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Monday, October 28, 2019

To-Go Breakfast Prep: Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets


Morning absent-mindedness 
At least one morning per week, I'll be cleaning up the kitchen from breakfast when I discover my husband has left  for work without his lunch. The bag will be just sitting on the counter near the door. So, I thought that he could use something that he keeps in his desk at work just for those days. nothing spectacular but enough to get him through a day. 

Whatever it is, it needs to be shelf-stable, easy to prepare, and inexpensive. The more that I thought about it, the more that I liked the idea of homemade instant oatmeal packets. By making my own, I could increase the quantity in each packet as well as add some extra ingredients.

Making quick-cooking oats out of regular rolled oats
Instant oatmeal packets use a milling type that results in thinner oat flakes that are chopped into smaller particles, rendering oats with a fast water absorption rate and speedy cooking. I didn't have any quick-cooking oats at home, but I did have regular rolled oats. To make my oatmeal packets "instant," I would need to turn my regular rolled oats into something quick-cooking. I used my food processor to do just that.


on the left, regular rolled oats; on the right, the very coarse meal with bits of oat flakes

To make quick-cooking oats out of regular rolled oats, I used the food processor to pulse 3 cups of rolled oats in very brief bursts, about 25 times, until the oats were a very coarse meal with the oat flakes broken into smaller pieces. The amount of pulsing time varies by the amount of oats in the processor and the make and size of the food processor.



Once my oats were in small enough particles to cook quickly, I began assembling the baggies. 

Here's what I used per baggie:

1/2 cup of processed oats

1 tablespoon milk powder
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 rounded teaspoons of packed brown sugar

Seal each baggie tightly.

To make oatmeal:


Dump contents of 1 packet into a mug or bowl and add 2/3 to 3/4 cup of boiling water. Stir, cover, and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Easy-peasy done.



The variations are limitless
In addition to a simple brown sugar and cinnamon instant oatmeal, there are many other possible ingredients to customize this homemade product, such as dried fruit, chopped nuts, spices like ginger and cloves, and/or protein powder.

Cost Comparison
At Walmart, a 20-packet box of Great Value instant oatmeal costs $2.98, or about 15 cents per packet. My cost per packet was 8 cents (oats), 2 cents (brown sugar, cinnamon, salt), and 4 cents (powdered milk) for a total of 14 cents per packet. That sounds like a very close comparison. But wait! I made my packets larger and heartier. The Walmart packets are 43 grams by weight each, whereas my packets are 65 grams by weight each. My homemade instant oatmeal packets weigh 1  1/2 times that of the Walmart ones. So, a Walmart-sized packet (or 43 grams) of my instant oatmeal cost about 9 cents or about 2/3 the price of the cheapest commercial instant oatmeal at Walmart. 



I believe that the nutrient content of the homemade version also comes out a winner when compared to commercial instant oatmeal packets. The homemade packet contains milk powder, which boosts the protein, calcium, and vitamin D. 

In addition, making this myself means that I have the ability to control added sugar. My version contains about 13 grams of sugar (from the oats, brown sugar, and milk powder) for a 65-gram packet, or 9 grams of sugar for a 43-gram portion. In contrast, Walmart's Great Value Instant Oatmeal contains about 13 grams of sugar for the 43-gram packet, 4 grams more than a comparable amount of my homemade. Obviously, a person could add far more sugar to the homemade version and then exceed the sugar content of a commercial product. But I like being able to control the added sugar in a product. 

The other bonus is that the ingredients for homemade version are all-natural, whereas the label on the commercial packets indicated that the product contained guar gum, artificial flavoring, and caramel coloring.

While it's important that my homemade instant oatmeal is cheaper, more nutrient dense, and has no unnecessary additives, perhaps the most significant outcome was in assisting my husband. He now has some non-perishable food in his desk at work, ready for those inevitable days when he forgets to take his lunch.


You'll find this post, and many others like it, just a click away on this page -- a compilation of my recipes, shopping lists, and menu plans that illustrates how I feed my family of 4 adults on $125 to $135 per month.


6 comments:

Live and Learn said...

That is a good idea. The only time we get instant oatmeal is for my husband's backpacking trips. I generally think the ones you buy are too sweet, so I could make my own packets with less sugar just like you did. Did it take much experimenting to get the recipe right?

Kris said...

I've wondered about making instant oatmeal packets. Like Live and Learn, I only buy them on rare occasions (they make great camping breakfasts and the kids have always thought they were a treat). I've experimented with purchasing store brands and have discovered that I don't care for them, so I always purchase the Quaker brand. I also think the pre-made ones are too sweet, but Quaker has a reduced sugar variety and that's what I buy.

I agree with you, Lili, that the store-bought packets seem skimpy in their amounts--typically I find that my family members need 2 or 3 packets to feel full. Love the idea of customizing them. I bet you could get super fancy and put in dried fruit or different spices. I know that would increase the cost, but it would also increase the nutrition level. What a great solution for your husband's emergency food stash!

Lili said...

Live and Learn said...
That is a good idea. The only time we get instant oatmeal is for my husband's backpacking trips. I generally think the ones you buy are too sweet, so I could make my own packets with less sugar just like you did. Did it take much experimenting to get the recipe right?


Hi Live and Learn,
The trickiest part was just getting the grind right. I tried out a couple of tablespoons of the plain chopped oats to see how they cooked with boiling water, then ran through the food processor another time. So, if you're starting with regular oats, grinding them to a quick-cooking variety, test out a tablespoon or two before adding any flavorings, to ensure they will "cook" with just boiling water poured over. Then make up one bag and see what you want for flavors and sweetening, adjusting as you prefer, and use that as your "model" for the rest.

I had some in the afternoon and really liked it. I'll be making more of these for the rest of the family later today. I sent all that I made with my husband to work.
Good luck if you make your own. They're very handy, and the flavor can be adjusted or changed up in infinite ways.

Lili said...

Kris said...
I've wondered about making instant oatmeal packets. Like Live and Learn, I only buy them on rare occasions (they make great camping breakfasts and the kids have always thought they were a treat). I've experimented with purchasing store brands and have discovered that I don't care for them, so I always purchase the Quaker brand. I also think the pre-made ones are too sweet, but Quaker has a reduced sugar variety and that's what I buy.

I agree with you, Lili, that the store-bought packets seem skimpy in their amounts--typically I find that my family members need 2 or 3 packets to feel full. Love the idea of customizing them. I bet you could get super fancy and put in dried fruit or different spices. I know that would increase the cost, but it would also increase the nutrition level. What a great solution for your husband's emergency food stash!


Hi Kris,
Oh yes! You're really right in that the flavor and added ingredients could make these very tasty and meet even more nutritional needs. Dried fruit, chopped nuts, and other ground grains could really enhance these. For family camping trips, you could also add some "fun" things for your kids, like rainbow sprinkles or a few mini chocolate chips. My daughters (and me, too) still really enjoy a few sprinkles or chocolate chips in oatmeal.

Matt Macduff Family said...

My son & I just made up a bunch of these for a Boy Scout camp out this last weekend. He packed raisins, too, so that the boys who wanted to could them to their individual portions. I did buy the quick oats in the bulk section at Winco so that I could save myself an extra step. Super cost effective to make your own. Melissa

Lili said...

Hi Melissa,
Good idea to pack the raisins separately and not add them to the packets! If I had bought the oats for this, I too would have bought the quick-cooking oats. So much easier and makes putting instant oatmeal packets together a breeze.
I hope the Scouts enjoyed their oatmeal on the camp-out!

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