By request, after I mentioned adding a carrot to my oats!
Aside from maybe fried mush, oatmeal is one of the cheapest breakfast foods I can think of.
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?
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!
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.
(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).
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.
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.
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.
A little extra canned pumpkin or other cooked squash, such as butternut, can be stirred in.
And one time, I used the last few cranberries to make a quick cooked cranberry sauce to add to my oats.
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.
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.
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- pinch salt
- 3/4 cup water (or milk)
- pinch cinnamon
- sugar, maple syrup, honey to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl (larger than you think you need!) and microwave for 2.5 minutes.
- Stir, add desired toppings, and serve.
-cream or milk
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!