From Our Pantry: Cutting Back on Breakfast with Slow-Cooker Steel-Cut Oatmeal

The following is a weekly feature brought to us by Sumiko from Near to Nothing.  I’ve asked her to share tips and tricks (and recipes!) that show us ways to replace the items we’d typically buy canned or frozen from scratch at home for less!  You’ll find a new From Our Pantry post each Monday.

As a family of six, we really have to be careful about where we are spending our grocery money.  A while ago I realized we were going through about a box of cereal every two days (and that was before the baby was eating solids!).  At that point, I made the decision to (almost) stop buying cold cereal.  Gasp!  Yes, it was a big change for us, but one that needed to be made.  I say I “almost” stopped buying cold cereals—occasionally I splurge on a box that I find at a really good price and Robbie and I enjoy it for dessert after the kids go to bed.

So what do I feed my family for breakfast instead of cold cereal?  Hot cereal.  Hot cereals are much more economical than cold cereals and they are generally healthier.  (Ok, I know sometimes you can get cold cereal for really cheap or even free, but here in no-doubles-land, that happens once in a lifetime.)

There are a variety of ways oats are sold:

  1. Groats:  whole oat kernels with the hulls removed; contains the oat bran, germ, and endosperm
  2. Steel-cut oats (Irish oats):  groats that have been cut with steel into two or three pieces
  3. Rolled oats (old-fashioned oats):  groats that have been rolled flat
  4. Scottish oatmeal:  steel-cut oats that have been steamed and ground
  5. Quick-cooking oatmeal:  steel-cut oats that have been rolled
  6. Instant oatmeal:  same as quick-cooking oats but processed to smaller flakes

Steel-cut oats are by far my favorite way to make oatmeal.  When cooked, they have more texture than rolled oats, kind of the al dente version of oatmeal.  And the flavor is nuttier than rolled oats.  Nutritionally, all oatmeal is good for you, but steel-cut oats are better for you than the more processed varieties.  They have a lower glycemic index which means you don’t get hungry as quickly after eating them.

The one inconvenient thing about steel-cut oats is that they take 30-40 minutes to cook on the stove.  I’m not a morning person, so I cook them in the slow cooker over night.  The house smells so good in the morning and we have fresh, hot oatmeal ready to eat.

I think steel-cut oats are good enough to eat plain.  Even my toddler boys scarf it down plain.  But I really love them with some banana slices and cinnamon.  If you want, you can add dried fruit to the slow cooker at night or in the morning, depending on how re-hydrated you want the fruit.

Oatmeal is definitely a great way to stretch your grocery budget if you stay away from packets.  WinCo carries many types of oatmeal in the bulk bins.  When I went last week, steel-cut oats cost $0.83/lb. and rolled oats and quick oats were $0.65/lb.  I then went over to the cereal aisle and compared those prices to packets of instant oatmeal.  Quaker original instant oatmeal cost $2.68/11.76 oz. which comes to $3.65/lb.  Hy-top instant oatmeal was better at $2.42/lb., but nowhere near the cost of the oatmeal from the bins.  If your store does not carry items in bulk, canisters are also an economical way to buy oats.  Quaker old fashioned and instant oats cost $1.14/lb. in a canister; Hy-top old fashioned and instance oats cost $1.07/lb.

I also took a look at the cost of Cheerios, America’s favorite oat cereal.  They happened to be on sale but the cost still came to $2.26/lb.  The generic version came to $2.15/lb.  You also have to consider that 1 lb. of Cheerios yields 1 lb. of Cheerios.  One pound of steel-cut oats, however, yields about 6 lbs. of oatmeal.  That’s $0.14/lb.!  Just switching from cold cereal to hot cereals could save a lot of money.

For those of you with babies, you can save even more money by making your own baby cereals!  You can find a baby food introduction here and directions for making homemade baby oatmeal here.

Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oats

  • 1 c. steel-cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • Dried fruit (optional)

Place oats and water in slow cooker.  Add dried fruit, if desired (may need a little extra water).

Dump it in the slow cooker and go to bed!

Heat overnight on low.  The top layer will be a little dried out.  Just stir it in.  Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in microwave, adding milk or water to achieve desired consistency.

Hot and ready in the morning!

I usually make a double batch in my 2.5-qt. slow cooker.  If you have a large slow cooker, you’ll want to make at least two batches at a time.



  1. Chrissy Crosno via Facebook says

    I’m trying this tonight with rolled oats! I’m going to use less water and see what happens.

  2. Kassie Cerami via Facebook says

    I used top shelf steel oats and followed the directions perfectly and it was a mushy awful mess and tasted horrible. I was VERY bummed.

  3. Chrissy Crosno via Facebook says

    There are a few recipes on if you search “slow cooker oatmeal” and I’m reading the reviews. Hopefully it comes out good! One reviewer said she poured the leftovers into a loaf pan, covered it in plastic wrap, and refrigerated it. Then for the rest of the week, she sliced off a piece of her “oatmeal loaf” into a bowl, added extra milk and any other toppings, microwaved it, and said it tasted great. My husband is all for switching to “hot” cereal and trying this out to save money, but when I told him about the “oatmeal loaf” he made a face and said, “I don’t know. That sounds suspicious.” Ha! We shall see.

    • Cary says

      some like it hot, some like it cold, others like it in the pot nine days old!

      guess what they were talking about! My grandma used to do this all the time.
      By the way, polenta is just corn porridge allowed to cool in a loaf shape and then fried in butter. mmmm…

  4. Kimberly Choo via Facebook says

    Check out I have made almost all her breakfast “cereal” recipes for the crock and loved them all.

  5. Michelle says

    I love steel cut oatmeal but never found the crockpot method to work for me. It always came out kind of gluey. We use our rice cooker (one of those fancy Japanese models) to cook our oatmeal on the porridge setting. Works perfectly every time! I’ve also found that bulk bins at discount grocery stores like Winco are the best places to buy steel cut oats. I think I pay something like 50 cents per pound, if that. It’s great!

  6. says

    I was just trolling around for other recipes and they say to put it on “WARM” instead of “LOW” or it will be too mushy. They also said it should go for 8 hours — so in case any of you guys sleep longer than that, I thought I’d warn you!

  7. Carissa says

    I have groats in the slow cooker right now! I add a little brown sugar with frozen blueberries! The kids still have to get use to them instead of quaker instant oatmeal…

  8. Monica says

    I’ve never cared for oatmeal, but steel cut oats are the way to go. We use this method and add the dries fruit the night before. Very yummy and so easy.

  9. Kim Dauer via Facebook says

    Well half of the school days I’m heading to work and dropping the little guy at preschool so those days breakfast could be fruit or instant breakfast. I need to be better about breakfast but neither of mine will touch eggs or oatmeal.

  10. Kim Dauer via Facebook says

    I know, but our waffles are Eggo and pancakes frozen Krusteez. The only things I make from scratch are muffins.

  11. Anonymous says

    If your kids will eat a eggo waffle they’ll flip over homemade waffles. Alton Brown also has a really great recipe for homemade “prepared” waffle mix so you can make a big batch of mix up ahead.

  12. Jonathan says

    One note on the overnight method, an older crock pot is better! I used to make this recipe all the time, then stopped. I tried again a few years ago with a new crock pot, and they would burn overnight. When I investigated why, it seems crock pot (and other brand) makers upped the heat on low due to food safety concerns! Good for normal food maybe, but burns overnight oats!

  13. Kairi says

    Thanks for posting this! Cheerios are so unhealthy, there is nothing “whole” about the oats in them, and the 2nd ingredient is (GMO) cornstarch!

  14. D says

    Thanks for the post. I read it last night and this morning we woke up to delicious oatmeal. I have a 6 qt. crockpot and used 2 cups of steel cut oats, 6 cups water, and 2 cups milk, some cinnamon and 1/4 cup brown sugar. I cooked it on low for 8 hours and it was delicious.

  15. Joy Elizabeth Smith via Facebook says

    Sooooo yummy! I just had a bowl of the steel cut oats! Last night I threw it in the crackpot with a little cinnamon and a chopped up apple and set it at warm like someone else suggested. Perfect! I think I found my new favorite breakfast!

  16. AnotherAnon says

    For that leftover oatmeal, after chilling overnight, or longer, try lightly frying it in a non-stick pan(so no fat is needed), serve it with a topping of maple syrup.


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