Two approaches exist to fuel oneself when bicycle touring. Some people opt to eat out most of their meals, while others take the time to cook proper huge meals. I am certainly in the second category as I enjoy the challenge of planning meals, and often feel cheated if I spend a significant amount of money on a meal that isn’t too great. Not only is it the cheaper option but of course "homemade" meals always taste better. The main difficultly, and the most important one as well, is to make sure one is consuming enough calories and maintaining a balanced diet while touring. Weight loss during the first few days of the tour may not be a big concern. But over time, the combination of losing muscle mass and energy due to an improper diet could land you in emergency, hooked up to an IV and doctors asking why were you eating so much junk?
Our approach to figuring out what to eat while touring has been to look at recipe books for backcountry cooking/hiking, as the needs are quite similar – high protein, high nutrition, high calorie in a lightweight, easy to cook (possibly 1 pot or less), & non-perishable. Easy, no?
Preparing meals in advance really only works for shorter tours as you don’t want to be lugging packaged food around. However, using the same strategy can be applied while on the road, and not all these tricks require advanced preparation. A few tips and tricks:
Coconut Nutritional Facts
Get a coconut! A medium-sized coconut contains well over 1000 calories for just a couple of dollars. It might be the cheapest yet high in calorie count that you can find. Make some coconut rice, coconut pancakes, or just enjoy it on its own. Go for grated coconut if you’re not up for bashing a coconut on rocks or whatever you can find to fight it open. These dried coconut flakes are a far lighter option than lugging around a few of them in their original form. Read more about it at the Coconut Research Center website.
Dried milk powder is a great way to add to the nutritional value of many of your meals. Look for whole milk powder, although skim milk powder seems more readily available and is still a good option. Mix it into oatmeal, pasta, instant mashed potatoes, coffee, tea...
Instant Quinoa (or non-instant, but that would use up more of your fuel to cook) is certainly worth its weight in the pannier. It contains high levels of protein along with fiber, calcium, and iron. The protein in quinoa is one of the few plant sources which provides a complete protein – it contains all the essential amino acids. It works great in soups, as a breakfast grain (like oatmeal), or mix in some salad dressing and some veggies to make a quick salad.
Dried soup mixes are great to add to pastas, rice, quinoa (above), couscous… they provide a lot of flavour without a lot of weight.
Use Ghee instead of butter or oil – Ghee is a clarified butter that originated in South Asia. Unlike butter, it can be kept for extended periods without refrigeration. It is a solid, kept in an airtight container, so you won’t have to worry about it leaking all over the inside of your panniers – which is a concern with oil. You can find it in many South Asian grocers.
Look for small pasta shapes – they will cook much faster and not take up extra space in your pannier. Couscous, spaghetti, and mini pasta shapes are some good options.
Dehydrated food can be your friend. Once it is dehydrated, it is lightweight, has a long life span, and can fit into the nooks and crannies of your panniers. Dried fruit, dried fruit leather, and jerkies make for great quick snacks. For shorter tours you can dehydrate your pasta sauce (alfredo, tomato, stroganoff – it all works!) to save weight and bulk, but be sure you have enough water to bring it back to life. For longer tours, having some dehydrated lemon peel, orange peel, berries, onion, celery, carrot, etc can be a great way to add a bit more flavour to otherwise bland meals.
Egg Powder can be a good alternative to carrying eggs – though certainly not an option for a sunny side up egg breakfast, egg powder can allow for a binding agent for many recipes, and also work to make scrambled eggs.
Quick Recipe Ideas – For the minimalistsPrepared meals, cooked in the bag – easy cleanup! Tuna Salad 2 cans of tuna 1 can of corn 1 or 2 mayonaise packets 1 or 2 relish packets salt & pepper Mix all ingredients and enjoy Lentil Salad 1 can of cooked lentils 1 can of corn 1 or 2 mustard packets 1 or 2 mayonaise packets salt & pepper Mix all ingredients and enjoy Banana & Peanut Butter Wraps 1 tortilla 1-2 tbsp peanut butter 1 banana
Spread peanut butter on tortilla, lay banana on top, wrap and enjoyRecipe Ideas – For the not-so minimalists Breakfast Tortillas Scrambled eggs Salsa Tortilla Optional: Can of chicken (not necessary, not sure how tasty tinned chicken would be!) For the scrambled eggs: 1 cup dried whole eggs 2 tablespoons dry milk 1/2 tablespoon salt 1 1/2 cups water
Optional: chilli flakes, chilli powder, garlic powder, onion powder
Sprinkle dried egg over the water and mix. Add salt, dry milk, and mix. Melt some ghee/butter/oil in a frying pan. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously until dry and crumbly. Add additional seasonings once the eggs are nearly completely cooked.
Spread salsa on your tortilla, add the scrambled eggs, wrap and enjoy.
Trailside Breakfast Rice – Taken from Lipsmackin’ Vegetarian Backpackin’1 cup instant rice 1/2 package vanilla instant pudding (about 1/4 cup) 2 tablespoons powdered milk 1/4 tsp cinnamon 1/4 cup dried berries 2 tbsp chopped (honey roasted) peanuts
Add: 1 3/4 cup water
Boil the water, add rice. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until rice is fully cooked. Next add the remaining ingredients. Remove from heat, stir, and serve.
Mix all of the above dry ingredients together except the rice(on a short tour this can be done in advance). When ready to eat, boil the water and add rice mixture