Some People (I'm Looking at You, Schnucks!) Make it Easier Than Others
Schnucks in Newburgh, Indiana has a Gluten Free Aisle That’ll Rock your Gluten Free World!
A short time ago, my oldest daughter (Emily) discovered a severe food allergy – one that takes up A LOT of dietary real estate: Gluten. Her reactions were swift and severe. Whenever she’d eat anything with gluten, her throat would swell to the point she’d nearly choke on whatever she was eating.
Can you say frightening?!
When it became obvious that a complete change in her diet was necessary (necessary as in her life depended on it), I went into full out “mommy mode” – something that moms like me never quit doing, even when our “babies” are in their 20s (30s, 40s, 50s…). I decided I’d go Gluten Free with her for support. I’d come up with new gluten free recipes for her, help her find the best gluten free products available, and help navigate through the treacherous waters of dining out without gluten.
Funny thing happened after I jumped in the water with her. I found the water to be exceptionally agreeable.
- my own allergies improved
- my hiatal hernia symptoms calmed the heck down
- the stubborn scales began to budge again
- relentless stomach problems relented
If I were to be 110% faithful to a gluten free diet, I have no doubt that the benefits would be even greater. I also have little doubt that I, myself, have a gluten allergy. I am, after all, allergic to just about everything else under the sun.
The only real drawbacks we’ve faced with eating gluten free have had to do with availability. Our own resolve hasn’t been much of an issue and, oddly enough, the cost hasn’t really been too big a problem (though gluten free grocery products are a little on the high side, usually).
Here are a few issues we have run into:
1. Frustratingly, all restaurants do not have Gluten Free menus.
After seeing, online, that certain TGI Friday’s and Cracker Barrel locations had Gluten Free menus available, we tried each of our local restaurants for two separate lunches. Our Cracker Barrel didn’t have a Gluten Free Menu. The manager “read” a list of Gluten Free choices from the menu. He was cool to do so, but it was a little awkward being read to with people all around us. I couldn’t help wondering, “Do they think we’re foreign and can’t read our own menu or do they think we’re illiterate and can’t read at all?!” Nuts to think that way, but there you have it.
We went to TGI Friday’s a few weeks later and, again, they didn’t have a Gluten Free menu… at THIS location. I’ve seen pictures of each restaurant’s GF menus online, so I know they exist. Question is, Why not have them available at all restaurant locations? I will say this, the server at TGI Friday’s was very, very, very cool about it all. I asked if I could get my grilled chicken sandwich without a bun and he acted like it was the most normal thing in the world. I may as well have asked if he could leave lettuce off my sandwich. He made the process easy peasy and I appreciation for easy peasy processes.
Incidentally, their grilled chicken is AMAZING. It was one of the most delicious lunches I’ve had in a long time.
2. All grocery stores aren’t Shnucks.
Our local grocery stores (we have three Krogers in Owensboro) DO have gluten free products and… up until last night… I always thought they were doing an outstanding job of catering to the Gluten Free crowd. Kroger didn’t do anything WRONG, mind you, it’s just that last night I saw a grocery store doing things exceptionally RIGHT.
My husband and I were in Schnucks (in the nearby town of Newburgh, Indiana). He was in a different aisle when I came across Gluten Free Heaven. I texted him, “Aisle 1D.. WOW!” It didn’t take him long to come to check it out for himself. Schnucks had an entire long aisle of Gluten Free food, baking ingredients, cookies, mixes, crackers, bread, wraps, oatmeal, instant oatmeal, sauces, noodles, etc. They even had 6 different freezers in the aisle with frozen Gluten Free desserts, meals, doughnuts, and so on. And on!
I swear, I was like a kid in a candy store.
It was exciting for several reasons. First of all, I thought of Emily. We kept seeing different food(s) she’d love and I found myself saying over and over again things like, “I know she’s missed this… I know she’s missed that…” Second of all, I kept seeing things I’d love to try, as well as things I know I’ve missed (like cornbread, hot breakfast cereal, cookies from package..). It was like the door on fairly limited options suddenly swung wide open and a whole new world opened up.
If anyone is familiar at all with cooking and/or eating gluten free meals, you know I’m not being overly dramatic, here, I’m just stating facts.
Last, but not least, it left an impression on me because it was refreshing to know that a company cared about a group of people who have to eat a certain diet – many because it’s a life or death issue.
A lot of stores have gluten free foods, but they’re kind of scattered across the store. Schnuks created a wonderful aisle just for gluten free products and I, for one, think that’s phenomenal. If you click the pictures at the top and bottom of the post, the larger versions will open in new windows – affording you a better look at all the deliciousness. I wish I’d taken more pictures, but frankly, kids in candy stores aren’t that rational.
My experience at Schnucks left me thinking….
- How great would it be if all restaurants and grocery stores were equally thoughtful and compassionate? What if ALL restaurants offered a gluten free menu at ALL locations?
- What if all fast food restaurants had better options – something other than salads. Baked potatoes and chili (I love you Wendy’s) are just a few ideas. Gluten free bread and wraps would be just as awesome.
- I read online that Subway’s experimenting with Gluten Free bread at certain locations. If they’d make it available at ALL locations, they’d have thrones of thankful people flocking to their restaurants.
Finally… The Cost of Gluten Free Food
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit, the cost of a lot of gluten free products seems high – and it seems high because it is high. Fact is, on one of my first grocery store trips to round up some gluten free flour and a few other items, I heard a voice say, “I can’t afford to eat gluten free!” Problem is, the voice was my own. Fortunately, I did a little comparison shopping and a lot of thinking and realized that, yes, while gluten free products tend to be higher, if you’re smart about it, you can keep from spending a great deal more.
Below are just a few things I’ve learned in the brief amount of time I’ve been in the gluten free waters:
- Buying in bulk is a smart, convenient, and economical option. Sam’s Club is just as cool now as it was when it first appeared on the scene.
- Plan your meals out in advance and buy the necessary ingredients – ingredients that can be maximized to their fullest. The last thing you want to do is allow anything to go unused and wasted.
- When you aren’t eating out as often as you’re eating in, you’ll save money without even realizing just how much you’re saving.
- Have several “meatless” days in the week as opposed to just meatless Mondays.
- Stock up when there are sales.
- Clip and use coupons. What’s more, take advantage of online coupons. NOT using coupons is kind of like throwing money away.
- Watch your produce department closely. Buy whatever’s on sale and use it during the week. If it’s an outrageously generous sale, consider buying quite a few and freezing what you don’t use right away.
- As you can see, many of the same tips for buying gluten free are the same tips we know and use for buying groceries, period. One final one I’ve found particularly useful and am just really starting to adhere to is this: You can get away with serving fewer things than you’re probably serving right now. I don’t know if it’s a “Southern Thing” or what, but I’ve always tended to go overboard when it comes to meals (holiday as well as everyday). A few recent delicious AND filling meals have reminded me that it doesn’t take a lot. One such meal was a great salad with gluten free salmon patties I made using Rice Crackers and Old Bay Blackened Seasoning. Another was Belgian Waffles and chicken. DELICIOUS! Not only did neither of these meals cost more than traditional meals I’ve made in the past – they actually cost less.
I’ll be adding a lot (make that A LOT) of gluten free food reviews and gluten free recipes to the food blog from now on – but I’ll also have plenty of reviews and recipes that aren’t “gluten free.”
In the meantime, what are YOUR experiences with shopping for gluten free foods? Have you found any stores or restaurants that are rising to the occasion? Let us know in the comments!
In a perfect world, all grocery stores would have Gluten Free aisles like Schnucks
One more pic – it isn’t as clear as the other two. I think by this point my brain had switched from thoughts of filling my camera to thoughts of filling my cart.