The Commercial Truck Driver Who Meal Preps Vegan Food for Five 14-Hour Days on the Road
Location: Manchester, NH
How many people eat together in your home? 1
Avoidances: Yuma eats a mostly vegan diet — unless it’s her day off.
The life of a truck driver is as close to non-stop as you can get — driving long hours and far distances, living life on the road for days at a time. Tack on a pandemic-induced supply chain crisis, and somehow the lifestyle becomes even more relentless.
I spoke with Yuma, a commercial trucker for Walmart, to learn more about what it’s like being perpetually on-the-go. (Spoiler alert: She loves it.) The way that Yuma manages to make the most of every second made me question whether or not we both had 24 hours in a day. Here’s how she gets things done — and what she eats along the way.
How’d you get into trucking?
It was an accident! I was in the military for a while — I joined right out of high school and signed my life away. When I got out I went to nursing school, which was very stressful. I told myself after that I was going to take a year to drive cross-country and clear my head.
My uncle also drives for Walmart, and when I was a kid I’d go ride with him — I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Although, the memory didn’t even cross my mind until I decided to get my commercial trucking license on a whim. I wasn’t following in anyone’s footsteps.
What’s your work schedule?
I work 14-hour days for a five-day shift. I’m on the road by 7 or 8 a.m. and finish around 9 or 10 p.m. at night. It’s kind of spontaneous where I’m going, though, and it depends on the day and the needs of Walmart basically.
Did your life become even more hectic due to COVID-19?
Work got crazy busy, to the point where I was taking 30 minutes to grab a shower at distribution centers. We had so many loads; stores needed so many things. The biggest problem was that we couldn’t get supplies to our warehouses fast enough. People would follow our trucks asking if we had toilet paper!
I was working extra days every week for the first few months because shelves were empty, so my five-day week turned into a six-day week. The one day I had left I spent doing laundry and meal prep and that’s it. It was really tough on a personal and work level. We’re still busy, but at least I’m not in my truck six days a week.
What’s your setup like inside the truck?
So you have your two seats: driver and passenger. Then behind the driver’s seat there’s all of this cabinetry and shelving that you can pull out and eat on. Behind that you have bunk beds, a little fridge. It’s actually a lot of space, like a mini RV. I don’t have a microwave, so I have this thing that heats up my food (I meal prep and freeze all my meals). You have to be super organized.
How do you prep food for five days in your truck?
Let’s see. For breakfast, I prep a lot of hard-boiled eggs. I’m all about maximizing my work hours and don’t like to lose any sleep. Either that or I’ll have a vegan protein shake which I can drink over the course of a few hours.
Snack-wise, I pack cut up celery, carrots (veggies I can pop in my mouth) into baggies. I also love white cheddar popcorn every now and then and will get it at a truck stop. I try not to spend a lot of money at stops, though — I’m super frugal, which is why I got into meal prepping in the first place.
For lunch, I usually have a sippable soup that I make in advance and heat up. I made a really good vegan “cheddar” broccoli soup. It’s made with coconut milk, cauliflower, broccoli, jalapeños, garlic, cumin — all this good stuff. I just purée everything, warm it up, and drink it. I don’t have the patience for a spoon.
For dinner, I usually prep a sheet pan meal or foil tins with fresh produce, veggies, and vegan tofu sausage or a soy chorizo. Then I portion everything out into separate containers.
So organized and so many vegetables!
When I’m in my truck I’m healthy. I eat more on the vegan side during the work week — I’m very particular about what I make. And on my off days, all of that goes out the window. I have a really strong 80/20 rule … that’s probably more like 70/30, if I’m being honest.
Speaking of off days, how do you spend them?
They’re not really off. I’m always on the go. I’m really into running and hiking up here in the mountains. I also learned how to ski, so that’s my winter thing. I hate the feeling of being cramped-up inside.
Veteran suicide has been tugging at my heartstrings lately because I lost someone really close to me and I’m still in denial. I haven’t gone through all of the phases yet because it’s so recent. When will we step up and be there for the people who protect our country? So now I also spend a lot of time volunteering for nonprofit organizations that help veterans, including Open Doors Outdoors and Warrior Expeditions.
Another organization I’m involved with is called Ainsley’s Angels. It was started by a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant whose daughter was born with a disability. He started this running organization in which volunteers push people in wheel chairs.
That’s so wonderful. You really are non-stop!
I’m coming up on eight years of trucking now — I just fell in love with it. It’s funny, still to this day, people will say, “I didn’t know women drove trucks.” Being a female in this male-dominated industry is hard. Being a woman of color of this industry is hard. I’m literally the only woman of color. People either have comments or won’t make eye contact with me. After a while, I just decided to kill them with kindness.
I can be so narrow-focused, and now after all of this [the pandemic], I realized there’s so much more to life. I love trucking. I have an adventurous soul and don’t think I’d ever be able to sit in the office. I love to travel — it’s just in me — and trucking brings that out of me. I get paid to see so much of this beautiful country. To me, it’s just like everything I ever wanted.
Thanks so much for sharing, Yuma! Follow her on Instagram here.
The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you, about how they feed themselves and their families.We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.