Prior to any dietary restrictions, my mom did most of my family's grocery shopping. She could run in and out of the grocery store in about 35 minutes, zipping through the aisles in record time.
Now, I always accompany my mom on trips to the grocery store. Expert label-reader that I am, it still takes a good deal of time to comb through a store--actually, several stores--to find allergen-free foods. And then, as complicated as grocery shopping can be, it's only half the battle. Sometimes, the real struggle takes place in the kitchen.
There's a learning curve, but after a period of transition, the process of shopping for and preparing food becomes streamlined. Here are a few of the lessons that have helped me in the past few months:
1. Focus on fresh, whole foods. When it comes to finding allergen-free food, the outer ring of the grocery store is your best bet. In a conventional grocery store, you're much more likely to find peanut, soy, or whatever else-free meats and produce than cookies and crackers. In this way, food allergies are a blessing in disguise: they give you an extra kick to eat healthily.
2. Find new favorites. Rather than try to replace old favorites with an exact allergen-free equivalent, which can be disappointing, sometimes it's best to find new favorites entirely. You might be amazed what variety of fruits and vegetables your local grocery store offers. You also might be amazed to realize which ones you haven't yet tried.
Another good place to search for new favorites is the ethnic food aisle. My favorite things from the ethnic food aisle are canned coconut milk, red and green curry paste, puppodums, rice paper wraps, dried legumes and grains.
You could also purchase more exotic ingredients, such as blueberry balsamic vinegar or flavored extracts, online.
3. Keep snacks around. It's a good idea to keep some quick-preparing pantry staples on hand. Gluten free crackers aren't always very tasty, but you'll sure be glad you thought to purchase some when the fridge is empty.
4. Don't be afraid to mess up. This one is key. Especially with baking, mistakes happen. Not everything that you make is going to taste good, but that's okay. It's part of the journey. You won't learn anything if you never try anything new.
5. Figure out what works for you. Some people like foods that others might not, and some people are willing to put more time into their food than others. Every body is different, so take all advice with a grain of salt.
Well, that's it for today! I'll be back next week, possibly with a recipe for gluten free sourdough. See you then!