Category Archives: Planning

11 Tips for Those New to Gluten Free Lifestyle

a gluten free sign

There are several reasons that individuals and families decide to switch to a gluten free diet. Some hope to help children suffering with ADHD or autism. Others, like me, are grasping at straws trying to eliminate gut pain and auto-immune diseases. Some people are diagnosed with true celiacs and have no choice. Whatever your reason though, going gluten free might seem a daunting task but it’s really not so bad once you get a handle on it. Read on for 11 tips that I wish I’d known when I first started!

  1. Switch the whole family at once. I’ve seen many articles about going gluten free and almost all of them discuss how to co-exist with those who eat gluten. I’m not saying you have to completely eliminate gluten from the house in order to be successful but it sure does make things easier! If you do have to keep some glutenous items, make sure they are in a special spot, harder to reach, and labeled really well, at least until you get a good grip on this way of life!
  2. Get rid of the glutenous condiments and spice packets. This is probably the most important step for a newbie. It is much too easy to accidentally dump something glutenous onto what would have been a gluten free meal. Just get those items out of the house. Give them to a friend. Donate them to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Or throw them in the trash! Whatever you have to do to get them out of your kitchen, it will be worth it in the end. Check all the ingredients in all your seasoning packets. If you aren’t sure, google it! Once you figure out that gluten is lurking in all those pre-packaged foods, you’ll start making your own spice blends and become a better cook! Ooo, that would make for a good blog article – how I’ve improved my cooking skills since going gluten free! Honestly, I save money on spices because making your own spice blends is cheaper than buying the pre-packaged crap! most spices are gluten free

    If you have an aggravating family member who isn’t willing to tow the line with you, make sure they have a special place in the fridge for the poison! Yes that’s right, poison! YOU have to treat any gluten like a poison, especially if you have true celiac disease.

  3. Familiarize yourself with what is gluten free that you already enjoy eating. Spend time googling gluten-free recipes and choose a few easy ones to get you started. A good steak, baked potato, salad, and broccoli are all gluten free! So are many more of your favorite foods! Once you are more aware of where gluten is lurking you will discover that eating gluten free can also mean that you are eating healthier overall. steak, broccoli, potato are all gluten free
  4. Go easy on the gluten free goodies! Many people think that going gluten free will also help them lose weight but honestly, you could easily gain if you get caught up buying gluten free brownie and cookie mixes. I personally prefer a gluten free brownie or cake over a wheat flour based cake! They are light and fluffy, the texture is softer and in my opinion, the flavor of chocolate pulls through rice/tapioca/potato flour better than wheat flour. But that means you can fatten right up on sugar laden products, so careful with those.
  5. Make better choices. Once you go gluten free, you can “permit” yourself to indulge in cleaner foods that you might have saved for only special occasions. I eat a lot more pickles, peppers, and fresh fruits and vegetables that I used to skip over because I considered them too pricey. Stick with the fresher items on the perimeter of the grocery stores and avoid the heavily packaged foods. I’ve learned that this actually saves me money because I’m eating what’s in season more often.
  6. Adapt favorite recipes, but realize they might not turn out right the first time. Learn what works best for you and yours. There’s lots of gluten-free alternatives like quinoa noodles and shelf-stable breads that some people don’t mind eating. Others (like me) would rather eat cardboard! Try the alternatives, read labels and find your own substitutes, and have fun with adaptations. For instance, I much prefer rice noodles to quinoa noodles. But rice noodles aren’t even found in the “gluten free” section so how would you know to look? You have to think outside the box, quite literally!good alternatives to spaghetti noodles for gluten free living
  7. Going gluten free is a long-term commitment. If you want to be sure that the gluten free diet is working for you, you’ve got to stick it out for more than just a couple of weeks. And you also have to realize that if it isn’t working, it could be simply because you have accidentally been ingesting gluten in places you didn’t think of yet. This is why I recommend that anyone who is truly serious about going gluten free should commit to it for at least 6 months. It really does take awhile to get used to eating truly gluten free.
  8. Don’t give up. If you make a mistake, don’t use that as an excuse to quit. Just get right back to it with the next bite of food you take! It does get easier, I promise!
  9. Choose high quality Gluten free bread. The stuff in the typical grocery store on the gf shelf is NASTY! Go to Whole Foods, Kroger, or a health food store and buy gf bread in the freezer section. Sometimes Udis and Rudis can be found fresh but most of the other brands have a horrible gritty texture that I cannot tolerate. My favorite gf bread is Udi’s, hands down. I don’t even bother with the other brands anymore. Gluten free bread costs more, but it’s so worth it. And if you are the only one going gf, then you can freeze the loaves and take out just what you need. Soon I’m going to experiment with gluten free baking so keep your eyes open for those posts!
  10. Dining out for those who are gluten intolerant is tough, I won’t lie. I do not have celiacs so I’m very fortunate. I can get away with having what I figure is gluten free, and if it’s not, I may pay for it for a couple days but my body recovers quickly. Mexican, chinese, and japanese restaurants are the best places to avoid gluten in foods and work well for me. If you order mexican, make sure your meal is made with corn and not flour tortillas. At chinese and japanese restaurants, stick with rice based meals. You can have rice noodles. Make sure the pancit is made with rice and not semolina. Unfortunately these restaurants probably use a soy/wheat blended “soy sauce” so if you are only gluten intolerant, you might get away with eating at these restaurants. But if you are a true celiac, it’s much harder to eat out.
  11. Those with true celiacs have to be very careful at restaurants. You’ll have to ask the waiter what’s in the sauce, request that the chef clean the preparation surfaces prior to preparing your meal, and choose menu items that aren’t breaded or fried. You can’t risk sharing the same frying oil so stay away from fried foods. The safest way to be sure you aren’t getting glutened in a restaurant is to order a grilled meat on a salad. Just be sure the salad dressing is gluten free and that the seasoning used on the meat isn’t contaminated. Honestly, if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, I suggest avoiding eating foods prepared somewhere else for a few months until you have a true handle on the disease and what you are eating. I don’t say this to scare you, but to inform you.

There are lots of tips and tricks out there for gluten free living but honestly, you will develop your own as you go. The best way to get started is to start with preparing your own foods for a bit and getting used to what you can and cannot eat. Once you have a handle on it, going out to eat

Just Because You Can Think it Doesn’t Mean You Should Do It!

When planning party and holiday foods, don’t lose sight of your budget. Just because you can think it up does not mean you have to serve it up! Sometimes, simple is better. Other times, you may need to substitute an inexpensive ingredient to replace the pricier option you just can’t scratch from the menu. That’s ok! No-one wants you to overextend your budget just because you have a wild imagination! In fact, many might think “girlfriend just over-extended herself on this here party, she shouldn’t have spent so much”.

As a stay-at-home-mom and someone who enjoys cooking and entertaining, I sometimes let my imagination soar farther than my food budget will allow me to go. That’s when I get creative and either come up with less expensive alternatives, or tone down my plans and realize that just because I had this really cool idea does not mean I have to actually follow through with it!

Here’s an example of when to scratch the expensive idea completely:
When I’m planning a child’s birthday party, all kinds of neat ideas pop into my head. I could rent several tables and get several table cloths to match, I can make centerpieces, I can create a candy buffet or get cute Indiana Jones hats for all the kids, and, and, and… Then I tell myself that if I do spend all this money on a party, I will be taking money away from my family’s food budget for the next month or two! Worse yet, some party planners might put the party favors on a credit card and pay it all back later. These thoughts are bad, Bad, BAD! Don’t fall into this trap, ladies and gentlemen! Noone but YOU knows that you thought up all those very cool but pricey ideas. Grab your eraser and take those off the list altogether.

Here’s an example of when to modify the pricey item to make it fit in the budget:
While preparing for a huge Thanksgiving feast, I wanted to serve a huge and beautiful, picture perfect turkey, and a spiral cut ham as the main proteins for my meal. I went to shop for said turkey and ham, and learned that if I bought a smaller turkey, I could get the grocery store’s special price. You know, the ones they use as bait- a $5-$7 turkey that they take a loss on just to get you in the store? But the “cheap” turkeys are all on the smallish side, little 14 pound gobblers. I wanted to serve a huge 21 pounder that blows the mind when seen right out of the oven. Then I turned on my logical brain power. Will my guests even SEE the huge bird before it is carved? If the answer is no, then for heaven’s sake, buy two of the cheap “bait turkeys” and serve the ham as the centerpiece! You’ll save some money, the food will taste just as good (if not better because now you can cook the turkey for taste instead of presentation), and your guests won’t even know the difference.

Serving a large meal to feed lots of people does not have to ruin your monthly budget. As long as you choose wisely, budget ahead, and plan carefully, you can serve an amazing meal that fits into your families budget. No-one but you knows you had elaborate plans that were scratched! Just put those ideas in your hat for later, when your budget will allow for some frivoulous spending!

Coupons – Use ’em or Lose ’em?

This website is all about stretching dollars and how to get the most with one smallish income. I’m sure we all have some knowledge of “extreme couponers”. We’re talking about those people who somehow manage to clip coupons, then go to the right store on the right day at the right time, and load up their carts with health and beauty items, pickles, and ketchup for mere pennies. I’ve seen blog posts and even television shows about the subject, yet for the majority of us, we still buy our kosher dills with cold-hard-cash. Why is that? To answer the question we first need to explore three types of “couponers”.


Click here to go to How Stuff Works and read their article on Extreme Couponing

1. Extreme Couponers People who use this method spend a great deal of time researching the circulars, clipping coupons from newspapers and magazines, and hitting up their relatives and friends for discarded coupons. They plan the trip, organize their clippings, and only buy what they can get for almost nothing. These shopping trips have nothing to do with what’s on the family’s grocery list. The goal is to buy as much stuff as they can for as little as possible, whether that stuff is needed right this minute or not. Extreme couponers, for that reason, need a place to stockpile their finds until someday their family DOES need the item, saving them money in the future. This CAN be a way to stretch dollars, but for the majority of us, the reality is, coupons may just make a person spend more money.

2. The Rational Couponer Many buyers have decided there’s just not enough time in the day to research, plan, clip coupons, beg the neighbors for more coupons, and stalk the stores for their double coupon deals and absolute best prices. We figure if we clip the coupons we get in our mail and newspaper and take it along with us when we are shopping, we can save SOME money by using coupons on the things we needed to buy anyhow. This process CAN save families a little cash, but only if the coupon buy is a true savings. Let’s review an example. If a Rational Couponer generally buys store brand corn for 69c a can but has a 20c coupon for Del Monte corn priced at 92c a can, the buyer does the math and realizes that the Del Monte corn is actually going to COST an additional 3c. At this point, the Rational Couponer makes one of two choices. Either she buys the store brand knowing the Del Monte corn isn’t a real savings, or she may rationalize to herself “but it’s a name brand, it’s only 3c more, and there’s probably more food and less water in this can than the generic”. So the Rational Couponer, even after doing the math, may spend an additional 3c more on their groceries USING a coupon.

Piggy bank standing on money

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3. Just Use It Couponer This is the buyer that the coupons were printed for. She’s busy but she wants to stretch a dollar. She’s got a hungry toddler tugging her pants leg asking for the cookies, and a baby in the carrier screaming because his pacifier fell in the car and she forgot to grab it before she went inside. She hurries down the isles, scratching off the items on her list as quickly as possible. She vaguely remembers that there’s a Del Monte corn coupon and she grabs the name brand and throws it in the cart. Sound familiar? Yep, that was me when my boys were 1 and 3.

To really get more bang-for-your-buck, you need to take all three of our couponers listed above and roll them into one. She’s the Practical Couponer.

Practical Couponer This is how you can really save some money with coupons. You realize you don’t have 80 hours a week to scour the newspapers and stalk your neighbor’s mailbox waiting for her to throw out her unwanted coupons. You are the Practical Couponer. You clip the coupons you have, ask Grandma for extra coupons when the savings really will help your family this month, and let the rest slide. You take advantage of double coupons when possible and you spend a few hours a month instead of the majority of your free time (what’s that, right?) planning a monthly trip for double coupon shopping. During that trip you stockpile only the items that will help your family over the next few weeks or months. For most of your grocery trips however, you are the Rational Couponer, and you either save a little on coupons or get better quality for the money you spend. When you are in a hurry, you realize this and skip coupon shopping, using the best prices as your guide.