How our family does Gluten-free (at the moment)

Our current gluten-free/dairy-free status:

  • I try to keep Simon 99% gluten free.  Once in a while he has a bit of something with gluten as a hidden ingredient but that seems to be OK.  He has been 99% dairy-free since October 2011, but I’m starting to introduce more to see how his system responds.  His symptom is loose stool.  I thought going DF helped, but going GF seems to have made a bigger difference, hence trying to bring back dairy.  He’s tested negative for dairy allergy.  I need to get a blood draw to check for gluten sensitivity but getting blood from a 3 year old is not fun and it isn’t nearly as accurate as just doing the trial.
  • Steve is moving towards being gluten-free.  He is finishing up his granola stockpile and has gluten when we eat out, but is mostly gluten-free.  He is 99% dairy free.  He splurges on some cheese occasionally.  He has a confirmed dairy-protein allergy and too-much dairy results in sinus trouble and congestion.  An ice cream really messes up his GI system.  He seems to tolerate a bit of butter in cooking just fine.
  • Bee eats what her brother eats except for places where it is easy to make different.  I.e. I make her sandwiches with regular bread and his with GF bread.  She has no symptoms of any gluten or dairy sensitivities.  She is though highly allergic to sesame.
  • I eat what the family eats at dinner.  I have regular bread and when I eat out I go nuts with lots of gluten and lots of dairy.  It doesn’t seem to bother me at all.   My only known food issues are allergies to clams and halibut.

Transitioning to GF:

We have been mostly dairy-free for years.  We use butter and I’ll use a bit of milk in a recipe from time to time but no cheese and nothing cream or dairy based.  Because of this I was already used to reading labels and already using a minimum of processed food.  This made the leap to GF a bit smaller for me.  All of these things label reading and meal planning are skills that you build over time, they’re not an overnight transformation for most people.  Be patient with yourself and don’t expect perfection.

Cost:

GF costs more.  BUT – if you are focusing on spending on quality, nourishing foods the value to your family is enormous.  GF junk food is crazy expensive.  Potatoes, frozen veg, rice, beans, etc, etc are not.  It is about being intentional with how I spend your grocery budget.

Meal planning:

You will HAVE to work hard at meal planning at the beginning for sure.  I meal plan a week at a time.  Dinners are planned out and I build my grocery list around those.  Lunches are leftovers or something easy like tuna salad.

  • I try to make things that are naturally GF instead of relying on special GF ingredients.  This means lots of meat+veg menus, rice, potatoes and soups.  This is for two reasons.
    • Firstly GF substitutions are EXPENSIVE.  Sticking with things that are naturally GF is way cheaper.
    • Secondly GF substitutions are trying to mimic properties of gluten and it is hard to do that well.  Gluten is what gives bread its awesome texture.  Any substitution is an imitation.  I feel cheated when I spend 5x as much for bread that is half as good.  Sticking with naturally GF food allows us to eat food at its best.
    • Eggs.  I’m transitioning the kids to eat eggs for breakfast and less cereal.
    • Using more rice and potatoes in meals where before I might have planned noodles or bread.
    • See my list below for GF meal-plan meals.

Standard food substitutions:

I’m transitioning to use more of the following as substitutions for wheat containing foods.

  • If a recipe calls for some flour as a thickener (in stews and sauces) I substitute corns starch 1:1.  Has worked fine so far.
  • Chex (except wheat obviously) are GF.  But other GF cereals in the nat’l foods aisle are often cheaper.
  • I often use rice in soup recipes that call for pasta noodles.
  • Corn tortillas are GF (check package to make sure) but Mission brand are and they are similar price to the flour tortillas.

Special “GF” food:

I try to minimize the amount of special GF food I buy.  It is EXPENSIVE!  These are the things that I have tried and like.

  • Bisquick GF mix.  This is expensive, but when I really want to serve biscuits I like having it on hand.
  • GF pasta seems to be pretty good and you can find it for not-insane-prices at WalMart and Kroger.  It works great in soups with pasta.  We were never big pasta people so we don’t use a lot.  I try to use rice instead when it makes sense.
  • GF animal crackers to send to Sunday School.
  • GF cookies.  I like having a bag of these as a special treat for the kids.  They get one or two, not a lot.  These are very expensive.
  • GF cereal.  This often is on sale in the nat’l food aisle at Kroger for good prices.  Double check each box – the GF and ‘natural’ are mixed together.
  • GF bread.  $5.50 a small loaf!  I am using less and less as I figure out alternative lunches to replace sandwiches, but I allowed myself to use more at the beginning so I didn’t go crazy.  I try to keep to one loaf a week now.  Eventually I want to learn to bake my own, but in time…

Stores:

  • Morton Kroger:  GF bread, reasonable selection of GF replacement products, they do have things on special for very good prices from time to time.
  • Walmart:  There is a small section of GF things plus sometimes GF mixed in the various sections.  They seem to have different things each time – so I never rely on them having anything in-particular.  I just pick up what I can if it is a good price.
  • Naturally Yours at Metro Centre:  Huge selection.  Usually expensive but also have specials with good prices.  A great place to go for ideas.  But don’t get carried away.  Set a budget and stick to itJ
  • Schnucks in Peoria:  Prices comparable to Kroger but a different mix of items.
  • Trader Joes:  I ALWAYS stop there when I’m in Chicago, St Louis or Indy.  They have a ton of GF items for good prices.  They also have a list of all their GF products – consult before shopping to make a good list and take advantage when you can!
  • Online:  I havn’t tried any online sources yet.  Hopefully soon.  One step at a time.

Eating out:

We don’t eat out with the kids much at all.  (not like it is fun to eat out with two toddlers anywayJ)  The hardest things for me with the transition to GF has been the eating out restrictions.  It is not easy to just pick up a quick sandwich while we’re out or to meet friends at McD’s for lunch.  I know it can be done, I just haven’t invested much time in investigating menus.  I do know Chick-fil-a has GF fries and the grilled chicken is GF so that is our go-to place.

My go-to GF meals:

  • Taco bar.  This is great when catering for a group with food issues.  Everyone can add toppings that work for them and leave off what doesn’t.  Beans and rice make this stretch further.
  • Roast chicken, potatoes and veg.  I use leftover chicken for soups, curry, risotto, etc.
  • Risotto.  A satisfying creamy texture if you miss cheesy pastas.
  • Hamburger patties with mushroom sauce.  With roast potatos or rice.
  • Rice and beans.
  • Chili (double check to make sure any canned beans are GF)
  • Black bean soup
  • Beef stew (I have several different varities and I make this a LOT)
  • Cottage pie (ground beef casserole topped with mashed potatos)
  • Chicken stew
  • Sauteed shrimp and rice
  • Salmon patties with rice
  • Chicken rice soup
  • Baked potato bar (great way to use taco leftovers, curry leftovers, stew leftovers…)
  • Chicken curry
  • Bacon and eggs or omlettes
  • BBQd pork
  • Bangers and mash (brats with mashed potatoes – double check sausages to ensure they are GF)

Lunches

  • Avocado wrapped up in turkey slices
  • Tuna salad (on lettuce or GF crackers)
  • PB&J
  • Leftovers
  • Hummous on veg (Bee can’t eat this – wish we could do this more!)
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