There’s no free lunch, but …

14 10 2008

… breakfast can be pretty cheap!

We’ve been eating oatmeal every weekday morning for a year or two since it’s quick, easy, healthy, variable and inexpensive. It’s not exciting, but I can manage to muster up dog food and people food while waiting for coffee instead of the other way around. Also, while it’s technically the same breakfast every morning, it’s really quite different depending on whether it’s walnut blueberry, peach cardamom, almond date, or apple cinnamon.

Since I refilled my oatmeal supply yesterday, I thought I’d examine more closely the cost of breakfast. For a long time, I’d buy Bob’s Red Mill extra thick cut oats (organic) from the bulk section at the co-op. They’re a pretty good deal at something like a dollar per pound. Whenever we’d get down to the mill store in Milwaukie, I’d grab a 25 pound bag. Recently I discovered that Cash and Carry in Bellingham carries Bob’s oats in 25 pound bags as well. Unfortunately they don’t have the organic, but at least they have the thick cut and $14.28 seemed like a good deal to me.

Not too far from the oats, I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before: a 50 pound sack of raw sugar! I tend to get raw sugar as a bit of a splurge and set it out for company coffee since it’s fairly pricey so our “house sugar” has been Wholesome Sweeteners organic cane sugar which I buy from Costco for $7.99 for a 10 pound bag. I also get regular C&H brown sugar which is $2.79 for a 2 pound bag. Well, $34.68 is a bit to spend on sugar all at once, but it can be used instead of both of the others and at 69¢ per pound is a pretty good deal. No, it’s not organic and it will color some of the paler foods, but I can compromise a bit. In fact, the budget dictates pretty much that I have to! At least it’s less processed than both white and brown sugars, simplifies my pantry, and gives me one giant recyclable paper sack instead of many smaller plastic packages.

How do I store these giant sacks of oats and sugar? Right next to the giant sack of flour in my office closet! It’s a cool, dry and dark location and relatively handy to the kitchen. I keep my flours in large Rubbermaid tubs and will most likely get another for the sugar once I open the bag. It helps keep the mess down and provides some protection.

Oh yeah, back to breakfast.

I generally make two servings because there’s two of us, but I did the math for one serving so it can be easily multiplied for each family situation.

3 ounces (3/4 cup) oatmeal = 10¢

1/2 tablespoon butter = 3¢ *

1 ounce frozen blueberries = 12¢

1/2 ounce walnuts = 15¢

1/2 ounce sugar = 2¢

So apparently, besides being the answer to life and everything, 42 cents is the price of a healthy oatmeal breakfast! Of course, the price varies depending on add-ins, but you get the idea. It’s unlikely that any pouch of instant oatmeal would provide so much whole food nutrition for that price. Besides the options mentioned above, I will also often substitute 1/4 cup of oatmeal with 1/4 cup of kasha in a 2 serving batch. I like the nuttiness that the buckwheat imparts and it raises the protein level as well. By switching up fresh and dried fruits, different types of nuts, and different spices, it seems like the variations are limitless. At least limitless enough to not need to have the same thing every morning.

Then there’s oatmeal cookies …

* Butter purchased at Costco $8.49 for 4 pounds (this went up $1 in a month!), 3 pound Kirkland walnuts for $14 and change purchased last spring, and U-pick organic blueberries at $2/pound

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2 responses

18 10 2008
audrey

I never thought to look for organic cane sugar at Costco. Thanks for the tip!

29 11 2008
Root Cellar and Pantry Spaces « Feasting in the Skagit foodshed

[…] stays somewhere in the neighborhood of 50F – 60F most of the year. It is also dry. Here I can store large sacks of oatmeal, flour, sugar and onions. I picked up a box of sweet potatoes and it seems to be the perfect […]

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