Thursday, August 13, 2009

Three Bucks a Day Gourmet: Breakfast

Ahhh, breakfast! The most important meal of the day. It's not too difficult to fit a good hearty breakfast in on three bucks per person per day. Breakfast foods are generally cheap, filling, and healthy. Here's how I do it:

(1) Fill them up with oatmeal. Oatmeal, butter, and maple syrup are bought in bulk; the oatmeal is less than .70 per pound; butter is 2 bucks a pound or less (I buy it when it goes on sale and freeze it). All liquid sweeteners are bought in bulk, and we use very little. I got one of those very small-tipped squeeze bottles used by high end restaurants for saucing plates (.98 at Target or Wal-Mart) and decant the maple and honey into those so my heavy pourers can't OD on the syrup. We do keep instant oatmeal packets around for "those mornings." I have a great baked oatmeal recipe which my husband and a couple of my kids love; in the fall and winter it is used heavily.

(2) Bagels and cream cheese. Very inexpensive, lots of protein. I buy whole wheat bagels in bulk at Costco or Sam's Club. Cream cheese is bought at Trader Joe's for 1.29 per 8 ounces (it is hormone free, and though I can get it cheaper elsewhere it is worth the money for me). I whip a couple of bricks of cream cheese bricks up into whipped cream cheese and that stretches it and makes it easier to spread. I do the same thing with butter -- whip it with some canola oil or skim milk and it stretches the butter (don't use this for cooking or baking, just spreading and grilled cheese).

(3) Baboo and I drink coffee. We spend about 20 bucks a month for organic chem-free decaf. Real half and half is 3.79 for a half-gallon, which lasts all month.

(4) Cereal is either bought with a coupon, on sale (never more than a dollar a box). Many times I can get it for less than a dollar a box and I stock up. I try to minimize cereal breakfasts, they don't fill the kids up as well as the options above.

(5) On weekends or days off, I sometimes make cinnamon toast, or a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls, or homemade muffins (carrot/pineapple, sometimes cranberry orange, sometimes pumpkin). I use at least half whole wheat flour.

(6) In the summer, we drink a lot of breakfast smoothies. Seasonal fruit (berries and peaches) with some low fat yogurt, low fat milk, protein powder, flax seed, and crushed ice make a really filling, really refreshing breakfast.

(6) I batch-bake whole wheat waffles and pancakes and freeze them. They defrost and crisp up nicely in the toaster.

(7) Once in a blue moon (every 6 months or so) I get a screaming deal on toaster waffles or (gasp) Pop-Tarts. I never pay more than .50 per box for this stuff; I just don't buy it unless it is this cheap. Each kid gets his fair share of the loot, which is divvied up and labeled with the kids' names. When their share is gone, it's gone. It is always interesting to see who eats theirs up first and who rations theirs out.

(8) Hard boiled eggs are a great quick breakfast, paired with some whole wheat toast and juice. We keep about a dozen around for snacks and breakfasts.

(9) In a pinch, we have had a granola bar, string cheese, and an apple for breakfast in the car on the way to school or church. Quick, relatively nutritionally sound, and not messy.

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