Gluten-free grocery shopping; the pre-game

My initial advice to anyone diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is to not freak out and go buy every gluten-free product you can find at a specialty store. First, take stock of what is in your pantry and refrigerator that is already gluten free. You might be surprised how much you find! Milk, yogurt, fruits, veggies, nuts, dried fruit and unseasoned rice might be a few you already have.

One area in which you should exercise caution is condiments. Anything that is a multi-use jar—things like mayo, butter, jelly and peanut butter—I would suggest throwing out and getting a new one. There is just too much of a chance of cross-contamination from someone who made a PB+ J sandwich on gluten-containing bread and then stuck the knife back in the jar. Yep, that’s enough to make someone sick. I recommend purchasing the “squeezable” condiments whenever possible. Or, the very sophisticated labeling method we do—get a second bottle of every condiment the whole family uses, and use a sharpie and write “GF” on the lids.

Once you figure out what you have, then it’s time to make a plan and head to the grocery store. It can take a while! Especially in the beginning. I have found I’m able to do a majority of my grocery shopping at my normal grocery store. There are just a few items (like our fav GF noodles—to me corn pasta tastes much more like wheat pasta than rice noodles do) that I need to go to a specialty grocery store to find.

Before heading out, use company websites to research which products that you already normally buy are gluten free. Different stores have different items. I tend to switch around which grocery store location I go to each week, even though it’s the same chain, to take advantage of the different selections at each location. I also have been known to whip out my cell phone in the middle of the store to call the 1-800 number on the package to inquire about certain ingredients. (This is harder to do, though, if you tend to shop on the weekends.)  Also, check out your store’s resources many have support for gluten-free shoppers like this list from Meijer’s Healthy Living Advisors.

I always recommend to those newly diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to start your grocery shopping around the outside of the store. This is where you will find the most naturally gluten-free foods. Start with produce and load up on your favorite fruits and veggies. Get lean cuts of plain beef, chicken, fish, turkey, or pork. (Just watch out for the pre-seasoned varieties, as they may contain gluten.) Most dairy is also gluten free and healthy. Choose low-fat milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and cheese. In a short time you will learn different brands that are gluten free, though you should always take a fresh look at the ingredient list every time you shop, as products do change. Life should be getting much easier soon if/when the FDA finally rules on the gluten-free labeling law.

I hate to admit that I might be one of the last people without a smart phone so I can’t speak from experience, but I hear there are some helpful apps too. When I join current technology I hope to write on the ones I find most helpful.

What is your favorite gluten-free app? What are your best grocery shopping tips for newbies or seasoned gluten-free veterans?


Sidenote: I am not compensated for any links in this post.  This is just one example of a chain I am aware of looking out for us in the gluten-free community.

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