A Frugal Breakfast that’s Good for You

Do you ever skip breakfast?

If so, congratulations! You’re eating the ultimate frugal breakfast: a breakfast of nothing!

Of course, while that might be a nice frugal victory, we all know that we shouldn’t skip breakfast. It’s very often described as the most important meal of the day. When you eat breakfast, you’re literally breaking the “fast” that took place while you were sleeping. You consumed no nutrients since the prior day, so your body needs to be nourished to get a new day started on the right foot.

It has been shown that people who skip breakfast, and make up for it later in the day, tend to consume more food later when they eat. Additionally, when hungry, they tend to be more likely to eat higher-calorie, less-nutritious food as well.  Furthermore, without breakfast, we just don’t have the right energy in the morning to optimize our health and attitude as we get the day going.

Ok, so we know that we must eat breakfast. But how can we do it cheaply, and nutritiously?

For me, the choice is oatmeal. Now, I have to say that I never grew up eating oatmeal. I ate more of the processed, sugary cereals that line supermarket shelves than I probably should have. Let’s chalk that up to the ways of the 1970’s and 1980’s (I just can’t blame my Mom and Dad!).

These days, however, it’s almost like a habit to start the day with oatmeal. While I occasionally have a homemade, nutritious smoothie, it’s oatmeal that’s usually for breakfast.

Why oatmeal? Well, besides tasting good (at least to many of us), oatmeal has the following 3 big benefits:

1) Helps you lose weight by controlling cravings

2) Helps reduce LDL cholesterol

3) Is good for diabetics, as it slows the digestion of starch

4) Provides a good source of protein, fiber, and nutrients

And here’s the part that’s exciting to the frugally-oriented:  it’s very inexpensive.

I recently bought a canister of quick oats, in a non-name brand version, and paid $0.99 for 16 ounces. This comes out to about 11 servings of 1/2 dry cup of oats, which represents exactly how much I have in the morning.

Basic math tells me that I paid $0.09 for my morning serving of oatmeal. That’s it. Nine cents!

Now, I do like to doctor up the oatmeal a bit, and supercharge it with additional nutrients. I usually, depending on the day, add one, two, or all three of the following:

  • 1/2 tbsp flaxseed – cost $0.04
  • 3 strawberries – cost $0.40
  • 1 banana – cost $0.20
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon – cost $0.01

The total cost of this breakfast ranges from $0.09 for the basic version to $0.74 for the fully-loaded version.

It’s been a great way to start the day for me, as I’m getting nutrition and doing it at a reasonable cost – without too much prep time.

What about you? Do you have any breakfast favorites that are both quick and relatively nutritious, that would appeal to the frugally-oriented among us?

This article was included in Festival of Frugality #233 at Learn Save Invest


  1. says

    I splurge and spend 15 cents to 20 cents a package for Instant Oatmeal – I just throw it in a styrofoam cup at work and add hot water from the coffee maker. I know I could make my own packets, but I’m lazy and like the variety of flavors that come in each box.

    When I get tired of oatmeal, I grab a granola bar from the box we get at Sam’s Club…I think they run about 25 to 30 cents each and I have two.

    When I really want something different, I get a sausage, egg, potato, and cheese breakfast taco from our cafeteria for $1.29. They have a variety of options since they make them to order, so it could be healthier if I wanted…but that’s what I want when I want a breakfast taco…oh well.

    I’d say my breakdown is about 2 oatmeal days, 2 granola days, and 1 taco day every work week. I eat leftovers for breakfast on the weekends (I had pizza three days in a row over the past weekend). Work really helps me eat healthier since it would be more of a hassle to rewarm pizza in the microwave across the building than to throw oatmeal in a cup a few steps away from my desk. :-)

  2. thewisesquirrel says

    BFS – I know what you mean about the packs of oatmeal at work. At one point, I would buy oatmeal at my old company’s cafeteria for 65 cents. Then, I decided to bring it in and fill w/hot water just like you do, at $0.20. Then, I decided to pack my own in ziplock bag and pay even less – probably $0.12 when you factor in cost of the bag. But, there’s something to be said about convenience, so a bag works too!

    Its funny how work can influence how we eat:)

  3. says

    I am not frugal when it comes to breakfast at all. My fave breakfast is a smoothie. I take some yogurt, mix in some protein powder, some flaxseed, frozen banana (I freeze the banana), strawberries, and blueberries and throw it in my Magic Bullet. Probably costs way way more than just about any other breakfast you can prepare at home. But, it holds me over for lunch and is probably the healthiest part of my day.

  4. says

    Yeah, I’m healthier at work than I am in my free time. Less access to junk on a regular basis. I plan to slowly work on my eating habits so I won’t eat myself to death in retirement…just too many tasty options…

  5. thewisesquirrel says

    Everyday Tips – I have done the same thing, and I see value in that from a health perspective as well. I have made smoothies with soymilk, banana, vanilla protein powder, plus fruit – could be strawberry, blueberry, papaya, kiwi, peach, whatever I have available. Very similar to what you do – minus the flaxseed, which I put in oatmeal anyway.

    Either smoothie or oatmeal, either makes a great breakfast. I do make smoothies once in a while, though at one time I made them quite often, multiple times per week. Good stuff, loaded with nutrition.

    By the way, those magic bullets are good! I typically use a larger blender, but have seen the magic bullet and think that’s more manageable.

  6. squirrelerfan says

    I sometimes mix one packet of flavored oatmeal with some of the oats from the can, because one packet is not enough but two has too many calories (tons of sugar in those packets). I guess this could be considered a frugal breakfast. My husband eats fresh, raw vegetables for breakfast, such as celery, cherry tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, because that’s what he enjoys and it’s healthy, but that could be considered frugal as well. Interesting perspective…

  7. says

    My favorite breakfasts are either oatmeal, cream of wheat, smoothies with milk and frozen bananas and sometimes coconut and sesame seeds, or eggnog. All frugal, all easy. I also sometimes just eat raw oats with fruit and homemade yogurt.

  8. jen says

    hey, cool. I, too, was raised on cereal and have nearly weaned myself off (much to my own surprise). I now go through a 9 lb box of oatmeal every few months (1/2 cup serving at a time). I’ve figured out that i can microwave the oatmeal in tupperware and still have it be warm when i get to work…pretty cool.

    • thewisesquirrel says

      Jen – that’s a good tip. I’ll might actually try that, though I take the train. I’ll have to be careful eating oatmeal on a train, but I’ll give it a try. I might be able to squeeze a few extra minutes out of my morning this way. Thanks!

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