Is Breakfast Keeping You Broke?


A recent theme of Big Box advertising is the savings from eating breakfast at home rather than a fast food restaurant. The average savings is between $500-$600 a year if a family of four would give up one fast food breakfast a week.

Guess I’m a little naive on how a majority of Americans are getting the most important meal of the day. We always thought of “breakfast out” as a vacation/traveling option or a special, weekend occasion. Not an everyday thing.

So I started asking around. Sure enough, many office workers walk in the door with a fast food bag and a disposable coffee cup in hand. Parents are serving breakfast in the minivan on the way to school from a bag passed through their window in the Drive Thru lane. A recent survey found that 37% of adults and 42% of kids had eaten from a fast food restaurant over a 2-day period.

When did breakfast start being a big budget item for people?

Everyone wants a bit at your breakfast dollars. Breakfast makes up a quarter of McDonald’s sales. Taco Bell is wanting to get in on the huge profits with a Waffle Taco while Dunkin’ Donuts just introduced its glazed donut bacon sandwich. Starbucks figured out you were already there for coffee, so why not offer a few munchies to go with it. Just around the corner, someone is wanting to sell you breakfast.

Breakfast is keeping some people broke!

How can you push away from the marketing of a quick, easy breakfast delivered through your car window?

1. Prioritize breakfast foods on your grocery list.

Keep a steady supply of breakfast staples in your house that your family will actually eat – eggs, milk, bread, favorite cereals, oatmeal, yogurt and fresh fruits. Splurge a little and get the shrink pack of eight different cereals and have a tasting party where everyone gets a small sample of each kind. Vote on which cereal to have in the pantry next week.

Many products in your grocery store can be a quick breakfast if you aren’t a morning chef. Power bars, even though they can average $1 each, are still a better nutritional and budget option. Frozen breakfast sandwiches and toaster items are kid friendly to prepare and easy to transport on the way to school or work.

2. Get creative with breakfast choices.

Who says breakfast is limited to cold cereal, hot oatmeal, or a frying pan of bacon and eggs? Breakfast is the first meal of the day that jump starts your body and mind. Proteins and carbs are the essentials to get you going.

Brainstorm with your family on what they would like first thing in the morning. Maybe a PB&J would be perfect for John, a bowl of yogurt with some granola for Jane, and a mini-breakfast pizza for Terry. Make the breakfast menu part of your calendar.

3. Prepare the night before.

While the kitchen is still messy from dinnertime, take a moment to prep a few things for breakfast. Cut up fruits in single-serving bowls that are easy for everyone to grab. Prep some overnight oatmeal for a change. Pour out a single serving of cereal in an air-tight container and milk in an easy-pour measuring cup so a little one can eat while you are still getting ready in the morning.

If you want to do a quick batch of eggs, have the pan out on the stove top and blend the eggs and milk in a bowl. In the morning while waiting on coffee, turn on the heat, whip up the eggs, and pour. In a few minutes, scrambled eggs are ready for the plate or a tortilla roll-up.

Put your car-friendly mug near the coffee maker. If your breakfast will be mobile, have things ready to go in the fridge or on the counter to quickly grab as you head to the car.

Preparing the night before is the best offense to staying away from a drive-thru.

4. Prepare breakfast foods well in advance.

Crystal, a great savings blogger on Money Saving Mom, is always posting about her breakfast options she makes in advance and puts in the freezer. This is a good strategy for any meal, but breakfast foods are especially freezer friendly. Take a few hours on the weekend or evenings to whip up a batch of muffins or pancakes and store so that single servings are easy to grab and heat up.

Find new recipes online for a yummy power bar that will make a large number of servings.

What You’ll Save


The average fast food breakfast can run between $4-$7, without a fancy coffee. Put a fancy coffee and muffin together, you have a $10 breakfast. At home, breakfast can average between $1-$3. Your family of four can easily spend around $2,000 a year ($4 x 4 people x 3 days x 40 weeks) on a cheap, part-time breakfast habit. That’s like eating away your vacation.


You might have saved yourself time in the kitchen, but chances are you are driving a little out of your way to get breakfast. Plus, you are spending time in the drive-thru, which is not always predictable.


Fast food breakfast choices are loaded with calories and fats. Making breakfast from fresh foods at home will help your wasteline as much as your bottom line. Even the convenience foods in your grocery freezer are better nutritional choices, especially if you add some fresh items to your plate.

Has the fast food breakfast crept into your lifestyle? Is buying breakfast on the way to work or school keeping you broke and from reaching your financial (or fitness) goals?  Take a moment this week to purposefully make a plan to have an enjoyable breakfast at home.

What are your at-home breakfast tips? Do you have a drive-thru habit that needs to be changed? Leave a comment!

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  1. Brian @ Luke1428

    Those statistics you mentioned about people eating out for breakfast are amazing! I would not have figured them to be that high. The time savings is an interesting point. I think most people would say the reason they eat out for breakfast is because they didn’t have time at home to get something.

    • Cherie

      Brian – I could not find a study, but when I asked around, there are people who have a drive-thru breakfast 5 days a week. Or if they work in an office building near a breakfast joint, they run over there for a mid-morning snack most days. This on top of eating lunch out too!! A few things on the grocery list and a little thought the night before might actually save some people time. Thx for reading.

  2. Laraba

    Thanks for the suggestions of good breakfast choices. We never, ever eat out for breakfast, but are rather in a “rut” where breakfast is concerned. We have cold cereal, oatmeal, muffins, breakfast cookies, or French Toast depending on the day and how much time I have. Cold cereal probably too often. I will look at Crystal’s blog for a jump start on ideas.

    I really am amazed so many people go through drivethroughs as it seems like a time and money waster compared to cold cereal and milk — cereal is admittedly rather full of sugar (or at least our cereals are) but at least relatively inexpensive. It really doesn’t take long to pour cereal and milk and eat it.

    • Cherie

      Laura – There are some great resources on the internet to jumpstart your breakfast routine. And you make a good point about cereals – it takes a little time to read labels and figure out what’s nutritional v. tasting good with sugar.

  3. Michael

    Last I looked eggs have doubled in price. Its nothing to whats coming. 85 billion new dollars printed every month just to make the US Treasury’s interest payments. Some say out of thin air but the truth is its straight out of the buying power of your savings and paychecks. good li=uck your gonna need it.

  4. Britt McCrimmon

    Great ideas to save time and money. no one really thinks of how much you can waste on breakfast each day. I tend to drink protein shakes for breakfast every day. They are fast and easy and relatively inexpensive.

    Some frozen mixed berries, two scoops of protein, a banana, some raw oatmeal, and some water and bam breakfast on the fly

    • Cherie

      Britt – Thanks for sharing your shake tip. My college daughter loves experimenting to find the right blend for her. Many times, using fruit that was about to spoil right before she popped it into the freezer for future shakes.

  5. Carol

    Cherie, This post really burns my biscuits. 🙂 We cook our breakfast in this house, or we have toast or granola (Homemade in the crockpot). We also make our own coffee and tea. I can’t imagine spending so much money on junk laden with fat and sugar. Thanks for the post. I’m gonna share with my frugal friends.

    • Cherie

      Carol – We are amazed at the number of cars always sitting in the drive-thru at the local fast food joint. All times of day. Those places are spending a bunch of money to separate folks from their hard-earned dollars – and the food isn’t really that good.

    • Michael

      You call that food? Your more generous than me. But there’s a lot of American jobs at those places. Anybody ready to give them new jobs? No I mean with your own money not the gubments.

  6. Joolie

    I’m an eat-at-work person, but I bring my own food. I have milk in the fridge, along with a variety of fruits. I keep a box of granola, protien bars and other easy-to-grab breakfast munchables. Then, while I’m checking my email first thing I enjoy food that hasn’t sat under a heating lamp, isn’t laden with sodium, fat and calories, and is full of flavour. If I’m hungry before I leave home, a slice of my home-made bread with honey or jams is quick, tasty and filling. The breadmaker does the work!

    I do the same for snacks and lunch. It’s easy to keep a variety of things at hand so I’m not bored with the same thing every day. I admit I’m the only one with a selection of fresh fruit on my desk!

    It amazes me how co-workers complain about being broke, yet can afford to eat out 1, 2 or even 3 meals in a day. Groceries keep getting more expensive, but paying someone to prepare it can’t be any cheaper!

    • Michael

      If co-workers weren’t paying up then those cooks would be unemployed and we would be paying for more food stamps, well fare, etc… Uh no thanks.

    • Michael

      Stupid is what stupid does? God bless’m every one.

    • Cherie

      Joolie – Thanks for sharing all your tips for keeping healthy food at work and more money in your bank account. With a little thought, it’s not that hard to get into a good food habit rather than a fast food habit!

  7. Hari

    Indeed very interesting and one of the root cause why people do not become rich !!! We neglect small amount but your article reminds that it has potential to bring mighty change in lives.
    Also, to present a point, every dollar that goes out of ones pocket will make others rich !!!

    • Cherie

      Hari – The small stuff does add up! Especially when it’s a daily or weekly habit by several members of the same household. While $4 might not seem like much, that can quickly add up in a year’s time.

  8. jerrylewis

    This is really the truth of getting breakfast in fast food chains. I mean expenditures would really sky rocket and worst you don’t get healthy foods like the ones that are prepared in your house.

    • Cherie

      jerylewis – Exactly! But common sense isn’t always so common. Routines & habits can be hard to break, even if they are bad for us.

  9. jd

    I was also surprised to see how many people eat breakfast out. I don’t pass any fast-food places on my way to work, so I never see this, although I knew my boss eats out at a restaurant every morning with his “men’s club.” We’ve always eaten breakfast at home unless we are traveling, and then we often take breakfast with us rather than stopping at a restaurant. It’s such a simple and quick meal — why pay for someone to fry an egg for me? I don’t understand how people “don’t have time” to make breakfast. How quick is it to go buy it, really? And how long did one work for that money to buy it?

    • Cherie

      jd – Why? …is a good question. As I tell my clients, if you don’t do it yourself, it’s almost always going to cost more.

  10. Blake Sanders

    Makes sense. I’ve also read that a breakfast “routine” helps out with other things like regulating your eating habits and sleep cycles. Keeping a steady supply of your favorite breakfast puts you in the routine of waking up for that delicious something every morning and (subconsciously) prepares your mind for bed at night. I started doing this with something tasty that also required no prep time… breakfast shakes. But of course the item of choice is up to you. This could also help you save money if you buy the breakfast in bulk.

    Thanks for the great article.