Welcome to Frugal Friday, a weekly instalment where we try to provide small, bite-sized frugal tips from the school of Professor Roar Frugasaurus’ Fantastic Frugality Fair! So, come along, grab a chair, and join us as we try to present some bite-sized chunks of frugal living. Not unlikely, several of these might be food oriented, just because we love food.
Today, we talk about the mighty oat. Avena sativa, a cultivated grass of many uses and traditionally used as horse feed. Today, oats are experiencing a Renaissance as more and more people are discovering the benefits of this humble seed, such as low cost and an excellent source of energy for hardworking people.
I used to have a more ambivalent relationship with oats. While I loved the oat flarns we made each Christmas, I would rebel any time my mother tried to serve me cold oats with milk and sugar for breakfast. Unboiled and unswelled, they would grow in my mouth to a point where I just could not finish.
Although I used to dislike oats for breakfast, I am now happy to report that I have successfully reclaimed the happy little seeds! It all started when I got a summer job as a landscape gardener during university. While a lot of landscape gardening can now be done with machines, our team was the kind of gang who revelled in doing things manually. This meant that I quickly came to realise that my meagre two slices of bread was not enough to keep me going until breakfast.
While I had less pleasant memories of cold oats, I had little experience with it in porridge form. I decided to try the safer route, and loaded my daily bowl up with dried fruit, cinnamon, frozen fruit, seeds, sliced banana or nuts. Of course, my oats were not the most frugal of options in the beginning, loaded with more expensive ingredients as it was, but it worked. With these toppings, I grew fond of oats. Especially during manual labour summers, and even more on chill winter mornings.
Little by little, I started reducing the amount of toppings. My tolerance for the plain, simple flavour of oats gradually increased, although I still strongly favour a dash of cinnamon.
As I have written about previously, I keep a stock of oats, salt, cinnamon and raisins in my cupboard at work. During the last month, I have also tracked how many meals I have gotten out of my bag. The tally for the first bag of oats is 16 bowls. At a little over 20NOK (~$2.5) for 900 grams (almost 2 pounds), that nets a little over 1 NOK per bowl in oats (and me eyeballing about 55-60 grams per meal). Adding a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon and a couple of raisins still does not bring the tally over 2 NOK per lunch. That is pennies and pocket change for my daily lunch, if I do not bring leftovers from home.
Because it is so cheap, I even choose to pay the premium for organic ingredients. Buying in bulk and non-organic would bring this tally even further down, to mere fractions of what eating out for lunch every day would net you. As the amazing Frugalwoods mentions on her own post to hail the mighty oat, big bulk buys can make you the breakfast of champions for 10 cents a serving. That means we are potentially talking about big savings, every month!
Why lunch though? Aren’t porridge a natural breakfast? You might ask. Yes, while I was single, porridge was my breakfast and rice and vegetables a staple in my lunch repertoire. But, as I got together with my amazing Mr. E, changes were made. Mr. E. is not yet a religious follower of the cult of O, and only gets a craving for it once every month or so. Forcing the matter would make none of us happy, so I moved my warm bowl of energy to the lunchtime meal at work. In other words, the oat is so versatile that you can eat it any time of day you so desire.
Are you afraid of making the plunge? Sceptical of the simple flavours of this humble dish? Do as I did, and load up on toppings in the beginning! Gradually, as your tolerance increases, you can try to gradually remove the quantity and amount of topping until you arrive at a comfortable level for both palate and wallet, becoming a frugal champion in the process!