Category Archives: Gluten-Free and Food Allergy Resources
Our family eats out about once every two weeks. We have a slim selection that is gluten-free, stuff everyone will eat, and isn’t too pricey. I got an ad in the mail for a nearby place — Genghis Grill, a Mongolian-style barbecue. The food looked good, so I went on the website.
It was hard to find, but I eventually stumbled on a PDF that, among other things, lists the ingredients for all of their sauces. Three of them (Sweet & Sour; Dragon — which is a sweet & spicy chili-garlic sauce; and Roasted Tomato) are listed as “gluten-friendly” — meaning they have no gluten ingredients. I thought, “Great. But what about the meats? And the veggies?” so I contacted the company.
They called me this morning — a GREAT customer service rep named Jax — turns out she is the Director of Culinary R&D — and she said that the ONLY meat that has gluten is the “Khans Krab” (it’s imitation made from fish and wheat starch — no surprise there). None of their meats, marinades, veggies, etc., have gluten. They don’t use soy sauce (which almost always contains wheat) in any of their marinades, though it is present in their fried rice and in their gluten-containing sauces. She also said that if you let them know that it’s for a “food allergy”, they will clean the grill AND use a clean wok AND even cover your food while it’s cooking with a bowl to limit cross-contamination. In addition, all of their spices are “clean” — 100% spice, no fillers like maltodextrin or starches. Jax said that they take food issues seriously. I really appreciate that. They are very aware of the potential of cross-contamination, so they don’t make the claim of 100% gluten-free, but I REALLY appreciate the efforts they’re making, and you can be sure we’ll be eating there some time in the near future.
So, you could use white or brown rice, ANY protein (minus the “crab”), ANY vegetable, and one of three gluten-friendly sauces. In the limited world of g.f. eating, that’s actually quite a selection.
Additionally, unless I’m missing something, all of the sauces that are gluten-free are also dairy-free.
I think all of this will compel me to ignore the “cutesy” spellings using “Khan” throughout their website and menu.
Do any readers have experience with Genghis Grill?
Look closely at the “all purpose” one. 🙂 I actually make the same AP flour, but now add one part garbanzo flour… and I only use half of the xanthan gum as described in the original post.
- Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal is delicious. I loved it, as did my 9 year old son, Wesley, and my 4 year old daughter, Audrey. All of us have to be on a gluten-free diet, due to celiac disease. Some gluten-free products can run on the odd/nasty side, unfortunately. Not so with this one! For taste, it gets a hearty thumbs up from all who sampled it.
- I am in full support of the company’s aims to produce completely gluten-free oats, from seed to packaged product (more on that, later).
- And, with only four ingredients DONE RIGHT, Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal is CLEAN food, which is important to me.
- The product is stellar.
However, I’m not sure I’m the best person to review it. Here’s why:
- I’m too cheap, and I want to buy locally. Currently, Simpli products are available online, through their website — http://www.livesimpli.com. Perhaps the ONLY good thing about living in a large city is the ready, local availability of just about anything I could want or need, gluten-free items included. I virtually NEVER purchase food items online, especially ones that are $4.95 plus $3.95 shipping ($8.90 total) for one 8.4 oz package of five packets of oatmeal. No matter how stellar a product, I absolutely cannot afford — even for a special occasion — to spend $1.78 for a small bowl of oatmeal. Although I rarely eat instant oatmeal, my children, when they eat it, use two packs at a time. So, realistically, you’re looking at a $3.56 bowl of oatmeal. Buying a bulk pack of nine boxes is slightly more economical — it works out to $5.70 per box, including shipping, or $1.14 per serving ($2.28 per double serving). Still. I would just never pay that. If Simpli was carried it locally, at my local natural-foods store, Sprouts, had their biannual 25% off of all gluten-free items, which would make it about $3.70 per box… I might consider that for a special occasion, like packing food for a trip whose destination may not have g.f. foods readily available.
- I like thick-cut oats. I’m just not a fan of the gooey consistency of any instant oatmeals. I like some chew and heft to my oats, which is why I love Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats, a pantry staple of mine. However, those take (according to the way I make it, not according to package specifications) eight minutes to cook, after the water has boiled, so a good 12 minutes cooking time, plus about five minutes of sitting time… so, 17 minutes or so, from start to finish, versus about four with Simpli Apricot Instant Oatmeal. In other words, I understand that, given the nature of instant oats (thinner cut), they’re just not going to turn out the way I like them… so it’s not a flaw in the product; it’s just a difference of opinion, values, and texture. Also, returning to the “I’m too cheap” mantra, I buy Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats locally for about $5.50 per 2 lb bag. That works out to $0.34/oz for Bob’s vs. $1.06 per ounce for Simpli — THREE TIMES THE COST — when Simpli is purchased online. And Bob’s Gluten-Free Oats aren’t cheap!!!
With those caveats, let me reiterate that Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal is delicious. As stated above, I like my oats with a little more heft, so I don’t prefer the texture of any instant oats, and don’t regularly eat instant. However, that’s not Simpli’s fault. Judging by taste — it’s perfect. “Bright” is the adjective that comes to mind. The apricot flavor REALLY shines through beautifully. With only four ingredients — Oats, apricots, sugar, and salt — I was wondering how they would be able to make the apricots tender enough. Simpli’s solution? Mince them. Mince them teeny, teeny, tiny. That way, they rehydrate perfectly, and the apricot flavor is broadcast through each bite.
Also, Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal is not too sweet. I think it’s perfect. There are only 10 grams of sugar per 48 gram packet, and much of that, I’m sure, comes from the apricots themselves.
The instructions on the box call for 2/3 cup boiling water, stir, and let sit for one minute. I knew I was reviewing the product, so when I made a bowl for myself, I made sure I followed the instructions to a “T”, including using a measuring cup for the boiling water (something I would never normally do), and setting the timer for that one minute. Based upon that, I would suggest that, unless you want some soupy oatmeal, you should EITHER use less water (say, 1/2 cup), OR you should let your bowl sit for a good 4+ minutes, to let it thicken.
About the gluten-free aspect: Simpli takes it seriously. I’m slightly bummed that this oatmeal is a product of Finland, but perhaps that’s the only place where they could ensure that the oats would grow and be processed according to their exacting specifications. Although I can occasionally be somewhat lax about cross contamination, I’m a stickler for g.f. oats. I get asked frequently about why, if oats are technically gluten-free, does one need to buy GLUTEN-FREE OATS. I explain that there are so many chances for cross contamination in the grain-growing, harvesting, storing, and processing process that unless a producer is intentional about maintaining the gluten-free aspect of his oats, you, as the gluten-free consumer, are almost guaranteed to consume gluten if your oats, if they’re not certified gluten-free. This graphic, from Simpli, illustrates it so well:
All of that to say that Simpli Gluten Free Instant Apricot Oatmeal is a fabulous product. But, I hope it’s coming to a store near me, because I will almost certainly not be buying it, otherwise.
Maybe this is the opposite effect of what Simpli anticipated, sending me a free package to review, but this product has inspired me: I think I’m going to purchase a package of Bob’s Red Mill Quick Cooking Gluten-Free Oats, and make up my own packets of instant oatmeal, and just place them in Ziploc sandwich bags. If Simpli can create a simple instant packaged oatmeal, so can I!!
I am slowly working on planning my garden for the spring. In Phoenix, that means starting seeds in January and planting in late February. I am planning on getting most of my seeds from Native Seeds, which, among other projects, sells seeds, well, native to the Southwest desert — northern Mexico, New Mexico, western Texas, and Arizona. It looks like I’ll be able to plant beans, tomatillos, tomatoes, squash, chilis, and not much else if I want to go 100% native. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. It IS the desert, and not much grows here. They also sell heirloom seeds that were introduced to the area from Spain 200+ years ago… And corn. I can plant corn, but that’s a later planting, like in July-ish.
- Well, that was easy. I have semi-wanted a set of Triumph Dining’s laminated restaurant cards… but not enough to pay the $10.95 price tag, as I have successfully “winged it” lo these past eight years. Then, I get alerted to an online voting site for Triumph’s Best of Gluten-Free Awards. In exchange for participating (and signing up for Triumph Dining’s very helpful newsletter, to which I was already subscribed), the first 2,000, myself now among them, receive a pack of the laminated cards for free. It was really fast, especially considering that I did a copy and paste of “I don’t purchase these items”, which was applicable for about a third of the 42 categories, as all 42 are regarding ready-made gluten-free grocery items, or restaurants with gluten-free menu options. That was my only wish: That there was a “not applicable” selection for each category. Still, even with its imperfections, the polling was easy, and I’m happy to have “earned” my cards. 🙂
- I was alerted to this by my dear cousin, who is a nun: A Christian Pakistani woman defended her faith to co-workers who were claiming that Christianity is a “false religion.” Days later, she was taken into custody and jailed, tried, and convicted for blasphemy, and is now facing the death penalty. If you follow the link, do watch the short video from her husband (and Voice of the Martyrs), appealing for prayer. Even Pope Benedict is working for her release.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a complimentary copy of a book that I’d been considering buying, The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide (5th Edition). My son and I were diagnosed with celiac disease eight years ago, when very few restaurants had heard of “gluten-free.” Prior to diagnosis, my husband and I used to delight in hole-in-the-wall, mom & pop restaurants, especially ethnic ones. Probably my toughest adjustment to a g.f. life is that of eating-out monotony: As a family, we’ve become accustomed to the few places we know are safe. (Or, at least, the safest possible, as very few establishments are 100% safe for a celiac diner.) However, as the gluten-free diet grows in popularity (for sometimes dubious reasons), and as more and more people become acquainted with celiac disease, the options for eating out have been expanding! Thankfully, I live in a large city where there are numerous, unexplored options for g.f. eating, and I’ve been wanting to expand my gastronomic horizons.
Thus, I’m very pleased to own this book. It, combined with my local Yahoo Celiac group, gives some great suggestions which I’m excited to try!
I will put this guide in my truck and travel with it every where I go. There are a few websites that have reviews of restaurants with gluten-free options, but for those of us (like me) without a smart phone, and for those of us (like me) who just like books, this is a great way to go.
The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide (5th Edition) is a 468-page, 50-state guide to restaurants which
- Have gluten-free menu, and/or
- Regularly stock g.f. menu items (like pasta, beer, etc.), or
- Are a 100% g.f. facility
- Are a chain restaurant which has a g.f. menu (menus — sans prices, of course — are included in the rear of the book)
There are also symbols noting which meals each restaurant serves, as well as its price range.
Each entry has a 3-10 line description of the restaurant, often noting g.f. menu items, and other things for a gluten-free diner to consider. Picked at random, here is what is noted for Bloom, a Scottsdale restaurant to which I’ve never been. Bloom does not have a g.f. menu, and is in the $$ range, and serves lunch and dinner: “Marketing Coordinator Julia reports that many menu items are naturally GF. She advises making reservations noting GF and calling ahead to speak with a manager or chef. She also notes that all chefs are trained on the GF diet.” Another restaurant, Bombay Spice Grill and Wine, in Phoenix, does have a gluten-free menu, serves lunch and dinner, and is in the $ price range: “Extensive GF menu includes mango chicken salad, kebab skewers, tikka skewers, biryani, chicken keema, curries, and more.”
The book also has about 15 pages which supply (good) advice on safely eating gluten-free in restaurants. Toward the end of the intro section, an author notes that restaurants policies, menus, and ownership (and even their existence) are always in flux, and reminds readers to use the guide “as a starting point, not a definitive resource.”
Case in point: The Scottsdale location of small chain, The White Chocolate Grill, recently worked with a local celiac, Nina Spitzer, who owns a business (Gluten-Free Absolutely!) that helps restaurants create a g.f. menu, and trains staff in how to safely prepare gluten-free food. The restaurant was certified by Nina in November of 2009. However, it is not listed in the Scottsdale section of the Guide. (It is, however, listed in the guide under its Naperville, IL, and its Lone Tree, CO, locations.) That’s a shame, because my husband and I went to The White Chocolate Grill a few weeks ago, and it was easily the among the best gluten-free dining experiences I’ve ever had.
I have a couple of other quibbles with the guide, all dealing with the finding of information, within the guide.:
- I wish the Guide had an exhaustive, alphabetized index. Oftentimes, I will hear the name of a g.f. restaurant, but I’m not sure where it’s located. Perhaps it’s a chain, but I don’t know if it has a local franchise. Or, I might know it’s in Arizona, but I don’t know where in Arizona it is. Rather than skim through the 11 pages of Arizona entries, it would be nice to have an index to which I could refer, ensuring that I don’t miss the entry, and making it easier to find the info on that particular restaurant.
- The Guide’s by-city layout bothers me. Of course, I’m most interested in Arizona, since that’s where I live. I find it quite difficult to find restaurants within the Arizona section. That’s because the entries are for Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, and All Other Cities. The Phoenix metropolitan area is comprised of at least twenty cities, and they’re all adjacent to each other. So, a restaurant that is in Peoria would be found in “All Other Cities”, even though it could literally be directly across the street from a restaurant found in the “Phoenix” section. I think it would be a better layout to have Greater Phoenix Area, Greater Tucson Area, Other Cities — Northern AZ, Other Cities — Southern AZ or something similar.
- Similar to Quibble #2, above, a MAP would most certainly be in order — a numbered map with statewide locations pinpointed, as well as metropolitan area maps. This would be especially valuable when traveling to another state, with which I’m not familiar.
In spite of my concerns, this is a very worthwhile book for anyone on a gluten-free diet to own.
Normally, I’m pretty tight with handing out my personal info. And, I already get about 15 different e-mail newsletters from various places which regularly clog my inbox. However, I thought that this one was worth it.
Sign up for the gluten-free newsletter from the Hain Celestial group (they ask for your name, e-mail addy, and ZIP code only). After sign-up is complete, you click a link to print out a coupon. (Unless you’ve signed up for other offers from coupons.com, you’ll likely have to download their software.) After it prints, simply click again to print another copy. A fellow celiac on the Phoenix Yahoo Celiac group managed to print out 20 of them before she hit the limit. I started, anticipating 20 as well, but I only got 14. Still. Fourteen bucks off of products that I already buy is a fantastic deal. (The only drawback to this, in my book, is that each coupon prints a full page of full color, both for the coupon, additional text and pics. That’s a waste of ink and paper, in my book. To conserve paper, I printed coupons on both sides, and now the backs of my coupons have text, but that should be fine.)
Included in the Hain Celestial group of products are Rice Dream products, Arrowhead Mills, De Boles pasta, Imagine soups and others. (Click here for the whole list.)
Didja hear about this??
I read about this in a gluten-free blog a couple of months ago. Created with celiac baking experts, in conjunction with both the Celiac Disease Foundation and the Celiac Sprue Association, tested (and approved!) by actual celiacs, made in a dedicated gluten-free facility… Mmmmm….
The website also has butter-free instructions for those (like my son) who also can’t have dairy.
These are supposed to roll out some time this month. I’ve been checking the Betty Crocker section of baking mixes every time I go to the grocery store for the last month.
The company became alerted to the great need for “normal” grocery items that are gluten-free after one of the employees on the “baking team” was diagnosed with celiac disease.
Although I am all for mom ‘n’ pop companies producing gluten-free items, I’m also enthused about large corporations jumping onboard, mostly because they have the resources to do it right. I had a friend whose husband worked at a Cheerios plant (the Betty Crocker brand is owned by General Mills) in Michigan, and that’s ALL that plant produced: regular Cheerios. So, I’d imagine that with so many manufacturing facilities at their disposal, it would be easy to switch one or more over to be a dedicated gluten-free plant.
According to the website, the gluten-free mixes will be more expensive than regular Betty Crocker mixes, but the price ” likely is noticeably lower than what you’re used to paying for gluten free dessert mixes.”
I can’t wait!!
A reader sent me a question about being gluten-free and taking communion. It’s such an interesting topic, I decided to make a whole blog post about it. First, I’ll write what I do, then follow that up with a number of alternate ideas.
My church celebrates communion only once a month. We pass plates containing wafers — which are really oyster crackers — and mini-cups of grape juice. (Vineyards aren’t known for their formality, after all!!) I partake. Here are the things that led me to my decision:
- I pick one out that is broken. I literally pray as I do, “I believe; help my unbelief.” In other words, I so want to take the Body of Christ into mine, and I have faith that He’s not going to do me harm. But, at the same time, I don’t want to go foolishly ingesting a bunch of gluten. So, each time I take communion, I pray — right then — that the Father would protect me from its ill effects, or quickly heal any adverse reaction.
- I have read (though I can’t find it right now) that a healthy celiac’s body can typically weather a storm of 1/8 gram of gluten and not suffer ill effects. A whole saltine is roughly 3 grams. Imagine a saltine cut into 24 pieces. My broken piece of oyster cracker is likely not much larger than that. I figure that communion is one more reason for me to be 100% faithful to the gluten-free diet, so incidental exposure, like in communion, isn’t difficult on my body.
- Plus… once a month, tops, is not much exposure, even if it does do me harm! I sometimes miss communion anyways, due to taking care of my crying baby in the nursery, or I’m off in the children’s ministry leading worship, or I’m home that Sunday with a sick child… So, I probably only take communion twice every three months, at most.
By nature, I’m the sort who doesn’t like to raise a fuss over myself. If I were, I might insist on gluten-free communion wafers. Here in the U.S., the easiest brand to find is Ener-G, and they’re available from many online retailers. They’re about $8-9 for a pack of 50. Alternately, if I went to a smaller church, I would probably buy them myself for everyone to take.
(I’ve also been to two different Lutheran churches who — as their own standard — have g.f. communion wafers.)
I’ve also read that a number of other people take their own bit of wafer, g.f. bread, or just a piece of rice cake with them, and use that for the Eucharist — either serving themselves in their own seat, or giving it to the pastor/priest beforehand, or whatever fits in with the communion protocol of their particular church. (There are some ideas here.)
However, it just might not be something that you can work out with your priest/pastor. In other words s/he might be unable or unwilling to make an exception for your diet. In the mid-1990’s, the Vatican barred celiacs from serving as priests (really!) because according to the Catholic church, communion wafers must contain gluten. (Read more about celiac Catholicism here.)
If some apparently unworkable situation is the case with you, don’t let it stumble you. God the Father knows your heart. Pray about it, and I’m sure you can come to peace before Him regarding communion.
The last time I stayed at a hospital was the last time I gave birth, 2.5 years ago. The nutrition staff accommodated my gluten-free diet, but it was somewhat difficult getting it communicated to them (even when they visited my room) about what was safe, and what wasn’t. We pretty much had to go by trial-and-error — like, they’d send something up, or bring it themselves, and I would say, “Um, no, an open-faced sandwich with gravy is not OK.” Or, “Plain lunch meat and fruit is OK.” (And, by the way, what is up with trying to feed celiacs open-faced sandwiches??? A woman on the Phoenix Celiacs Yahoo Group to which I belong had the same experience. Taking away one of the slices doesn’t make the sandwich gluten-free.)
This time, before the birth of sweet baby #5, I decided to be a little more proactive, so I contacted the hospital in order to talk with the nutritionist in advance, to find out what their protocol is for feeding gluten-free patients. I must admit, I get shocked at very little. Perhaps I’m jaded. I dunno. But, I was totally shocked when she told me that she only gets one request every six MONTHS to accommodate a gluten-free diet!!
Thankfully, though, she seemed to be very aware of g.f. issues, partly from her own studies, and partly because she semi-recently had a g.f. patient who was extremely picky and demanding, who apparently gave her an “education” on gluten issues. From the sounds of it, that other patient was rather rude about the whole thing, but apparently, the nutritionist benefited from it, because she was so well-informed, which makes it safer for me, and all celiacs! She planned to do a special grocery-shop just for me. I gave her tips on some products that would be worthwhile to buy, as well as where to find them, since the grocery store with which the hospital has an account has virtually NO g.f. items. We had a good conversation, and I’m pleased with the outcome. The plan seems to be that she’ll buy g.f. cereals, plus fruit, eggs & yogurt for breakfast… Lunch with sandwiches on g.f. bread with g.f.-labeled lunch meat (I suggested Hormel Natural Choice), and dinner of plain meat, plain veggies, and some sort of g.f. bread, probably by Kinnikinnick. That sounds good to me!! She was even aware of cross-contamination issues — so, her plan was to stick with prepackaged food that was labeled g.f., or foods that she knows are already g.f., with little-to-no risk of cross-contamination… PLUS, I’m bringing my own food, just in case.
It made me wonder what all the other celiacs were doing during their hospital stays.
So, I sent an e-mail out to the Yahoo group, and got a wide variety of responses, all of them encouraging and helpful. One response made tears spring to my eyes!! It was from a woman who is a professional gluten-free chef, and who lives close to the hospital where I’ll be staying. She offered to bring to me a free dinner!! I couldn’t believe it. It’s always a blessing to have others cook for me, on the rare occasions when that happens. But, I always eat others’ offerings with some trepidation, because as loving and concerned and accommodating as they may be, they really aren’t used to cooking gluten-free, and anything could go wrong, from hidden ingredients to residue on a baking sheet. So, to have an actual chef who has celiac disease prepare a meal… for me?? Wow.
I don’t know what will become of it; I wrote back to her to say that, while her offer would be a treat, it wasn’t necessary. I just feel like to say, outright, “Yes! Please do!! I’m desperate!!” would be a lie, because I have over a week’s worth of food prepared here at home, in the freezer and fridge, with which to feed my own family when I’m gone or too tired to cook, or whatever… Normally, my church’s kinship/Bible Study group’s members pitch in to provide meals for the family of a newborn, but our family is SO difficult to cook for, being both gluten- and dairy-free (well, only two of us are dairy-free, but that means that the whole meal has to be dairy-free). I simply don’t expect anyone to bend over that far backwards to cook for our family. So any of what I already prepared could be easily brought to me in the hospital, if it turns out that what they offer me is just not working, for one reason or another.
It made me feel very taken-care-of to have someone even offer to bring me dinner. Warm and fuzzy… 🙂
Many thanks to Chef Elizabeth Edwards — may you be blessed with the same servanthood and thoughtfulness you’ve shown to me!!
I get e-mail updates from Nancy Lapid’s informative celiac disease site at about.com. The site is partly blog, with comments enabled, and partly permanent articles.
One recent article caught my eye, because it was about the link between alopecia areata and celiac disease. My husband has alopecia, and has struggled with it for about seven years. (With alopecia, the patient’s hair falls out in chunks, sometimes with entire-body hair loss. My hubby’s is more of the spot/chunk variety, all on his scalp and face.) Hmmm…
Reading more, I saw that Nancy had an article on saving money while on a gluten-free diet. I must say that all of her suggestions are great; I personally do most of them.
I have a few more to add to Nancy’s list:
- Instead of trying to find a gluten-free substitute for all of your “normal” gluten-containing foods (like bagels, hamburger buns, dinner rolls, pasta), simply eliminate them, or find a totally different, naturally gluten-free substitute. In other words, if pasta salad is a regular staple in your diet, instead of buying expensive gluten-free pasta, substitute a fruit salad, bean salad, cucumber salad, or something similar. Instead of bagels, use Tater Tots at breakfast. Instead of sandwiches, try making bread-free pinwheels with lunchmeat, cream cheese and green onion, or something similar. In my experience, the most expensive gluten-free items are the ones that are pre-packaged, copying a usually gluten-containing baked good. So, if you can adjust your diet to simply not include them (or minimize their use), you’ll save a lot of money.
- If at all possible, find a local Asian grocery. Depending on the selection of your local store, you will be able to find a wide variety of gluten-free flours and rice noodles of all varieties, for MUCH less than you’d find in a natural foods store, specialty store, or regular grocery. I buy white rice flour and sweet rice flour (both at 69 cents a pound), tapioca starch and potato starch (both 39 cents to 59 cents per 12 oz package), sorghum flour (in the Indian section, usually sold as jawar or juwar flour, $2-3 for a 2 lb package), ALL sorts of rice noodles and rice spring roll wrappers (almost all of which are less than $1 for a pound), and whole grain rices in a wide variety at an inexpensive price (like brown sweet rice for $3 for a 3 lb package). In addition, I buy a lot of produce at the Asian grocery. I also recently got a tip from Michelle that bajri flour is actually millet flour, which is great for g.f. baking, so I’ll be looking for that on my next trip to the Asian grocery. We have found that pasta sauce tastes just as good on 89 cent rice “vermicelli” from the Asian grocery as it does on $3.59 Tinkyada pasta from the normal grocery. In fact, my husband likes it better. Many American purchasers are hesitant, because these flours and pastas are not “certified” gluten-free, and usually made out-of-country. However, I have never had a problem with any of the ingredients I’ve purchased from my Asian market.
- Speaking of Asian groceries, another way to save is to expand your cooking and baking skills by learning to make dishes from cultures that typically eat gluten-free. Thai food is almost ALL gluten-free, so pick yourself up a cookbook, visit that Asian grocery store, and start experimenting. Much of Indian cooking is also gluten-free; many parts of India use sorghum and/or millet flour as a staple — it’s not all gluten-containing naan bread! 😀 Also, Indian cooking uses a lot of beans, like lentils, that you may not currently use regularly. Buying inexpensive ingredients from an Asian grocer makes this a tasty, cheap way to eat.
- Instead of buying a lot of food online, search for what is available locally. I am usually not really thrilled to live in a huge city, but it does have its advantages. One of them is that there are so many local options available to me, that in 5.5 years of being gluten-free, I have NEVER purchased any g.f. ingredient online. This saves shipping expenses, and keeps me from over-buying.
- Nancy, of course, suggests baking from scratch as much as possible. I HIGHLY second this. It saves SO much, and tastes much better. Along this vein, I also suggest making your own baking mixes. Gluten-free baking mixes are insanely expensive, typically $5-8 for a 2 lb bag or less. Simply mixing up your own ahead of time will save time and money, and help you resist temptation when you see them on the store shelves. I’m fond of many of Bette Hagman’s mixes, from any of her Gluten Free Gourmet cookbooks. I’ve also made a number of my own mixes, after experimenting.
- Also, when you bake, bake extra! Use the extra the next day, or stick it in the freezer. For instance, last night I made g.f. hamburger buns from scratch, but made extra, so now we have buns for our lunch today. Yum! This is more of a time-saver than a money-saver. But, I do find that the more proactive I am about baking and freezing, the less I am tempted to purchase those $5.99/4 Kinnikinnick hamburger buns, or the $4.99/6 mini-muffins in my grocer’s freezer, or that $3.29 package of Pamela’s cookies.
- Just like with normal grocery ingredients, shop the sales! In my local natural foods store, where I get many of my gluten-free ingredients, there are probably 15 different gluten-free cold cereals. I have my preferences, but they’re not always on sale. I just wait until they go on sale, and content myself in the meantime with my not-favorites that are on sale. I also do similarly with “regular” gluten-free cereals, like Post Cocoa Pebbles, General Mills new gluten-free Rice Chex, and Dora the Explorer cereal. Additionally, I can very often use coupons from the Sunday paper on those cereals, saving even more.
- If there are gluten-free products you really like, but can’t regularly afford, call the 1-800 phone number of the manufacturer, and ask if they have any coupons they can mail out. I have done this many times, and usually get $5-10 worth of coupons.
- Shop around! I spread my grocery shopping through about six stores, though I typically go to only one or two per shopping trip. Depending on what I need, I have found that different stores offer completely different products, and have different kinds of deals.
- Read labels, comparing similar products! If you’ve been gluten-free for even two days, you probably realize that you have to be an expert label-reader. I have noticed that even my local Kroger-affiliate, Fry’s Grocery Store, has store brand products that are now labelled as being gluten-free. It’s a lot cheaper to buy Fry’s “tater nuggets” at usually $1.99 per package, than it is to buy Ore Ida Tater Tots at $3.49/package. More and more “regular” grocery products, from salsa (duh!) to potato chips to frozen turkeys, are now being voluntarily labelled as gluten-free. For instance, Lay’s Stax are gluten-free (and even labelled as such), while Pringles — a very similar product — are not, as they contain wheat starch.
- If at all possible, find a local gluten-free friend. You can pool your information, and help each other. Many cities have support groups where you can find people (and other resources) to help you live gluten-free without going broke. In the Phoenix area, check out www.phoenixceliac.com .
That’s all I can think of for now!
Read Nancy’s list, too, and if you have any to add to her list and mine, please comment!!!!