Breakfast seems to be one of the hardest meals to plan for, because if you don't get an adequate breakfast it can jinx the rest of your day. Breakfast comes at a rather inconvenient time of the day, it's right at the beginning. That's when I'm busy trying to get ready for work or school and trying to figure out what to have to last me for the four hours before lunchtime. Skipping breakfast is not an option, only what breakfast out there is inexpensive, fast to make and keeps a person satisfied until lunchtime?
While searching for this elusive breakfast goal, my search has led me to a realization regarding breakfast: the more nutritional a breakfast is, the more demanding it is for time and expense. Time and money are both precious and there's not enough of either for anybody. For example, I'm a college student with a 70 mile one-way commute in the morning to attend my college four days a week, with a 70 mile commute back home. Two days a week I work eight hours 20 miles from home. If I start my days with a poor breakfast, then my school performance is poor. A poor breakfast makes me unable to focus on what the instructor is teaching because I'm focused on when the next break is so I can eat something. Good grades follow a good breakfast.
At my college I used to eat their yummy cheese omelets breakfast offered in the cafeteria. For four dollars you got the cheese omelet, two strips of bacon and two hash browns. This quarter the price of the food rose a dollar and the portion sizes got a little smaller. This coincided with the small cut in hours at my work as well. These two unrelated events have made their yummy breakfast too expensive for me. They do offer many different breakfasts. A bowl of oatmeal is very available. Their bowl of oatmeal is for only two dollars. It would be eight dollars a week and thirty-two dollars a month. Pricey breakfast. Thirty-two dollars a month is a little more than a third of my monthly bus fare. I need those thirty-two dollars and it can't go for oatmeal.
So to make sense of the dollars and cents, I decided to pack my own breakfasts. With my difficult commute, there were a few problems facing me. For one, there is no refrigeration available to me at all. My food container will have to be more than just a little plastic bag. It will have to keep my food hot for a while. Also, my school backpack gets shoved around a lot and it's cramped inside, the food container would have to take a beating and still keep my food hot and my stuff protected. The teachers would frown on homework turned in with oatmeal stains or dried breakfast on them. Sharing helps everyone and I'm a sharing kind of person but I don't think it was meant to be in that manner. The food container that I find that works really well for me is a 16oz. Food container by Thermos. It comes with a small bowl that doubles as a lid, and the insulating cap has a built in spoon and it's for around twenty bucks. I'm mentioning this not as product placement but to let you know that it's what I'm using and it works for me. The Thermos handles both hot and cold well, doesn't mind being cramped in my bag and it hasn't spilled its contents on my homework. It fills all the needs that I had to pack breakfast on my commute.
So what should breakfast be? For a week I tried packing oatmeal with me and I think I've found a winner. Oatmeal is nutritional, it has a lot of fiber and it's so easy to fix up in the morning. My morning routine actually starts the night before. I brew plain water in my coffee maker so I have hot water in the morning. my routine for the morning begins the night before. In the food container I put a cup of old-fashioned oatmeal inside with a tablespoon of dried milk and a tablespoon of maple syrup. The milk gives a little protein and the maple syrup gives it just a little bit of sweetness. Then I pour in the hot water until the oatmeal is about a quarter of an inch from the neck of the container. Then I screw on the lid and I'm on my way. Roughly three hours later, after my commute of three buses and a train, my oatmeal has cooked and is ready to be enjoyed.
On Tuesday after a successful oatmeal breakfast the day before, I decided to liven things up a bit by adding freeze-dried strawberries. I bought a few in bulk and tossed a handful of them on top of my oatmeal. It didn't really work out. Dehydrated strawberries like to be woken up with cold water, not hot. By the time I got into my breakfast three hours later, the strawberries had become mush. Still, they mixed in well with the oatmeal and it still tasted great. The condition of the strawberries was not what I was expecting and I was disappointed. The fault lies with me. If I had not a pre-set expectation of the strawberries, I would have not have been disappointed.
Of that cup of oatmeal about half of what I packed will hold me four about four hours without feeling hungry. This is fantastic because I can focus on what the instructor is teaching. The Thermos food container kept my oatmeal hot enough for a second helping after the four hours. So right one can say that lunch was taken care of as well. On one particularly long day, my oatmeal was still a little warm at five o'clock in the afternoon. That's a pretty impressive feat for the food container considering that I had gotten into it multiple times throughout the day before. For a portable breakfast north, the oatmeal and the food container were exceeding my expectations.
To satisfy my curious nature I decided to calculate how much money I was saving just by packing my own oatmeal breakfast compared to buying it at the store. These calculations don't include the milk, strawberries or the maple syrup. I remember I bought the oatmeal container for about $3.50 and there are about 30 servings of half a cup to the container. The price per serving works out to be roughly twelve cents a serving, so my breakfast and lunch cost a little less than a quarter, more like twenty-four cents. If I ordered a double serving of oatmeal at my college it would cost four dollars. Each day I'm saving $3.75, and each week that comes up to about $14.00. The monthly school bought oatmeal bill would have been almost $60.00. A savings of $3.75 isn't much, however to save $60 is money saved to spend on a utility bill.
Oatmeal is a fantastic breakfast food. It can be mixed with fruits and nuts. Served hot or cold and even be made into a cookie. It's inexpensive to buy and quick to make as well. Give oatmeal a try yourself and see what other wonderful things can be done with it. I know I've only started.