Finding Cheaper Gluten Free Foods

Buying gluten free foods usually means that you are paying more per ounce than a similar gluten filled product. Whether the package is the same price and a smaller box, the same size and a higher price, or, my favorite, a smaller package and a higher price, the results are the same: eating gluten free is more expensive than if you were following a regular diet. As a celiac or gluten intolerant patient, this distinction is important because in order to remain healthy we have to stay gluten free and that has an impact on our monthly budget. There is no getting around the fact that we have to pay more, but there are ways to narrow that gap and make eating gluten free only a little less expensive.

Before I get started, I’d like to say that I’m not going to tell you to cook at home more and not use packaged or processed foods because not all people who eat gluten free can do that, and there is the issue that staples, like pasta, are 3-4 times as expensive as those made with wheat. There are also times when you get caught out and need to grab something to eat and don’t know what the choices are.

First, when you are in your regular grocery store check and see if there is a discount rack. Date coded products that expire soon, damaged packages, day old bread, items that aren’t selling, and post-holiday closeouts (think Easter or Halloween candy) wind up here. Discount racks are one of my best places to find large quantities of gluten free foods like pasta, soup, cereal, cookies, snacks, and cake mixes, often at 33-50% off. Stock changes often. If you find something you like go back and buy more A.S.A.P! I’ve bought something, tried it in the parking lot, and gone right back into the store to buy more. Don’t pass up a good deal if you can. Your bank account will thank you.

Next, if your grocery store has a separate gluten free section, browse the shelves whenever you go shopping. Before the last remnants of an item are moved to the discount rack, they are often marked down on the shelves first.

Buying in bulk is the other strategy for saving money when purchasing gluten free foods. I do this in two ways: through a local health food store and on-line.

The local health food store offers a discount of 15-25% when ordering full case lots of a product. Though the retail price in this store is a bit higher than my grocery store, for something that we use a lot like pasta, the savings are still significant overall. If you have any independent grocers in your area call them and ask if they will offer you a discount. You have nothing to lose and dollars to save.

Amazon and other on-line retailers offer a huge variety of gluten-free products at very competitive prices. With little more than a few mouse clicks you can shop, compare, and buy. With services like Amazon’s subscribe and save, you can save even more money on products you use regularly. If I can’t find it local, or need it often, the Internet is where I got for gluten free needs.

Buying gluten free foods will most likely always remain more expensive. Being a consumer in a niche market this is unlikely to change. I hope that these ideas help you save a little time while staying gluten free.

Homemade Bubble Solution

Homemade Bubbles

After going through quite a few containers of bubbles last year we knew that there had to be another way to make them that would be easier and create bigger bubbles from supplies we could keep around the house.

Enter the homemade bubble solution using Dawn dish soap.

This solution is easy to make and lasts a long time.  In fact, the longer it sits before being used the bigger and stronger the bubbles are.  Mix some up in the Winter as a reminder of the coming Spring.  When it is time to go out and enjoy the sun the bubbles will be ready to float jubilantly in the warm air.

Ingredients:
1c. Water
1/3c Dawn dish soap.
2T Glycerin

Mix all of the ingredients in a container with a neck wide enough for your bubble wand and then go out and blow some bubbles!

Do Oats Contain Gluten?

In a word, no.  However, oats do contain a chemical known as avenin which is a compound found in wheat that can cause problems for avenin sensitive celiac patients.

What seems to be a more common issue, however, is cross contamination of oats with wheat, barley, or rye when harvesting, storing, and processing oats because of the similarity of these grains.  This was made apparent to me when speaking with the staff of Arrowhead Mills, who take great precautions to insure their gluten free line is not contaminated, and was told that they cannot guarantee their oat products are gluten free because of shared fields and equipment.

If you are a celiac patient or other who would like to continue to have oats in your diet, try Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats.  I have been eating these since my diagnosis without any issue.  Bob’s Red Mill sources these oats from farmers who grow only oats, and then test the final product using the R5 Elisa test to insure the oats do not contain gluten.

If you would like to read more about gluten, see this post: What is Gluten?

Sources:

Diversity in Oat Potential Immunogenicity: Basis for the Selection of Oat Varieties with No Toxicity in Coeliac Disease
Peroral Small Bowel Mucosal Biopsy
Can Oats Be Taken in a Gluten Free Diet?  A Systematic Review
Gluten Contamination of Commercial Oat Products in the United States

Lego Sunblock

My wife and I enjoy playing board games together and are always looking for something new to try. One day, while out shopping, the Lego line of board games caught our eye when my wife saw Sunblock on sale for $10 at a local toy store. Not familiar with the Lego games she read some reviews and thought it was interesting enough to give a try, especially at this low price.

In Sunblock players take turns rolling the dice and taking the action indication which includes: placing umbrellas of different colors on the beach or moving one of several trashcans, the large striped umbrella, or their own beach chair. Whenever a player knocks over any of the umbrellas or is unable to place a new one, they are out of the game, and play continues until only one person is left on the beach.

Game play is deceptively simple and we have found you are competing not only against the actions of other players, who are constantly trying to make the next move more difficult, but also against your own patience and dexterity. Rushing to place or move a piece can result in an umbrella being pushed over and that player being out. Of the dozens of times we have played, only one game has ended because an umbrella could not be placed. The rest of the time we knocked over an umbrella. To win: be careful and take your time.

Simple, fast, and fun are the three words I’d use to describe this game. Sunblock has become one of our first choices when we sit down to play a board game.

Pick up a copy of Sunblock and join the Lego beach party.

Sunblock
Players: 2-4
Ages: 7+
Playtime: 5-15 minutes.

Kids and Gardening

Gardening with children has been one of the great pleasures of the unexpectedly early spring of 2012 that came to Pennsylvania.  This is the first year where both of my youngest children are finally old enough to spend time together in the garden where they can be handled sufficiently by one parent.   As either of my wife or I help the children play and learn about the garden, the other can work on bigger tasks like weeding or moving compost.  After spending much time whispering the gardener’s lament, “There is always next year.”, the garden is finally in a place where we will have what we want while also increasing the amount of quality time we have with our children.

The fun part about having the children out and gardening is how naturally they take to it.  Whether they are digging for dinosaur bones, our very own pair of Dr. Scott the Paleontologist, or helping to transplant strawberries, they don’t need encouragement.

Having spent time volunteering with a local community organization helping to build garden space in Harrisburg, children’s desire to be out, garden, do hard work, all while learning amazed me.  Not only with my own children, but also with those children from the city, there was little need for support on my part.  They only required instructions to start the project and they jumped right in including planting apple trees, hauling mulch, or shoveling manure,

If you want to teach children to garden, the job is made easy for you.  Lead them to a space where they can dig, plant, and grow.  With a little guidance along the way they will take care of the rest.

What is Gluten?

If you are trying to live a gluten free lifestyle or have been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it is important to understand what gluten is and what you need to avoid.  Gluten is a protein composed of gliadin and glutelin found in wheat and the related grains barley and rye, and is found in all varieties of wheat including durum, emmer, einkorn, and spelt.  These other names are important to remember when reading a label because they may not be listed plainly as wheat.

Gluten gives dough it’s elasticity, traps the carbon dioxide created by yeast to make bread rise, and gives the final baked product that nice chewy texture.

What Foods Contain Gluten?

Gluten is found in wide variety of foods including some that you might expect, like bread or beer, but it is also used in imitation meat including seitan or textured vegetable protein, and as a stabilizer in other products like ketchup or ice cream.

These secondary uses for gluten, especially as stabilizers, are some of the hidden sources of gluten in food.  Read all food labels every time. If you eat something and your symptoms return, look at what you ate over the last several days that was different so you can locate what may have made you sick.

What about Corn and Rice “gluten”?

Corn (maize) and rice both include proteins that are sometimes called gluten, but this is not the same as the gluten found in wheat, barley, or rye.  For people with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, corn (maize) and rice are perfectly safe to eat in all forms, though reading the label is still important to look for potential sources of gluten.

If you would like to learn more about celiac disease and gluten free foods, please read this introduction: What is Celiac Disease?