sanity savers 6: plan breakfast

sanity savers: a semi-regular series in which I share quirky tidbits and habits discovered in my quest to avoid panic, head trouble off at the pass, and uphold law and order in the West (or wherever you hang up your spurs).  While I certainly don’t think all of these ideas are completely original or something you’ve never heard before, I hope you find my ramblings helpful, inspiring, or adaptable for your particular situation.

After planning dinner meals by the month for several years, I finally gave planning breakfasts a trial run this past summer, and it is now a crucial part of our morning routine.

My motivation in planning breakfasts was two-fold:

  • Send my kids off to school better nutritionally prepared for their day
  • Save money

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Before I started incorporating breakfast into our family’s monthly meal plans, breakfast was usually a fend-for-yourself operation.  Jr. and Bug would pour themselves a bowl of cereal and milk (or 2 or 3), which was sometimes accompanied by a piece of toast, and off they would go.  I’m sure they started getting hungry well before lunchtime—I know that’s usually my experience when eating cereal and toast.

As responsibility-free as this arrangement was for me, I knew they deserved better, AND feeding kids cereal was a drain on our budget.  I set out to make our breakfasts a little more interesting and fortifying, and save money at the same time.

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Now, breakfasts at our house go something like this . . .

  • Mondays and Tuesdays: Oatmeal
    • Not a crowd favorite, but they’re good sports
    • We cooked oatmeal overnight in the Crockpot for a long time; it can even be baked in the oven.  Right now I’m using the regular old stovetop method, as I got really bad at remembering to put it in the Crockpot the night before.
    • I make a double batch on Mondays, save the leftovers and reheat on Tuesday mornings
    • To make the oatmeal more “user-friendly” I put add-ins like brown sugar, honey, raisins, cranberries, milk, and frozen fruit on the table for everyone to add as they choose
  • Wednesdays & Thursdays: Alternating weekly—smoothies/granola
    • The kids are still getting used to the granola, and I am often bad about remembering to make up a new batch; if we run out, we revert to cold cereal for the day
    • Still searching for “the” granola recipe that’s not too crunchy and has a good flavor
    • Smoothies started appearing regularly just a few months ago.  I thaw frozen fruit overnight and blend it up in the morning with rice milk (shhh! they don’t know!), pineapple/apple juice, and sometimes a frozen banana or a little yogurt.  Very filling!
  • Friday: Cold Cereal and Toast
    • This frees me up for one morning a week, and helps the kids feel that they’re not totally deprived of “normalcy”.
    • Cereals in our regular rotation are Cheerios, Life, and Raisin Bran; occasionally Grape Nuts, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Frosted Mini Wheats make it home to the cupboard
  • Weekends: Alternating Pancakes and Waffles
    • Cowboy does a lot of the cooking on weekends
    • We mix up the dry ingredients for double batches of pancakes and waffles and store them in Ziploc bags in the freezer; when breakfast time arrives we just mix in the wet ingredients and breakfast is done before you know it.
  • Miscellaneous
    • On weekdays there is always some type of bread item to accompany the main food item: toast, bagels, and English muffins are the regulars.  Every so often (translation: when I have time) I bake scones, muffins, or sweet rolls.
    • I’m trying to offer fruit more often, as I feel our breakfasts are a little grain-heavy
    • Starting in March I’m going to try cooking extra potatoes on Wednesday evenings (Wednesday is potato night) and hopefully have enough leftovers for lunches and hashbrowns/potato pancakes on Thursday and Friday mornings.

The bottom line . . .

  • We’ve gone from using 2+ Costco-sized boxes of cereal per month, to that amount or less every two months.  At $6-$8 per box, that’s a great boost to our food budget.  Some months I don’t buy cereal at all because we have such a “backlog” of unused cereal.
  • Originally, I planned a different meal for each breakfast.  I found that was too much to handle every morning.  Adopting a predictable no-frills menu cut down on stress and prep, and made it possible for me to operate on “automatic pilot”.
  • I’m not a morning person.  I need to have breakfast on the table by 6:15 if everyone is going to be ready on time.  To get in my morning Bible study and have breakfast prepared before the woebegone faces start appearing, I have to get up at 5 or so each morning (something I’ve been doing fairly consistently since the start of the year).  Many mornings this routine seems decidedly unSanity Saver-like, but I’ve decided it’s worth it, because . . .
    • usually when I’m making breakfasts, I have time to:
      • unload the dishwasher
      • make lunches
      • do some dinner prep
    • I’m confident that my kids are headed to school with stomachs full of healthy, sustaining foods

In general, our mornings are much smoother because we have a plan for breakfast.

Do you plan your breakfasts?  What does breakfast look like at your house?

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