I'm not a morning person, but that didn't matter when our elementary school's start time moved nearly two hours earlier this year. My issues with the breakfast hour had to change – including the hour part. What I have now are the breakfast minutes. My challenge: Getting a quick and easy meal on the table in less time than it takes to sleep through another snooze-button. The even bigger challenge: Packing in enough calories and nutrition to fuel everyone through the school and work day. As with most home cooking, we found a little advance work the day before can make a big difference.
Here are 5 quick breakfast ideas that are on our regular rotation, including two that -– for those mornings that still get away from you -– can be grabbed on your way out the door. And if you want to focus just on grab-and-go meals, give these adorable hand pies a try, too.
1) Dressed-up Overnight Oatmeal
I cook rolled oats a lot because they are super cheap when you buy them in bulk bins, nutritious, and won't leave you feeling hungry mid-morning. A lot of people assume rolled oats are too slow for a weekday breakfast, but pre-soaking makes them cook almost as fast as a packet of instant oatmeal. (Some people don't cook them at all!) For every cup of oats I pour into a saucepan, I add a cup of whole milk and a cup of water, then stir the mixture and refrigerate it overnight. I take the saucepan out of the fridge in the morning, cook and stir over medium heat until it thickens, for a minute or two, and it's done. Microwaving works too, though it leaves the oats chewier than I personally prefer. Cutting a banana over the top dresses up the oatmeal a bit, but to make it feel like a real treat fill up a few little cups with nuts, dried fruit, and brown sugar or honey. If you have a slow-cooker, that works for overnight preparation too.
2) Breakfast Frittata
Start the day right with a well-balanced wedge of eggs, veggies and cheese or meats. Cooking a frittata takes more than five minutes, of course – but warming it up does not. Either bake one in advance expressly for a day or two of family breakfasts, or save some dinner leftovers. One reason I love frittatas is that they're so flexible, taking advantage of just about any building blocks you've got in the fridge, pantry or garden. Instead of using a skillet, I bake them in a 9-inch pan, which is easier to store in the fridge. These muffin-tin versions are also great, and can be eaten on-the-go. Bonus: They taste good warm or room temp.
3) Egg Muffin Sandwiches
There's a reason fast-food versions of these egg sandwiches are so popular: They're warm, satisfying, and hit all the toasty, cheesy pleasure points. They can also be eaten relatively neatly with one hand on the way to the bus stop. Our simple version: Put an English muffin in the toaster. While it's toasting, crack an egg into a microwave-safe cup, mix it with about a teaspoon of water and some salt and pepper. Microwave the egg for 40 seconds. Spread the English muffin with a little mayonnaise, scoop the egg on top of it, and top it with a slice of deli cheese, plus ham or sausage patty if you like. This variation uses plain toast and has you melting the cheese in the microwave at the end.
There's not much easier than boxed cereal, but a lot of varieties leave my kids hungry by mid-morning. Granola is an exception, filled with nuts and dried fruits – but buying it gets expensive. Luckily, it's ridiculously easy to make, as you see with recipes like this one. I usually mix up a double batch on weekends, and store it in an airtight container to eat during the week. One of the best things about making your own granola is that you can tailor it almost completely to your own tastes and pantry, from apricots to coconut to dark chocolate. When the price of pistachios spiked, for instance, I started using slivered almonds instead. If you like dried raisins, you might try substituting dried sour cherries.
5) Waffle Wednesdays (or any other weekday)
My daughter's brave kindergarten teacher had Waffle Wednesdays each month, where she somehow served fresh-made waffles to 25 kids. No matter how many waffle makers and parent volunteers you have, I still don't know how that could work. The time it takes to cook waffles one-by-one is too much for me on a weekday morning. So when I'm making them with time to spare on a weekend (here's a good basic recipe and also an overnight yeasted batter) I go for a double batch, and freeze as many as possible. Pull them out of the freezer on weekday mornings and toss them directly in a toaster or toaster oven. They're better than any store-bought toaster waffle. We sometimes serve them with maple syrup and fruit, but we also frequently... yes... grab one to eat on the way to the bus stop. Winter bonus: They do double duty as hand-warmers.
Want more quick breakfast ideas? Check out our collection of Quick and Easy Breakfast Recipes.