Back in September 2020, I was on Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, tv show presenting my dilemma of ‘Should I or Shouldn’t I Spend on Sports Nutrition’ for an upcoming ultramarathon.
I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to tell you that I trained, and ran, a 53K trail race in the October eating surplus foods, and spent no money on fancy sports nutrition. In fact, I’d run a 50K the same way a few months earlier, and am currently training for a 53 mile race buying and eating surplus foods.
I’m certainly no sports nutritionist, or coach, but thought I’d share some tips for frugal fuelling.
See Food Diet:-
I used to be a loyal TK Maxx shopper, the designer discount store, and loved rummaging through their rails. What I quickly learnt with buying clothes that are imperfect, end of season, is that if you see it and want it buy it as you are unlikely to come across it again. Whilst these days I spend more time in Tesco than I do TK Maxx, the same principle applies. if you see food reduced on it’s use by, best before dates, packaging damaged or a store is clearing a shelf, discontinuing an item and you think you’d eat it, buy it. There are so many foods which can be frozen. I routinely freeze bananas to add to pre or post run smoothies, porridge, flapjacks. I enjoy having items such as meat free sausage rolls, vegan pasties, on a long run so will buy these reduced and freeze ahead of time. I even stashed individual packs of biscuits into my pocket, whilst in a showroom recently, knowing that I’d be thankful having them with me on a long run.
Use What You Got:-
One of the reasons that I’ve run consistently for the past 10 years is that I don’t need much more than my trainers, and to open the door. I can run anytime, any place, I do not need to make a booking, no fancy equipment; when the world came to a halt with the pandemic and gyms, classes, studios closed their doors, I could keep on running. It can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, and the food doesn’t need to be complicated either. You’ll often surprise yourself as to how much you already have at home. Roast potatoes are a favourite of mine on a long run and I really want to give oven chips ago after a running buddy mentioning that he took cold chips out on a run. I’ve taken a banana on the move with me, filled bagel, a sandwich, a cake, brownie that I’ve baked. If your starting position (pun not intended) is ‘how can I use what I already have’, you’ll find you go the distance (pun intended).
Do What Suits You:-
“Ah yes, a jam doughnut that well known running fuel”, a friend of mine said sarcastically as I pulled a jam doughnut out of my hydration vest, half way into our long run. We’ve run together enough times for me to be used to her teasing, but she’s flat out refused to join when I’ve been running 4 hours plus because it doesn’t suit her. And that’s ok, ultra running is not for everyone, neither is a jam doughnut, but clearly I’m partial to both. I had the doughnut left from a pack I’d collected using food sharing app olioex.com figured it would do the same job as a sports gel, replenish depleted carbohydrates and give me an energy boost. Plus, training is the time for trial and error to see which foods suit you ahead of race day.
Do Not Follow The Pack:-
We are such social creatures that we often find ourselves mirroring our peers, comparing ourselves to them, being influenced by how much or how little they eat, train, rest, yet running is often a solitary activity in which we our reliant on our physical and mental strength to keep going and we can take a similar approach to food, our diets. I’ve been questioned on how I can sustain a healthy diet on surplus foods, received remarks on how much I’ve eaten, found myself hesitating when it comes to ordering dessert waiting to see what my dinner date does. More and more, I’ve tried to tune out the outside noise and tune into what I need. If you want a second helping have it, leftovers are going spare take them, you need more than the recommended portion tuck in. It’s astonishing that considering the thought, time and energy invested into food that 9.5 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK yearly wrap.org.uk
Ditch the Labels:-
Best before dates (BBD) can often be confused with use by dates, but it is only the latter which refers to food safety. Best before is a date at which the food is said to be at it’s best quality, is not a legal requirement and safe to eat it past it’s best before date. This has meant I’ve been given porridge oats instead of a friend’s aunt binning them, protein powder a good few years past its BBD when another friend moved house, a selection of powdered super greens when friend’s have cleared out their cupboards, fruit that my mum hasn’t gotten around to eating; plenty of nutrients to support my running, and saves me running to fancy health food shops. I was at a friend’s allotment recently, not a BBD in sight, but an abundance of fruit and veg which I cooked, baked, blended; I even made a ginger and turmeric shot recently without a blender which cost 20p – 90% less than it’s RRP @reduction_raider1
Whether you are a seasoned runner, foodie, or newbie to exercise, eating well for less, there is a lot to be said for making use of what you have. It could be turning the limp veg being neglected in your fridge into a tasty soup, day old bread into croutons, making a curry from a tin of baked beans, storing milk in the freezer ahead of time for smoothies, taking 20 minutes of your lunch break to hit the pavement. And, keeping in mind that we all have to start somewhere, but consistency can yield great results. There was a time, I’d swear blind I was never going to run a marathon, an ultra was a far fetched fantasy, and I’m not sure that I would have seen the day I’d move on from being a fussy, can’t cook won’t cook. It didn’t happen overnight, it was a build up of small changes, over a number of years. And a community, my sisters on hand to tell me how to make bolognese, work friends egging me on (I know I’m full of them) to try out new recipes, running friends, clubs, coaches to offer advice, tips, support. There are running, food waste, sustainability, cooking communities out there; give us a shout, we’ll be waiting for you at the start line.