When my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease last summer, it was a week or so before our vacation. I knew a little about celiac, but I started doing all the research I could on gluten, gluten alternative flour, recipes — I wanted to be informed. With my husband’s work schedule, not a lot changed with the kids’ diets since one meal was a family meal and it was gluten free. But since my husband worked nights, he woke up after the kids had eaten breakfast and lunch, so their meals pretty much stayed the same.
Then everything changed.
After having troubling symptoms for months, an upper GI scope found the cause. A few months ago, our oldest was diagnosed with celiac. This caused us to rethink the fact that our youngest still had reflux at three years of age, and she suffered from many of the same symptoms as our oldest. But since she is on the autism spectrum, we didn’t want to put her through a scope procedure, so we made the decision for our entire family to go gluten free. Thankfully I had been making cakes, breads and meals gluten free for a year at this point, so I had a pretty good foundation, but switching gears to making gluten free everything was quite the undertaking.
I was overwhelmed and wasn’t sure how I was going to do it.
Sure, there were pre-packaged foods that I could buy, but you have to remember we are a family of six with other allergies mixed in and spending $10 on a package of four muffins wasn’t something we could do. So I did what I always do: I made lists. I meal planned for an entire month. I shopped around. I got memberships to Sam’s and Costco. I shopped at Aldi. I priced gluten free flour in bulk. I made two days into shopping days and went to all the stores on my list, then made notes through the month to see what we ran out of and what we made last. Then, the second month, I went shopping more confidently.
The first month I spent almost $1200, but this was a month we started from scratch. We had to donate all of the unopened food in the house that contained gluten. I will be honest: it terrified me to spend that much in one shopping trip. But I kept reminding myself it would get better. The second month I focused on getting a little bit of over stock in a few staples. I just went shopping for our third month and I spent considerably less now that we have gotten our cabinets full of staples, but it is still considerably more than we used to spend. We not only have to be gluten free, but also tree nut free and lactose free.
The hardest part of the change in our diet was me getting used to making almost every single thing all six of us eat from scratch.
Yes, before all of this I cooked meals for us, but many times it was muffins from a mix packet, seasonings from the store, pre-made rolls with our homemade meatloaf. Shortcuts of sorts. Whereas now I make bread in the bread machine, I make large batches of muffins and coffee cake to put in the freezer to make mornings easier because if you have young kids, you know waiting an hour on breakfast to finish baking isn’t going to sit well with a three-year-old who suddenly thinks if she doesn’t eat in the next two minutes, she will explode from hunger.
It also helps for when I am sick and not able to cook from scratch. Having the stress of being deathly sick and unable to cook, then worrying about what is in the house that’s easy for someone else to make the kids, absolutely stressed me out! So stocking the freezer was a necessity. Getting used to family gatherings was tough; I have to make sure to take everything in a gluten free version so the kids don’t feel left out; at birthday parties I take gluten free cupcakes for them to enjoy. It’s a lot of thinking ahead involved and if you know me, you know I’m not the best at remembering things so there have been plenty of times I have forgotten things and felt horrible or had to turn around and head back home to pick something up that we forgot. It’s a learning process.
I make a monthly meal plan every month and do my shopping list from there. I make one grocery run a month for most of our food. Then, I make a few additional runs for produce and lactose free milk as needed. Then I make a weekly meal plan that I put on the refrigerator to keep me organized. This is the planner I purchased and I really do love it.
After my experience of switching to gluten free, I noticed the “chicken skin” we had always attributed to eczema, was now almost gone on my arms and all of my kids. We were all feeling better and my kids’ symptoms have already improved.