel also expressed mixed opinions about the Nestle Eskimo Pie ice cream bar. "It has an initial wow factor -- a strong taste in a good way," declared one juror. But the rest of our tasting panel thought the ice cream was "lacking a strong vanilla flavor" and one member even called it "weird." Nonetheless, it floated into second place for the bar category.

Among these Nestle ice cream novelties, the Drumstick is the most indulgent: 290 calories and 16 grams of fat. Both the Vanilla sandwich and Eskimo Pie are comparatively healthful: 160 calories and 4 grams of fat, and 150 calories and 10 grams of fat, respectively.

Nestle puts out a large assortment of ice cream treats and flavors. The Drumstick line alone includes seven varieties of the classic cone, three "simply dipped" products, three with a so-called flat top, and four "Lil' Drums." Frozen dairy treats also include the Crunch Bar and single-bite Dibs. Nestle owns a stable of brands, such as Haagen-Dazs, Edy's, Skinny Cow, Dreyer's, Frosty Paws, and Wonka.

Klondike Classic Vanilla

Klondike Classic Vanilla Review

Nestle Eskimo Pie

Nestle Eskimo Pie Review

Kroger Fun Daze Sundae

Kroger Fun Daze Sundae Review

Nestle Vanilla Sandwich

Nestle Vanilla Sandwich Review

Kroger Arctic Blaster

Kroger Arctic Blaster Review

Buying Guide

Ice Cream Treats Taste Test

Ice cream treats vary widely in price. At our local Kroger in Columbus, Ohio, ice cream sandwiches were the cheapest, cones were the most expensive, and bars were squished in between. In the Cheapism price niche, our research found that an individual ice cream treat can be had for as little as 30 cents and as much as $1, while an upmarket alternative could easily ring up higher than $1.50.

Among the array of cheap ice cream novelties in our test, the in-house Kroger brand was the least costly across the board. The day we shopped the unit price for a Kroger Sammie sandwich was 31 cents; an Arctic Blaster bar costs 25 cents; and a Fun Daze Sundae cone was tagged at 60 cents. The priciest ice cream treat we sampled was the Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar (the only comparable treat we found from this brand), whose unit price was $1.60. The DoveBar with Vanilla Ice Cream and Milk Chocolate also exceeded our price ceiling, coming in with a unit price of $1.43. Klondike ice cream treats were acceptably within budget: a unit price of 58 cents for both an Original bar and a Classic Vanilla sandwich (no cones with this brand). Prices for Nestle's bars and sandwiches froze in the budget segment, as well, with a unit price of 83 cents for both the Eskimo Pie and the Vanilla Sandwich while the Nestle Drumstick came in at 92 cents.

We asked the panelists to rank each ice cream treat in its respective grouping, from best to worst. While many expressed a pre-tasting preference for Haagen-Dazs products in general, the taste test failed to affirm this initial bias. In the end, the low-cost ice cream novelties we tested held their own against, or bested, the ice cream bars bearing premium-brand labels -- cause enough for frugal ice cream lovers to cheer.

What criteria did panel members use to assess one cheap ice cream treat against another? Very early on it became clear that all of our judges were looking for similar characteristics. Flavor was first and foremost; any hint of an artificial taste was decidedly frowned upon. For the ice cream bars, tasters wanted an outer shell with a definite chocolate flavor and a nice, snappy crunch. For the sandwiches and cones, the outer shell (cookie/biscuit or waffle cone, respectively) also had to pass the crunch test. In part, these criteria meant that the treats had to be fresh, and not stale. And of course, the vanilla ice cream that filled out all the novelties we sampled had to stand as a worthy partner to the accompanying chocolate.

The Results

In the sandwich category, the judges favored the Kroger Sammie, ranked the Klondike Classic Vanilla a close second, and relegated the Nestle Vanilla Sandwich to last place. For the bar variety of inexpensive ice cream treats, tasters elevated the Klondike Original to first place, assigned the Nestle Eskimo Bar to runner-up status, and left the Kroger Arctic Blaster melting in last place. The DoveBar earned enough votes to rank as another best in that category, while the Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar was a surprising wash-out; given the rules of the tasting, however, the un-cheap prices disqualified both products from a listing in the official results. Of the two cones we sampled -- the Nestle Drumstick and the comparable Kroger Fun Daze Sundae -- the Nestle treat won out, although the Kroger cone claimed its share of fans.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

The Kroger Sammie (31 cents), Klondike Classic Vanilla (58 cents), and Nestle Vanilla Sandwich (83 cents) ranked best, good, and don't bother, respectively, in our blind tasting of ice cream novelties. But even the last-place finisher evaded a volley of barbs, suggesting that low price is no barrier to a satisfying ice cream treat. Of the winning Kroger store brand, whose chocolate cookie shell and ice cream center proved to be the winning combination, our reviewers served up a host of compliments. One taster summed up the consensus by declaring the Kroger Sammie presented "crunchy chocolate, good ice cream, and sweet lingering aftertaste." Several others described the ice cream flavor as "excellent."

The runner-up, Klondike Classic Vanilla, garnered several comments on the order of "overall delicious." One person concluded that the taste was "great" but "the wafer was too soft." Our jury split over the Nestle Vanilla Sandwich. Some members really liked it, while others deemed the ice cream lackluster. Said one taster: "The chocolate sandwich is good, but the ice cream is not my favorite." Several panelists dittoed this assessment.

Ice Cream Bars

The bars category included the most competitors angling for first-place bragging rights. In addition to samples from the three budget brands (Klondike, Nestle, and Kroger), the panel tasted bars from Dove and Haagen-Dazs. The Nestle Eskimo Pie (83 cents), Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar ($1.60), and DoveBar with Vanilla Ice Cream and Milk Chocolate ($1.43) all come on a stick; the Klondike Original (58 cents) and Kroger Arctic Blaster (25 cents) arrive as simple chocolate-coated rectangles of vanilla ice cream. This small detail didn't seem to affect the panel's collective verdict.

Klondike took the lead here alongside the high-priced DoveBar, which was merely a symbolic co-winner due to its upmarket price. One judge concluded that the Klondike bar was "by far the best" given its "creamy ice cream and great chocolate" shell. The "thick chocolate shell" of the DoveBar likewise was a hit with the crowd. Nestle's Eskimo Pie earned the runner-up spot owing to mixed assessments. Tasters told us the flavor was "okay" but the ice cream, on its own, failed to satisfy.

The Kroger store brand took a fall in this phase of our ice cream treats tasting. After snatching first place in the sandwich category with the Sammie, its Arctic Blaster bar landed in last place. A majority of panelists said the chocolate outer shell "wasn't quite right." One person described the taste as "odd," an adjective several others echoed. Almost unbelievably, given the brand's reputation and popularity, the Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar tanked as reviewers offered up split opinions. Said one panelist, who succinctly captured the tart reaction to this entry: "I don't like the taste of the chocolate, but the ice cream is good."

Ice Cream Cones

There were only two budget ice cream novelties contenders in this category: the Kroger Fun Daze Sundae (60 cents) and the Nestle Drumstick (92 cents). Both are vanilla cones dipped in chocolate and encased in a flurry of chopped peanuts. Of the two, the Nestle Drumstick was the No. 1 pick mostly due to the quality and condition of the cone. Reviewers who favored the Drumstick said it contained the "crunchier and better cone" and "very good" ice cream. As for the Kroger product, tasters determined that it presented a "strong peanut taste and good ice cream flavor" but withheld votes because of a cone that was "too soft."