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How to Eat a Healthy Breakfast on a Low-Income Budget

Heather writes about food and how it helps us have a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy breakfast can be economical too.

A healthy breakfast can be economical too.

Finding ways to eat well without spending extra money has become more challenging. But with some planning, you can find all sorts of delicious ways to stick to your budget during the morning meal.

A healthy breakfast with staying power includes sources of protein, carbohydrates, and dairy. They provide your body with a variety of vitamins and minerals for a satisfying start to the day.

Stocking your shelves with some low-cost staples is a great first step—having supplies on hand makes it that much easier to work within your budget.

Some Low-Cost Breakfast Ingredients To Mix and Match

  1. Peanut Butter (around $2.75 per jar): It's an old standby for convenient protein. Just be aware of the fat content and stick to only 2 Tablespoons for each serving to avoid extra calories.
  2. Breakfast Bars (around $2.50 for an 8-bar box): Look for bars with at least 4 grams of Dietary fiber, and for flavors with dried fruit (raisins, cherries, apricots) for an extra vitamin boost.
  3. Cheese (between $2 and $3 per container or block): Mix mild cottage cheese with fruit, or melt grated sharp cheddar onto your eggs. Either way, you'll get protein—and you can find low-fat versions of each type.
  4. Cereals (ranges from $3-$4 depending on the box size): Some of the simplest and least expensive kinds, like Cheerios, Chex and Raisin Bran (and store-brand equivalents), have always included grains in their recipes. Now, makers are offering all sorts of fortified varieties. Check the label—the first ingredients should be grains, preferably whole.
  5. Honey (around $4 per jar): Long recognized as a healthy addition to any recipe, honey has become more affordable in the local grocery store. Invest in a small jar, and add a drizzle—a little goes a long way!
  6. Salsa (around $2.50 per jar): You might think of salsa going along with tortilla chips instead of eggs. But salsa adds both the nutrition of tomatoes, green peppers and onions, and a spiciness that will wake up your taste buds!

3 Budget-Friendly Breakfast Ideas

Check out how easy it is to pull together an inexpensive meal that'll rev you up for the morning. Take these basic ideas and add your own flair to them!

Oatmeal with milk and fruit provides complex carbs and fiber.

Oatmeal with milk and fruit provides complex carbs and fiber.

Combo #1

  • Oatmeal with Applesauce, walnuts and cinnamon
  • Milk

Cost? About $1.01 per serving.

IngredientCost per servingServing Size

Oatmeal

$.15

1/2 cup

Applesauce

$.20

1/2 cup

Walnuts

$.36

2 Tbsp

Cinnamon

$.11

1 tsp

Milk

$.19

1 cup

Applesauce

Apples contain fiber, vitamin C and antioxidant nutrients. It's often on sale and keeps a long time, so buy a large jar and store it in the fridge. Choose unsweetened to avoid a lot of extra unnecessary sugar.

Oatmeal

One serving offers 16% of the daily fiber recommendation, except for the Instant variety. Opt for "quick" oats, which only take a minute to cook.

Walnuts

Nuts are a great source of omega-3 acids that are good for your heart, and Vitamin B3 for your digestive system. Two tablespoons will bring you the benefits without adding too many calories.

Milk

Skim has the lowest calorie count, but if that's too thin for you, try 1% low-fat.

Combo #2

  • Wheat Bagel with Almond Butter and Banana slices
  • Milk

Cost? About $1.05.

IngredientCost Per ServingServing Size

Wheat bagel

$.23

1 small bagel

Almond Butter

$.40

2 tbsp

Banana

$.23

1 piece

Milk

$.19

1 cup

Bagels

You'll find the best buy in the grocery store's freezer case: smaller-sized bagels keep your portion size down. The whole wheat variety gives you more grain than plain or cinnamon ones.

Almond Butter

For just a bit more than buying a jar of pre-made, you can make your own healthy nut butter. For Almond, just buy a small bag of whole or sliced nuts. Put them into your food processor or blender and run until the nuts are chopped about 2 minutes. Then, stir in canola oil by the teaspoon until you have the desired consistency. Add a small pinch of salt and sugar if desired.

Banana

A source of potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6, bananas are also some of the cheapest fresh fruits around. Unless you like them under-ripe, don't buy them green. Keep them on your counter in a plastic bag, using them right away for snacks and meals.

Combo #3

  • Yogurt and Fruit Smoothie with Toast
Fruit or vegetable smoothies are a delicious way to get fiber and antioxidants.

Fruit or vegetable smoothies are a delicious way to get fiber and antioxidants.

Cost? About $1.49.

IngredientCost Per ServingServing Size

Yogurt

$.85

1 container (6 oz)

Canned Fruit

$.45

1/2 cup

Toast

$.19

1 slice

Yogurt

Store brands are often the best bargain, whether for regular or Greek-style. Get plain—you can add the flavors you like and regulate the sugar and fat.

Canned Fruit

Peaches, pears, mangoes, pineapples, and so many more fruits are available now on store shelves. Look for the label to say "packed in light syrup" which has less sugar than the heavy kind, or even better, buy packed in fruit juice.

Bread

Whole-grain is much healthier—unfortunately, it can be pricier by at least $1. Instead, look for fortified whole wheat, white, or Italian loaves.

Poll

Comments

Maria Cecilia from Philippines on January 12, 2018:

how mouthwatering, this is not just for breakfast for me, I think they are good for desserts too..

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on March 12, 2013:

Hi Careermommy! Thank you for checking out my hub - I love how any of the ideas can be given your own unique spin. So enjoy!

Tirralan Watkins from Los Angeles, CA on March 12, 2013:

Heather63, I'm always looking for healthier breakfast ideas, especially for my kids. This was very useful and informative. I like the oatmeal with applesauce idea. Great hub!

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on December 01, 2012:

Hey carol! It is surprisingly quick to make almond or whatever kind of nut butter might like. And it's nice to know exactly what amount of sugar, salt or fat you have in it, too (or none at all, if you want).

carol stanley from Arizona on December 01, 2012:

You have some great ideas here. We eat almond butter ..so maybe I will try making almond butter. Thanks for sharing all this.

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 29, 2012:

greenpharmacy: Hi, and thanks! I have fun experimenting with different combinations of smoothies, but my favorite is still strawberry/banana/peach. Yum!

praseti030: Thank you for your vote and comments! I'm glad you found some helpful ideas - good luck with them.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 29, 2012:

Very inspiring hub and I am glad to follow your tips. I'll bookmark this one. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

Prasetio

Anandita from Korea on November 28, 2012:

Yogurt & fruit smoothie with toast is my most favorite recipe! Great hub! Thanks for sharing...

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 28, 2012:

filipinofoods: Hi - thanks for the comment, and welcome!

filipinofoods from Philippines on November 27, 2012:

nice hub! Following you now. :)

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 27, 2012:

tipstoretireearly: Hey, thanks for stopping by! I always try to find the balance between eating well and staying on track with the budget. You're right, it isn't always easy - but it's worthwhile challenge!

tipstoretireearly from New York on November 27, 2012:

Great ideas! Inexpensive and nutritious is a tough combination, but you nailed it for breakfast ideas.

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 27, 2012:

hisandhers: Hi! I know what you mean about being busy and I've found that having some ideas for combinations ready helps me stay on track. Good luck and I hope this hub helps!

Night Magic: I love smoothies too - I have quite a sweet tooth! Great idea about the whey - I have added wheat germ or ground flax meal on occasion, too.

Suzie HQ: Thanks for the comments! I didn't used to pay much attention to what I ate for breakfast, then wondered why I was so hungry or sleepy mid-morning. Even if you start small with just a few bites of something, you'll feel the difference - I'm rooting for you!

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on November 26, 2012:

Hi Heather,

Congrats on HOTD! So well deserved. I love this article as one who struggles to eat breakfast but loves healthy options such as your ideas!!

Loved the Combo #1 and #2 particularly. Great info on the ingredients which made really interesting reading.

VU, more and shared, well done!

Night Magic from Canada on November 26, 2012:

I'm all for healthy breakfasts. Your Combo #3 is my favorite. I usually put some whey protein powder in mine.

hisandhers from Toronto, Ontario, Canada on November 26, 2012:

I liked how you've set up your Hub with menus! I find one of the worst things about being on a strict budget is you tend to start skipping meals and with my busy schedule, it's easy to get up and go without having the most important meal of the day! I'll have to incorporate some of your suggestions into my daily routine. Thanks!

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 26, 2012:

Hey tipoaugue! Making your own bread is a great idea. I love a slice of banana bread or a small muffin for breakfast - the hard part is stopping at one serving!! When I first discovered how much cheaper it is to make a lot of things I used to buy packaged, I was amazed. Plus, as I'm sure you know, you get to decide how much sugar and salt you add!

Heather63 on November 26, 2012:

Hi torrilynn! I'm glad you got some encouragement from this hub. I try to make eating healthy as easy as possible - that's how I need it, and I'm sure others do too! And once you start, and get some healthy things in your fridge, it gets easier to grab something better!

Tammy from USA on November 26, 2012:

Congrats on your hub of the day! Just reading this is making me hungry. To curb my family's sweet tooth, I started making healthy quick breads instead of cakes, pies, or candy. This way they could satisfy their cravings at the same time as eating healthy. I love the graph that you used here. Very helpful! I will have to try to make my own peanut butter one of these days. Thanks!

torrilynn on November 26, 2012:

thank you for the hub. I really enjoyed reading. Ive been trying to find a healthier way of eating breakfast in the morning but found that sometimes it was too expensive to constantly eat out. I love fruit and yogurt. I appreciate the fact that you listed the serving size, the prices, and the various amounts of foods I could possibly eat. Voted up.

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 26, 2012:

Healthyboomernurse: Hi and thanks for your comments and votes! I like using the tables, because it really lays out info in a clear way. I need all the organization I can get!!

Nettlemere: Hey! I never thought of sunflower seeds on cereal - that's a great idea for extra protein and yummy flavor!

lmlynde: thank you for well wishes, and I hope you get a chance to try one of the ideas - I'd love to know how it goes for you.

followthestray: Hi - I'm really glad to hear you are wanting to try some of the ideas. I'm always "tweaking" my way to eating better, usually small bits at a time. But at least I'm moving!

Natashalh: Hi! I didn't used to like salsa, but it's grown on me. It's a great way to enjoy a little bit of veggies, and the spices are good for digestion. I'm with you, always trying to eat as well as I can without breaking the bank. Good luck!

Natasha from Hawaii on November 26, 2012:

I love salsa with eggs!

Great advice for those of us who struggle to eat healthily on a tight budget.

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 26, 2012:

RTalloni: Hi and thanks! One of my goals is to pass along info that anyone can use right away, to make it practical.

ignugent17: Welcome - thanks for stopping by and reading!

Monica K 215: I'm glad to hear your comment - I hope there's something here for you to try!

Rastamermaid: Thank you for the very nice comments!

El Ray: Great thought about looking at labels - it's amazing what you find there! I agree completely with your suggestion about limiting processed foods. Sometimes it's hard in a busy schedule, but part of my mission is to find ways to make healthy meals more simple.

Samantha Harris from New York on November 26, 2012:

Great Hub! I'll definitely be using these tips.

lmlynde from Nevada on November 26, 2012:

Thank you for this great Hub sharing some new options to try! Congrats on the Hub of the Day Award!

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on November 26, 2012:

Congratulations on HOTD - I'm a big fan of oatmeal with raisins and sunflower seeds. Haven't thought to try it with applesauce, but might give it a go.

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 26, 2012:

divacratus: Thanks for the comments!

cyndi10: you're right about a lot of us needing quick b-fasts. The easier the better in my house! Thanks for adding the apple & pnut butter idea.

ComfortB: I'm always looking for cheaper ways to make healthy things. It can be challenging, but worth the effort. Thanks for reading!

Tonipet: Good for you at working to stay in the "healthy zone"! Sometimes it seems like everything healthy costs more, but it sounds like you're finding ways to make breakfast work.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 26, 2012:

Congratulations on earning HOTD accolade for this well written article filled with lots of useful information about nutritional value and cost of breakfast foods.

I particularly liked the way you entered the info into tables.

Voted up across the board except for funny.

El Ray on November 26, 2012:

Heather you've provided some good information on eating a healthy low cost breakfast and I've voted your Hub Up + Useful.

When shopping for food, I find it very helpful to scan food labels of items before I put them in the shopping cart. That way I know the nutritional value and can make better choices. I would like to add the following: if you really want to eat healthier, you should limit or cut out eating highly processed foods from your diet. The more processed food is, the more it has been stripped of its nutritional value. For example, oatmeal is good for you, but you should avoid eating instant oats (most highly processed form) and opt for steel cut (least processed) or rolled oats (processed a little more than steel cut) instead. I hope this tip will help your readers and add value to your article.

Btw, congratulations on the Hub of the Day award!

Rastamermaid from Universe on November 26, 2012:

Awesome,great content,very informative!

Congrats!

Monica Kay from Pennsylvania on November 26, 2012:

Very useful.

ignugent17 on November 26, 2012:

Congratulations Hub of the Day!

RTalloni on November 26, 2012:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for a hub covering a topic that everyone can benefit from--it's helpful and generating interesting comments.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on November 26, 2012:

Great hub! I've been trying to incorporate smoothies, fruit shakes and fresh juices in my daily diet and I can't deny it allots some money. Though I have discovered some ways to making all these from scratch, your list is really very helpful, we all needed this. Thank you Heather and congratulations for being chosen, hub of the day. More power and healthiness!

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on November 26, 2012:

Great frugal tips on making healthy breakfast. Voted up and useful, and , congrats on the HOTD award.

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on November 26, 2012:

Congrats on Hub of the Day. Great suggestions here. Peanut butter on apples is another good addition to breakfast. Most of the foods you have included are not only nutritious and budget friendly, they are also fast to make, something most people look for in the morning. Even though I love almond butter I rarely think of buying it. Thanks for the reminder. Take care.

Kalpana Iyer from India on November 26, 2012:

Interesting. Congrats for the "hub of the day". Well deserved!

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 26, 2012:

nancynurse: Hi! I just discovered the ease of making my own nut butters, but it's nice to know there are good pre-made choices out there, too!

lhchan: Thanks for checking out the hub - I hope it gave you some helpful ideas!

Lucy Jones from Scandinavia on November 26, 2012:

Very helpful hub. Thanks for sharing these invaluable tips. Voted up.

Nina L James from chicago, Illinois on November 26, 2012:

That picture of the fruit and yougurt breakfast looks delicious!!!! I like the way you've broken down the cost per item; doing this makes it extremely affordable. Voted up!!!

CZCZCZ from Oregon on November 26, 2012:

Yogurt and fruit is a favorite budget breakfast of mine. Enjoyed looking at the tables you put together on cost per servings for the various recommendations. Congrats on being hub of the day for this awesome hubpage.

lhchan on November 06, 2012:

Very useful hub. Thanks for sharing.

Nancy McClintock from Southeast USA on November 06, 2012:

Awesome hub. Thanks for sharing. Now I also know to buy Smuckers peanut butter. I like Almond butter also.

Heather Adams (author) from Connecticut, USA on November 06, 2012:

Hi Claudia - thank you for sharing your experiences. You're right about the unhealthiness of a lot of jarred peanut butter, which is why I often make my own. It takes about 5 minutes, and I can control how much salt or sugar that goes in. I'm glad you've found one you like so much!

Claudia Tello from Mexico on November 06, 2012:

I am a big "healthy on a low budget" eater and I love peanut butter on wholegrain toast. I eat the chunky Smucker´s brand, which is absolutely delicious, and the healthiest one. It is much more than $2.75, around $6 point something dollars, but it is absolutely worth it.

Many peanut butters have hydrogenated vegetable fats (terribly unhealthy) in them and lots of sugar, which besides turning peanut butter into an unhealthy breakfast option, make it taste far less tasty (I actually don´t even like them). This isn´t intended as an Smucker´s advertisement but: Smucker´s peanut butter is delicious and 100% healthy, as it is made with peanuts and salt only.

Hope this is a good contribution to the subject.

Kind regards,

Claudia

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