Winter is Coming: Time for Oatmeal

Oatmeal. It’s the perfect winter comfort food, gluten-free and anti-inflammatory, especially when seasoned with spices. It’s vegan, usually free of allergens, and beloved by young and old alike. It warms the belly, saves you money, and is super easy to make in a zero waste way.

Why strive for zero waste? It’s so easy to do with oatmeal! They’ve had those yucky, super-sweet instant oatmeal packets for a long time now. But I just can’t believe the new trend of selling oatmeal in disposable cups, and at convenience food prices to boot. No thank you! If you’re going to waste something, waste the food itself by letting a less-than-experienced eater use it as a “sensory experience”:

Did someone say oatmeal?

Did someone say oatmeal?

Fortunately, it’s easy to resist convenience oatmeal if you have a plan and/or a routine. You can cook oatmeal for the whole house using the recipe below, then pack it in thermoses for those on the go, or throw leftovers in the fridge for the next day. It reheats just fine in the microwave or back on the stovetop with a bit of added liquid.

Rolled oats are $0.16 per ½ cup serving at Costco if you get the 23 pound bucket of it. I haven’t done the full cereal to oatmeal cost comparison recently, but when I was living on a tight budget, there was always room for oatmeal. Here are a few ways to dress it up or break it down to basics based on budget, time pressures & other preferences:

My best tips for loving oatmeal

  • Use cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger and other spices to boost deliciousness and reduce or eliminate the need for any sweetener. These can be pricey, but lots of people have extra spices going to waste. Try asking for some on Buy Nothing!
  • If you do need a sweetener, consider real maple syrup – it has one of the lowest glycemic indexes and comes from great big trees that sequester carbon and are easy to grow. I buy the big jugs of organic stuff at Costco while I’m there getting oatmeal. Better yet, you can save a trip and the membership fee by asking a friend who’s a member to pick up a couple of items from you when they go. It’s okay to ask for favors if you pay them back or pay them forward!
  • Try whole, rolled oats cooked on the stovetop (see below) if you have disliked the mushiness of oatmeal in the past. Thick-cut or steel-cut oats are other options if you’re looking for a texture with a bit more bite. The less you cook oatmeal, the chewier it will be. Adding chopped nuts is also great for adding texture.
  • Add fresh fruit in summer, frozen in winter. The frozen fruits to cool down your oats! Frozen berries & fruits are much cheaper to buy frozen when it’s not summer, but they can languish in the freezer for people (like me) who aren’t that big on smoothies. Oatmeal is the one way we consistently frozen fruit.
  • Baby fruit purees frozen in ice cube trays are also great – put one or two frozen food cubes into baby’s oatmeal to cool it down and flavor it. Or use up those flavors of puree your kid didn’t like by mixing them in your morning oats.
  • Still not a fan? Try adding chocolate chips to the hot bowl of oats. Seriously can’t go wrong with that, right?

zero waste oatmeal

Oatmeal 101: The Stovetop Method

  1. Boil water in a small, covered saucepan or however you prefer to boil your water. Use 1 cup for 1 serving, 1.75 cups for 2, or follow the instructions on your oatmeal packet.
  2. Add oats to water when boiling, and immediately turn down heat to medium or medium-low. I add 1/2 cup oats to 1 c. water for 1 serving, 1 cup oats to 1.75 cups water for 2 servings, etc. generally something a bit less than a 1:2 ratio for larger amounts. You can always add more water later as long as you remember not to let it burn!
  3. Stir well and boil uncovered until water is mostly absorbed. I suggest staying around to watch and stir because it could either boil over or burn if you walk away for too long. Once you work out a system, you’ll be able to set a timer or walk away for just the right amount of time as part of your morning routine. I usually pack lunches and stay nearby, though. (Stay tuned for another post about microwave and overnight refrigerator methods if this is sounding overwhelming or impossible!) You can add any spices you like while it’s cooking (e.g. a sprinkle of cinnamon). Some will also want some salt in it.
  4. When it looks like oatmeal to you, remove from the heat. You can eat right away if you cool it with frozen fruit, cold milk or maple syrup from the freezer, or let it sit for a bit to cool and thicken further.

Total blog fail here – I have no mouth-watering picture to show you… I shall update with a suitable illustration asap. Until then, I leave everything in the capable hands and salivary glands of your imagination. Ta-ta for now!

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