Making My Own Instant Oatmeal

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Frugal Friday: Making My Own Instant Oatmeal

Last week I mentioned how I love breakfast in a box. It makes our mornings go so much more smoothly when I serve food that is easy to prepare, easy to clean-up. The kids can actually do it all themselves! Cold cereal and instant oatmeal are the favorites. But, recently they went through one box of instant oatmeal (10 packets) in one morning! So, since I haven’t seen killer deals or coupons on instant oatmeal, my ears perked up when many of my readers said that they make their own mixture.

In addition to the tips they provided and this recipe from The Simple Dollar, I did a little internet searching and came upon a recipe from The Kitchn. All my hunting was so that I could determine whether old fashioned oats would work in this application. I have a ton of old fashioned oats because that is the kind that I like. I had two partial cartons of quick oats. We did some taste testing and came to the conclusion that the kids preferred the quick oats. So I set up my assembly line of baggies, sugar, oats, milk, cinnamon, and salt. I had all the ingredients except the snack bags. Since we used less than half the box, the experiment cost me less than a buck. And since we’re going to reuse the bags for more instant oatmeal, it will cost even less.

Yes, it’s a lot of cinnamon, but the kids like it that way and my aunt gives me boxes of cinnamon every year for Christmas, so it’s all good. And since we don’t like watery oatmeal around here, I only added 6 Tablespoons hot water to the mixture when FishBoy 5 asked for a bedtime snack.

This method of breakfast preparation took some time on the front end, but should save me time in the long run. And at $1.89/box for Walmart-brand instant oatmeal, it should save me some pennies, too.

In case you missed it, Good Cheap Eats is hosting a Build a Frugal Pantry series. This week is all about stocking and using whole grains as a way to save money on food costs. It may prove to be a great frugal way for you, too.

What do YOU do to save money?

Share the permalink to your favorite money saving idea in Mr. Linky below or leave a comment. In the interests of sharing solid frugal advice, please do not post giveaways, deal posts, or affiliate links. Tell us a money saving concept that helps you stay in the black. And please, link back to so that your readers know where to find the party.


About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. Love this idea! I’m wondering about adding some nuts or dried fruit of some kind to add more flavor. My family likes the instant oatmeal with fruit.
    Thanks for hosting!

  2. This sounds exactly how I like my oatmeal! I will definitely be trying this as soon as I use up my boxes of oatmeal.

    BTW, You can’t have too much cinnamon in your oatmeal! 🙂

  3. Huh! I never would have thought of that:-)

  4. Oops! I accidentally posted twice. You can remove my duplicate if you want. I love your tip by the way!

  5. We eat a lot of oatmeal in our house too. it’s frugal and filling. and so much cheaper than yogurt which is really the only other thing my kids like in the mornings. So I’m always stocking up on oatmeal. Thanks for the recipe.

  6. When you first mentioned eating instant oatmeal in the morning, I meant to send you this link.

    We LOVE this oatmeal, and I always add a ton of flax seed meal and some frozen berries to make it even more healthy.

  7. I started using steel cut oats instead of oatmeal… much healthier and really tasty.

  8. Awesome post! My mom and I are planning a 5-7 day hike on the Appalachian Trail in September and are looking for packable meals that we could cook on the trail and that would be filling… this fits the bill! Thanks!

    • @Ryann,
      We too are planning a 4 day hike in July and were planning to take oatmeal. I kind of had this in mind…so glad to have the recipe perfected for me. 🙂

  9. I’m not a mom (although I was a nanny for the same family for 11 years… They’re my kids 🙂 ) but I love this recipe and as a busy grad student with an incredibly limited income…. I will be using this often.

    I also love that you have Watkins cinnamon! It is definitely above and beyond the rest. I know… Because my mom sells it 🙂

    I really enjoy your blog and twitter…

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Thanks, Christa! My aunt has been the personal assistant of the Watkins heirs for 20+ years. So, Watkins is a household name in these here parts. 😉

  10. Since starting a gluten free diet we’ve had to go with the gluten free oatmeal, which means really expensive and for instant forget it. I’ve found the key really is in the salt for cinnamon mixtures…and the longer you let it sit mixed the better it tastes. The only problem with the bags I’ve found is some (especially ziploc brand) leach this awful chemical smell/flavor…My favorite way is with almonds and peach slices, that is really good, sugar free, too!

  11. My kids love it when I make these up for them. I will have to try your recipe.

    I have four here if you scroll down,
    just in case you’re interested 😉

  12. What a great idea!!! I will be trying this for our family soon!

  13. It is my understanding that the only difference between regular oats and quick oats is basically the size of the oats. So you can make “quick” oats from your regular oats by putting them in the blender or food processor to cut them up a bit. You can also make oat flour this way. I know that adds a step but helps if you have a lot of regular oats to eat first or there is a huge price difference!

    • @Patti, we tried that in our “taste testing.” I was very hopeful since I have 5# of old fashioned. But, it didn’t cook up as “instant” as they like. And since the point for me was to have a kid-can-make-it-himself breakfast, I figured I needed to play it safe. But, I think it does work. Just different texture.

      Everyone’s got texture issues. 😉

  14. Love the idea of the instant oatmeal mix! What if you mixed it all up and put it in a glass jar with a 1/4 cup measure and scooped out a rounded scoop into each bowl instead of the baggies? It would save money and baggies. Sometimes when I store stuff in the baggies, the food in it has a plastic-y taste.

  15. Great post!

    I had tried to make my own instant oatmeal before and it was a frugal flop. But I am always up to trying new things, so I am determined to try your way to see if I fare better.

    Thanks for hosting!

    • @niki, maybe just make a few test bags and see how it goes. That’s what we did. It was quite time consuming to fill all the bags, so you want to be sure it will work when you’re done.

  16. Making your own instant oatmeal is a great idea and your recipe looks good too. An idea to cut-back on the amount of baggies (and trash) would be to refill one of your oatmeal containers, put instructions on front of how much to scoop out of your prepared “mix”, and how much water to add. Less baggies, less garbage, reusing your container – perfect ;o)

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      You’re right. In fact, a reader recommended that in this post and posted a recipe. But, I was worried that ingredients would settle and it really wouldn’t be a “mix.” Have you done this before?

  17. Great idea! I just might have to try it. Thanks for posting it!

  18. Have you ever tried oat groats overnight in a crockpot? Oat groats are more minimally processed forms of oats and have a higher nutritional value.

    A friend of mine taught me how to cook them overnight in a crockpot so they’re ready in the morning. 🙂 It’s just 3 cups water and 1 cup of oat groats on low. In the morning you add whatever you want – cinnamon, sugar, frozen or fresh fruit, etc.

    It is a bit more chewer than regular or instant oatmeal but it smells so good waking up to the smell of oatmeal in the morning. 🙂

  19. Thanks! I am trying to make more food from scratch to save money. I will add this to the list.

  20. michelle waite says:

    a friend of mine posted this recipe on her blog a couple of months ago. I have made a couple of batches for dh to take to work. I bought some Quaker instant oatmeal at Target on sale to get some gift cards. He is working his way through that stash, then we will return to this recipe. His co-workers were jealous and coveting his breakfast when they saw him preparing and eating the oatmeal.

  21. michelle waite says:

    Sorry, one more comment. I have friend who use mason jars to store the oatmeal, to avoid using plastics and save on ziplock bags. I give DH the whole batch in a tupperwear dish and he keeps it in his locker at work and then just mixes it with water in a coffee mug.

  22. We aren’t big oatmeal eaters around here, but maybe I’ll have to try this. I wonder what other flavors (besides cinnamon) I could try…
    Adding dried fruit would be yummy.

    • My son is allergic to cinnamon so we add brown sugar or maple syrup. Those are his favorites. I really like raisins in mine.

  23. Thanks for sharing this! I’m the oatmeal eater in our house & I love the idea of making it for even less $ than I can buy it! I go through it quickly too…so making it this way will be great! & I love the idea of adding dried fruit….yum! I usually add frozen blueberries that I thaw for a few secs. in the micro. Adds just the sweetness I need w/o extra sugar!

  24. Hmm… I must try! : )

  25. Why didn’t I think of this before?? I am so trying this out!

  26. Love your DIY instant oatmeal idea! I am going to try it, since I have several canisters of quick oats that I stocked up on recently when it was a good deal!

    I tried a freezer breakfast burrito recipe from another blog today–I now have 8 large sausage-egg-cheese-salsa burritos individually wrapped and sitting in a bag in the freezer for my hubby pull out and microwave for his breakfast-in-the-car mornings. I hope that they are good! They certainly looked like they will be–I may have to have a breakfast-in-the-car morning myself…:)

  27. I don’t pre-package in baggies, but I do make my own ‘Mixes” in the morning at home. My daughter eats her breakfast at daycare so I just dump everything but the water in a tuperware bowl and then cook it in the microwave when we get there. Her favortes are to mix in fresh banana or apple sauce. I’ve also used frozen bluberries and strawberries.

  28. this will come in handy on the busy mornings thanks for the great tip

  29. I LLLLOVE this idea! I am forever making our own ziploc baggies of snacks for the boys because it’s SO much more economical. I never thought of this one – can’t wait to try it. Thanks : )

  30. michelle waite says:

    Sorry about all the comments on this post, but this morning I decided to snag a packet of store bought instant oatmeal for breakfast. I have been making my own oatmeal from scratch for a long time. It was so NASTY. I choose oatmeal with real ingredients that I cut up, chopped or grated anytime over store bought instant. It is usually much cheaper too.
    Next time I want oatmeal, I will just make it myself. The extra time in preperation is time well spent.

  31. What a great idea – seriously… seems so simple, yet genius! Thanks for sharing!

  32. All I have to say is THANK YOU. My husband has instant oatmeal every morning and this is going to save us a ton of money!

  33. These are so much better than store bought packets! We like to add raisins. My husband takes a bunch to work to keep in his desk for a hearty breakfast at his desk each morning. He saves the baggies and brings them home for a refill as needed. Works great for a man that doesn’t like to take the time to eat breakfrast!

  34. OMG, dunno how I missed this.. Just what I need to make my mornings more productive and healthy. Thanks a ton, Jessica for sharing this. Will be doing this today.

  35. I’ve made my own “instant” for years but did it with fitness in mind. I thought I would share my receipe in case you have someone trying to “loose weight and gain muscle” as one of your readers. The protein helped me feel less hungry later in the morning and ensured I met my minimum for my fitness routine.

    Put 1 serving of quick oats & 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder in each baggie. Then when you are ready to cook simply pour the baggie into a bowl, add water and microwave per quick oat instructions. After it comes out of the microwave dump in a snack cup of fruit and cream (the cream adds all the sugar you need and the fruit as a nutrition boost. You choose what fruit, but I prefer pineapple).
    If you prefer an even lower sugar option, open a can of blueberries and dump some of them in. Be aware that this will discolor the mixture, makes it less travel friendly and also cost more.

    • I usually wait and add my protein powder after the oatmeal is cooked and has cooled a little,. The protein powder I used has a warning not to heat above 130 degrees….changes the texture to something less than favorable.

  36. Just wanted to let you know that we tried these this week. My girls love the instant oatmeal packets, but I have a hard time getting them to eat stovetop oatmeal. This is a great option to keep my costs down! They loved it!

  37. Would you tell me the reason for adding the dry milk powder? I don’t want to purchase a big box of it if it isn’t necessary for the packets. Thanks! Love your recipes!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Rachel, you don’t have to have the milk. It just makes the oatmeal a little creamy. Feel free to leave it out — and maybe add a little milk at serving time if you like.

  38. HI- I am going to look on the other recipe links but did I miss where you tell how to make it up when the kids or whoever are going to eat it? My daughter(10) usually just makes real oatmeal in the morning if she wants it. So I haven’t had instant since I was a little kid (25 yrs ago!)
    Does it have to be microwaved or do you just add hot water? If you only use hot water could I store it in the smaller glass jars and then they could just mix and eat it in that? We are all about no disposables at our house when possible (much cheaper!).
    And one more…. That seems like a really small serving…. have you found that is what they actually eat or do they eat more than one? And if they always eat 2 have you tried making it in a bigger batch?


    • Jessica Fisher says:

      My kids are pretty small, so one portion is often enough. Some have two bags. We reuse the bags, so it’s not as disposable as it seems. I prefer to have the indiv portions because a mix is going to separate. This way, it’s just the right proportions.

      As the post directs, add 6 Tablespoons hot water.

  39. I do the same thing, but I store them in in squatty 1/2 pint canning jars (not for ones used while hiking though). I can grab it, add water, eat out of it, and then wash and reuse so I’m not wasting so much plastic. It’s great for work!

  40. is it just mixed with the hot water are is it micro for a bit like the ones in the pkgs.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      just mix with water. The serving directions are listed above. Sometimes, we cover it with a plate and let it set for a few minutes to steam.

  41. I’ve been making oatmeal from the canister for a while. If you want to spice it up sometimes add dried cranberries, cherries, dates or blueberries. I use honey to sweeten (supposed to be good to keep allergies in check!) But I do find that its frustrating to pull out the measuring cup every morning. slivered almonds and pecan “dust” work well for a different texture. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt anything if you wanted to microwave it, but that makes it more difficult for the little ones to prepare themselves. I’m pretty sure my 2 1/2 year old could make it without using the microwave! Great idea!

  42. jennifer walker says:

    Your build a frugal pantry link is broken, FYI. LOVE the site! Great go to this morning as I plan April menu. Thanks so much!

  43. How much water do you add and how do you cook it?

  44. Katie Gossett says:

    Is there anyway to make something like the oatmeal packets with old-fashioned oats?

    • My 16yo does it. They will have more bite to them if you’re just adding in the hot water. But, he prefers it that way. Basically a different texture. I would suggest making one serving and seeing if your people like it before you make a lot.

      Another option is to run the old fashioned oats through the blender or food processor for just a bit to chop them just a bit finer. We’ve done that before, too.

  45. This sounds like a great idea but I’m lactose intolerant. Any ideas what to substitute for the milk powder?

  46. Marie Morrison says:

    To save money on cheese sauce I will use the packet from a box of mac and cheese when I need some sauce for my vegetables then I place the macaroni in a baggie for another day. for the cheese sauce I add 3 T margarine and 1/4 cup of milk cook over med heat and pour over potato or veggies…yum!

  47. Kristina B. says:

    What a great idea! Im going to try this! I stopped buying the packets because of the ingredients and the waste factor! I don’t use plastic baggies so, I was thinking what size scoop would you use to leave in a airtight container of this already mixed up?

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