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Your 1st (gluten-free) trip to the grocery store

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The first trip to the grocer’s after being told you cannot have gluten can be a bit intimidating.

Or, a lot intimidating. “Gluten? The protein in wheat is EVERYWHERE! Where do I start?! This is SO impossible!” ~Me, seven years ago. Possibly with some dramatic flourishes thrown in. Foot stomps. A few tears? I’ve mostly blocked this from my memory.

I promise, it isn’t nearly as scary as you might think.

First of all. Which store do you shop? If you have access to a large, organic, natural grocery store such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, then you’re in luck. It will be so much easier to navigate the aisles when you realize that there are actually stores out there that cater to your specific dietary needs. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and live in a small town HOURS away from such wondrous stores of bounty, then don’t fret. It’s still relatively easy at your local small grocery store.

The best advice I can tell you is this: know your budget, plan to spend a bit of time, and walk into the store with fresh eyes.

Your basic shopping plan-of-attack might look something like this:

Fresh Vegetables & Fruits
Rices & Beans
Canned Items
Meats
Eggs & Dairy
Frozen Vegetables

You’re going to skip most of the actual aisles here. That’s okay. Don’t panic. This is a whole new ballgame, folks. Sticking to the outside aisles in the store should get you the essentials. These are the main items that you’ll be picking up. BE CAUTIOUS and make sure you read all labels very carefully.

The first time, it may take a while. Check out vegetables you’ve never tried, cuts of meat that would be easy to cook, some in-season fruits. Keep to the freshest, simplest forms of food possible in order to avoid added glutens (i.e. choose a 5lb. bag of potatoes as opposed to the refrigerated prepared container of mashed potatoes that contain wheat flour as a thickening agent). The good news? In general, shopping this way will cut your time in the store once you get the hang of it. Lucky you! You don’t have to shop all the prepared-boxed-foods-and-bread aisles!

THINGS TO REMEMBER:

Stick to the outsides aisles of the store.
Check all labels.

See? Easy. Thank me later.

Pre-packaged Gluten Free Foods
One more thing. If you’d like to try some pre-packaged gluten-free foods, have at it. Really. I have a bit of a warning for you though. These foods are often expensive, and searching out the good ones can cost you a lot of (GF) dough. Don’t spent a lot of cash trying to replace your favorite blue box of mac & cheese or your favorite alfredo. Not yet. Ask around for recommendations if you have GF friends, look around the web and GF blogs for raves & reviews, and try a few items each trip. There are a lot of great GF foods out there now. Stick a toe in and start discovering what you like. Makes notes, list your favorites for next time.

My favorite packaged GF sandwich bread:

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If your store carries any GF products (mine just recently started carrying a small selection of GF items), try some. I think some of the best ones to start with would be:
•GF pasta
•Any snack food that looks appealing to you
•GF bread, or GF bread mix
•GF flours, if you plan on trying GF baking

Contacting the store management and asking if they carry any gluten-free items is a good idea. It has been my experience that most stores, no matter how small, are more than happy to help their customers. You never know; they might’ve been asked about it before and were considering stocking a few GF items. You could be the catalyst that pushes it forward.

Good luck! You got this.

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10 responses »

  1. Udi’s! I (heart) that bread and I’m not even gluten intolerant.

    Solid advice on going to a local grocer and seeking out GF products. It can definitely be intimidated and frustrating.

    Trader Joe’s is a fantastic store if you have one in your area. Whole Foods is a nice one, too. I have been noticing though, more and more, my local basic grocer is beginning to cater to the GF crowd. Very smart on their part, since GF customers tend to be fiercely loyal if they find a good GF selection that is reasonably priced. I have my faves that I stick with, for sure, but I am also open-minded to try new stuff on the recommendation of others.

    Which reminds me…..I bought a new GF pasta today from a company called Notta Pasta. It is a rice fettucine. I’ll let you now how it turns out. It looks flimsy at my first glance, but I’ll try anything once.

    Ciao!

    TPC

    Reply
    • The nearest Trader Joe’s is over in Albuquerque. Unfortunately! I truly am in the middle of nowhere.

      I fell head over heels in love with Whole Foods. The local grocery store has been great at working with me, and recently they’ve asked me about assisting with product choices for the store. Which I’m thrilled about!

      Let me know how the pasta turns out! 🙂

      Reply
  2. I have found some yummy breadsticks and crackers I love. When I am not so sleepy I will give you the brand names.

    Reply
  3. GG,

    I meant to tell you…

    I have a book by Jacqueline Mallorca, titled “Gluten-Free Italian”, and it’s a pretty darn good read. She has a website, in case you didn’t already know about it:

    http://glutenfreeexpert.com/

    I definitely recommend checking her out!

    Reply
  4. My sister and her husband have become vegan, and their challenge is that so many prepared foods contain whey.

    Reply
    • If I may, and I mean no overt offense, but why did they go vegan? What is their motivation?

      Reply
      • My sister was already a vegetarian, while my brother-in-law ate meat. After watching Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives, they both began a vegan diet. His cholesterol and blood pressure had both been on the high side and now are within the normal range, so they are both really committed to their new lifestyle.

        I went there for Thanksgiving, during which a dead turkey and some dead soybeans attended.

        Reply
    • Yeah…When my kiddo was casein-free, I realized that milk products are perhaps even more prevalent than gluten-containing ones. Then there are those who cannot have corn, nuts, tomatoes…one of my dearest friends cannot have coconut; I am still surprised to find how prevalent coconut oils and such are!

      Reply

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