How two weeks of riding my bike helped me lose weight and save money

Bike frugal wisconsin
The blue beast, loaded up with groceries!

I looked down at my glass and metal bathroom scale, as I do most mornings before I hit the shower, and a small grin found my face. The scale said 20.9 — the lowest point my body fat percentage has reached since I’ve been measuring it.

I eat healthy and I exercise regularly, and I appear pretty slim in clothing, but I’ve always had a body fat percentage that’s higher than I’m truly comfortable with. I’ve used other means to slim up — following a ketogenic diet worked pretty well (and the science is solid about this approach) — but overall I’ve learned not to worry about it too much.

As I’ve posted on the blog before, I’ve recently returned to frugality. Not that I was unfrugal — those who know me that I always operate in some frugal fashion or another.

But recently, after some big expenditures such as my sister’s wedding, I decided it was time for another tweak. One of the big tweaks was my car usage.

This isn’t a post about going from zero to hero. Far from it. It’s actually a post about going from half-hero to full Mustachian bike stoic. I already biked to work two-three days per week, and usually made my Saturday pilgrimage to the farmers market on my bike, but for other trips, such as the grocery store, I would use my car.

I lucked into a full week of biking, and then decided how far I could push it. As a journalist, I do occasionally need my car, because I sometimes have to travel to out of the way places that would be unfeasible on my bike. It’s not necessarily that the drive would be impossible, but that it would take up too much of my day and wouldn’t be fair to my employer to spend so much of her time riding my bike. My general rule is if it’s in the city limits or nearby, I will bike; if it’s beyond, I’d better take my car that day.

So with luck, I had a week where the stars aligned, and I was able to use my bike for all my trips in a week, including the very fun Open Streets Wausau event which, as I mentioned, was very fun. So then came the weekly grocery trip.

My weekly journey takes me to Aldi, which has some of the lowest prices on food that is also high quality. The trade off is that there generally aren’t name brands, it’s a small and cramped store, and there often is only one choice in any given food product. I can’t say I enjoy shopping at Aldi, but my wallet enjoys it quite a bit.

The other downside of Aldi is that it’s in Rib Mountain, and is quite a trip. I essentially have to go north, then back south, to get there. Unlike my sneaky, virtually car-free route to downtown, getting to Rib Mountain involves perilous, traffic heavy commuting on dangerous roads.

Or does it? I decided to put it to the test. I cleared out my Timbuktu messenger bag, put a grocery bag inside (Aldi only has carts, not those little baskets, and I refuse to push an enormous cart around for the dozen or so items I buy each week) and off on my bike I went.

I was stopped along the way by my good friend Pat Peckham, my former coworker and now my neighbor and city alderman. I stopped to tell him about my grocery store experiment, and we had a pleasant chat until I went on my merry way. It’s not a chat I would have had in my car; biking helps connect you to your neighborhood.

One caveat, and one I plan to continue — I purposely lightened my needed load by buying a few things the day before at Kwik Trip, a local gas station/convenience store that sells grocery items. The nice thing about these stores is that they carry more than just convenience junk — there are decent meats, cheeses, eggs, milk and other odds and ends to round out a grocery list. I bought bananas, an onion (I go through one every few weeks), some hamburger and one pack of cheese. All fit comfortably in my Timbuktu.

bike groceries wisconsin frugal
On my second trip, I bought even more – finding the limit of my bag. Any more and it would be wise to invest in a back rack or pannier.

The trip was much better than I expected. At this point, thanks to a push for more bike friendly facilities, I only needed to take one segment of road with no lines or lanes for cyclists (but plenty of width for safety) and was even able to navigate a busy department store sprawl via a bike/ped path that runs behind all the big box stores. The path connects with the exact street I need, so getting to Aldi was a success.

There’s a feeling of accomplishment that comes with accomplishing things on one’s own power. As Mr. Money Mustache would say, Muscle over Motor. I love that phrase. I shovel snow, rake leaves, cut the grass with a mechanical mower. You don’t have to be in a gym to get exercise.

In fact, it’s that justification that helps address the complainy-pants argument “but I don’t have time!” It’s actually saved me time — I got my long bike ride and my grocery shopping accomplished all in one fell swoop! Doing both would have taken me 2 1/2 hours or more — the whole endeavor was about 1 1/2 hours and now my cardio and groceries are done.

So with that said, the accomplishment and feeling of self-reliance is more important to me than the nearly 8 pounds I lost, or the several percentage points of body fat. But those don’t hurt either.

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