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The Most Important Meal of the Day: Saving Money & My Husband’s Cholesterol with Oatmeal

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Awake at the Whisk: The Most Important Meal of the Day: Saving Money & My Husband’s Cholesterol with Oatmeal

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The Most Important Meal of the Day: Saving Money & My Husband’s Cholesterol with Oatmeal

Nothing feels more satisfying than waking up on a cold morning and wrapping your hands around a steaming bowl of oatmeal. As your fingers warm, your tummy does, too. It’s the feeling of sitting inside Grandma’s kitchen where the morning isn’t rushed, plans for the day are revealed, and news from the paper is discussed. All this comfort in a cup of oats.

Yet, there’s so much more to oatmeal than mere comfort. It can save you time, money, and improve your health, too. All this in a simple cup of oats.

My husband and I used to dine regularly on cold cereal and milk each morning. I might have slept in while he gobbled down his ingredients. When I was finally situated with my own bowl, he was off to the shower. Since switching to oatmeal, we share our mornings together while reading the paper. To me, that’s worth the extra ten minutes to prepare it.

We switched to oatmeal in a creative move to address two concerns: 1) our household budget in a crummy economy, and 2) a cholesterol test that showed my husband’s points were too high. The easy answer to both these dilemmas: oatmeal!

Thanks to cereal commercials, most folks know about the cholesterol-fighting power of oats. Yet, I never thought twice about its financial benefits when purchased in raw form.

When we were eating cereal, we were paying about $3 per box. My husband would eat two boxes per week, and I would eat one box of my own. Once you factor in the cost of organic milk (a “luxury” item we refuse to skimp on—we don’t want extra hormones and antibiotics floating around our bodies), that’s another $6.50 per week, and a gallon would hardly get us from Monday to Sunday. That’s about $16 each week just on our morning breakfast.

In addition to the high dollar cost, I also noticed that most cereals are loaded with extra sugars and preservatives—even the “healthy” kinds. For example, a toasted rice cereal with zero grams of fiber and no whole grains contains four grams of sugar. When eating cereal, I normally opt for cereals with high fiber and whole grains. Yet, many of these contain 20 or more grams of sugar. They also contain ingredients like “emulsifiers.” I’m not sure how those work inside my body, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to eat them if I don’t have to.

Put the health and budget concerns together, and oatmeal is starting to sound like a brilliant solution! My husband and I used to prepare oatmeal on the weekends as a treat like others might prepare pancakes. Adding it to our daily routine would feel special every day of the week.

Although I’m shopping on a budget, I don’t have to skimp on my oatmeal. Here is my comparison of cereal versus oatmeal costs per week:

Milk, $.650
3 boxes cereal, $9
TOTAL: $15.50

Water, $0
2-lb package oat bran, $3 (lasts two weeks, so $1.50/week)
Raisins, $2.50 (lasts two weeks, so $1.25/week)
½-lb walnuts from farmers’ market, $3
Brown sugar, $1/week
Cinnamon, $1/week
TOTAL: $7.75

I save $31 each month just by switching to oatmeal. And I consider my oatmeal pretty fancy. Most folks would be happy without the nuts and cinnamon, but I’m just gourmet like that.

Altogether, I’m spending far less money, yet buying high quality ingredients—without any funky preservatives. I control the quality of my breakfast and share a warm meal with my husband every morning.

On top of the savings, we’re starting the day right with lots of healthy fiber. I stay full longer, so I eat a smaller lunch, and I just feel darn satisfied after my breakfast.

I’ve also figured out a way to save time each morning. I don’t wait for oats to simmer on the stovetop, and I don’t have to wash a pan. With oat bran, the steps are quick and easy (instant, really), and breakfast can be prepared right in a cereal bowl (this also makes it easy for folks to individualize their own).

I also love oatmeal because it’s such a versatile canvas. If I’ve made a pumpkin dessert over the weekend and have extra pumpkin puree, I will stir the leftover into my oatmeal during the week. If I run out of cinnamon, I’ll use cloves or cardamom to spice up my morning. I’ve added coconut and ginger for a fresh flavor. I’ve added peanut butter for a heartier morning. I also add slices of whatever fruit is in season. You can throw in wheat germ, corn meal, or any other grain you like. Breakfast is never boring with oatmeal, and it’s extremely hard to mess up.

I would never have imagined so much depth was wrapped up in a cup of oats. Yet, each morning I look into my steaming bowl and feel comfort. I know my husband is healthier (he doesn’t have high cholesterol any more). I am healthier. Our pocketbooks are fuller. And our morning starts off richer. All this in a cup of oats.

Homemade Quick Oatmeal
½ to 1 cup boiling water (depending on how moist you like your oatmeal)
1/3 cup oat bran
¼ cup chopped local walnuts
1 heaping Tablespoon organic raisins
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon—add more if you like it spicier. (I do.)
½ Tablespoon organic brown sugar
Splash of whole grain milk, organic milk, whatever you drink; (eggnog is yummy at the holidays)

The amounts listed above serve one person. If you’re cooking for two, double it. And so on.

First, I boil about two cups of water in my tea pot. The water needs to boil. If it’s just lukewarm the oats won’t set and it will be soupy.

While the water heats, I fill two bowls (one for me, one for the husbo), each with the above-listed amounts of oat bran, raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon. I mix the ingredients together in each bowl while they are dry. This prevents the oat bran from clumping when I add the hot water.

I pour the boiled water into one bowl of oat mixture and stir, and then repeat in the second bowl. I top them each with a splash of milk (and sometimes more water) until I get the consistency I like. I sprinkle a little brown sugar on top (add this last, because it can slow the oats from setting if you add it too soon), and we’re ready to eat! No pans to clean up, no time wasted over a hot stove. It’s faster than quick oats and contains a heck of a lot more fiber.

If you’re traveling, you can make this ahead and pack it in individual containers. All you need is boiling water to add, and you’ve got a healthy breakfast no matter where you are!

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Yum! You are inspiring me to do the same. We'll see how it goes. I could use more breakfast foods and my husband could also use some healthy oatmeal...:) thanks!

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