By Cassie Johnston
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You all know I’m a big believer in food prep (where you spend some time on the weekends to prep healthy foods to eat on all week long). But I know there are a lot of skeptics out there. One of the biggest complaints I hear about food prep is that it takes up just too darn much of your precious weekend time. I get it. Your time with your family is sacred, and you don’t want to spend four hours of it locked in your kitchen.
So here is my rebuttal to this complaint: it doesn’t have to take forever. Sure, there are folks on Instagram posting pictures of their perfectly arranged meals and snacks that probably took them all Sunday to do—but that doesn’t have to be what food prep means for you. When it comes to healthy eating (and let’s be honest, life in general), the best philosophy is doing what you can with what you have when you have it. And if all you have is an hour to food prep, guess what? That’s still SUPER TOTALLY AWESOME. And we can totally get you a ton of great food ready in that amount of time.
This past weekend we got an “extra” hour of time thanks to the end of Daylight Savings Time, and my friends at Beautyrest® Brand wanted me to share how I spent that extra hour to do something healthy. I took that hour and food prepped! Here’s what I got done:
All in an hour! Healthy change often doesn’t come from the big pushes—running a marathon or going vegan or whatever big change—it comes from making small, healthy decisions day in and day out. My small daily decisions are usually drinking water, taking walks, food prepping, and making sure I get a good night’s sleep.
If I don’t make sure to go to bed at a reasonable hour, I’m a total zombie (and that zombie-ism leads to not-so-healthy decisions the next day—I’m looking at you triple venti mocha with extra whipped cream). I’m not alone in this—according to a recent study by Beautyrest Brand, a full third (33%!) of Americans say it’s been over six months since the last time they woke up feeling energized. You know a good way to get more sleep? Have your breakfast prepped and ready to go for the morning! Make these instant oatmeal cups, set your alarm for later tomorrow, and Get Your Beautyrest®!
The idea for these instant oatmeal cups came from a college care package, actually. A few weeks back, I was putting together a care package for my oldest niece who is currently in her first semester of college. Her Snapchat story has been filled with late night cookie delivery (that’s a thing now, apparently!), pizza, and all the other rite-of-passage foods you gorge yourself on when you’re living in the dorms. I’m glad she’s living it up, but my motherly/auntly instincts kicked in, and I knew I had to send her some healthy food to balance out all that fun.
One of the things I threw in the care package were microwavable oatmeal cups. You know those things right? They’re like two or three bucks at the grocery store, they come in a paper cup, and you either add water then zap it or add boiling water. You then stir and eat. As I was loading up my cart with these instant oatmeal cups, I thought, “This is like $0.25 worth of ingredients. Hey, I should totally make these at home.” And the second the weather dropped down low enough to be hot oatmeal weather, I totally did. And I’m way excited about them.
The concept is simple: you put all the makings of a great bowl of oatmeal in a jar. You seal it up, and then stash it in your pantry until you’re ready to use it.
When it’s breakfast time? Just pour in boiling water, stir, cover and let rest for a few minutes. Then, enjoy! You’ll have hot, creamy, sweet, tasty, healthy oatmeal in a flash, and for a fraction of the cost of the instant oatmeal cups or packets from the store.
I worked up eight different oatmeal combos here that you can easily make at home. A few tips before I dig into the nitty gritty:
All of these are shelf-stable and shouldn’t be refrigerated. Why? Well, when you go to pour the boiling water into the jars, you don’t want them to be cold. The shock of going from cold to hot will shatter most glass jars. You’ll be fine just as long as the jars are room temp.
If the boiling-water-in-glass-jar thing weirds you out, you can instead store these combos in zip-top plastic baggies, and then pour into a bowl with 2/3 cup of water, and then zap in the microwave for about two minutes. I like the jar method, though. All-in-one-storage and bowl is my jam (and I’ve never had a jar break).
These will work with both old-fashioned (rolled) or instant oats. The rolled oats result in a thicker texture, and the instant oats are more like a porridge. Whatever makes your heart happy.
Each of these recipes calls for 0-2 tablespoons of sugar to taste—some folks won’t want to add sugar, and that’s fine. Some will want to leave out the sugar so they can add honey or maple syrup on later. I’ve included some more info for each jar about which ones you might want to skip adding sugar. Experiment until you figure out what is perfect for your tastebuds.
I recommend starting with 1/2 cup boiling water per jar when you make it. This makes for a pretty thick cup of oatmeal, but you can always add more hot water (or milk) to thin it out. Experiment to see what make you happy.
Alright, let’s dig in!
Use dried apples (make sure to pick up ones that don’t have any added sugar) to give this oatmeal it’s apple-tastic flavor. The apples and raisins add a lot of sweetness to this cup, so you’ll probably be able to get away with adding less or even no sugar to the batch.
Head to your supermarket’s spice aisle and look for dried orange peel in the jars. Fresh is best, but the dried stuff is great to have on hand for times when you need a little dose of citrus in a shelf-stable recipe. Make sure to grab low-sugar dried cranberries for this one, or if you do use regular, sweetened cranberries, lower the added sugar.
This cup used dried, crystallized ginger to add that spicy bite ginger fans love. Crystallized ginger is already sweetened, so you might want to skip or reduce the amount of sugar you add to this cup.
It’s like your favorite coffee and your favorite breakfast all in one! Make sure to use instant espresso powder (instant coffee would work in a pinch) to add the coffee flavor to this. Espresso powder is great to have on hand to add layers of flavor to chocolate baked goods! Seriously, if you bake chocolate cakes, you need to keep espresso powder in your pantry.
The name of this one is a little deceiving, because once the boiling water hits the jar, the chocolate chips begin to melt and turn the whole oatmeal into a chocolatey dream. Save this one for when you really need a pick-me-up in the morning. If you use semisweet chocolate chips, you can skip the added sugar.
This one is my favorite of the bunch! Like the other cups that use dried fruit, make sure to track down no- or low-sugar dried pineapple and unsweetened coconut flakes. Check the bulk bins at your local health food store. That’s a great resource for unsweetened dried fruit!
In the Spring each year, we pick tons and tons of strawberries, and I dehydrate a lot of them in slices. They are crazy good in oatmeal! If you don’t dehydrate your own, you can pick up freeze-dried or dried strawberries at your local health food store. Make sure to use ground flaxseed meal here. Whole flaxseeds have an impenetrable coating that makes them impossible to digest. To get all the wonderful nutrients of flaxseed, it needs to be ground.
Speaking of seeds, this superseed oatmeal is what you need to make if you need some brain food! This baby has three Omega-3-packed superseeds—flax, hemp, and chia! Get all three at your local supermarket or health food store.
Take a few minutes to prep these instant oatmeal cups on the weekend and get your beauty rest during the week. You’ll have a healthy breakfast ready in a flash!
Keywords: oatmeal, instant oats, breakfast, meal prep
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These are great ideas!! Thanks for sharing. And I love love love the jars!
I make these a lot but mine aren’t nearly so amazing. I can’t WAIT to try that cranberry orange one, hello yum! And I totally need a new mattress, said the lady who still uses the one she got from a dumpster 11 years ago, true story.
That seems like such a huge amount of sugar in the photos — and yet my all time favourite way to eat porridge (when not keto-ing) is to make an almost solid lid of brown sugar and let it melt in the heat and steam… so I really shouldn’t question these, I probably just have carb-bomb envy!
By the way, this post showed up as “by Adam” in Feedly, which had me confused?
I, admittedly, shot the photos with the full 2 tablespoons of sugar so you could see them well in the photos! When I make them “for real” I usually just use 1-2 teaspoons—but that little doesn’t show up as well on camera!
And, um, that’s really weird. Random Adam!
I absolutely LOVE these! I try to do meal prep as much as possible, and will definitely be adding these to my list. we love our oats
Thanks for sharing these! What brand are your jars? They look sturdier than the typical Ball Jars.
(Also, just a heads up, I clicked on the link for the date bites and it still references the BTHR blog name in the body of the post. I didn’t know if that was an illegal offense or not!)
Thanks, Kristina! We’re working on getting all those references changed!
And here are the jars (this is an affiliate link): http://amzn.to/2eJdCyd
What size are the jars you used please!
Pints or 0.5 liters!
Totally going to try these. Meal prep is a total game changer for how my week goes health wise. Like you, I have a toddler so I don’t have hours of spare time to spend with my head turned. What works for me is to go small with maybe 3 days worth of prep. This gets me through the first part of the work week and I try to have a backup (Amy’s meals for lunch, yogurt for breakfast) in case I falter mid-week. I also start meal prep in the morning when Baby Boy is engrossed with cartoons then finish up in the evening when he’s winding down and Hubby can entertain him. Thanks for the post!
That’s such a great plan! I’m a big believer in small choices making a big impact—and that’s something that is REALLY the case when you have a toddler tornado running around. Can I spend six hours churning my own butter? Nope. But I can make some oatmeal packs! Good for you, friend. :)
So glad you posted this! With twins I don’t have much time for breakfast and I was wanting some oatmeal!
Oh these look awesome! Thanks
Ooh! I love these ideas! Oatmeal is my favorite cold weather breakfast, but getting all the ingredients out every day is just silly. So much better to do it all at once!
These look amazing! Can’t wait to make them this weekend.
I love ginger chai but didn’t find the recipe. Did I miss something?
There is no Ginger Chai one, but there is an Orange Ginger Chia one! :)
I made one that has peanut butter powder,chia seeds and sliced ginger. MMMmmm I did not see the Chai recipe. I would love that one.
To make your oatmeal with a crunch sprinkle you’re yummy granola on top.
I’ve been trying to get my kids to eat more oatmeal and this sounds like the perfect solution! love those jars too! I’m going to try out the peanut butter chocolate one for an after school snack!
Where did you get those cute containers from?
From Amazon: http://amzn.to/2eJdCyd
They are wonderful!
Can these be made by microwaving instead of adding boiling water?
Also, do you use quick cook oats, or old fashioned?
Have you tried any with Steel Cut oats? I love the heartier texture?
What an amazing idea! Move over overnight oats. Pinned this. :)
these sound awesome! Especially the super seed ones! I’ll throw in dried apricots but I love this idea. It’s somehow even easier than overnight oats.
Ooh, dried apricots would be a great addition!
I’d never thought about making my own instant oats, but these all looks delicious and like a great food prep idea!
Can you use steel cut oats for this recipe?
I wouldn’t recommend it. You need to actually cook steel cut oats to make them chewy, and the boil-stir-rest method just won’t cut it, I’m afraid.
I’m confused. I want to buy a set of Weck jars to make this and the overnight oats. I have one of the .5 liter jars already and it sure does seem large for one serving of oatmeal. The picture where you’re pouring water into the jar from a kettle looks like a smaller 1/5 liter jar. Are all these photos taken with a .5 liter jar? I’ve made overnight oats in the past in half pint ball jars and it was more than enough of a breakfast serving for me.
I used the 0.5 liter jars for these!
For the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip recipe, can I replace peanut butter powder with regular peanut butter?
I’m afraid that regular peanut butter might not keep the cups shelf stable. Instead, I’d recommend just putting a big dollop on after you’ve heated up the oatmeal—then it’ll get all gooey and melty and delicious!
These recipes are great! I prefer the creamier texture plus the extra calcium that milk gives, so I add 2-3 tablespoons of powdered milk to the dry ingredients. It’s still shelf stable, and still has the convenience of only needing hot water.
I also often eat breakfast on the go. So I will put the instant mix and hot water into a thermos. The vacuum seal traps in the steam so by the time I open it at my destination, the dried fruit have remoistened so much, they have the texture of nearly fresh.
Thank you so much for these. I find breakfast such a chore usually end up having it at about 11am. Not good. These look amazing.
Went on your web site two or three days ago and saw some healthy breakfast recipes made with yogurt, oatmeal & fresh fruit. I cannot find the recipes and I wanted to make them tonight.
Was it these overnight oats, perhaps? https://wholefully.com/8-classic-overnight-oats-recipes-you-should-try/
How many days can you leave them in the frig? I’d like to make a batch all at once
No need to put them in the fridge – you can leave them in the pantry if you haven’t added the boiling water yet. They should last as long as the dried fruit would on its own, so weeks or even months!
If I were to use mason jars, what size or ounces would be best? I’m not sure how much the actual volume is at the end. Thanks! I just recently tried oatmeal at almost 30 and discovered I like it when it has a thicker texture and would love more appealing option than packets. Thanks!
Pints work well!
These are great! I just made a few last week and all 4 of my kiddos loved them. I love prepping ahead especially for breakfasts since we homeschool and mornings with 4 littles are crazy. I also love that they are portable and if we have a long drive somewhere the kids can eat them in the car no mess.
Husband newly diagnosed with Diabetis, a lot of these will work for him, less adding the sugar. We were told adding a BIT of natural honey or maple syrup for sweetening is ok, the key is moderation in what add. Thank you for sharing, will test out and see how his sugar levels are later in the day.
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