Jeff and I have decided that we are trying in earnest to save money for a down payment. We're tired of living in apartments and want to try to buy a house in the somewhat near future. That means really buckling down on our budget, and pinching pennies as hard as we can. One of the first things to be drastically reduced was meat - it's expensive so we just don't buy it or use it as much. I'm working on incorporating alternate sources of protein into our diet in place of meats - beans, whole grains, eggs and dairy, etc. (though we will buy meat when it's dirt cheap - yesterday Jeff saw that turkeys were 25 cents per pound, so we have a 20-pound turkey thawing in the fridge waiting to be roasted and frozen in meal-sized portions). Besides meat, another obvious-to-me food item to be cut from the budget is cold cereal. To me, it just can't be considered a good buy. I've been discovering all sorts of other ways to feed myself and my children a good breakfast without simply pouring a pile of flakes into a bowl and topping it with milk.
This morning, for instance, I made "square cereal with rice." At least, that's what I told Zaylee it was - she likes foods with fun names. I took some leftover Malt-O-Meal from yesterday and cut it into bite-sized cubes (hence the name "square cereal"). I fried the cubes in a small amount of oil with some leftover rice from yesterday's egg curry. Then I scooped that into our bowls, topped it with brown sugar and milk, and we ate a wholesome and delicious breakfast made entirely out of leftovers. We all loved it!
I plan to make a lot more hot cereals for breakfasts. Not just oatmeal and Malt-O-Meal, but also corn meal mush, cracked wheat, millet, barley, and I'll probably experiment with other grains as well. All of these can be cooked up and served with milk and sugar, jam, or fruit for a delicious and healthy breakfast that not only costs less than cold cereal, but leaves you feeling fuller and more satisfied as well. Another yummy breakfast I'll be revisiting from childhood is bread and milk - tearing pieces of homemade bread into a bowl and eating with milk and sugar. This also works well with corn bread.
Of course, some mornings I really do enjoy the convenience of cold cereal, because it requires no planning ahead or effort of any kind! So I will compromise by making my own cold cereal - granola. I have loved granola ever since I was a child, so I'm excited to start making my own. Here's a simple recipe from the More-with-Less Cookbook. It was easy to make and tastes great, and it will satisfy the desire for the convenience of cold cereal without having to use expensive, store-bought cereal.
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup wheat germ (I substituted wheat bran)
1/2 cup water
1 cup oil
1 cup honey or corn syrup (I substituted 3/4 cup brown sugar and a little extra water)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. salt
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, coconut, and wheat germ. In another bowl, blend together remaining ingredients. Add blended liquids to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Spread out onto 2 greased cookie sheets and bake 1 hour, or until dry and golden. I like mine a bit more crispy, so after the hour of baking I stirred it around and toasted it an additional 30 minutes. Store in covered containers.
This is a very basic recipe, which lends itself to adding things like nuts, seeds, raisins or other dried fruits. One to two cups of nuts and seeds can be added with the dry ingredients, but make sure to add any dried fruits after baking.