If you ask my son for his top 3 favorite foods, he'll probably say: Candy! Ice cream! and....OATMEAL!
This week's money-saving grocery tip is: Eat oatmeal instead of cold cereal.
Here's what we will cover in this blog post:
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
One serving of oatmeal is only 12 cents less than cold cereal. That equates to savings of $40 a year if you choose oatmeal instead of store-brand cold cereal every day (see chart below)
40$ doesn't seem like a lot, but it adds up over time! That's $3,200 in savings for a family of four over 20 years.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
That calculation was done comparing Great Value Toasted O's (Walmart brand Cheerios) and Great Value 42 oz quick oats. If you compare name-brand cereal, or if you buy oats in bulk, you'll save even more money! See the chart below:
Name Brand Sugar Cereal
Great Value Toasted O's
Great Value Oatmeal
36 cents per serving (1+1/2 cups)
25 cents per serving (1+1/2 cups)
13 cents per serving (1/2 cup)
cost per year: $131
cost per year: $90
cost per year: $50
cost for 4 people for 20 years: $10,480
cost for 4 people for 20 years: $7,200
cost for 4 people for 20 years: $4,000
If you usually buy name-brand cereal, choosing oatmeal instead will save $6,000 dollars over 20 years. But, like a cheesy infomercial host, I'm going to say "the money savings don't stop there."
How oatmeal helps you spend less on lunch
Oatmeal also helps you eat less later in the day. When you eat less, you spend less.
Oatmeal is scientifically proven to keep you full.
Scientists studied oatmeal and Cheerios to see which would keep people full longer.
Study participants were given equal amounts of oatmeal or Cheerios. After one hour, the oatmeal eaters were still full. Oatmeal also helped people eat less at lunch.(2)
A different research study had the same findings, but with cornflakes instead of Cheerios. (3).
Oatmeal is more filling than cold cereal.
I occasionally buy cold cereal for fun, but not very often.
My kids eat an entire box in one sitting and then ask for a snack an hour later. Cold cereal doesn't fill us up or keep us full.
Why Can You Eat an Entire Box of Cereal and Still Feel Hungry?
Oatmeal and Great Value Toasted O's have similar amounts of fat, protein and fiber.
1/2 cup instant oatmeal
1/2 cup great value toasted oats
3 grams fat (all healthy fats)
3 grams fat (1 g saturated fat)
4 grams fiber
3 grams fiber
5 grams protein
5 grams protein
0 grams added sugar
0 grams added sugar
If they are almost the same, why doesn't cereal keep you full?
The oatmeal in cold cereal is cooked, mixed and ground before it's baked into O-shapes.
In other words, it's highly processed.
Highly processed fiber doesn't fill up your stomach.
Researchers in the "cereal vs. oatmeal" studies think that a tummy full of "instant oatmeal fiber" empties slower than a stomach full of "cold cereal fiber."
This means you stay full longer if you eat oatmeal because the oatmeal literally fills up your stomach longer.
None of this matters if you don't like oatmeal.
You might be thinking "I don't care if oatmeal is cheap and filling because I don't like oatmeal."
I get that.
When I was a kid I'd rather go hungry than eat oatmeal. We ate oatmeal a lot and I went hungry often. I hated everything about oatmeal: the smell, the bland taste, the feel of globby lumps between my teeth.
I didn't give oatmeal a second chance until I was an adult. A friend suggested that I try 2-minute microwave oatmeal with frozen berries. Fifteen years later, I eat oatmeal with berries almost every morning.
Food preferences can change.
Adding frozen berries makes oatmeal just as expensive as cereal. But berries and oatmeal are 1,000 times more nutritious than cold cereal....and much more filling!
I make also this 2-minute peanut butter oatmeal recipe for my family almost every day.
Peanut butter adds 11 cents per serving, but a kid who eats a bowl of peanut butter oatmeal is NOT going to ask for food until lunchtime.
Sometimes I experiment with overnight oatmeal or baked oatmeal recipes from this website: https://www.budgetbytes.com/category/recipes/breakfast/oats/
My point here is: do not give up on oatmeal. It's cheap, nutritious and filling. Give oatmeal a chance, it might become one of your favorite foods too.
Still not convinced?
It is 100% okay to love cold cereal.
If you have to choose between skipping breakfast.....or having cold cereal.....please eat cold cereal!
If you are going to buy cold cereal, look for whole grain varieties with 3+ grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugars. They are healthier and less expensive than sugar cereals!
Many cereals have 12 grams of sugar, which is HALF of your child's limit for the day (25 grams).
0 grams (+2 grams with 2T peanut butter)
great value toasted o's
generic rice squares
Frosted Shredded Wheat
Choose a whole grain, low sugar cereal to save money and eat healthier.
I hope after reading this article, you'll be inspired to:
Pat yourself on the back for eating oatmeal
Try oatmeal if you haven't before
Choose healthier, lower-cost cereals
Maybe oatmeal will become a favorite food at your house too!
See you next week with another way to save money while eating healthy.
Thanks for reading!
1) Prices and nutrition fact labels were referenced from walmart.com on April 5, 2023. The nutritional content of oatmeal was obtained from the USDA Nutrient Analysis Library, which you can access here: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/
2) Rebello, Candida J et al. “Instant Oatmeal Increases Satiety and Reduces Energy Intake Compared to a Ready-to-Eat Oat-Based Breakfast Cereal: A Randomized Crossover Trial.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 35,1 (2016): 41-9. doi:10.1080/07315724.2015.1032442 Accessed online here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26273900/
3) Rebello, Candida J et al. “The role of meal viscosity and oat β-glucan characteristics in human appetite control: a randomized crossover trial.” Nutrition journal vol. 13 49. 28 May. 2014, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-49 Accessed online here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24884934/
4) Geliebter, Allan et al. “Effects of oatmeal and corn flakes cereal breakfasts on satiety, gastric emptying, glucose, and appetite-related hormones.” Annals of nutrition & metabolism vol. 66,2-3 (2015): 93-103. doi:10.1159/000365933 Accessed online here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25612907/