The shrill buzz of my alarm cuts through an otherwise perfect slumber. It's here again: the morning wake-up call that I can't help but despise. Try as I have over the years, I have never (and likely will never) be a morning person. My brain fails to function at full capacity during the first hours of the waking day, making even the simplest of tasks feel impossible.
Unfortunately, for a self-confessed foodie, that means that breakfast is always a struggle. As much as I would like to leap out of bed and whip up an Instagram-worthy feast, it's about as likely as waking to discover that I can fly. I tend to make do with a quick cup of black coffee and—on my better days—a bowl of cereal. Hardly inspiring, I'm sure you'll agree.
I'd all but resigned myself to a lifetime of disappointing breakfasts when I heard about another way: Breakfast prepping, which is essentially making food for the next day in advance. The idea is that it takes the hassle out of your morning, leaving you more time to get yourself together. Yes, please. Here's what happened when I gave it a whirl for myself.
Before diving into the world of breakfast prepping, I set out to get some much-needed advice. Friends, family members, and acquaintances offer their tried-and-tested tips on how to make my mornings run a little more smoothly.
The Trendy Breakfast Strategy: Overnight Oats
"Mix some zero-fat Greek yogurt with semi-skimmed milk, add oats, and store overnight in the chiller," says Sean Gregory, 52, director at My Geo. "This one is excellent with fruit or maple syrup in the morning."
The Set-It-and-Forget-It Plan
"Try using your slow cooker to make rice pudding overnight," says Duka Naggy, 51, owner of Smoke BBQ restaurant. "If you're making a big batch, you warm it up in the microwave in the morning. Add any flavorings you want, such as chocolate sprinkles, jam, and coulis, or you can simply have it with some fresh fruit!"
The Just-Eat-What-You-Have Tactic
"Create a lifestyle, not a diet. If you have leftovers—soup, bean pots, curry— don't be afraid to eat them for breakfast," says Gian Bohan, 52, co-founder of plant-based lifestyle company Shed. "People always think they have to eat toast or cereal as their mainstay. Eat real food. If you are having toast, make it whole grain sourdough and top it with nut butter or avocado, arugula, toasted pumpkin seeds, and then drizzle extra virgin oil."
The Batch-Cook-It Option
"I love making bacon, avocado, pepper egg cups," says Emma Jemmison, 54, a financial consultant. "Grill and chop up bacon. Slice avocado, peppers, and other vegetables. Mix eggs in a bowl, and add salt and pepper. Put the ingredients into molds in a pre-greased muffin tray. Cook in a preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Once cooled, keep in the fridge. It's the perfect snack in the morning."
The Burrito-It Trick
"As a busy mom and healthcare manager, my breakfasts need to be quick and easy. My go-to is a breakfast omelet burrito," says Eloise Johnson, 28. "It only takes a couple of minutes, and I use whatever is available in my fridge; spinach, mushrooms, and cheese is my favorite combination. I'll wrap it in foil the night before to grab-and-go in the morning."
The Shop-and-Stock Approach
"During the winter months I make sure that I have bags of frozen fruit in the freezer," says Daisy Hatami, 33, social media consultant and owner of Pretty Green Tea. "Then, in the morning, all I need to do is add a handful into my porridge and pop it into the microwave. It makes the whole process much quicker than chopping fresh fruit in the morning. It also tastes much better!"
The Make-It-Healthier Method: Add Chia Seeds
"When making your overnight oats or porridge, add chia seeds," says Tasha Mughal, 30, digital marketing executive and owner of Tofu Tasha. "It's a great protein, fiber, and calcium hit that helps keep your digestion healthy, amongst a host of other nutrients, too. Plus, it adds another texture that livens up your morning breakfast."
The Breakfast Prepping Diaries
Armed with my newfound breakfast prepping tips and a sprinkle of excitement, I got down to it. The first step was buying the multiple ingredients needed for my rainbow-array of prepped breakfasts. Unsurprisingly, these came to roughly 10 times the cost of my usual breakfast staples. Still, I told myself, they were more nutritious, colorful, and exciting.
For this not-so-scientific experiment, I was determined to prepare a different breakfast meal each day for five working days. Since the weekday mornings are my most hectic, the theory was straightforward. I'd premake each of my meals so that I could simply jump out of bed, grab whatever breakfast I'd made, get ready, and go. Here's how that went down.
Day One: Overnight Oats
Veteran meal-preppers and hipsters rarely take a breath between talking up the benefits of overnight oats. So, they seemed as good as any place to start. For this prepped breakfast, I gathered the basics: rolled oats, skin milk, honey, and chia seeds.
Unfortunately, my kitchen is not stocked with miniature Mason jars, and so I had to settle for a small plastic food storage box. Less glamorous, but it did the job. Right before bed, I mixed up all of the above ingredients, poured them into the container, and popped it into the fridge. As skeptical as I was, this whole process took me less than two minutes and zero hassle.
The next morning, I arose groggy as usual and headed to the fridge. I must say that the overnight oats looked less than appealing, but that was likely due to their vessel. I chose to pour them into a bowl before eating up, then downing a fresh cup of coffee. It was sweet and a pinch slimier than I had expected, but not unpleasant. I found myself wishing I'd added some fruit into the mix, but you live and learn, right? Next time.
Day Two: Slow-Cooked Rice Pudding
The warming taste of rice pudding will always be tied to childhood memories. My grandma would regularly make a batch of the stuff, occasionally flavored with a real vanilla pod. Hot or cold, my family would relish in this traditional dessert. It was special; a real treat. It’s no wonder, then, that I have never once considered it as an everyday breakfast.
Nor had I ever considered making rice pudding in a slow cooker, much to my dismay. I had an instant ah-ha moment as soon as I heard this tip. It had been so obvious all along. For day two, I greased the inside of my cooker with butter, adding some rice, sugar, full-fat milk, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I turned it on 'high' and hit the hay.
Eating rice pudding for breakfast felt off-kilter, but I went with it. The morning after, I dolloped a large scoop of the mixture into a bowl and added some raspberry jelly. Of course, there was more than enough for my partner to have some too (and then some!). The portion I made served around six so, not wanting it to go to waste, I saved it for a few desserts during the week. Personally, I’ll never get down with eating this dessert for breakfast; however, I can see why people would love the ease of making the large batch.
Day Three: Leftovers for Breakfast
Hands down, one of my favorite breakfast prepping tips I received was to eat leftovers from the night before. While I’m not—as I have previously explained—a morning person, I am 100 percent a night owl. Cooking during the evening is my thing, and so the idea of eating something flavorful from the night before really struck a chord with me.
Like most people, the only leftovers I'd previously had for breakfast were takeout pizza slices that I chomped on while mildly hungover. Yes, eating last night's meal out of anything other than sheer laziness would be a new experience for me. I decided to make a large spinach and chickpea curry—a classic weekday meal—and save a little in the fridge.
Sticking the curry in the microwave the next morning, I wondered if I'd made the right decision. The pungent smell of spice permeated the kitchen and I wasn't entirely sure my stomach could handle it as the first meal of the day. However, once I sat down and began eating it, it was honestly delicious. The only downside was that I was in a rush. Guzzling down any spiced food fast is tricky. I wouldn't recommend this if you have no time to spare.
- Be careful when storing and reheating leftovers! To protect your health, always make sure you follow the USDA guidelines.
Day Four: Premade Egg Cups
When the weekend comes around, I relish the chance to enjoy an egg sandwich with oodles of ketchup. So, it's hardly surprising that the thought of egg cups for breakfast whet my appetite. I followed a simple enough recipe: chopped up vegetables, whisked eggs, and a dash of seasoning, then poured the mixture into paper cups to cook.
The whole prepping process took no more than five minutes and I left the cups to bake for 20 minutes while I watched Netflix. Simple. Next, I got the tray out of the oven and left it to cool on a rack for an hour before putting the muffins in a plastic container in the fridge.
I hit snooze on my alarm a total of five times before actually getting up the following morning, which meant that the egg cups were a blessing. I had to pull on some clothes, go makeup-free, and leave as soon as possible. I grabbed one of the egg cups as I left my apartment and ate it en route to a morning meeting. It was super satisfying and easy to eat on-the-go, and so I can definitely see myself making these again.
Day Five: Breakfast Burrito To-Go
The words 'breakfast burrito' strike unadulterated joy in my heart. I was a fan of this breakfast prep idea before I even gave it a whirl. While you can make your burrito out of a whole range of ingredients, I chose to make an egg tortilla as my base. That meant making an extremely flat and round omelet, which could be rolled up easily. So far, so easy.
For the filling, I opted for some finely chopped peppers, onions, spinach, and a few larger slices of avocado. After the flat omelet had cooled, I added all of the above to its center and rolled it up. I tucked in the egg tortilla at each side to make sure it was secure. I then wrapped the whole thing in plastic film and put it in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I grabbed the breakfast burrito out of the fridge and ate it on the way to work. The combination of the egg tortilla and fresh veggies worked well, offering just enough bite to be satisfying. However, the major drawback here was that the omelet itself felt rather 'sweaty'. I can only imagine that was down to my wrapping it up too soon after I’d made it. In the future, I'd give it a little longer to cool.
Need some extra flavor in your breakfast burrito? Add some sauce! I added a dash of Sriracha to mine, which made all the difference.
Conclusion: Breakfast Prepping Is a Game-Changer
With my hand on my heart, I can honestly say that I've never before spent a week having such varied breakfasts. Preparing my meals in advance and devouring them the following morning was a massive game-changer for me. While not every meal I tried worked for my personal taste and needs, I can see myself regularly prepping breakfasts from now on.
Highlights of my five-day-long experiment include the batch of delicious and easy-to-eat egg cups and the overnight oats, both of which I will be making again. It's all about trial and error; trying the breakfast ideas that sound good and figuring out if they work for you. Remember, you don't have to make anything overly-complicated. Instead, spend a little time preparing basic meals and save yourself some much-needed time in the morning.