1 Breakfast for Beginners | The Billfold

Breakfast for Beginners

I am constantly amazed at how many people don’t eat after waking up. This is very wrong! Breakfast is great—it’s the most important meal of the day, your body needs fuel, etc.

In addition:
1. It gives you a reason to get out of bed.
2. Otherwise you get spacey and tired at 10:30.
3. Coffee on an empty stomach sucks.
4. Becoming ravenous enough to eat an entire Subway footlong in four minutes flat does not make for a quality lunch break.
5. Because I said so! (I would say I sound like my mother, but she is, in fact, a new convert to breakfasting. And we’re all very proud.)

The eating part is not hard to do, it’s the preparing that trips a lot of us up. But it should not. Breakfast is the easiest meal to make yourself! Unless you live a truly liberated lifestyle of weeknight-bed-hopping, you probably wake up in the same place every day, and that place probably has a kitchen and at least one clean bowl. That’s all you need. Lunch and dinner may be left to the whims of fate, but breakfast belongs in the home.

It’s also the easiest meal to DIY on the cheap. Just say no to $5 boxes of Kashi GoLean Crunch! (Does this stuff wreak havoc with anyone else’s digestive system? No? K.) You can literally make breakfast in your sleep, for the proverbial pennies-a-serving. And, bonus, you save money absent the social stigma of brown-bagging it or “just ordering an appetizer” for dinner.

I keep the day-of time commitment as minimal as possible and mostly passive. Set your alarm ten minutes earlier than usual to get things started, and then you can go floss or practice flashcards while your food heats up. And they’re all nominally healthier than a Cinnabon or a bowl of Froot Loops, so you can save those delicacies for dinner dates. Let’s go!


The most important part of the most important meal. Make in the morning or make it overnight—all you need is a large mason jar or French press and a willingness to drink it cold.

• Mix a ratio of roughly 1/2 cup ground coffee to 8 cups water in your container
• Stir it and let it steep overnight
•In the morning, strain it through a coffee filter or press the press and presto (pressto?)! Iced coffee that tastes good even if you made it with three-month-old pre-ground French Roast from Trader Joe’s!


I can’t believe that some people don’t like this food. (Do they hate Quakers or something? Because I know some actual Quakers and they are really nice and don’t even wear weird hats.) Anyway, if you buy this up from the bulk bins at your local Whole Foods/co-op/commune, you can get it on the cheap and presumably free-range, organic, and sustainable or whatever.

• Buy steel-cut oats (they look like little pellets, not flat flakes)
• Combine 1 cup oats with 3 cups water in a sauce pan
• Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit overnight
• In the morning: oatmeal!
• Mix in some milk, nuke it for about 2 minutes, and voilà.

The best part about steel-cut oats is they work as leftovers that go in the fridge, to be reheated at your leisure (or panicked last minute). And you don’t even have to look at the Quaker Man! (He has a name, actually, and it’s Larry?)


Do not scramble, fry, or poach. Buy a dozen eggs and hard-boil them Sunday night, then eat them all week. Protein!

How to hard boil eggs, to review:
• Put eggs pot
• Add cold water to cover by an inch
•Bring to boil, cover pot and let sit for 11 minutes

If you are too lazy to do this yourself, buy one of those bags of pre-cooked ones. More expensive, but still cheaper than Eating Out.

Alternatively, make a frittata:
• Cook up some vegetables in olive oil in an ovenproof skillet
• Add a couple beaten eggs and some cheese
• Bake at 375 until set

These slices are perfect to eat while sprinting in vain after the bus, and will keep long enough for you to forget about them in the back of the fridge.


Not the cheapest or the healthiest, but as suburban parents always say, if they’re going to eat bagels, I’d rather they do it in my home where I can keep an eye on them. Buy a bag, freeze them, consume one by one with spread of choice (or sliced eggs for bonus points). This method also works with English muffins, despite them being a vastly inferior bread product.


Yogurt is actually a pretty decent breakfast item, but you have to do it right. Buy it in large tubs to knock down the per-serving cost and stay the hell away from those sucralose-flavored Light-n-Fits. I like Greek yogurt because it’s trendy and proteinier and John-Stamos-approved, but it’s also more expensive unless you get the shitty store brand. I am okay with this.


Secret, bonus, totally-foolproof breakfast preparation method
Have a roommate who stays up later than you do, inexplicably decides to make cinnamon rolls in the middle of the night, and leaves them on the kitchen counter with a note that proclaims in giant, frantic letters, “PLEASE HELP ME EAT THESE!!”

I did this today, and it worked like a charm. I NEVER SAID I WAS A ROLE MODEL.


Blair Thornburgh lives in Chicago, where she makes a podcast, a mean egg sandwich (advanced method), and just above minimum wage. Photo: flickr/sarah and iain


19 Comments / Post A Comment

Sarah H. (#408)

Make a small investment in a Magic Bullet blender, then make breakfast smoothies! They don’t have to be fancy, I usually just do protein powder, milk and a little ice. Maybe some peanut butter if I’m really hungry. Healthier people can also add bananas, yogurt, frozen fruit, etc etc.

Also, granola and some fruit is a nice way to fancy up some yogurt. (And you should make granola with those oats. This Joy the Baker recipe is really yummy and you can tone down the sugar a little bit.)

the most convincing argument i ever heard for breakfast was by one of the doctors i work with: you can eat whatever you want because you work it all off throughout the day

my response: please pass the hollandaise

lobsterhug (#43)

Ugh, bagels stink. English muffins for life.

I second breakfast smoothies! I usually start with come spinach or kale, banana, strawberries, protein powder and milk. If I’m feeling fancy, flax seeds for Omega 3.

@lobsterhug English muffins are the best. The best! Especially with honey! Bagels meh!

Also, I find that the 11-minute boiling method makes the yolk chalky and super hard, which is, you know, fine, but I prefer a little more squoosh/less chalk. I put the eggs in cold water, heat to boiling, and just as the water boils, take it off the heat and let them sit for 7 minutes. Then cool via ice cubes/cold water. This is perfect for egg salad! Yum!

lobsterhug (#43)

@dj pomegranate All of that sounds delicious! There is nothing worse than an overcooked hard boiled egg. I forgot mine on the stove once and the yolks had that awful greenish tinge.

Babs Bunny (#547)

Oatmeal has the most disgusting texture of any food.

gidge (#601)

My life has been immeasurably improved since my mom taught me how to poach eggs in the microwave. Crack 2 eggs in a mug and cover them with a couple inches of cold water. Nuke for 1 minute. Hope they don’t explode everywhere. If not done to your liking (I like mine just barely cooked, yolk still runny), nuke in 10 second increments. Every microwave and mug is different, you have to figure out the sweet spot. For me: Red Sox Hall of Fame mug + 1min10seconds in the microwave. Lift out with a slotted spoon and plop in a bowl on top of a piece of toast you’ve ripped into chunks. Salt, pepper, stir it around. My family creatively calls this “a bread egg.” I make this a few times a week, it still explodes every once in awhile but it’s worth it, and the riskiness of the process helps wake me up and makes me feel a little bit dangerous. Oh yeah.

kellyography (#250)

Personally, I go with cereal + Silk on most days, but a good egg white/bacon/bagel sandwich can keep me full until lunchtime! Dear lord, I love breakfast.

Also, avocado toast makes a great breakfast and is quite filling.

I’m a cereal girl. Wish it was cheaper, though!
As for lunches, I refuse to go the sandwich route – I’m all about cooked food (http://eemusings.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/some-of-my-favourite-frugal-lunches/)

Brunhilde (#78)

I found that breakfast is a waste of money since I’ll just throw it up (I’ve had morning sickness since I was 16, waking up just makes me nauseated for some reason). I try to drink Vitamin Water or juice or something for the calories until my stomach settles enough for lunch.

@Brunhilde I’m gonna assume you’ve been to a doctor about this, but here is my unsolicited, unqualified medical opinion anyway: it could be your hormonal birth control!

Brunhilde (#78)

@Rosemary McClure@facebook I was on the pill from 18-26, and I took it with lunch to keep it down. The only vague diagnosis I ever got was anxiety or sour stomach. Thanks for the suggestion though! The only thing I’ve ever been able to stomach in the morning is toast. I kind of stopped asking doctors about it since they never seemed too concerned. That and I haven’t had health insurance in 4 years, so I haven’t been to the doctor in that long.

brarydog (#618)

Am I the only one here who took Home Ec back when it still existed in the 90s…or is anyone else a little skeeved about leaving oatmeal out overnight, to cool slowly to room temp and get all bacteria-fied? I’ve made grains ahead of time – like a ton of rice or quinoa on Sunday night – and then stirrred it with some coconut milk and nuts and fruit and stuff in the morning, microwaving it if I’m ambitious. But the overnight oatmeal (or for that matter, coffee)…unless you do a good nuking in the morning I might be worried. (this coming from someone who eats a LOT of cookie dough, though.)

Alternatively: get your bowl out @ night, pour in your dry oats, a dash of cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, dried fruit and nuts. Cover w/plastic wrap or a plate and leave on counter (dried goods, it’s ok). In morning: fill w/some water, pop in microwave, and eat while checking the weather online. (you can also put all the dry stuff in a glass container and take it to work, if your work microwave isn’t death-defying.)

Avocado toast = yum, add an egg for fancy times. Also, peanut butter and sliced apple or honey rolled up in a flour tortilla and then foil – portable.

You can make smoothies the night before as long as you don’t expect perfect slush frostiness. Yogurt + OJ + frozen mango or berries, immersion blender or mini food processor (THE BEST investment), cover cup, put in the fridge. In the morning – drink while applying mascara or finding your bus pass.

brarydog (#618)

p.s. I make the grains ahead of time and then put in the fridge…

The night before, Pam a frying pan and put in some chopped up veggies that will cook quickly, like mushrooms and thinly sliced onions, leave it in the fridge. Then when you get up, cook the veggies for 3-5 minutes (I usually don’t even bother moving them around in the pan), then pour Egg Beaters in while you make a piece of grainy wheaty toast and cut up a piece of fruit. Cutting up fruit makes you a lot more motivated to eat it. Fold your Egg Beaters omelette in half, possibly over a piece of cheese or a few slices of avocado or tomato, put it on the toast. This is a good low-fat sit-down breakfast (egg yolks contain lots of good stuff, but they’re also very high in cholesterol and I feel it’s best not to eat them every day), but if you’re hurry you can use a tortilla wrap instead so you can eat in the car.

eggs for the win.

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