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Oatmeal


Ah, oatmeal. Such an economical and healthy food.  Go ahead, look up the nutrition facts. Low in fat, high in vitamins and minerals, good source of healthy carbs. Yes, it's all good for you. Now let's pile on the sugar and have some breakfast.

Oatmeal is cheaper than cereal. Far, far cheaper. It keeps us full longer, and even though I add lots of sugar, I'm sure it can't be worse than the typical cereals we eat. Well, even if it is - at least we stay full longer.

Oatmeal is cheaper if you don't fall for those pre-packaged instant packets. I know, they're easy and perfect and delicious. But they're not cheap.  A 1kg bag of oats costs $4 for a name-brand not on sale. I typically find the same size for $2 or less by waiting for sales, using coupons, or buying no-name.  The same brand oatmeal, but packaged as instant packets, costs $4.29 for a 10-pack box. While they do often go on sale for $2.50 (or did when I used to buy them), they still contain less than half the amount of oatmeal you can get from the larger bags. (The box contains about 15oz/430g - the bag contains 1kg which is more than twice as much - 2.3 to be more accurate.)

So, perhaps you're standing in the oatmeal aisle looking at these large bags of oats. Asking "can I eat all of that? Which kind should I get?" These are important questions.

First, yes you will eat all of that. You can use oats not only in oatmeal, but you can use them for great cookies, bread, homemade granola, and even my version of never-dry meatloaf. (Recipes coming... eventually.)

Second, let's talk about types of oatmeal. You will see labels like "rolled" "old-fashioned" or "large" oats - they're all the same. (Sometimes even called "regular.") They are steamed, flattened, large oats.  You can do anything with these.
You will also see "quick" - this one can also be used for most anything. "Quick" oats are just large oats that have been chopped smaller, which is something you can do yourself in a food processor.  However, if you aren't careful you may end up with oat flour (which is still useable for baking things like bread or thickening your oatmeal - don't toss it). "Regular" and "Quick" oats are pretty much interchangeable in recipes, too. 
Then there is "instant" - great if you only want to use it for breakfast.  If you chop your "regular" or "quick" oats even smaller, you can make your own "instant."
If you're really not sure what to choose, start with "quick." If you have a little confidence in your food-processor, go ahead and get the large.  I started out buying quick, it can be used for all five of my favorite uses. (Though large would make better granola and chewier cookies.)
(For info on different types of oats from Quaker Canada)

 
How much cheaper is oatmeal than cereal?

Well, for one, you can get 1kg for $2. Cereal costs nearly $4 for 500g - that would be 4x the cost of oatmeal!  Now, 1/3c dry oatmeal weighs around 38g (1.3oz) - 38g of cereal (I tested Cheerios) is about a cup. Both are the equivalent of 1 serving. Not considering milk, cereal costs .30/serving, one serving of oatmeal costs $.08. That's right, 8 cents. Sure, I haven't counted the cost of sugar - though I can't imagining that adding more than a couple cents unless you're a real sugar fiend. Still, 8 cents!! And this serving size is enough to fill me, an adult, for the morning. For me to feel the same way with cereal, I would need to eat at least two cups of cereal and I would STILL not be quite as full.  Also, buying the large bags of oatmeal is cheaper than the packets - which if bought on sale for $2.50 cost $.25/serving (still less than cereal)!

Breakfast
So, now you have a large bag of oats. Well, this seems like an inconvenient breakfast. Cooking on the stove-top is probably better, but I'm used to the easy microwaveable kind of oatmeal. I also want to be able to cook one serving at a time. This is why instant packets are so tempting (that and their delicious little dried apple bits....which is a DIY I'd like to try someday).

So here's what I do. I make a large batch of my own "instant mix."  I keep this mix in a canister above my microwave. I scoop 1/4 or 1/3 cup mix and two scoops  of water/milk to the bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Then I check it, stir it, taste it, add stuff if it needs it, cook it another minute if needed. I like 2 parts liquid (milk/water) to 1 part oatmeal mix. However, some might like more or less thick.

Now the exact recipe itself is still something I'm working on. You can browse the web for other versions, but you still might find yourself tweaking them to your own taste.  

Here's my latest attempt:

I had 3 cups oats (large). I took one of those cups and put it in the magic bullet and pulsed it a bit to make some powder (good for getting a nice thick oatmeal).  Then I added about 3 tbsp sugar. I only had white, though brown would probably be better. (I could have MADE some brown but I was feeling a little lazy. I will share how to do this in another post.)  I also added about half a tbsp of cinnamon and about 1 tsp salt. After breakfast (this mix tasted fine, but I did add more sugar and a bit of syrup to my bowl) I found a nearly-empty bag of "quick oats." There was only 1 cup, so I added it to the mix. I also added another tbsp sugar, half a tbsp cinnamon, and a dash of salt.

(This version is a little on the chewy side because I used large oats. If I had processed them all a bit, it might have made it a little better. Or maybe I just need to cook it longer. It was still delicious, however. )

Anyway, once the mix is ready it's just as easy and fast as the instant oat packets and at a fraction of the price!


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