A hearty, healthy and frugal breakfast is a great way to start the day. There are endless ways to prepare a breakfast feast when living off the smell of an oily rag. What you prepare will depend on what you have available in your penny pinchers' pantry - or what's plentiful and cheap at the time.
Most people include a cereal of some kind in their breakfast, which got an oily rag reader wondering which cereal was the best value for money. So, we dusted off the calculator and browsed the online isles of a major supermarket which we use as our "sample store".
We looked at their house brand products and took six of the most common breakfast cereals. To make comparison easier, we worked out the cost for 100g of cereal.
This is what we found:
Rolled oats, 750g, $2.25, 30c per 100g; cornflakes, 500g, $2.35, 47c per 100g; muesli traditional, 900g, $4.49, 50c per 100g; wheat biscuits, 750g $3.98, 53c per 100g; rice bubbles, 600g, $3.79, 63c; bran and sultanas, 500g, $4.24, 85c per 100g.
The result is pretty clear. Rolled oats scoops the gold medal for thrifty breakfasts and by a clear margin from the rest of the field. After a while, plain old rolled oats may seem a little ordinary so why not dress it up with some in-season fruit and home-made yoghurt.
The silver medal goes to cornflakes, closely followed by traditional muesli in the bronze position. Wheat biscuits came in a close fourth. Bran and sultanas was at the rear end of our sample group, at almost three times the price of rolled oats. In other words, for every $10 someone spends on bran and sultanas for breakfast, the equivalent cost for rolled oats would be $3.50, so they could save $6.50 by switching over! That's $6.50 they would then have for the other essentials.
Having established the cheapest buy, we then moved on to one of our oily rag hobby horses. We wanted to know how much you could save if you bought the house brand (the one in the plain dull and boring packaging) instead of the branded products (the ones that are colourfully and attractively packaged, conveniently placed on the easy-to-reach shelves, and are flashed all over TV during the kids' programmes).
To make the comparison fair, we took an equivalent product in the same or similar sized packet. Rolled oats: house brand, 30c per 100g; branded, 42c per 100g; 29 per cent savings. Cornflakes: house brand, 47c per 100g; branded, 71c per 100g; 33 per cent savings. Muesli traditional: house brand, 50c per 100g; branded, 73c per 100g; 32 per cent savings. Wheat biscuits: house brand, 53c per 100g; branded, 64c per 100g; 17 per cent savings. Rice bubbles: house brand, 63c per 100g; branded, 87c per 100g; 27 per cent savings. Bran and sultanas: house brand, 85c per 100g; branded, $1.10; 23 per cent savings.
You could save between 17 and 33 per cent purchasing a house brand item, and the average saving over the six items was 27 per cent. So for every $10 you spend on cereals in fancy packets, you could save $2.70 to spend on something else, by buying house brand products.
In many cases, the product in the plain packaging is exactly the same product that is found in the fancy boxes.
Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips online at www.oilyrag.co.nz.