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Monday, April 30, 2012

Oatmeal on the Go (or Why be Frugal?)

I think it's quite funny that oatmeal has become this semi-fashionable breakfast food.  Starbucks has it, Jamba Juice has it, and McDonald's has it.  How funny is that?!  We've been eating oatmeal a few times a week for the last 25 years because it's cheap.  (And it grows on you.)

I make a large pot of oatmeal at least once on the weekends.  I add all sorts of yummy things to it--nuts, peanut butter, berries, dried fruit, chopped apples, banana chunks, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, maple extract and chocolate chips.  Yesterday morning's batch was banana-peanut butter-chocolate chip w/vanilla extract for extra flavor.  I always make more than I know we can eat.  The leftovers I package up in my reusable freezer containers (aka--old yogurt containers), then toss in the freezer.  During the week, anyone in the family who didn't get a chance to eat breakfast can grab this oatmeal-to-go.

Let's do a little cost comparison.  (I like to figure how much money I'm saving--keeps me motivated and helps me to see the value of my choices.)  I realize that some of this oatmeal is not the rolled oats type, but steel cut oats, which do cost more.  So it's not entirely apples to apples.  But . . .

Jamba Juice's Berry Cherry Pecan oatmeal costs $2.95 per serving.
Starbucks oatmeal (with a choice of brown sugar, dried fruit, or nut medley topping) is about $2.45 per serving.
McDonald's has Fruit and Nut oatmeal for $1.99 a serving.
Quaker Instant Oatmeal packets can be purchased through in the 52 serving multi-pack for about 33 cents per serving.  You still have to add in shipping, but I think that's a great price for the instant stuff.
Oatmeal made at home, the old-fashioned way, in a pot on the stove, takes about 5-10 minutes from start to finish (depending on what you choose to add and how long it takes your water to come to a boil).  It has a base cost anywhere from 5 cents a serving (if you buy your oats in the commercial-size 25 lb. bag, as we do, at the wholesaler/restaurant supply) to about 15 cents per serving (if you buy oats in the grocery store, store brand in a large container).  This 5-15 cent price is a base price, add in the cost for any extras.  For us, that amounts to about an additional 10-15 cents a serving.  So, anywhere from 15 to 30 cents per serving.

The cheapest choice is the homemade with bulk purchased oats.  But if time is really an issue, price-wise, the Quaker Instant oatmeal is a close second.  You can always add fresh fruit yourself to spiff it up.  The Jamba Juice Berry Cherry Pecan oatmeal does sound delicious, but I think I can add my own berries, cherries and pecans for a fraction of their cost.  And I've got the 5 minutes to spare to make it, so I can pocket that $2.50.

I don't think the frugal, and frugal wannabes, are out there spending fortunes on restaurant oatmeal.  This post is not just about the cost of oatmeal.   It's about making conscious choices, so we can have the life we want.  We don't save pennies, nickels and dimes so that we can amass a pile of pennies, nickels and dimes.  Some folks are frugal in order to pay off debt.  Others, so they can quit the job they hate and take the one they would love, but doesn't pay as well.  Still other folks are frugal so they can retire early and spend more time with the ones they love.  And some, so they can donate more money to the worthy cause of their choosing.  For me, I chose the frugal life so I could stay home with my kids and be the one who knows them better than anyone else.

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