Breakfast on a Budget

Breakfast on a Budget


by Cathe Olson

Last month, I wrote about ways to cut costs at dinner-but what about breakfast? Breakfast is often the most hectic time of the day as we rush to get to work and the kids to school. It’s often the time families turn to convenience foods like cereal or frozen waffles-or stop at the coffee shop on the way to work for an overpriced bagel or pastry. Not only are these habits expensive, they are often not the most nutritious choices. With a little advance planning, you can have a healthy and inexpensive breakfast-even on the busiest mornings. 

Plan in Advance 

Decide the night before what you will have for breakfast the next day. Soak rolled oats overnight so oatmeal just takes a few minutes to cook, or start some porridge in your slow cooker. Keep whole grain pancake and waffle mixes on hand. Save money by making the mixes yourself (recipe below). When you make pancakes, French toast, or waffles on the weekends, make extra to freeze. Then just pop them into the toaster in weekday mornings. Muffins freeze well so make a couple of batches to store in your freezer. You can heat them in a toaster oven or microwave, or bring a couple to work-they will thaw on the drive. 

Include Protein and Healthy Fats 

Be sure to include protein and fat in your morning meal. A high carbohydrate breakfast, even of whole grains, may leave you tired and hungry an hour or two later. Good choices are nuts, seeds, tofu, beans, soymilk, soy yogurt, and high protein grains like millet, quinoa, and oats. Nuts and seeds, nut butters, whole fat soymilk, flaxseed or hempseed oils provide essential fatty acids that nourish the brain and nervous system. Protein and fat will sustain you throughout the morning–especially important for your children’s ability to concentrate in school. 

Avoid Sweets 

Limit or avoid sweetened foods in the morning-this includes sugary cereals, donuts, pastries, and (coffeeshop) muffins. They are expensive, high in calories, and provide little nutrition. They cause your blood sugar to shoot up causing you to feel drained and weak soon after. 

Think Outside the (Cereal) Box 

Don’t be limited to traditional breakfast choices. Leftovers from dinner can be eaten for breakfast. Soup can be very comforting on a cold morning. Sandwiches, tofu quiche, burritos, and even pizza are great breakfast choices and easy to take along to work or school if necessary. 

Easy Breakfast Ideas 

Hot Cereals: Porridges like oatmeal, cream of wheat or rice, and nine-grain cereal provide energy and nutrients. Add protein and fat foods to your porridge to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the morning. Nuts and seeds are an excellent addition to cereals, as well as a little flaxseed oil or nonhydrogenated margarine to help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. You can sweeten your cereal with a little honey, molasses, or maple syrup if desired, but I don’t recommend much sugar in the morning. Try using fresh or dried fruit, or fruit-sweetened jam instead. For something different, try seasoning your porridge with naturally fermented soy sauce or miso for a savory taste. 

Cold Cereals: Ready-to-eat cereals are certainly convenient but most commercial cereals contain sugar, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors. Shop at a natural foods store and buy organic cereals made with whole grains and natural sweeteners. Check the label for cereal that contains no more than 4 grams of sugar per serving-which is one teaspoon. Buy them in bulk for the best price. Add raw or toasted nuts or seeds (whole or ground) to add nutrients, protein, and essential fatty acids to your breakfast. 

Toast, Bagels, and English Muffins: Keep whole grain toast, bagels, and English muffins around for quick breakfasts and snacks. I prefer sprouted breads and bagels because the nutrients are more easily utilized by the body. Be sure to eat them with a topping or food containing protein and fat like: 

  • Almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, pumpkin seed butter, or tahini
  • Nondairy creamcheese
  • Olive oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil, or nonhydrogenated margarine and ground cinnamon
  • Mashed avocado and nutritional yeast flakes
  • Hummus or bean dips

Tofu:Tofu is a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Get organic so you know it’s free of pesticides and has not been genetically engineered. “Scrambled” or pan fried tofu take just a couple of minutes to make and can be eaten on toast or in a tortilla or pita pocket. 

Smoothies: Smoothies are a delicious way to get a good breakfast. They are easy to make and you can drink them while getting dressed or even take them along with you. Make sure to include protein and fat in your smoothies (soymilk, nut or seed butter, flaxseed or hemp oil, etc.) as well as fresh or frozen fruit for vitamins. 


Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Oats are inexpensive and very nutritious. Now you can wake up to this creamy cereal. You may need to alter the amount of water slightly for your slow cooker. 


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and set to low. Cook overnight (10 to 12 hours).

Makes 3 to 4 servings 

Variation: Substitute steel cut oats for rolled oats and use 4 1/2 to 5 cups water. 

Crunchy Buckwheat Cereal 

Here’s a cold breakfast cereal you can feel good about and it costs just pennies to make. Make it in advance and will keep in your refrigerator for days. It’s delicious sprinkled over fruit, too. 

  • 2 cups raw whole buckwheat groats
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or agave nectar (optional)
  • 1/4 cup nut or seed butter (almond butter, tahini, etc.)

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Spread buckwheat on large baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir buckwheat around a bit. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes more until golden. Immediately mix hot buckwheat with sweetener and nut or seed butter until buckwheat is coated. Cool. Store in covered jar in refrigerator. To serve, place 1/2 cup of cereal in bowl, cover with milk. Add fresh or dried fruit if desired. 

Makes 4 servings 

Millet Crunch Granola 

Not only is homemade granola inexpensive to make, this version that is packed with protein and essential fatty acids. It’s cooked over low heat to preserve the nutrients. 


  • 2 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup uncooked millet
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried berries, etc.)

Preheat oven to 250ºF. Place rolled oats and millet on baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour. In small pan, melt sweetener, tahini, and water together over low heat. In large bowl, toss oats, millet, and seeds with tahini mixture until completely coated. Spread on unoiled baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Stir once or twice during baking. Cool completely. Stir in dried fruit, is using. Do not bake fruit. Store in a covered jar. 

Makes about 1 quart 

Multigrain Pancake Mix 

The flours in this recipe are very flexible – I recommend using at least 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour – but for the rest, feel free to substitute your favorite flour or use just a couple of different ones. This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. 


  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups barley flour
  • 2 cups buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • Sift or whisk all ingredients together in large bowl until completely combined. Store in a tightly covered jar.

To prepare pancakes:

  • 1 1/4 cups milk (dairy or nondairy)
  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted nonhydrogenated margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat or Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix

Whisk together milk and oil. Stir in pancake mix. Mixture should be fairly thick but if it does not spread on griddle, add a little more milk. Cook on preheated, lightly oiled griddle or skillet until golden brown on both sides. 

Makes 6 servings (2 pancakes per serving) 

To prepare waffles: 

  • 1 1/4 cups milk (dairy or nondairy)
  • 4 tablespoons oil or melted nonhydrogenated margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat or Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix

Whisk together milk and oil. Stir in pancake mix. If mixture is too thick, add additional milk-batter should pour smoothly from ladle and not drop in clumps. Bake in lightly oiled, preheated waffle iron until golden brown and crisp. Waffles are best served immediately but you can place on rack in warm oven until ready to serve if desired. 

Makes 8 servings (2 4.5-inch square waffles per serving) 

Banana-Molasses Muffins

Molasses, and almonds add vitamins and minerals to these moist, flavorful muffins. 


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 cup whole wheat, spelt, or barley flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 bananas)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water or Ener-G egg replacer for 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup plain or vanilla nondairy yogurt

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Lightly oil muffin tins. In food processor or blender, grind oats and nuts to a coarse meal. Transfer to mixing bowl and whisk in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir in raisins. Beat remaining ingredients together until smooth. Add to oat mixture and stir just until mixed. Pour batter into prepared tins. Bake 20 minutes, or until tops are firm to the touch. 

Makes 1 dozen 

Note: For quick preparation, puree liquid ingredients in food processor or blender after removing oat/nut mixture. 

Savory Bagel Sandwich 

Spread one side of a whole grain bagel with nondairy cream cheese or tahini. Spread the other side with mashed avocado. On the cream cheese or tahini side, place 2 cucumber slices, 1 large tomato slice and top with sunflower sprouts. Sprinkle on a little sea salt or soy sauce if desired. Top with avocado side of bagel. 

Makes 1 serving 

Meal Shake

This smoothie is a powerhouse of protein, vitamins, and minerals. 


  • 2 tablespoons raw almonds or cashews
  • 1 tablespoon raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup milk (dairy or nondairy) or kefir
  • 1/4 cup juice (apple, pineapple, etc.)
  • 1 banana, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 teaspoon flaxseed or hemp oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon spirulina powder (optional)

Place nuts and seeds in blender and grind to powder. Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. 

Makes 2 servings 

Cathe Olson

Author: Cathe Olson

Cathe Olson is the author of the new nondairy ice cream cookbook: Lick It! Cream Dreamy Vegan Ice Cream Your Mouth Will Love, as well as Simply Natural Baby Food and The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook. Visit Cathe’s blog at

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