Creating my meal plan for the winter was a bit more challenging than it has been for previous seasons. For one, I have moved to Crested Butte, where food is simply more expensive than it was in Boulder. (Sounds crazy, I know, but think about it: we're at the end of the road in the middle of nowhere, and it takes a lot more resources to get the food here. There's also not a Whole Foods on every street corner in Gunnison.)
It was also more challenging because I have come to a point in my life where I am unwilling to eat meat that is not sustainably produced. Yes, it's more expensive, but for me that doesn't mean that I will just go back to eating commercially produced meat. The health risks to me from meat pumped full of antibiotics and hormones or fish pulled from plastic soup oceans, the inhumane treatment of the animals, and the heavy load it places on the environment is too much for me to put blinders on and buy the cheap stuff.
Instead, it means that if I can't afford sustainable meat, I don't get to eat meat as often, and I will have to be creative in finding sources from which to obtain it.
I am also very aware that as an athlete, and as a person healing from a major injury and surgery, protein is important. This means that I will need to be conscious of getting it in my body from other sources, such as quinoa, eggs (still cheaper than meat when sustainably raised), and occasionally tofu. The jury is out on the health risks vs benefits of tofu, so I am eating it only once a week at this point.
In the winter season, the natural world slows down. Snow provides a protective covering over the land. It is a time of restoration and healing. Our bodies naturally gravitate towards this as well, though we rarely listen to them- perhaps that is why so many of us get sick in the winter. We are drawn towards warming foods that are naturally restorative and "slow," meaning they take longer to grow and mature. It is harder to eat fresh foods during this time, especially in a cold climate, so I try to keep meals simple with only a few ingredients.
Some good choices for the winter are: soups and stews, root vegetables such as beets and carrots, winter squashes, kale, brussels sprouts and other dark winter greens in dishes and salads, apples, nuts, game meat (hunted in the late fall) or other sustainably raised meat, and whole grains. I spent some time this year freezing peaches and some other fruits from the summer, which worked great- but I have found that my body doesn't want them now. It has grown accustomed to eating with the seasons.
There are a few items that are staples in my diet that I will never obtain locally that I am not ready to let go of, and may never be- for example, I love avocados which are certainly not native to Colorado. I also drink a glass of water with chia seeds in it every morning since my surgery, and I certainly feel they have helped my energy levels, healing and recovery. They don't come from Colorado either. But on a whole, I try my best to be conscious of eating locally and seasonally as much as I can while still eating frugally.
D and I have revised this menu multiple times, and cut out ingredients that are unnecessary if they are very expensive or have a very high environmental impact in terms of being very unseasonal and shipped from far away (for example, limes- they are still on the list, but we don't get them anymore. Trying to get juice out of a winter lime is like trying to get blood from a stone- ugh).
After revision, we have been able to consistently buy everything on the list now for just under $100/week for two people- a little more when we need staples such as rice or quinoa, or for the weeks that we decide to have a date night and go out for dinner instead of cooking at home (usually once every 3-4 weeks). The meals leave me feeling nourished and fulfilled, without feeling heavy or bloated.
Eating in a healthy, sustainable way yet keeping it affordable has certainly been a challenge here, but it has been worth it, and I've learned a lot in the process. It feels good to invest the time and energy into one of the most important aspects of life- what goes into my body that will fuel me in everything I aspire to do. And the more experienced I get with it, the easier and more streamlined it becomes. I am super thankful to my awesome coach Alison Powers of ALP Cycles Coaching for convincing me slowly over the last few years (and leading by example) that I really could feel better, perform better, and spend less by simply being more prepared and organized when it came to food. I can't believe it took me so long to buy in to this idea. It has been SO worth it!
Eating has become virtually stress-free, and trips to the grocery store are minimal and efficient. I save time, money, energy, and minimize waste by purchasing only what I need. My system is certainly not perfect yet, and neither am I- I am not one hundred percent waste free; just today I threw away an apple that somehow slipped through the cracks. But I am getting better and practicing discipline. I am sure my methods will continue to evolve, and I am always open to incorporating new recipes into future meal plans, so please share if you have a favorite.
** Many of these recipes come from the book The Feed Zone, by Allen Lim and Biju Thomas, also the creators of Skratch Labs drink mix which I use both for cycling and ski touring. All of my training food comes from TFZ also, as well as their Portables book. (My training food isn't listed in this meal plan as it has been my off-season, but I am happy to share that as well. This does increase the cost of weekly meals and I will need to budget for that when my structured training begins later this month.)
I also have a special affinity for Asian food, and some recipes come from a book I purchased while I was in Thailand. A few others were shared with me by friends. If you are curious about anything specific, I am happy to share the recipes with you. I do highly recommend purchasing The Feed Zone- it has been an invaluable resource for me and has changed my relationship with food.