Living and Thriving Gluten Free

Healthy & Whole Food Eating

Author:           Updated October 14, 2018
Categories: Finding Quality Ingredients    

When you make the decision to eat real and gluten free, there will be a bit of a learning curve to making some needed changes in your shopping habits.

Couscous lunch with salad and pickles
Image by: Tookapic

Many people tend to do their shopping all at the same large store, and they just buy what's available.

For some of the ingredients needed to eat real and gluten free, and have a good variety of dishes, you'll need to expand the places you shop.

One thing to remember is that you will never be able to find one place that carries everything you want. When you do find a store that has some products you like, it doesn't mean you can safely buy everything they sell. Food should be very personalized. You will have different desires and goals in your eating plan, and no one will have the exact same thinking. Just be aware of that, especially when sales people try to talk you into buying something you were not specifically looking for. They will know all the positive things about what they sell, but probably none of the not so good things. You will want to be deliberate in your buying. If some item they're selling catches your eye, ask questions, make notes, and go home and do some research and see if it's something you want to try next time you go there.

Stores in your area:

A good place to start is to try some of the specialty shops you currently know about. Browse around the store, see what they have, what they don't. Take some notes. Talk to the staff, and if you like the store, also try and talk to the owners. You'll get a feel for what their focus is. If it's somewhat in line with your goals, then you may have found an ally.

Another way to find some other stores is to ask your friends and coworkers. Especially those who talk about healthy food more. They may not have exactly the thinking that you do, but they will know of stores that are well worth your time to visit.

You can also start actively searching your area for other stores. Drive around, see what you can find. Sometimes you'll even finds clumps of similar stores in an area. This can come in very handy.

Farmers market
Image by: Eugene Kim
Be sure to find all the farmers markets as well. They are a fantastic source of much cleaner food in general. You can find ultra fresh food from the vendors that are within a few miles of your home. Often it will be the actual farmer, or a member of the farmer's family who is doing the actual selling. They can be a wealth of information. They know how they grow their food. Even if you're not getting truly certified organic food, you will find, when you ask the right questions, that the volume of chemicals used on the food is significantly less than large commercial growers. Start to build some relationships with these people. There is usually enough variety of vendors that you can find some items you want, and where you like the people personally. When people talk about getting in touch with their food, this is really a big part of what they mean. Get to know the people that grow your food.

Online stores:

You can think of the internet kind of like being able to walk into every store in the world, at any time. This is great for selection. But it's also bad in that you need to have a different eye to avoid those places you really don't want to waste your time at.

Think of it like this: if you want to read 1 book, it would be too much if you walked into a store with 10 million books in a big pile. You might poke around for a while, maybe choose something because you're tired of this process, and then leave. But, when you go to read the book, you're disappointed.

Shopping blindly on the internet can be like this. There are so many pretty pictures, and "green" looking websites, and wonderful descriptions of all this healthy looking food, that they SWEAR is the latest miracle food. But unless you know what you want, it will be like trying to find the 1 book in a pile of 10 million books.

Your time on the internet is better spent learning about some specific food you want to know more about. Or you can find some recipes you like, and plan out your shopping list.

Some cities will have a local web page with local stores. These could be growers co-ops, or maybe a trendy section of town has collaborated and put all their stores online. It could be the local chamber of commerce. Find these and it will be an easier start to branching out to buying online. The choice is not too much, and you can find a store or two to check out.

You may find articles, blogs or books that mention a particular online vendor that carries very hard to get products, or hard to get in a decent quality products. Then you can go learn more about that vendor. That can get your feet wet in finding items online.

Trash can
Image by: Dashu83
You'll also find you very well may buy something that you shouldn't have. Don't panic. It happens to all of us. And don't force yourself to be "sold" on a product just because you bought it. If you find out it's junk, or too expensive, or you find out it's really not health food, then just toss it out. AND I MEAN THAT! Throw it away. When you do this once, or twice or even three times, you'll learn the lesson. And be sure to REMIND yourself when you do have to throw something away that you need to learn from this mistake. If you leave it in the cupboard or the fridge, then you risk "selling" yourself on it. So, get rid of it!

Direct from farmers and manufacturers:

Find out what is made in the wild land around your city. Most areas have some sort of farming. Even if you don't live in a major farming area, if there's some dirt that grows stuff, someone will be growing something. This hunt is best started by asking your friends, co-workers, and other people who are into healthier eating. Get in touch with these farmers, or small manufacturers, and see if you can come directly to their farm. This is a fantastic way to find out more about your food. These are harder to find, but well worth the effort. You'll find stuff this way you could never find in stores, no matter how eclectic they are.

This is how you will find raw, unfiltered honey, for example. Most people think honey should be crystal clear, and filtered, and pasteurized. But what you really want is raw, unfiltered honey. Unfiltered honey means you will have a significant amount of "floaties." This is bee pollen, honeycomb bits, propolis, and even broken bee wing fragments. People pay big bucks for this stuff, so why not get it right in the honey. I've bought honey from a very rural fellow who just cut off huge slabs of wild hives in big buckets, and packed it into the back of his pickup and headed to town. He just let the honey drain out of the hives into the buckets, and then scooped it into glass jars. Right there. Right out of the back of his truck. It was the best honey I've ever had! You can find the slightly more esthetic version on a bee farm. They'll have some system set up to cut the top off the honey comb, and let the honey drain out. And then put it into jars. There does not need to be any more steps than that. You don't want it highly filtered, or heated, or treated (rough straining would be ok, but you still want the floatie bits, maybe minus the wings).

Edible greens in a garden
Image by: Advencap
That's an example of food to plate. With little in between.

Just like shopping at farmer's markets, over time you'll get to know some farmers, and start to build some relationships. You may find some will actual deliver periodically closer to where you live. Take advantage of that.

For some things, if the item is seasonal and storeable, such as meat that's only butchered once a year, and that you could freeze, you can buy it once a year. There are few things I recommend buying and storing, but REALLY good meat is an exception. It's at it's prime condition once a year. I wouldn't recommend buying a year's worth until you've gotten to know exactly what you're buying, but you can keep it in mind. You could start off small. For example, if you find someone who has some nice chickens, then buy 2 or 3. You can eat one now, then put the others in the freezer.

For fresh produce, you want to only buy what you can use in a few short days. Fresh produce is available year round. The items will change as the seasons change, so that's something you may need to get used to.

With farms, though, you'll often find they have something fresh at least 6 months of the year in colder climates, all the way up to year round in fully warm climates. Fresh eggs are available year round. There are even a few things that will survive, alive, in the garden, even under the snow. Such as some strong root vegetables. If you can find a source of some of these things, it can extend your season to be able to get local food later into the fall.

When you get a little more advanced in eating real, you'll find some farmers will be producing some things like sauerkraut from their own produce. These are canned (jarred) and can be kept for a while, 1 to 6 months, depending on what it is. Some fermented foods are storeable (within reason) and can be enjoyed longer past harvest.

Sharing your hunt with other people:

If you have some friends or family members who also are interested, enlist them to join you in your hunt for some new places. It can be a great time to just visit, and chat, and learn together.

Taking a trip to the country if you are a city dweller is fantastic for kids to experience. And grown ups too, if you haven't done much of it. Don't worry if you find things you initially think are gross. Some of that is simply because we have not seen it before. The "esthetic" in the country is completely different than the city. So don't disregard it if you react that way at first.

You may also experience some different personalities. The formal manners out in the country also can be completely different. Be sure to remind yourself it's not wrong, it's just different. If you want to get in touch with what you eat, you need to know how it's made, and by who. It's not made by the pinstripe suited CEO at your company. It's made by farmers, with dirt under their nails, and cow dung up to his knees, and a wife who looks like she jumped out of fashion disaster magazine from 30 years ago. They won't all be like this, but don't be surprised if you find some of this. Just chock it up to part of the adventure. Food is grown in the dirt and the mud. Food is from the earth, and so are many of the people who make it for us.

Tell us about some of your experiences in your hunt for some Real food. Tell us the things you learned, what you found. 

And be sure to tell us what you ate!

Happy Hunting! And Eating!

Thora Toft

Benefits of Honey
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