Going Gluten-Free (GF) was a difficult task in the beginning. I had NO idea where to start and I felt totally overwhelmed at times. I already had an aversion to the idea of cooking, so I was sure this whole GF thing was not going to help.
Having been there, and done that, I can now provide you some tips which may help you if you are going through the GF transition.
I hope these tips help your switch to Gluten-Free a little less painful.
- Pull all the gluten filled items out of your pantry. Glance at the labels. If it says: wheat, malt, barley, or flour - set it aside. For a more comprehensive list of what should be avoided, visit this list at celiac.com. Put all of the gluten containing items in boxes or bags. If you have some people in your house who are not committed to going GF, have them pick out their favorite items and then clear a shelf in the pantry just for the gluten items they can't part with (and make sure the GF person in your house stays away from this shelf!). Give the rest of the food to friends and family (or donate it to a local food bank). Do the same in your refrigerator and freezer. My husband and oldest daughter are not strictly GF, so I made a shelf in the pantry/fridge and freezer so they could work on consuming those foods.
- Always check the labels of your food before using. As you will see in the list of unsafe foods over at celiac.com, there are tons of ingredients to avoid (might want to print that list and keep it on your fridge until you are confident in your GF lifestyle). The initial pantry/fridge/freezer clean-out should allow you to find the biggest offenders, but no doubt you will find something later on that contains an unsafe ingredient - so always check labels - on everything!
- Transform your whole kitchen. Don't buy any more gluten filled items - it's too hard to have around. If you are eliminating gluten for only one person in a house of 4, it will be frustrating for that person to have adjust to eating GF with all of the wonderful gluten filled treats around. Make GF a lifestyle change for the house, not just a pantry change for the effected - it will be an easier transition on everyone.
- Find ways to save money on GF food. Shop in bulk size at Amazon's Gluten-Free Store. Use the Subscribe and Save option (a recurring order which you can set at different monthly intervals). This often times will allow you to save up to 30%. We order cereal, crackers, pancake mix and snacks using the subscribe and save option. The greatest part about subscribe and save is that you can cancel your recurring order if you don't want it again. You get free shipping too, so why not try it?
- When dining out - DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK how food has been prepared and make sure to mention your gluten intolerance! Many restaurants are now catering to the GF lifestyle, but that doesn't mean they really know what they're doing (not all corn tortillas are wheat-free for example - you need to clarify). Servers also don't always know what 'Gluten-Free' means. If this is the case, order a salad and make sure there are no croutons! It's important to your health - don't be ashamed to ask how food has been prepared. You know the consequences, so don't be afraid to ask.
- If you are going a dinner event and you don't want to mention your food restrictions, or it's a preset menu, eat a little something before you go. I made the mistake of not eating prior to going to a church event a few weeks back...and I should have known the menu would be spaghetti and bread! Bonus tip: Always carry some GF snacks in your bag - Lara bars are a great thing to have on hand!
- Menu planning - do it (at least for a little while). I was absolutely lost in my kitchen until I found eMeals and gfreecuisine.com. eMeals is a meal planning website with a Gluten-Free option. gFreeCuisine is a meal planning website specifically for Gluten-Free. A weekly menu using their recipes is less than $100/week in groceries. You can set the number of servings you want to make and the recipes adjust automatically! I make my meals for 4 people and I always have leftovers for a couple lunches the next day. It's perfect. The recipes are all delicious and the ingredients used are always planned based on what's in season. Did I mention the handy shopping list these sites generate for you based on what meals you selected for the week?? I pick out and print my weekly menu plan each week and the shopping list provided makes it so easy to quickly get what I need to make everything. gFreeCuisine also provides easy snack ideas, drink suggestions, bread recipes, and my favorite - monthly freezer meals, all on the website! I LOVE having a gluten-free meal planning helper. It's well worth the price of the subscription. The meals are all pretty easy to make - GF meal planning websites are my favorite kitchen tool!
And there you have it.
Are you gluten-free? What was the hardest part of going GF for you?