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How to eat when commuting by eBike

How to eat when commuting by eBike

August 01, 2022 | Emily Werner

If you've thought about commuting to work by eBike, you may have run into an interesting problem - how to eat? You won't have access to a car for quick runs to a restaurant, and it may not be convenient to get to your eBike - or your eBike might need to charge during the day and be unavailable. Plus, riding to work may kickstart your appetite and you'll want to eat even more food than usual!

While Doordash or Uber Eats can get you out of a jam, those services aren't sustainable from a financial or nutritional perspective. Instead, it makes sense to do some meal prep at home, with a careful eye on foods that are easy to transport by eBike. In this article, Emily Werner shares some ideas for transporting meals via eBike, and two recipes for food that travels well.

Meal tips for commuting to work by eBike 

Do you commute to work on your eBike but aren’t sure what to pack for lunch and snacks? With a little planning and practice you can eat delicious and nutritious meals and snacks and continue to bike to work. By packing your lunch, snacks, and beverages you can save anywhere from $2000 to over $4,000 a year, compared with the cost of "dining out". Also, packing your lunch is generally healthier. Homemade lunches typically contain less processed foods and more fruit and vegetables. 

Stock up occasionally by car

Consider driving to work occasionally in order to stock up your work fridge or desk drawer with some snacks. This will save some weight and space on your bike, so it's lighter and easier to handle. Don’t forget to drop off some drinks too like seltzer water or diet soda. I would also leave some extra silverware and napkins in your office too. This may not be necessary if you can carry a large load on your bike, but it may be nice not to have to carry as much.

If you have access to a fridge at work, consider stocking it with cold items that won’t spoil quickly. I would recommend individual Greek yogurts, Babybel cheese, and single serving hummus. The single serve options are nice because they generally stay fresh until opened. Also, stock your office with nonperishable items such as trail mix, nuts, nut butter, pretzels, popcorn, and crackers. It can be nice to have snacks on hand at your office if you forget your lunch or didn’t pack enough that day.

How to transport the food: bags, backpacks, panniers?

Convenient snacks stored at work are great, but they aren't a full meal replacement. Personally, my favorite way to transport meals on my eBike is in panniers. I would suggest purchasing waterproof or water-resistant panniers. Some even come with straps, are more stylish, and can be carried straight into work. I prefer not to use a backpack because I don’t like to have a heavy weight on my back.

If you have to carry several items, such as your lunch, a laptop, and other work paraphernalia try to distribute the weight between two panniers. You will feel more stable this way and standing up will feel better. If you need more room, you can also put lighter items that won’t strain your back, like extra clothing, in a backpack.

If you're bringing perishables, consider an insulated lunch sack or bag. Store it in the fridge the night before, then drop the entire insulated bag right into one of your panniers.

Use your car occasionally for clean and dirty laundry

If you're driving occasionally to transport heavy or bulky items to work that are awkward to move by bicycle, make the most of that car trip. 

You can lighten your load on your bicycle by making a single trip to work by car every week. On that single day, bring clean clothes for the entire week, and pick up all the dirty laundry from the week prior. Then when you ride your eBike the other 4 days, you won't have the extra weight of apparel and footwear to carry.

Use washable, re-usable containers instead of disposable bags

If you don’t already have them, I also recommend stocking up on Tupperware containers. Reusable containers versus disposable bags is a better choice for the environment, but will also protect your food from getting squished, since they have rigid sides. You can drop a Tupperware container with your lunch right into a backpack or pannier, and have confidence it will arrive in edible condition.

Prep for meals by planning ahead

I recommend doing as much prep as you can on the weekends or on your days off. I like to pack a grain bowl for lunch. I prefer grain bowls over salads because you want a balanced meal to contain carbohydrates (from the grain), fat and protein. On the weekend, I will prep my favorite grain of choice, quinoa, but you can also make brown rice (I prefer it over white due to the extra nutrients and fiber), barley, or couscous. You can pre chop any veggies you want to add on the weekend as well. My grain bowls always contain beans for a protein, but you can also add chicken or any other meat.

I don’t often pack fish for work because if something leaked that would be a smelly mess, unless you pack individual pop top cans. Pre-pack your grain bowls for 2-3 days. Pack the dressing in a separate container so the grain bowl doesn’t get soggy.  I would recommend packing your lunch in a small lunch box or cooler. This way, if the fridge at work is tight on space or you don’t have access to a fridge, your lunch will stay cold! My favorite grain bowl contains spinach, quinoa, black beans, grated beets, hummus, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette but there are many options below! Feel free to mix up the ingredients each week for variety.

Recipes that travel well by bike:

Grain Bowl

  • Grain base: quinoa, barley, brown rice, couscous
  • Protein of choice (can choose more than 1): beans (black beans or lentils are my favorite), chicken, hard boiled eggs
  • Toppings of choice: nuts, avocado, seeds, cranberries, cheese, hummus
  • Pre-Chopped Fruit and Veggies of choice: cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, beets, strawberries, blueberries.

Dressing Recipe (pack 2 tbsp in a tiny Tupperware- or pack the whole recipe and leave it at work)

  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly crushed black pepper finely ground
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil 

Mason Jar Pasta Salad

A mason jar pasta salad is perfect for biking to work. The mason jar keeps the salad protected and you can eat right out of it! It is great for making ahead of time too…. Just pack the dressing separately to minimize the risk of making the salad soggy. Use the dressing recipe above; or add your dressing of choice.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup chopped cucumber
  • 3 Tbsp Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 cup cooked pasta of choice
  • 1 cup baby arugula or spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese 

Instructions

  • In a 1-liter mason jar, layer all of the ingredients.
  • Store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. To serve, add the dressing and flip the mason jar to allow the dressing to cover the rest of the ingredients. Shake lightly and enjoy!

*Can also add chopped chicken or black beans for extra protein!

Tips for sandwiches

I also like to pack sandwiches for lunch. However, you don’t want to make a bunch of sandwiches ahead because they may get soggy. I recommend getting your groceries on the weekend but assembling your sandwich the night before. Avoid the morning prep because you may end up rushed and running out of time. Pack your sandwich snugly in a Tupperware container so that it stays assembled. This will also prevent it from getting crushed.

Lunch time

Now that you have packed your lunch, you don’t really have a reason to leave your office. I would recommend going to a separate area to eat if you have the option. You will be less tempted to work during lunch, and taking a break will help you be more refreshed and productive. Leaving your office will also make it impossible for colleagues to bother you with work related issues during your break. You could walk or ride your eBike to a nearby park and have a great lunch outside!