Friday, April 16, 2010

A time, space and financially constrained cyclist needs to eat

As a time, space and financially constrained cyclist, the food I eat and prepare for my guys has to meet four standards.

  1. Nutritionally sound - I'm a cyclist, remember? My body is my engine and part of keeping it strong is proper fueling. Those I often cook for include another elite cyclist, a young man on a mission to become an officer in the Marines, and two teen boys in the midst of going through that Incredible Hulk transformation requiring so very many high quality calories.
  2. My kitchen is small and has little storage space, thus each pan and tool must be carefully selected. How often will it be used? Is it really worth storing? For example, I was dicing some celery last night and my eldest told me I needed one of those dicer things. This isn't the first time it's been suggested, but each time I've said no. Why? Because while it might make dicing marginally faster, the time to clean it takes longer. Personally, I'd rather spend the time dicing that washing. Additionally, I enjoy the feel of a quality chef's knife. It's a pleasure to wield and is a much more effective flourish when underscoring an important discussion or lecture point. I mean, seriously, imagine you have a group of male teens invading your kitchen. You really think shaking a "Slap Chopper" at them is going to give them pause? But a gleaming blade -- that's communication.
  3. Coming in on the budget it is a challenge. If you've ever noticed, coupons are primarily pushing packaged, preservative-laced boxed and canned items, so I don't do much of that. Mostly, I keep an eye on the going prices and my pantry fluctuates with what's currently plentiful. For example, due to Florida's recent strawberry problem, prices dropped like crazy last week, so that was our "fruit of the week." I buy things in bulk and make several things of which we use a lot. Thick greek-style yogurt, for example, is a staple for smoothies, my lunches, breakfasts, toppings, etc., but if you've noticed, it's pricey: $5-7 a pound. My recipe for yogurt yields ~4lbs and costs about $4, plus a little time. In a month we go through about 16 lbs., so you can see the savings adds up and rapidly makes it worth the effort. Another staple is granola. I won't buy snack foods and boxes of cereal can disappear in a matter of hours. But, homemade granola meets the nutritional bar and the price point, providing hungry teens a much liked bowel of cereal any time of day. We use about 10 lbs a month. The cheapest granola I can buy at the store is about $3.50/lb and I don't know what's in it as it comes from the bulk bin. My basic recipe costs me ~$2/lb. and has high-quality, known contents. So, that's $15/mo. savings that also results in better nutrition. Finally, we eat a lot of chicken, but I no longer purchase chicken breasts or anything like that. They simply cost too much at ~$5-6/lb. when you can buy the whole bird for about $1.50/lb at a nearby place like Ideal grocery. I roast two at a time while out riding my bike. Upon my return, the family eats its fill, leftovers go to next day's soup.
  4. The food also has to be simple. I love to cook and there have been periods of my life where the time I now spend on the bike was allocated to more elaborate dishes and dinners. Not now. These days, the inclination is a 5-ingredient or less approach. There haven't been any complaints. In many ways, I believe this is helping me appreciate each item's contribution a little more. For the boys, it means recipes they can easily do.
So there it is. The nutritional envelope of this household. The next post will be about how I make yogurt and a few of the ways it's used around here.


Neve_r_est said...

What's in your granola mix, Syd?


sydney said...

I'll do that tomorrow or maybe Thursday.