“If you want an early breakfast, you must have potatoes and cracked wheat or oatmeal boiled the day before; then coffee can be made, beefsteak cooked, potatoes stewed or fried in American style, the mush steamed or fried brown, and griddle cakes begun or eggs boiled, in fifteen minutes from the time you come down. Time yourself by the clock, day after day, until you can do this.” -1884
I must admit, ever so humbly, that I’ve mastered the art of pulling boxes of cold cereal from the cupboard and cartons of yogurt from the refrigerator, and turning on the coffeemaker, all in less than 15 minutes. You should watch me. I’m a blur of housewifery in action.
But a fast breakfast isn’t usually the cheapest option and it usually isn’t the healthiest, either. Breakfasts in our home more closely resemble the 1884 breakfasts above more than the modern pre-packaged meals. A cup of yogurt or a couple of granola bars just don’t satisfy for long and the quantity of cold cereal a family can devour in a meal is a budget buster. If you have to cook for specific dietary needs and make nearly everything from scratch, it’s easy to let the breakfast process drag on and you can feel like you’re behind before the day has barely started.
I’m always looking for ways to save time as well as money and stay healthy in the process. How do I speed up the breakfast process? The advice from 1884 holds true. Plan ahead! Here are a few ways to do that:
Cook in quantity
- In an Instant Pot or a crockpot, cook 2-3 times the number of potatoes you’d normally cook for a meal, then store the rest in the refrigerator. Shred them up and fry into hash browns, with a fried egg on top or slice them up for a fried potatoes. Precooked potatoes also give me a head start for breakfast burritos.
- Make multiple batches of muffins, granola, waffles, and French toast. They freeze and reheat just fine.
- Egg muffins (like a mini-quiche–scrambled eggs mixed with vegetables and/or meat, baked in muffin tins) also freeze and reheat well.
Prep the night before
I consider myself a morning person. But even so, no matter how simple the task, it seems to take less time in the evening than it does first thing in the morning. Anything that can be done ahead of time is a bonus.
- Start hot cereal the night before. Combine equal parts oatmeal (or buckwheat groats) and water with a spoonful of yogurt in a saucepan. In the morning, add the same amount of water again, add some sort of fruit and heat it up. By the time it’s warmed, it’s cooked and ready to eat.
- Set the table and gather ingredients on the counter.
- Pull muffins out from the freezer so they can thaw overnight.
- Mix up the batter for crepes or baked oatmeal and store in the fridge.
Establish a schedule
Make breakfast predictable. I’m sorry to stifle any spontaneous hearts, but it will free up time for more fun things. In our home, Sunday is always oatmeal, Monday is something from the freezer, Thursdays and Saturdays, when our schedule is more relaxed, we’ll have pancakes, crepes, or waffles. Having a regular routine reduces my need to think. (Eliminating the need to think always speeds my life up considerably.)
These are some strategies that have helped me more than any others. Of course, these can be applied to any meal, but breakfast is especially important in establishing the tone of the day. Not only is breakfast served with less preparation time, but we get to start our day sooner because there is less clean-up involved.