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Breakfast ideas for the new school year

Budget-friendly foods that pack nutrition have been my focus for years now. There are many foods that are consumed out of habit that really do not help to stretch the grocery budget. Then there is the nasty problem of weaning children on to cheaper foods that are actually more nutritious while being economical. One of these habit foods is cold, boxed cereal.

Many years ago when boxed cereals jumped from around $3 a box to $6 a box I stopped buying it. The biggest dilemma then was how to get the children to eat other alternatives that they weren’t really used to. That is when I learned an important lesson about parenting. The more involved the children were the better they accepted new meals.

Weekday breakfasts during the school year are always hectic. Our children helped with chores before school and had to be on the bus for about 7:30 a.m. Even when we switched to home-schooling for the younger ones, the older children chose to finish high school in town. So, morning foods had to be handy, filling and not time consuming to prepare.

The children and I would sit down with the calendar and they each took turns picking a breakfast for the school days. It is fun now to listen to them complain about how awful their siblings’ choices were but the rule was that since everyone had a day to have their favourites they ate without complaint on the others. This worked remarkably well.

Cold cereal replacements included Baked Amish Oatmeal, Peanut Butter Oat Bran, Cream of Wheat cooked with milk and served with homemade canned peaches with a sprinkle of brown sugar, Red River Cereal and Oatmeal. I read the labels on the instant oatmeal and decided that health-wise I was no further ahead on added sugars than on cold, boxed varieties so we just added things like homemade applesauce or frozen berries to cooked quick oats. Eggs are by far our favourite breakfast food so they were allowed to choose eggs every second day with the “new” cereal choices to fill in the rest.

Baked Amish Oatmeal

1/2 c. butter (melted)

2 large eggs

1/4 c. honey

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. nutmeg OR cinnamon

2 c. milk

3 c. oatmeal

Beat together all ingredients with mixing spoon; pour into greased 9×13-inch pan. Bake at 275 F oven for 30 minutes or until done. Serve with milk. For morning convenience this recipe can be made ahead and frozen in serving sizes. It thaws quickly.

Along with their new favourite hot cereals we also learned about freezing homemade pancakes and waffles for quick toaster foods. I came across a very economical variety online for freezer waffles at http://onceamonthmom.com/better-than-the-freezer-aisle-copy-cat-eggo-waffles/. The author estimates her cost at half of the store-bought ones.

Freezer Waffles

2 large eggs

2 c. flour

1-3/4 c. milk

1/2 c. melted butter

1 tbsp. sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. mini chocolate chips, blueberries or strawberries

Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in large bowl with a whisk until well beaten and fluffy. Using the whisk, mix in flour, milk, butter, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla, just until smooth. Add in chocolate chips, blueberries or strawberries. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Makes 12.

Another idea that worked very well was overnight foods. These are ones that can be mixed up the night before and baked the next morning. These ideas would also serve very well to be used on Sunday mornings when everyone is trying to hurry to church.

Overnight French Toast

1 pkg. (8 ounces) cream cheese or soft goat cheese (chevre), softened

1/2 c. sour cream

18 slices bread

1/2 c. jam

1 tsp. vanilla

6 eggs

1/4 c. cream

1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a bowl, beat cream cheese and sour cream. Spread about three tablespoons on each slice of bread. Combine preserves and vanilla; spread over cream cheese mixture on nine slices. Top with remaining bread, cream cheese side down, to make a sandwich. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and cinnamon; pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 45-50 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Yield: 9 servings.

Our family has also found that instead of traditional syrup we enjoy homemade Pancake Sauce.

Pancake Sauce

2 c. milk

1 egg, beaten

1/2 c. sugar

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine milk, egg and sugar. Heat till a skin on the milk. Whisk in cornstarch and vanilla till thick. Makes a great topper.

With these new ideas for making mornings economical and nutritious the new school year should be off to a grand start. We were pleasantly surprised at how much more satisfying these foods were and how fast the children became accustomed to not having boxes of cereal. The best part was that we saved on our grocery budget at the same time which is always a blessing when raising a family. †

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