Homemade instant oatmeal packets are healthier and an easy way to fuel the kids before their day starts, and with the prep work done ahead of time, it makes mornings a bit smoother too! Try my oatmeal pancakes and read 20 healthy & fast breakfast ideas for busy school mornings.
I remember eating instant oatmeal almost every morning growing up. My favorite flavor was maple brown sugar. If the dark brown packages were gone, I’d choose cinnamon and spice next.
I felt like such a big kid being awake before everyone else, making my breakfast all by myself. Like my mom trusted me (and my cooking skills) enough not to set the house on fire.
My heart certainly isn’t ready for my kids to grow up (will it ever?), but I know it’s in their best interest to teach them how to be more independent. I figure there’s no better time nor no better starting place than homemade instant oatmeal for breakfast.
Here’s What You Need for DIY Oatmeal Packets
- Dried Fruit (Flavors below)
- Nuts (optional)
- Seeds (optional)
- Spices (read below)
- Healthy fat (read below)
Notes on Ingredients
I like to use rolled oats because they’re less processed than instant oats and more affordable than steel-cut.
The number of oats you use will depend on the age of your kids, but I’ve found these measurements worked for our family:
- 1-3 years old: 1/4 cup
- 3-5 years old: 1/3 cup
- 5-7 years old: 1/2 cup
Tip: Want your oatmeal to taste more like the commercial kind? Add 1 tablespoon oat flour per 1/2 cup of oats!
Dried Fruit (vs. Freeze Dried vs. Fresh)
- A good rule of thumb is to use a ratio of 1:2 for dried fruit to oats. For example, my kids are eating 1/4 dried fruit with 1/2 cup of oats for breakfast. The dried fruit measurement should be total, so reduce as necessary (or not!) if you’re mixing/matching flavor combinations.
- I use dehydrated fruit in this recipe because the point is to make several bags ahead of time. If your kids don’t mind adding fresh fruit to oats (and you’re comfortable with them potentially needing a knife without you supervising), feel free to use whatever fresh fruit you have on hand. For weekdays and fostering independence at my kids’ young age, I personally prefer the dried fruit route.
- You can also use freeze-dried fruit, although it’s pricier. Homemade dehydrated fruit is by far the most frugal option.
You have two options to turn any recipe into an “and cream” version:
- Add 1 Tbsp powdered milk to the dry components, OR
- Substitute 1/4 cup milk for water in cooking
Adding powdered milk to the individual packets is easier for the kids. They continue to choose a packet and make it the same, every time.
Using milk in cooking is the healthier option, since you eliminate the slightly processed powdered milk, but is likely more difficult for smaller kids with both measuring and pouring from a potentially heavy and full container of milk.
Tip: For pouring liquids at the bottom of the post!
Simply choose whichever is best for you in this season. Either option is better than store-bought!
- If you add nuts, add them after cooking otherwise they lose their crunch and don’t taste nearly as good. We only add nuts on purpose when making the Amish flavor (my favorite right now, recipe below), otherwise, we wait until there are only crumbs left in the packages of nuts and then add those to the packages.
You can increase the nutritional value of your oatmeal mix by adding 1 tablespoon of one of these seed suggestions:
Chia seeds will absorb quite a bit of moisture as they cook and sit, so you might need to add more liquid upfront. Flaxseed and oat bran will absorb a little, hemp hearts and sunflower seeds won’t absorb any at all.
- I mentioned earlier that you should not feel guilty for adding sweetener if it means oatmeal for breakfast. I’ve found that one teaspoon of brown sugar OR 1 tablespoon of maple syrup tends to be sufficient when you’re combining it with the naturally sweet dried fruit.
- Although healthier, I purposely don’t use coconut sugar, palm sugar, or any other less processed granulated sugar in oatmeal. I’ve found that these sweeteners aren’t as sweet, which means having to use more to please the taste buds.
- Personally, I’d rather use less sugar than more, even if it means using a less healthy option during the transition. Plus the “healthy” sugars cost twice as much, a fact you can’t overlook when you’re trying to make one of the most frugal breakfasts known to man.
- Whichever you decide, add dry sugar to the dry packets or maple syrup (or honey, if you prefer) just after cooking. Like adding cream, choose whichever fits the cooking capabilities of your kids right now.
- A little bit of spice goes a long way in a small package of oatmeal, so start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more from there. Cinnamon is the most popular spice, but you can add pumpkin, apple pie spice, or mix/match cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice from the cabinet.
- Salt is also an option, although personally, we don’t add any. A pinch of salt per packet will enhance the flavor but any more will simply make it salty. Use cautiously and remember that you can always add more if you want.
Psst! If you’re going to add salt, I highly recommend Ava Jane’s Kitchen. You may think all salt is created equal, but unfortunately, 90% of the salt produced around the world contains microplastics (gross, right?). Ava Jane’s Kitchen is an exception. Their salt is 100% microplastic-free, and it’s SO GOOD! Plus, you can get a bag for just 1¢!! (Get your penny bag of salt on this page.)
- This is totally optional, but one tablespoon of butter or coconut oil is a tasty option. My daughter likes butter in her oatmeal, but my son doesn’t. Obviously, this is something you can’t add to dry packets, so your kids should be old enough to be able to measure butter or coconut oil on their own if you want this in their oatmeal (as well as get it down from the pantry or find it in the fridge).
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Flavors
Homemade instant oatmeal comes with UNLIMITED flavor combinations. My kids helped me choose the flavors for these photos, and it was so neat to watch their little wheels turn as they paired fruits and spices, each to suit their own unique personality.
The most frugal option is to make your oatmeal based on what you already have in the house, but I’ve also put together a few combinations for those parents who struggle with creativity in the kitchen.
- Strawberries / Blueberries / Peaches & Cream: 1/4 cup dehydrated fruit + cream option
- Apples & Cinnamon: 1/4 cup dehydrated apples + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Raisins & Spice: 1/4 cup raisins + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Banana Bread: 1/4 cup dehydrated bananas + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Amish Style: 2 Tbsp raisins + 2 Tbsp dehydrated apples + 1/4 tsp cinnamon + 2 Tbsp chopped pecans
If you’re looking for fancier flavors, search online. From cherry almond to caramel cashew, there are some seriously awesome ideas out there.
In the end, add whatever you want – that’s the beauty of doing it yourself! Besides, we’re not that fancy. Sticking to basic dried fruit + spice and/or cream makes it easier to make a big batch of these upfront (meaning less work for breakfast with each subsequent week!).
Assembling The Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets
The easiest way is to mix it all up in a big huge bowl and portion out a heaping scoop into a plastic baggie (which you can re-use for future batches of instant oatmeal, by the way). But if you’re looking for a more hands-on activity, or are type-A when it comes to the ratio of fruit to oats (like me), here’s the method I use:
Step 1. Pull out all of your coffee mugs from the cabinet and set them on the floor.
Step 2. Either you or a bigger kid, measure oats into each mug. (I don’t recommend letting the little ones do this part. Tiny flecks of rolled oats on the floor are a HUGE pain to clean up.)
Step 3. Let the smaller kids measure the dried fruit and/or nuts into each mug.
Tip: Give them the appropriate measuring tool and tell them how many scoops per mug.
Step 4. Finish off with the sweetener and/or powdered milk (if using either).
Step 5. Have a child hold open a baggie while you empty each mug into it. Using a funnel makes this easier.
Step 6. Seal the bags and store them in a basket, on a shelf in the pantry that the kids can see and reach.
I once timed this process to see how long it took to make homemade instant oatmeal packets. In one hour, we made enough for six weeks worth of breakfast. How’s that for time well spent!
Tip: Reader Cheri shared this awesome tip – instead of measuring into the mug and then pouring into the baggie, place the baggie INTO the mug – essentially lining the mug with the baggies – and then measuring the ingredients directly into the bag. When you’re done, pull it out, zip it up and your mugs are still clean. Pure genius if you ask me – thank you Cheri!
Making The Oatmeal
You can always boil water on the stove and add it to the dry oatmeal, but I don’t let my kids cook on the stove without me so that won’t work for us. We’ve walked through this process – step by step – a few times this past week so that next week they’ll know how to do it on their own.
Instead, I showed them how to:
Step 1. Empty an oatmeal packet into a bowl.
Step 2. Add 3/4 cup water and stir.
Step 3. Place bowl in the microwave and cook for 1 minute.
Step 4. Open microwave and stir.
Step 5. Cooking again for 30 seconds, if needed.
Step 6. Removing the hot bowl from the microwave, stir, and let it cool.
Step 7. Moving the oatmeal from the counter to the table.
Homemade Instant Oatmeal FAQs
Store-bought instant oatmeal packets are not healthy. The flavored options are loaded with added sugar. When you make it homemade, you can control the ingredients and amount of sugar.
Consuming oats is a healthy choice! They are high in fiber and will stabilize your blood sugar. They are also gluten-free!
If you don’t have any fats in your oatmeal, you will be left with hunger shortly after. Add some fruits, seeds, nuts, maple syrup, butter, honey, or coconut oil. That should fix the problem!
More Tips To Make It Easier
- Set out everything the kids will need for breakfast the night before: bowls, spoons, measuring cups, and a basket of oatmeal.
- Plugin the microwave if you know the kids will be awake before you.
- If you keep your water in a large jug or something that isn’t very kid-friendly, consider pouring some into a glass for them to measure from.
- Even better, measure the water for them into a glass the night before. Then in the morning they simply empty the glass into the bowl and they’re done!
If you’re not sure if your kids are ready to handle breakfast on their own, another awesome option is to make these packets but cook them individually in the slow cooker. You empty the packet and add water. They take the jar out in the morning. Shoot, we might do this option anyway since it’s so easy!
More Oatmeal Recipes
- Oatmeal Pancakes
- Stovetop Breakfast Oatmeal and Porridge
- Cinnamon Oatmeal Blender Waffles
- Oatmeal Peanut Butter Energy Bites