Friday, August 27, 2010

Frugal Friday: Oatmeal Variety

A typical weekday breakfast at our house is oatmeal. I boil oats, and add cinnamon, diced apples, and raisins. Other times, I add cinnamon and diced peaches. OR I add cinnamon and whatever berry I have. (Yes, always cinnamon. It's good for your blood vessels: lowers cholesterol and blood sugar!)

Oatmeal is so much cheaper than boxed cereals and so much better for you. It helps maintain or lower cholesterol, avoid blood sugar spikes that trigger insulin reactions and encourage storage in fat cells, and keeps your belly feeling satisfied longer. (Wait-- didn't I just say something similar about cinnamon?)

When we had our three foster children, I heard complaints when I introduced this unsugared breakfast option to their diets. The following is how I got them happily eating oatmeal and gradually adjusted them to the non-sweetened version. (This works with adults, too!)

(This bowl is of sweetened oatmeal alone.)

Never waste your money on serving the instant flavored oatmeal as is. It is never filling alone and usually people will make TWO envelopes of the stuff to experience a momentary satiety. But it's flavored with so much sugar and artificial stuff! How to minimize the damage?

  • Boil water enough for 2 servings of regular oats PLUS whatever the instant oatmeal requires.
  • While the water is boiling, pour one packet of instant oatmeal into a bowl and wash or cut whatever fruit you want to add.
  • When the water has come to a boil, pour some of the water onto the instant oats, and put the saucepan back on the burner.
  • Add the dry oats required to prepare 2 servings.
  • Lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.
  • During cooking, add cinnamon (I just shake it in, but it's usually about 1/2 teaspoon). If you add your fruit now it will be soft. You might want that if using apples, may not want that if your berries are already soft. Then, you would add them when cooking is over.
  • When the 5 minutes have passed, remove sauce pan from heat, dump in the fruit if you have not already, and dump in the instant oatmeal that has been sitting in a bowl.
  • Mix well.
Now, you have a sweeter oatmeal to get your picky eaters accustomed to oatmeal. Eventually, you will be able to spread out the one envelope of the "fake stuff" thinner and thinner and go to plain oatmeal with fruit and cinnamon.

I started out this experiment using one packet of sweetened oatmeal to 1 serving of regular oats, and then graduated to one packet per 3 servings. I typically use the 1per3 ratio when I become bored to tears to do another apple/raisin breakfast and I have only a mediocre fruit on hand (like strawberries that aren't properly ripened).

(This bowl is of regular oats mixed with cinnamon, sweetened oatmeal, and chunks of fruit.)

"It's just me, why would I make 3 servings of oatmeal?"

Oatmeal keeps well for several days. I make a big batch, eat some, serve some to my toddler, then store the rest. The next morning, I put a serving into a bowl, break it up a little, microwave it, and then mix it up. It tastes just as good and sometimes even better because the fruit and cinnamon flavors have marinated into the oats.

This is a simple way to save money on breakfast AND feel fuller than on a bowl of cereal or a bagel on the run AND help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels AND be better sustained with energy through the morning!

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