Budget Meal: Cinnamon Roll Slow Cooker Oats

I recently came across a really great oatmeal recipe that was too good not to share. I’ve been eating it all this week and I can tell you, I will be making it again when I can.

Oatmeal is probably my favorite fall and winter breakfast simply because it fills me up and tastes good. Nothing beats a cold run followed by a warm breakfast.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and immediately it drew my attention because it combines oatmeal and cinnamon rolls. It’s not simply oatmeal with some cinnamon in it, it has other ingredients that up the calorie and nutrient profile.

I was also attracted to it because I could make it in my slow cooker and it only took 2 hours. The problem I have with slow cooker meals sometimes is that I am not home to turn them off. Then they over-cook the food or in the case of oatmeal, I would need to get up at like 3AM to shut it off.

No thanks, not even for oatmeal.

I thought I would do the cost and calorie breakdown per serving for this recipe. I must confess that, as with most of my breakfasts, I added peanut butter on top when I ate it, so add 300 calories if you do that.

[picture from Moms With Crockpots]

2 Cups Oats (Aldi’s Rolled Oats: $1.13)
2 eggs, beaten (free from my family farm)
3 Cups Milk (Aldi’s Vanilla Silk Soy Milk: $1.19)
1/2 cup sugar (Aldi’s Brown Sugar: $0.14)
2 tbsp Baking Mix (Gluten free or regular) or All purpose flour (Aldi’s All-Purpose: $0.01)
1 tsp cinnamon (spice rack)**
1 tsp vanilla (spice rack)**

Total Cost: $2.47

Total Calorie (3-4 Servings): 1,489

**I consider these “freebies” because I do not buy spices often and buy them in bulk to have them on hand.

Have you ever made oatmeal in a crock-pot?

Weekly Breakfast Staple #1: Cereal with peanut butter and nuts

In addition to oatmeal, which I tabulated in a recent post, I frequently eat cereal in the mornings. It sounds boring and almost immature to me when people over the age of 19 used to say they still eat cereal, but I have come around.

Cereal is not just Lucky Charms and Cocoa Krispies anymore. There are so many great and nutrient dense choices these days and the best part, they are generic brand. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think spending over $3 for a box of cereal that lasts me three bowls is worth it.

Let’s talk nutrition first. Whole grain cereal with nuts is perfect for me when I get done with my morning run. It is hearty, goes down easily and quick to make. Whole grains have fiber, vitamins and minerals that are important for recovery but also because after breakfast I am onto the next activity, which requires energy. I add peanut butter first because I love it and second because I found it keeps me fuller longer. Combining carbohydrates with a fat helps them digest slower and provides sustained energy. I began adding walnuts on top after finding them in my pantry and remembering how much I love them. Walnuts are both delicious, and also stay crunchy after the milk has made the cereal soggy. Oh yea, they also have something called Omega-3s for your brain or whatever. Regardless, they take the cereal up a level in flavor town.

Now, let’s talk budget. Cereal is more pricey per calorie than oats or another slow cooking grain. It is not however more pricey than bread. The bread I’m talking about is not the dollar per loaf cheap bread. If I’ve learned anything from my time at CTB, it’s that higher quality bread, even full of gluten and carbohydrates, is better for your body. Ingredients matter even if you’re on a budget.

Back to cereal, my local grocer sells most of its generic brand at $1.69-$1.99 per box. Because I combine two cereals usually when I eat it, and I add nuts and peanut butter, I get more bowls per box. I will be honest, if I just ate the cereal with milk and that’s it, I would get at the most three breakfasts. By adding in healthy, higher calorie foods, I can justify spending $2 on a box of cereal when that $2 might go further in terms of oats or rice.

This is my favorite bowl of cereal, broken down cost and calories.


Whole Grain Cereal with Peanut Butter and Nuts

1 c Fiber Cereal (Wegmans Brand): $0.62

1/2 c Wheat Berries Cereal (Wegmans Brand): $0.31

2 T peanut butter (Skippy Super Chunk): $0.19

1/2 c walnuts (Aldi’s brand): $1.08

1/2 c almond milk (Almond Breeze brand): $0.21

Total Cost: $2.41

Total Calorie: 860 (my fitness pal)

On a different note, I’m starting to send out my newsletter again. Links and films I’ve consumed and also I want to give more budget tips. Should I do those in the newsletter and more what I eat in a day on the blog? Should I do the money part on the blog and then the calorie part in the newsletter?

Help me organize!

Athlete On A Budget

I really like saving money. I like finding deals or simply learning to live with less. One of my favorite ways to do this is with food and cooking. Once I learned how to cook and make a few cheap staples, I’ve been able to both save money, but also afford higher quality items, such as organic or specialty things.

I have always enjoyed reading posts about how to eat well and not spend an arm and a leg. These resources were great, but I found myself constantly adjusting the amounts and therefore cost, because I eat a lot more than the average person. I eat like an athlete, so I taught myself how to do that while still living a frugal life.

For example, a normal breakfast for the average person might total 500 calories are cost $1.00, say oatmeal with milk and maple syrup or honey and fruit. For me, I add a few tablespoons of peanut butter and nuts to get myself to around 1,000 calories. It sounds like a lot, but three table spoons of peanut butter is 500 calories and depending on brand of peanut butter only costs you $0.20-$0.40.

I thought when I actually looked at my spending and eating, it would be a lot harder to stick to my budget, however on the contrary, the most nutrient dense and calorically dense foods did not have to be expensive. It was when I added extras like pre-made granola, superfoods or things not in season where the money added up.

I want to look at my day, break down the costs, calories and actually show how I eat like a plant based athlete on a budget.

I work at a job that takes care of my lunches and a snack or two, which is a huge benefit. However, when I am not at work, I eat mostly like what I would have for dinner, so the price is comparable. The following is what I eat in an average day, followed by the cost breakdown for my breakfast and dinner, which I eat quite a lot of when it gets cold.

Breakfast: oatmeal, peanut butter, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, banana

1/2 cup oatmeal (Wegmans bulk, organic): $0.62

3 T peanut butter (Skippy brand): $0.26

2 T walnuts (Aldi’s): $0.20

1 T pumpkin seeds (Wegman’s bulk, organic): $0.21

1 banana (brown from CTB, but let’s say Wegman’s organic for argument sake): $0.23

Total cost: $1.52

Total calorie: 1,052 (using my fitness pal app)


Lunch: Hummus, sprouts, tomato, lettuce, parsley garlic dressing on sourdough bread, small soup, pickles


Snack: smoothie with spinach, peanut butter, chocolate protein powder, banana, milk, ice


Dinner: oatmeal with peanut butter, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and blueberries, veggies with yogurt dip

Snack: chocolate ginger brownie


Through the day I drink water and coffee. Sometimes I have juice or kombucha if I have a longer run or workout that day or if I want it or it’s free (were throwing it away because it’s expired).

I would like to do more breakdowns of my daily eats as an athlete on a budget. It is as enlightening for me as it might be fun to read. I have realized that if I am smart with my purchases, I can afford to buy my groceries from my organic co-op, which I would like to do more often.

A few tips just in the beginning which as you’ll see, I use frequently:

– Cook beans with some sort of fat, or add it afterwards

– Use peanut butter willingly as it’s the cheapest nut butter

– Season rice as you cook it

– Bananas are the highest calorie and cheapest fruit, they also act as a natural sweetener

– Eggs should always be free-range, cage-free and organic, ideally local, they are cheap protein and fat but should be used sparingly as they are not as ethical or environmental as beans or nuts

Is this something you would like to see more of?

Would you prefer the meal breakdown or a grocery list?

Would you like both organic and regular prices?