As prices go up for basic groceries, cheap breakfast ideas may become more and more of a necessity. Most of us don’t want to give up a healthy breakfast due to cost, but the cost of food is growing higher and higher. And if you never miss breakfast, you might need some easy cheap breakfast ideas to shake up your routine.
Why breakfast can be beneficial
While I’m a major breakfast fan, I know some of us are not big on a morning meal. But there are solid reasons for eating breakfast every day for a healthy lifestyle.
Breakfast gives you energy for your day
Many of us need breakfast at some point each morning to fuel us for the day, as the Cleveland Clinic notes. Breakfast doesn’t have to take place immediately upon waking up. Try to eat something within the first hour or two to refill your energy reserves.
Whether you prefer to work out first and then take in your morning nutrients, most of us need some kind of breakfast for energy. I know I struggle to get myself going if I haven’t eaten a good breakfast in the morning.
Breakfast, particularly one that includes a fair amount of protein, gives you the nutrients you need to live your life. Even a frugal breakfast can help you to focus on your mental tasks, manage all your physical work and exercise, and improve your mood.
Cheap breakfast ideas can prevent overeating and overspending
Not only does eating breakfast help you to get an energy boost, but it can also help prevent you from getting overly hungry. Now, some people swear by intermittent fasting, and that may work for certain individuals.
But if you’re anything like me, you need food in the morning. It’s important to eat something so you curb your hunger. Some of us get “hangry” if we fight our hunger too long.
So even if it’s a small meal, eating breakfast is a great idea because you won’t get overly hungry. Hunger can impact your mood, make you weak, and lead to eventually overspending. Imagine that you skipped breakfast only to realize at ten a.m. that you’re practically starving.
You’ll be more susceptible to the temptation of buying a breakfast meal from a vending machine or ordering more at lunchtime.
Instead, by eating a reasonable breakfast, you’ll feel more energetic and able to make it through until lunch. (Plus, you're more likely to eat your budget-friendly cold lunch, if you pack one!)
Cheap breakfast ideas to make ahead of time
So now that you’re convinced to try breakfast, you may need some ideas. After all, boxed or bagged cereals may be tasty, but they’re not the most nutritious or friendly to the wallet.
These cheap breakfast ideas require a small amount of advance planning, but very little time and effort overall. Keep in mind that even if you are trying to live cheaply, you can still eat a great breakfast!
1. Muffins and quick breads
Who here loves a good blueberry muffin? Or a slice of homemade banana bread? I’m raising both hands for these because I adore muffins and quick breads for an easy (and cheap) breakfast.
Of course, stores and bakeries sell ready-made baked bread items like muffins, scones, and breads. But if you have the time, you’ll save money by baking these foods yourself.
I like baking a double batch of banana or pumpkin bread in order to have extra muffins or slices to freeze.
You can whip up your favorite flavor of muffins or quick breads on the weekends when time is more leisurely, then freeze in individual portions for busy weekday mornings. Homemade choices are also terrific because you can adjust ingredients to fit your dietary needs.
2. Quiche and other baked egg dishes
Quiche sounds fancy, but it’s not that difficult to make yourself from scratch. Use your basic ingredients like eggs and some kind of crust, and add whatever toppings and flavors you prefer.
Premade crusts are also an option, letting you have a “semi-homemade” quiche. Plus, you can even make a crustless quiche, if you’re gluten-free or just watching your carbs. Try this Spend With Pennies easy quiche recipe for a great base.
Add whatever meat you like—ham, sausage, bacon, ground turkey, etc. Cheese is delicious and easy to add.
Basically, a quiche is a super-customizable cheap breakfast recipe you can make anytime and warm up in the mornings. Throw in all the vegetables you can to pump up the nutritional value and feel your best!
3. Pancakes or waffles
Although pancakes and waffles traditionally come topped with syrup, there are other ways to enjoy them. When you’re on the go, a couple of pre-cooked pancakes can make a great sandwich with your choice of filling—peanut or almond butter for a protein punch, perhaps.
Pancakes are fast and easy to make, and they freeze well. Ditto for waffles (no need to purchase the yellow boxed brand from your store).
A good way to save time and money is to make a double batch of your favorite waffle or pancake batter. The dishes and mess are the same, and you get bonus food to freeze or refrigerate for another day.
Even if you buy a pre-made pancake mix, you won’t spend much money on these. You can always bump up the nutritional value by adding a scoop of your go-to protein powder, ground flaxseed, or other healthy additions.
4. Breakfast sandwiches are cheap breakfast ideas for you
Breakfast sandwiches are easy cheap breakfast ideas that come to you courtesy of aluminum foil. If you fry or scramble a few eggs, cook some turkey bacon or sausage, and add them to your choice of bread, you’ve got a delicious breakfast sandwich.
These are great because even though they sound involved, you can pre-cook the eggs and meat and even assemble the sandwiches in advance.
Layer them (with cheese, if you like) on English muffins, bagels, homemade bread, whatever you like. Then just wrap them up in freezer-safe packaging for a quick weekday meal.
Whether you’ve prepared your breakfast sammie over the weekend or the morning you’ll eat it, you can wrap it in foil. It’ll stay warm for quite some time, enabling you to munch on it during or after the morning commute.
5. Breakfast burritos
Now, I’m giving this one its own category even though it’s not much different from a breakfast sandwich. However, a breakfast burrito can come with more fun ingredients such as black beans sauteed with some onion and bell pepper.
These are one way to get a high protein meal into your system. You might add your favorite seasoning or spoon on some salsa (though that might make it messy for true on-the-go dining).
6. Hard-boiled eggs
Next up on the cheapest breakfast ideas is the humble hard-boiled egg. I just love these—they’re extremely portable, you can make them with older eggs, and they’re great all by themselves or added to your toast or other breakfast foods.
7. Breakfast bento boxes
Do you follow any lifestyle influencers that are fans of bento boxes? You might find some fun and cheap breakfast ideas in the bento box.
These are simply compartmentalized containers where you can put different ingredients. It’s like a grown-up Lunchable, for breakfast.
These can really be customized to your diet. Many people like a range of items that satisfy the need for protein and other nutrients. You can stick to clean eating ingredients as well! Here are several suggestions of items to include:
- Nuts such as almonds or cashews
- Greek yogurt
- Cheese slices or cubes
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Fresh fruit: grapes, orange slices, berries, etc.
- Small pancakes or waffles
You get the idea. These can be a really fun breakfast.
Now, if you assemble them too far in advance, the ingredients won’t stay super fresh. So assemble what you can just before eating, or keep certain items separate.
8. Overnight oats
Let me preface this one by saying, it’s not for everyone. I personally can’t handle cold oatmeal. But many people swear by overnight oats because you can prep them the night before and your oats will be ready to eat first thing in the morning.
Old-fashioned oats will work best for this. Check out this Cookie & Kate recipe for how to do it, or just Google “overnight oats” to find a plethora of flavor suggestions.
I suppose in theory you could also warm up your oats in the morning if you are averse to cold oatmeal like me. (However, in that case, you could just cook oatmeal at breakfast time!)
9. Smoothies, smoothies, and more smoothies!
It’s no surprise that smoothies are such a popular breakfast item these days. They’re easy to make, have hundreds of flavor combinations, and you can disguise healthy ingredients behind your favorites to get more nutrients.
Smoothies are how I learned to love spinach—I needed the fruit to cover up the spinach, but now I love spinach in everything!
You can make smoothies with any type of milk, dairy or otherwise, or even plain water. There are whey protein powders, vegan protein mixes, and superfood smoothie mixes to try. I can’t claim to know which brands are the best, but just experiment to find your favorites.
For more easy cheap breakfast ideas in the morning, you can pre-blend your smoothies and store them in freezer-safe to-go containers. Some people freeze their nutrient-packed smoothies in ice trays so they can thaw as little or as much as they want.
Experiment to find out how long your smoothies need to thaw to be drinkable and delicious. One way is to freeze a bunch at once, but move one at a time to the fridge at night to give ample thawing time.
Try out smoothie ingredient packs
Another of the best cheap breakfast ideas is to assemble all of your smoothie ingredients ahead of time.
Choose your items—often fruits and leafy greens—and portion them into individual freezer bags. Then, in the morning, grab the smoothie packs, add them to your Vitamix (or any blender) with your choice of liquid or yogurt, and blend away.
Going this route, you still have to get out your blender device and spend a minute or so using it. But that’s still pretty dang quick for a breakfast on the go! Check out these ideas from The Kitchn.
If you’re determined to create your ideal day, having a healthy smoothie breakfast is a great start. You eliminate one step from the prep, making it more likely that you’ll eat a healthy breakfast on hectic mornings. Plus, your smoothie will be extra fresh by blending it just before consuming it.
Cheap breakfast ideas to make in the morning
Next up, we’ve got some cheap breakfast ideas that you’ll prepare the day of consumption. These may seem quite obvious, but I include them just to remind you of just how quick and simple these stand-bys can be.
10. Fresh oatmeal
Yes, we’re back to oatmeal, ladies! Oatmeal is one of the incredibly easy cheap breakfast ideas. If you compare the cost per serving to a cold breakfast cereal, oatmeal is the clear winner for frugality.
This is such a great food to fill you up for a busy day of working, working out, parenting, volunteering, and everything else you do. You can buy individual oatmeal packets if you wish, then simply warm them up with water or milk.
I love old-fashioned oats, cooked the slow way on the stove. This takes about five minutes, which you may not have to spare in the morning.
But did you know you can also cook oats in the microwave? They don’t have to be the pre-portioned packets. That’s a convenience, for sure.
But it’s so easy to scoop out half a cup of oats and a cup of water into a microwave-safe dish and cook for a hot breakfast.
You probably don’t want to eat this while driving or on public transit, but cooking and eating time could easily be under ten minutes total.
11. Quick scrambled or sunny side up eggs
Whatever your favorite way to eat eggs, they can be a great cheap breakfast idea. I love to scramble a couple of eggs any time of day when I can’t think of anything else to eat. They cook in almost no time and they’re very filling.
Eggs are super versatile and although they used to get a bad rap, now they’re known as a healthy food for most of us. They’re a great source of protein, vitamin D, and essential amino acids.
12. Granola over yogurt or fruit
If you buy store-made granola or prepare your own at home, granola is a delicious and a (somewhat) cheap breakfast idea. Of course, adding a lot of rare ingredients may increase the cost a bit, but it’s still a relatively inexpensive and filling breakfast or snack.
Granola recipes abound online, but your basic ingredients are likely oats, honey, oil, and nuts or seeds. Bake up a batch to munch on all week long.
Many granolas are tasty on their own, and you can also toss them into your yogurt or enjoy them with fruit.
13. Toast (The ultimate cheap breakfast!)
Now, don’t laugh—I’m including toast in this roundup of cheap breakfast foods. That’s because toast is an amazingly easy and inexpensive way to get some very healthy nutrients into your morning.
Even if you’re gluten-free, you might find a great GF brand of bread to use. Otherwise, try a brand with whole grains or even seeds like Dave’s Killer Bread for the most nutrient-dense toast. I mean, toasting a couple of slices of bread, English muffins, or bagels in the morning is incredibly quick.
Toast is great for a variety of toppings as well. Consider peanut butter and bananas, almond butter, jam or preserves, and avocado (and don’t let anyone mock you for avocado toast!).
Obviously, there are a lot of options to keep you from getting bored. Plus, it’s easy-peasy to make and eat a toasty breakfast to start your day.
14. A quick bacon or breakfast sausage fry
While breakfast meats are not always cheap, you can get a deal on them if you shop in bulk or buy them on sale. Bacon and sausage come in all kinds or varieties, for instance, turkey, maple, hardwood smoked, and more.
So if you are a meat-eater, you are sure to find a variety you like. Plus you can have it with toast or eggs for a quick and filling morning meal!
Cheap breakfast ideas with no prep required
Last but not least, here are five tried-and-true cheap breakfast ideas. These require literally zero preparation. If you hate to cook or just don’t have the time, try these to save money. You can keep them in your fridge or pantry and grab them on your way out the door.
15. Fresh whole fruits are great cheap breakfast ideas
We can’t talk about breakfast without including fruit. It’s relatively cheap (even from a farmer’s market) and requires nothing other than occasionally a little slicing before you eat.
Fresh fruit that’s in season will be the most beneficial and tasty, but many of us can get out-of-season fruits as well. Simply peel a banana or orange, grab a handful of strawberries or blueberries, or stuff an apple into your purse.
Fresh fruit is a cheap breakfast idea that anyone can enjoy, no matter how busy! Certain fruits do require a bit of prep (obviously, a watermelon needs to be cut up before enjoying). But pick whatever you like.
16. Almonds, cashews, or other nuts and seeds
For a lot of us, nuts are a fantastic on-the-go snack or cheap breakfast idea. They aren’t as cheap as oats or white bread, but they pack a lot of nutrients.
I love having a bag of almonds on my desk to munch on whenever I need a pick-me-up, and they can also be a part of a quick breakfast.
17. Dry cereal varieties
Don’t forget that when you’re especially short on time, you might pack a little snack baggie of cereal for a cheap breakfast option. You can eat it on the run and gain energy to tackle your day.
And while breakfast cereals don’t have the best reputation, they can be helpful in a pinch.
I eat more cereal than I should, but I try to keep it low in sugar and high in protein. Frosted Mini Wheats saved me on many a long day of teaching when all I had time to do was grab a few dry bites of cereal between classes.
18. Homemade granola bars make a cheap breakfast
While store-bought granola bars can be fine, if you’re trying to save money, making your own granola bars is a good start. For a cheap breakfast, find a great recipe like this one from The Minimalist Baker for homemade protein/granola bars.
Granola bars are fun, too, because you can add your own flavors and special ingredients, such as pepitas, sunflower seeds, raisins, walnuts, etc.
19. Yogurt or cottage cheese
For those of us who consume dairy, yogurt and cottage cheese are good breakfast ideas for people who are busy. Greek yogurt also has a higher concentration of protein, helping keep you full all morning.
Lots of people love cottage cheese as well, and you can add fruit to that to give it a different flavor. These are quick and healthy food choices for a cheap breakfast, and again, zero prep is required.
Cheap breakfast ideas can improve your life and your finances
As you can see, most of these cheap breakfast ideas are fairly easy to prepare. You can use these to help you create a cheap grocery list each week.
Some require a tiny bit of advance planning, while others can be grabbed on your way to work. If you’ve never been a breakfast person, it might be something to consider. You could enjoy higher energy levels and increased focus, all without spending much of your overall food budget.
For more tips about saving money, check out the other great articles we have at Clever Girl Finance, or try one of our free financial courses.