Cross Country Meal Planning

Howdy! It’s a beautiful almost-spring day here in Michigan! Recently, we were having one of our many chats about our upcoming bike tours and we got on the subject of food. We love food and we eat a lot when we are touring. Since our last trip though, we have switched to a mostly plant based, vegan diet. So what on earth do vegans eat on the road? Here are my thoughts…

DONUTS!… not vegan…

First, let me preface this by saying that we are, without a doubt, part-time vegans. I originally took up the vegan diet back in August of 2013. My brother (Chase) and his girlfriend (Paige) had been living the vegan life for a while and had many good things to say about it. There were two main reasons I decided this would be a good life choice for me at the time. 1. My stomach does not handle dairy very well. 2. I had been a vegetarian before and most meat products gross me out anyway. Since then, my views have pretty much stayed the same except I have become somewhat more conscious of the health benefits of a plant-based diet and the consequences (for myself and animals) of eating meat and dairy. Now, do I still indulge in Taco Bell once in a while? Yup. Am I proud of that? Not really. But sometimes you need a taco. Or two. I also occasionally have chicken nuggets or other chicken products coated in batter and deep fried (also, not particularly proud of this, but what are ya gonna do?). I don’t usually waiver when it comes to dairy because my stomach would not like it, but I do eat baked goods that have dairy in them occasionally. So, like I said, part-time vegan. Ethan decided to try to drop meat and dairy altogether this January. For the most part, he eats whatever I am eating unless we go out for meals.

quick banana stop. mmmm potassium!

Moving on. We were doing some planning for the trip when we realized that we hadn’t really thought of what we would eat now that we are vegan. The easy way out would be to just eat what we normally eat. Our dinners usually consist of one of these:

  • canned soup & chili
  • Velveeta mac and cheese
  • couscous or Uncle Ben’s 5 minute wild rice
  • simple burritos: tortillas, re-fried beans, rice, cheese(depending)
  • turkey/cheese tortilla roll-ups
  • instant mashed potatoes
  • canned pears and pineapple

making noodles and Parmesan

Now this list isn’t everything that we eat, but it’s a pretty good representation of our favorites. These things are all easy and fast to make and clean up, mostly non-perishable and not super heavy. For breakfast we would like to be healthy and make oatmeal, but we get lazy and don’t want to have to clean anything or wait for the water to boil. We switched to Pop Tarts after a week or so on the west coast. Now, Pop Tarts are absolutely terrible for you (duh). But when you get up and just want to get going, they are so easy! Also, we figured we’ll burn through the sugar and calories pretty fast so we didn’t really care. This time I would like to chill with all the sugar and cut out the Pop Tarts. It’s going to take quite a bit of self control, but also another diet change in general. We have already begun cutting back our sugar intake, so I’d like to keep up with that. Lunch is usually something really easy too. We don’t like to stop for long lunches usually, so sometimes its a tortilla with peanut butter or bananas and Clif Bars. For the most part, lunch isn’t what concerns me.

IMG_1363  IMG_1364

My main concern for this trip is continuing to get plenty of fresh vegetables in our dinners. Usually, we buy our food no more than a day in advance before we eat it. This means that we can purchase perishables as long as we eat them that day or the next. Since we won’t be getting any meat or dairy, if we have to wait to eat something, it won’t be a big deal. A green pepper will last a day or so in our bags. The other concern is the temperature. Food tends to get weird after it’s been in a bag under the hot sun all day. But, I think as long as we stick to veggies and sometimes fruit, we’ll be OK. Once, on the west coast, we were riding through fields of strawberries. The smell was so heavenly that we had to stop at a fruit stand and buy some. I put them in the top of my bag and we ate them later that day. They were warm and a little mushy, but they were d-licious and worth it!

With all of this in mind, I went back and took a look at what we would normally eat and came to a couple of conclusions:

  1. as long as we make our own food, we really don’t eat that much meat, so it should be easy to leave it out altogether and adding beans to our meals will give us lots of needed protein
  2. again, as long we cook, we can easily modify our usual recipes to include more fresh veggies (ex: add green peppers and onions to couscous or rice)
  3. we can eat out for lunch if it makes sense economically and is in the interest of saving time (otherwise lunch should be quick things) and we should limit our dinner outings to twice weekly or in emergencies
  4. we need to invest in a few more cooking utensils (nothing crazy) to make cooking easier

These are just some ideas that I wanted to make sure I wrote down, so I don’t forget. I also wanted to give you a look into some of the things we talk about when planning and maybe answer some questions you might have about our diet on trips like this. Above all else, I want to stay healthy out there, but also make sure we are being economical and enjoying ourselves!

IMG_1365

***Note on vegan recipes***

Since becoming vegan I have come to rely heavily on vegan food blogs and the internet for help with recipe ideas. My all time favorite is Minimalist Baker (www.minimialistbaker.com). Their site is packed with amazing recipes and most are 30 minutes or less or seven ingredients or less. It’s amazing and so helpful for us since we don’t have tons of time for cooking at night (on the road and at home!). I also love the simple ingredients. My second favorite place to look is Food Gawker (www.foodgawker.com). You can narrow your search to just vegan food (or whatever you might be looking for). I’m just as obsessed with the Gawker site as I am Pinterest. CraftGawker and DwellingGawker are also favorites. Real good stuff! So if you’re looking to try out the vegan thing, check these places. It’s really not as hard as it seems, but if you love cheese as much as I do, you might miss is it occasionally.

Stay tuned for updates on our training and preparing for the Natchez Trace Parkway!!IMG_1333

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