Your Breakfast is Robbing You

Your Breakfast is Robbing You

If you haven’t yet calculated it, your breakfast is probably costing your family much more money than you think it is. Stop eating expensive breakfasts and switch to some cheap breakfast ideas. I’ll share the numbers of how much cereal could cost us and how much we actually spent last year on our inexpensive breakfast alternative (and how oatmeal can actually be yummy).

Cereal is Expensive

About once a month, we eat cereal for breakfast as a family. That’s right. Once a month. The last time we did this, I realized our family of five goes through the equivalent of one Costco box of cereal each time we eat cereal.

Let’s assume, because people sometimes travel and sometimes eat other things for breakfast, that we actually ate cereal 250 days a year.

A Costco box of cereal costs about $7-8, though we only buy it when it’s on sale, so we’ll assume we would spend $5/box on cereal (and we go through a box a day, so $5/day).

Our average cost of cereal

If we’re eating cereal every day, we would go through about 6 gallons of milk/month. Assuming a gallon of milk would cost $3/gallon, we would spend $18 on milk/month.

For 250 days of eating cereal (on sale!), we would spend $1250 on cereal alone ($1750 if not on sale!) and $216 on milk.

Total cereal costs for 250 days for 5 people: $1466

Daily cost: $5.86 or $1.17/person.

Oatmeal: An Inexpensive Breakfast Alternative

In 2016, we purchased 100 lbs of oat groats ($1.20/lb) and 100 lbs of 7-grain mix ($1.28/lb). In Alaska, buying these things in bulk is especially important for cost savings. 200 lbs of grain cost us a total of $248.

How to Make Yummy Oatmeal

Oatmeal can be gross. Let’s be up front about that. I can’t stand rolled oats. They turn into mush with a terrible consistency that’s hard to swallow. This is why we get the full groats and grains. They come uncracked and unrolled. We use our handy-dandy hand grain mill and grind them into barely cracked grains for thick, but not mushy oatmeal. The nice thing about this is that you can grind it as fine as or as coarse as suits your taste. When we want to get a good arm workout, we grind the wheat ourselves. We also pay our kids to grind wheat when they want to earn some money. However, when we just ain’t got time for that (ain’t nobody got time for that sometimes!), Mr. T has updated our wheat grinder to go a bit faster.

Speeding up the grain mill

Oatmeal is naturally bland and a bit bitter, but adding sugar can get out of hand, so we use soy milk. It adds sugar and liquid to our oatmeal and sweetens the whole thing (I’ve tried regular milk and almond milk, but there’s still that bitterness in my opinion with those).

Now oatmeal with just soy milk is boring. So, we add bananas and frozen berries. Mix it all up and it’s both delicious and colorful!

Oatmeal with frozen berries

How Much Does Oatmeal Cost?

In 2016, we used 200 lbs of grains for a total cost of: $248.

We go through one bag of frozen blueberries and one bag of frozen mixed berries per month at $17.78/month with a total annual cost of: $213.36

Frozen berries for oatmeal

1.5 boxes of soy milk per month puts annual soy milk costs at: $287.82.

Soy milk for oatmeal

3 bunches of bananas (at $2.99/each) per month gives us annual banana costs at: $107.64.

Total annual costs of oatmeal for 5: $856.82.

Since we sometimes eat pancakes/waffles/cereal and we also sometimes travel, we’ll assume we ate oatmeal as a family 250 days this year bringing daily oatmeal costs to: $3.43 or $0.69 per person.

Amount We Save on Breakfast:

We save a total of $609.18 by not eating cereal most days and eating a delicious, nutritious oatmeal breakfast instead.

I wouldn’t be a successful personal finance blogger if I didn’t calculate the compounded power of our cereal savings! So, assuming a 7% return and assuming we invested our cereal savings monthly ($50.77), over 30 years, those cereal savings turn into $61,937.32! So, not enough to retire on, but a pretty good chunk of change.

How do you save money on breakfast? Do you know how much your breakfast costs?


Northern Expressions: Inspiration is like Mario


Daily Spending and Saving in 2016


  1. Cereal is so expensive, it’s true!! And omg, now I want a grain mill.

    Frozen fruit is basically the best thing ever. We like to have “frozen fruit water,” which is exactly what it sounds like. XD. I can’t even take credit for it, as a friend turned me on to it, but it’s a great replacement for soda. Granted, not as cheap, but certainly healthier.

    • MaggieBanks

      Grain mills are the best! We like our oatmeal barely cracked so it’s nice and thick and not soft and gooey. Also, when the world is ending, we’ll still be able to eat our pounds and pounds of grains! 🙂

  2. TheRetirementManifesto

    Too funny, my wife and I just switched to eating bulk oatmeal (with brown sugar and apple chunks, yum!). Not for $$, but because we love it! Kill that cholesterol, right?!

    Only YOU would do a CAGR on the savings. Crazy, but really cool. Now, I need to get to work on a handy dandy hand grain mill!

    • MaggieBanks

      I actually really like our oatmeal as well and it keeps us all full for much longer than our cereal days.

  3. I eat oatmeal every day! I think my last post on oatmeal shook out to $7 for the month for me to eat it every day. Yum! I do splurge with peanut butter toast sometimes, though.

  4. Oatmeal is the unsung hero of frugal breakfasts. Have you ever tried to make oatmeal in big batches in your slow cooker? My favorite recipe is cinnamon apple oatmeal. Throw everything in over night and wake up in the morning to oatmeal that’s ready to go!

    • MaggieBanks

      I have tried those… my kids think they’re too soft as well when cooked in the slow cooker. Weirdos. I’ve also made an amazing creme brulee oatmeal in the oven which I really liked, but Mr. T thought was too sweet and my kids were confused about… 🙂

  5. I’ve been meaning to get one of these mills. I make or grow pretty much everything else, why not add this to the mix. They are pricy new though…

    • MaggieBanks

      That’s true, but ours is from Mr. T’s parents and we use it ALOT and it has lasted for over 30 years! 🙂

  6. when I read the title, my first idea was: yep, commercial cereals are robbing. And indeed, you did the maths 🙂
    Oatmeal is an easy and cheap alternative, you can find big quantities to order, to cover 1-2 months.
    I have mornings with eggs and vegetables ( frozen veggies to boil for 5 minutes).
    I have mornings with an apple: cost is minimum, the vitamine source is maximum.
    I bought during the summer some forest fruits qnd frozen in spall pachages. Good price too.
    I have evenings when I cook small breads (as for sandviches). One in the morning/evening with hummus (homemade) is perfect.

    • MaggieBanks

      All of that sounds divine and delicious. If I lived in a place that had better local fruits… I would eat that EVERY SINGLE MORNING! 🙂

  7. Interesting that you can’t stand rolled oats. We’ve been having quick rolled oats for the last 4 or 5 years. We typically buy a 40 lbs bag and that lasts us about 6 months or so.

    We soak the oats overnight and add frozen berries (blueberries, blackberries, and/or raspberries). Then add a spoonful of honey and/or a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Mrs. T has been adding apples too while I add pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and hemp hearts on mine. Tastes great and it’s cheap.

    • MaggieBanks

      We do very similar adaptations, except everyone in this house hates how gooey quick rolled oats get. No idea why we prefer a heavier grit… When we run out or something, we often mix rolled oats in and my kids can tell: “Why are we eating SOFT oatmeal?!” 🙂

  8. Hey Maggie. Love the analysis. Gave up cereal over two years ago, mostly because of the sugar and partially because of the cost. Breakfast on most days is now two poached eggs. Occasionally I’ll have oatmeal for a treat. I’m sure my average breakfast cost is in the 50 cent range. Thanks for the ringing defense of oatmeal and frugality.

    • MaggieBanks

      I do love some scrambled eggs on toast… but that’s often lunch. 🙂

  9. Our friends often look at us funny when we tell them that we buy 50 lb bags of oatmeal, and think we’re down right insane when we tell that we buy that multiple times a year. I think we’ve consumed at least 900 lbs of oatmeal in the past 7 years. But we’ve been eating oatmeal about 6 days a week for those 7 years and it has saved us a ton. In college my wife and I could buy a 50 lb. bag for about $20. All we added at the time was a spoonful of sugar to a plate of oatmeal and I ran the numbers and determined that we were spending about 5 cents per person for breakfast. Now that we have to pay $31 for 50 lbs. and have two small boys that eat just as much oatmeal as a grown man we are spending about 9 cents per plate of oatmeal, 2 cents per serving of sugar, and roughly 6 cents to add milk (we splurge these days), for a total of about 17 cents per serving, or $0.68 per day.

    • MaggieBanks

      Nicely done. I realize the berries are our big cost driver… but I love eating them! 🙂

  10. Emily Jividen

    Little Bit and Jon do cereal, I eat yogurt and fruit (probably even more expensive) in warm weather or oatmeal when it’s cool. I’ve tried the overnight oats so that I can have the oatmeal and the coolness, but it just doesn’t do it for me.

    • MaggieBanks

      You know what? Part of it is enjoyment. We have sandwiches for lunch every day and go all turkey, pesto, tomato because YUM! 🙂

  11. k

    We eat oatmeal every morning too, except we just use water and a spoonful of smooth peanut butter. So good!

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