How I Cook and Eat In The Iron Lady

I used to love cooking and baking. I still do enjoy those things, but as my living situations change, I realize that I can go for long periods of time not doing it and be ok. It will be there when I want to do it, and I enjoy it when it happens.

Eating in my van has been a bit different, but largely not a huge struggle. I eat the same things, I just have a smaller space to prepare them.

I am using an electric hot plate and electric kettle to cook the majority of things that need to be hot. I steam my veggies (I love broccoli and snap peas and was not about to give that up!) while I go to my work and make dinner.

Let me explain my work situation and how I have taken advantage of that to eat relatively easy in my van.

Anyone who has worked in food knows there is simply a lot of waste. That’s the nature of building a business where your product goes bad after a few days. At the end of the night, we throw away any food that is past the sell-by date. In the past I have usually taken bread (which gets tossed everyday) or food both because it’s delicious and because it would get tossed anyway. Now, I just do it every night. I make a sandwich or take an entree, heat it up there and bring it back to my van to eat with my veggies. I usually set my veggies to cook on my hot plate, then go get dinner from work and then when I get back to the van the veggies are still steaming.

For breakfast, I make oatmeal with my electric kettle and put peanut butter and banana on it. I also get coffee from work.

Lunches are either eaten at work or I take myself out for lunch. I quite enjoy this actually. I plan to try all the Ithaca restaurants in 2018, and I’m 4 down already!

The biggest pain has been spilling stuff or dropping things. It’s a small space, and I am a big person, so I forget my appendages hit things often times. I spilled ketchup on the floor the other day, and thankfully I think I got most of it out of the rug. I need to be more careful about that.

Another bonus I got this week was CHIPS! My brother’s wide Cassidy is best friends with the co-owner of Off The Cob Corn Chips, an Ithaca based company that was on Shark Tank. At their wedding, I met Molly, the co-owner, and she comes into CTB everyday for lunch. She hooked me up with a box of bags of their famous chips.

Let me tell you, I couldn’t be more grateful. I love these chips. The corn is grown locally at Early Bird Farm, the chips have a sweeter taste and are perfect for snacking and dipping. I have been eating a lot of these in the van, they are perfect!

So that’s it, how I eat. Any questions?

My First Van Trip

Going down to Maryland for JFK meant I also got to spend the weekend in my van. I was mostly prepared for it, meaning it was a test trip and I would learn more of what I needed and what I don’t as I went.

I did not need a stove or heating for this excursion because it was warm enough down there to sleep in my sleeping bag and use a bit of the car heat before I went to bed. I didn’t plan on cooking and brought my standard peanut butter and jelly for my meals the day before and morning of.

I was most nervous about the bathroom situation, because I go frequently and often during the night. I bought an RV porta-potty and decided I would see if I needed it. Before this, I had gotten a bucket and biodegradable bags, which I planned to go in if I couldn’t go outside during the night. This ended up being what I used. I am good at getting into the correct position so going over a bucket wasn’t an issue. I simply then tied up the bag and put it in another bag outside, which I then disposed of the next day. I also had odor eliminator in the van and had no problems.

The only thing I need to work on is being more comfortable changing the bed and chair position. It would have been much easier to eat from my passenger side chair swinging around than on the floor from where I did. I also could just move the bed up, but it was late, dark and I just wanted to not screw anything up and not have a bed. I wanted to sleep before the race, and I was able to do that.

Overall, I had a good experience going down there. When I woke up, I would turn on the heat to warm the van while I got ready. I ate breakfast in there before the race, but on the morning after the race, I was on a mission to find biscuits so that happened.

When I get more things in there I will need to be conscious of things moving around. That did happen a bit but I wasn’t too concerned as it was sleeping bags and such. As I sleep in it more, I will learn what I need.

Any questions about van life?

Products I’m Enjoying: November 2017

The frozen hands and rainy days aside, I quite enjoy this time of year. It’s not perfect outside, so running takes a bit more effort. Layering is starting to happen and I just love a big comfy sweater and a book. It is my time to begin to slow down and just be.

In addition to those reasons, I have had the chance to being back or try some items that have been on the back burner for a few months. I’ve provided links where appropriate so if you’re interested, try them out!


Coconut Butter

Swanson Vitamins recently reached out and sent me some goodies to try. One of these things was this delicious coconut butter. I have loved coconut butter in the past, but often forget about it as I am an self-proclaimed peanut butter addict. This week for breakfast I have been enjoying coconut butter, peanut butter and maple syrup sandwiches and OH MY STARS that’s GOOD! I don’t know why I never got on the peanut butter and butter train, but now I’m not getting off. Head to their website to see all the other great stuff they have!


Squash

A couple weekends ago my sister was selling her beautiful wood panels and other home goods at The Pumpkin Stand in Lodi, NY. While there I bought some of their delicious delicata, spaghetti, butternut and acorn squash. Conveniently on the way home, I stopped at my parent’s house and my mom had made her famous tomato sauce, which I stole and have been eating this week. I’m not crazy for pumpkin, but I do enjoy these winter squash, especially since I can make them in the microwave!


Chocolate Honey

The Philosophie is a brand I’ve supported and represented before because I love the message. They believe your health deserves the best, and it really does right? I’ve been swirling this superfood cacao honey into my smoothies or on top of the mounds of toasts I’ve been consuming recently and it adds a touch of sweetness that is just right. Also, peanut butter topped with this stuff is beyond fantastic!


Wheat Germ

Since getting my results from Inside Tracker, I noticed that wheat germ was a recommended food to raise both my vitamin D and Iron levels. Although I don’t normally use this, I figured it would be an easy add to my oatmeal (my oatmeal is getting complicated now with more than just oats, PB and banana…what the health?!) It does add a depth that I quite enjoy. It gives the oats a bread texture and I can actually spread the peanut butter on top. Not ideal for mixing things in after, so I’d advise mixing in whatever before cooking. I’m also going to experiment adding it to yogurt, but I haven’t done that yet.

Current Shoe Rotation


On Cloud Cruiser

I like using these for the gym. They have extra toe room for the elliptical and a solid platform when I do my easy 20 minute gym routine. They are not fancy, but they get the job done. I’ve tried to run in them and use them for short runs of less than 5 miles, after that I like shoes to be a bit more specific to my foot.

Hoke Speed Instinct

I bought these last week and have run in them twice, 16 miles and 12 miles. I love them and think I will use them for my next race. They have enough cushion without being bulky, the appropriate lugs for both trail and road, and conform to my foot well. I have run in the Hoka Clifton before and enjoyed them, so I’m glad I found another Hoka shoe I like.

On Cloud Flyer

Oh these shoes! Each time I’ve run in them the past week I’ve gotten poured on…and they are fantastic! They drain surprisingly well, I have no blisters and they are not wearing down. They are the most cushioned of the On line, and these days that’s what my feet need. A bit more durable upper and the classic cloud pattern on the bottom, I recommend them for middle distance runs (6-11 miles).

Other shoes I’m wearing a bit: On Cloud, Altra Impulse

Budget Meal: Cinnamon Roll Slow Cooker Oats

I recently came across a really great oatmeal recipe that was too good not to share. I’ve been eating it all this week and I can tell you, I will be making it again when I can.

Oatmeal is probably my favorite fall and winter breakfast simply because it fills me up and tastes good. Nothing beats a cold run followed by a warm breakfast.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and immediately it drew my attention because it combines oatmeal and cinnamon rolls. It’s not simply oatmeal with some cinnamon in it, it has other ingredients that up the calorie and nutrient profile.

I was also attracted to it because I could make it in my slow cooker and it only took 2 hours. The problem I have with slow cooker meals sometimes is that I am not home to turn them off. Then they over-cook the food or in the case of oatmeal, I would need to get up at like 3AM to shut it off.

No thanks, not even for oatmeal.

I thought I would do the cost and calorie breakdown per serving for this recipe. I must confess that, as with most of my breakfasts, I added peanut butter on top when I ate it, so add 300 calories if you do that.

[picture from Moms With Crockpots]

2 Cups Oats (Aldi’s Rolled Oats: $1.13)
2 eggs, beaten (free from my family farm)
3 Cups Milk (Aldi’s Vanilla Silk Soy Milk: $1.19)
1/2 cup sugar (Aldi’s Brown Sugar: $0.14)
2 tbsp Baking Mix (Gluten free or regular) or All purpose flour (Aldi’s All-Purpose: $0.01)
1 tsp cinnamon (spice rack)**
1 tsp vanilla (spice rack)**

Total Cost: $2.47

Total Calorie (3-4 Servings): 1,489

**I consider these “freebies” because I do not buy spices often and buy them in bulk to have them on hand.

Have you ever made oatmeal in a crock-pot?

Weekly Breakfast Staple #1: Cereal with peanut butter and nuts

In addition to oatmeal, which I tabulated in a recent post, I frequently eat cereal in the mornings. It sounds boring and almost immature to me when people over the age of 19 used to say they still eat cereal, but I have come around.

Cereal is not just Lucky Charms and Cocoa Krispies anymore. There are so many great and nutrient dense choices these days and the best part, they are generic brand. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think spending over $3 for a box of cereal that lasts me three bowls is worth it.

Let’s talk nutrition first. Whole grain cereal with nuts is perfect for me when I get done with my morning run. It is hearty, goes down easily and quick to make. Whole grains have fiber, vitamins and minerals that are important for recovery but also because after breakfast I am onto the next activity, which requires energy. I add peanut butter first because I love it and second because I found it keeps me fuller longer. Combining carbohydrates with a fat helps them digest slower and provides sustained energy. I began adding walnuts on top after finding them in my pantry and remembering how much I love them. Walnuts are both delicious, and also stay crunchy after the milk has made the cereal soggy. Oh yea, they also have something called Omega-3s for your brain or whatever. Regardless, they take the cereal up a level in flavor town.

Now, let’s talk budget. Cereal is more pricey per calorie than oats or another slow cooking grain. It is not however more pricey than bread. The bread I’m talking about is not the dollar per loaf cheap bread. If I’ve learned anything from my time at CTB, it’s that higher quality bread, even full of gluten and carbohydrates, is better for your body. Ingredients matter even if you’re on a budget.

Back to cereal, my local grocer sells most of its generic brand at $1.69-$1.99 per box. Because I combine two cereals usually when I eat it, and I add nuts and peanut butter, I get more bowls per box. I will be honest, if I just ate the cereal with milk and that’s it, I would get at the most three breakfasts. By adding in healthy, higher calorie foods, I can justify spending $2 on a box of cereal when that $2 might go further in terms of oats or rice.

This is my favorite bowl of cereal, broken down cost and calories.


Whole Grain Cereal with Peanut Butter and Nuts

1 c Fiber Cereal (Wegmans Brand): $0.62

1/2 c Wheat Berries Cereal (Wegmans Brand): $0.31

2 T peanut butter (Skippy Super Chunk): $0.19

1/2 c walnuts (Aldi’s brand): $1.08

1/2 c almond milk (Almond Breeze brand): $0.21

Total Cost: $2.41

Total Calorie: 860 (my fitness pal)

On a different note, I’m starting to send out my newsletter again. Links and films I’ve consumed and also I want to give more budget tips. Should I do those in the newsletter and more what I eat in a day on the blog? Should I do the money part on the blog and then the calorie part in the newsletter?

Help me organize!