Save money on breakfast: Make it yourself

I grew up in a "traditional" family with the sort of mom who got up early to make us a big breakfast. I remember eggs, pancakes, biscuits, sausages, toast, and always a pitcher of freshly-mixed juice. We were also firmly on the underside of the poverty line (so it was margarine on our toast and generic brand 'pancake syrup' on our flapjacks).

When I got to be a parent, I stuck to my grown-up spendthrift ways for quite a while, buying cold cereal, scones, bagels and the like, rarely making a big delicious breakfast of biscuits or pancakes or muffins but far more often just picking it up from the coffee shop.

And then one day -- maybe it was the fact that I stopped eating processed foods and cut out white sugar, or maybe it was just that our grocery budget was through the roof -- I made a commitment to start making breakfast, just like my mama before me.

I learned the ways of granola, I got fast with morning pancakes, I found a muffin recipe I could throw together in 25 minutes start-to-oven fresh. But mostly we just eat oatmeal. It's organic and steel cut and we still save on breakfast from those WOW expensive cold cereals and $2.50 a pop breakfast pastries. I soak it the night before so it cooks up in a flash. When I have a holiday, I make a huge batch of waffles and put a bunch in the freezer for those mornings that aren't so rise-and-shiney.

And this was my AH-HA! moment: I reconnected with the real reason my mom got up to make us breakfast every day. It wasn't that she was such a fantastic, early-rising farm girl of a mother (though of course, she was). It was that she couldn't afford to buy us Corn Flakes and Pop Tarts every morning. Making pancakes is cheap.

Even if you're kitchen-challenged, you can make granola (it's just mixing and baking), French toast (dip bread in eggs; fry) and oatmeal (boil water; add oats; reduce heat). Even with the lux choices I make -- organic grains, real organic maple syrup, organic super-rich butter -- I'm spending about $2 or $3 for most breakfasts for my family of five, compared to three or four times that cost if I were to buy packaged breakfast food (or worse, Starbucks, which always sets us back close to $20).

How much do you spend on breakfast? What are your best morning meals? Do you eat the same way today as you did when you were a kid?

Read Full Story