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How to make DIY instant microwave oatmeal for one

 By request, after I mentioned adding a carrot to my oats!

Collage of DIY microwave oatmeal photos.

Aside from maybe fried mush, oatmeal is one of the cheapest breakfast foods I can think of.

Oatmeal with frozen peaches.

Oatmeal with peaches (which I froze this summer when I bought boxes of discounted bruised peaches)

But this is not so true if you are buying the little packets; those are typically more around the price of cold cereal.

Of course, this is not a make-or-break type of expense; your ability to retire early is not going to depend solely on you choosing oatmeal over corn flakes.

But if you’d like to try eating the most frugal version of oatmeal, well, packets are not the way to go.

Why go DIY instead of using packets?

DIY oatmeal ingredients.

There are a few other reasons I prefer a big container of oatmeal to the packets.

My DIY oats

  • produce less trash per serving
  • are less mushy than the packet oatmeal
  • are easy to customize
  • are lower in sugar*
  • make a great vehicle for using up produce, nuts, and dried fruit

*an exception is the plain oatmeal packets. But I would be surprised if many people buy those!

White bowl of carrot cake oatmeal.

Since I’m usually just making one serving for myself, I use the microwave, but you can certainly use a small pot on your stovetop as well.

For one serving of basic oats, I use:

  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup water
  • a dash of salt
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • sugar to taste

I put it all in a glass bowl, microwave for 2:30 (your mileage may vary because microwaves vary!), stir, and top with milk or cream.

The prep takes almost no time, so I’d guess this method is very nearly as speedy as the packets.

Why I don’t pre-make “packets”

I know some people love doing making their own packets, using ziplock bags, and if it works for you, more power to you.

But it takes me so little time to throw a few ingredients together in a bowl, I have a hard time imagining that the homemade packets would save me much time. 

About that carrot oatmeal…

Since I am always looking for ways to add more produce into my diet, I sometimes make a carrot-cake-ish version of oats.

Carrots in a bowl of oatmeal.

(This is right in line with my “add more of the good stuff” dietary approach.)

For carrot oats, I use the ingredients above and I add shredded carrots, shredded unsweetened coconut, allspice, vanilla, and some type of dried fruit (raisins, dates, currants).

Bags of dates and currants.

This obviously does not taste quite like carrot cake. But it is a pretty delicious way to get a vegetable into a meal that is not typically vegetable-heavy.

And it is also a very good way to use dried fruit that has gotten extremely dry, since the dried fruit softens up really nicely in the oats. 

Dates in a bowl of uncooked oats

Do you cook the carrots first?

Nope. They can cook right along with the oats.

If you shred the carrots finely, they get pretty soft after 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave. If you want them a little chewier, use the regular side of the shredder.

Other oatmeal add-in ideas

When I make oatmeal, I almost always do it with an eye to what produce needs to be used.

If I spy a mushy apple, I slice it, saute it with some butter and cinnamon, and put it on top of my oatmeal.

sauteed apples

If there’s some leftover fruit sauce from a pancake meal, I put that on my oatmeal.

If there are berries that need to be used, I put those on top after I cook the oatmeal.

Oatmeal topped with berries

A little extra canned pumpkin or other cooked squash, such as butternut, can be stirred in. 

oatmeal with canned pumpkin added.

And one time, I used the last few cranberries to make a quick cooked cranberry sauce to add to my oats.

cranberry oatmeal

That made for some really pink oats once I stirred it all around.

And of course, if you have any nuts in your cabinets, they make a good topping as well.

Oatmeal topped with berries and nuts.

oatmeal with berries and walnuts from my freezer

Really, you just have to experiment and see what you like. Since you are making a single serving, it’s a low-stakes adventure; no big loss if you have a flop.

And the more you experiment, the better you will get at making oatmeal combos that you like. 

What do you like to add to your oatmeal?

P.S. I know some people go the savory route with oatmeal (one of my readers told me she had heard of pizza oatmeal!), but I really cannot handle the idea of savory oats. Nope, nope, nope.

P.P.S. Baked oatmeal recipes abound, but if you are on the hunt, we love this fruity baked oatmeal recipe.

White bowl of oatmeal with carrots.

DIY Microwave Oatmeal for One

Yield: 1 serving
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 32 seconds
Total Time: 1 minute 32 seconds

A super quick, super cheap alternative to oatmeal packets!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • pinch cinnamon
  • sugar, maple syrup, honey to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl (larger than you think you need!) and microwave for 2.5 minutes.
  2. Stir, add desired toppings, and serve.

Notes

Topping Ideas:

-dried fruit

-jam

-fresh fruit

-cream or milk

-shredded coconut

-sauteed apples

-nuts

You can also do add-ins before cooking, such as shredded carrots, shredded coconut, dried fruit, or canned pumpkin.

Other flavorings: try allspice, cardamom, ginger, orange peel or lemon peel.

Experiment and have fun!

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Emma

Sunday 7th of March 2021

For the last nearly 15 years of my life I have eaten (almost) every morning:

microwave oatmeal (cooked in water or water + some dairy that I need to use up) 3/4 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (approx 20grams or so protein) 1-2 tsp. cocoa powder top with whatever dried fruit and nuts I have on hand plus top with some kind of fresh fruit I have on hand

Karen J

Thursday 18th of February 2021

I like my old fashioned oats chewy I guess so only use a 1-1.5 ratio for oats/water (usually 1/3 c oats with 1/3 plus a little more water) and micro 2-3 minutes. Toppings are a variety of whatever we have on hand-Costco dried cherries, cinnamon, brown sugar, cut up fresh fruit, frozen fruit, maple syrup, pecans or almonds. Sometimes I have more toppings than oats. My husband converted me to a pat of butter instead of milk. Recently I bought a box of Cream of Wheat on sale as my mom used to make it when we were kids years ago. Not a fan. We are Team Oatmeal.

Danielle Zecher

Monday 15th of February 2021

Thanks for the carrot cake oatmeal idea! I've been making something similar since I saw this, and I love it. And it makes me feel good that I'm starting the day off with a veggie.

Becca

Sunday 7th of February 2021

I wasn't going to comment on this post, partly because I already detailed my recipe/process for "trash oatmeal" in a previous five frugal things post, and also because after 100+ comments, what more could I possibly add? But, then I read the comments again and saw Jody's brilliant comment about using oatmeal packets as stocking and Easter basket stuffers, and I immediately went back to a high school memory. I never got them in a stocking, but I used to LOVE to eat the individual packets as a snack...dry...as in I would tuck a packet or two into my lunch along with a spoon and just eat the sugary oats right out of the packet, usually on the bus ride to school. My favorite was maple and brown sugar. I was obviously weird, but I bet my weirdo kids would like this too, so I'm definitely adding them to Easter baskets this year, maybe along with a bunny-shaped spoon. ;)

Jenni

Saturday 6th of February 2021

Yes, oatmeal! I eat it almost daily:

Quick oats Water/almond milk Frozen sliced strawberries or blueberries roasted, unsalted almonds (SO GOOD!) Hemp hearts & chia Drizzle of maple syrup

Frugal Girl Community, you rock! Now we're up to 114 comments about oatmeal <3

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