January 2, 2017 Updated June 16, 2018Categories: Grocery Shopping
Over time we build habits and routines. Some of them are good, and some of them are not. Some of them have a time and a place, and some day you'll just need to let them go.
When you have to eat gluten free, it requires creating some new habits. If you also continue to struggle with not feeling well, then you'll need to take your new habits a bit further.
Not everyone has the same habits, so there's no single way to break into eating real, with a preset list of habits you'll need to practice. You can review some of the current habits you have, and plot out what you need to change in order to adjust.
A good place to start is to clean up your pantry and fridge. This does a couple things. First, it lets you take stock of what you have. Second, it allows you to quickly see some areas where you need to make a change. Later on, as you fine tune your new habits, you can take stock again, and continue to improve.
Taking Stock - Pantry:
Pick a shelf or a drawer from the pantry, and pull everything out and lay it all out on the counter. Now step back and look at it all. First, set aside everything that you bought over 1 year ago. How big is that pile? Is there more in this pile than in the rest of the stuff?
Here's where the "tough love" starts to come in. Don't get offended when you read the following. Just take it in, consider it. If it ticks you off, then stew for a minute... and get over it.
If there is a lot of stuff, you may want to consider that you over buy. That's quite common. We'll buy some item for a recipe we make, maybe we only make it once a year. But we can't buy just a tiny amount. So we end up buying a package way too big. Or when we're in the store, there's a sale on the ultra super duper giant pack, so we buy it, thinking we're getting a good deal. But now you realize that you wasted your money. And you wasted the food. And... no, you can't keep it. It's old. It's dead. The flavor is gone. It will be going rancid. It's no longer food. At best, it's good for the compost pile. You know what you need to do... throw it away. YES! THROW IT AWAY! When you are really serious, you'll switch this time line to EVERYTHING over 6 months old.
One of the lessons to learn in this exercise is that when you buy something that you don't use up quickly, you need to find a way to use it. Pick some other recipes that use it, and ACTUALLY cook them. Share the purchase with some friends or co-workers. Buy the smallest amount you can.
Taking Stock - Fridge:
For the fridge, you'll do the same thing, pick a shelf. A very enlightening place to start is the condiment section. This can be a tough one for some people, so be prepared... that might be you.
Put everything that you bought more than 2 months ago, and put it all together. Yes, I said 2 months. How much is there? Most of it? Again, this is very common. We've gotten used to the fact that many foods don't really appear to go bad very quickly. Have you ever wondered why? Shouldn't a white salad dressing that "looks and tastes" like it's made with cream go bad within a very short time? Yes, it should. So, what's in it that makes it stay fresh looking for months? Well, it's not food that makes it last long. Chemicals, and flavors, and artificial ingredients will last that long. But food will not.
You may have some items there that technically are ok. Such as pickles and relish. But, once you've opened them, they will start to go bad. They start to lose any nutrients once they're opened. The "best before date" on these kinds of products only apply to a sealed jar. Once you've opened it, the clock starts ticking, and that date no longer applies.
You want to get in the habit of using liquid foods up quickly. Things with eggs in them should be used in 4 days. Things with dairy in them, such as salad dressing, should be used within a week. Pickles and relishes should be used up within 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the type.
Remember, you did buy the food to eat it. So, eat it. If you buy pickles, just stick them on the table at dinner, and they'll get eaten in a few days. Same thing with salad dressings, mustards, and other condiments. Don't keep 10 different kinds. Have 2 or 3 max, and use them up. Then get something different when one runs out. Or better yet, MAKE something different when one runs out.
If you're the kind of person who likes to ensure they always have lots of food, you may need to try and step back and ask yourself why. If you ultimately want to ensure you have food for emergencies, then maybe you should SEPARATELY do some "prepper" work. But that should not apply to your every day eating. Food is not only supposed to throw some calories into us, it should nourish us to the max. And the only way to get proper nourishment is to have fresh food. Old food is not healthy. Food that's designed to last too long is also not healthy. It's loaded with preservatives and chemicals. These actually harm our health, and make us worse off than if we didn't have anything.
Learn to buy or make much smaller containers of food. If you're making your own, this can be planned quite easily. If you're buying items, it might seem like it's so expensive to buy the little container, but the damage done by old food is not worth it. Old food harms us.
Repeat this with everything in your fridge and pantry. Clear out everything old.
Letting it all settle in for a few days:
After you've cleared all this out, don't go shopping for at least a couple days, or longer if you can handle it. Review the rest of the food that's left, and use it. If you must get some core ingredient, such as fresh lettuce, or meat or something super basic, that's fine, but DON'T buy anything you won't eat within 24 hours. It's really good to just work with what you have left. You'll realize there's probably still things you really don't want to use. So, throw them out too, and don't replace them. If you know it will go beyond 6 months before you'll want to use it, then just throw it out.
After a few days, many people will realize they aren't really missing most of the stuff they threw out. And it can feel "lightening" for some people. Sort of like a small burden was lifted. This is not usually a mind blowing feeling, often just a small releasing.
Making a 10 / 10 List:
Now that a few days have passed, write down 10 things that you learned about yourself, and 10 things you can do towards creating some new habits to eat more real. Be sure to actually use a pen and paper. It doesn't need to be fancy. Just a scrap of paper, and a real pen. No tablets, no cell phones, no electronic note pads allowed. Now stick this on the fridge with a magnet where you'll see it.
Each week, take stock of your fridge and pantry. You want to keep reviewing and fine tuning your food buying habits until 95% of the food you have will be used up within 2 weeks or less. Each week, remake your 10 / 10 list for the fridge. This list will be your path to eating real. And it will change as you learn more. As you build and solidify one habit, the next one will reveal itself. Some habits will come easy, and some will be harder. Since you can work on several new habits, you will continue to make progress, even if the tough ones take a bit longer.
The goal of this process is really never over. It's more like a moving target. Where you are when you start will be a completely different spot than where you'll be a year from now. You'll really be amazed at how dramatic the change can be over a year.
Long Term Transformation:If you're serious, and really work to continue to grow in your food knowledge, and let the old info just go away without fighting it, the personal transformation can be even more dramatic than what your cupboards show. When we focus on ensuring our food is REAL, it properly nourishes us. It makes us strong and vibrant, and allows our bodies to heal. It clears the mind, and allows us to be fully present. It allows us to be able to properly plan not just our food habits, but other habits that affect every area of our lives.
When I made this change, the transformation was dramatic, so I know the power of food. I went from having chronic migraines and terribly painful digestive problems, to completely ridding myself of all of that. I've now been free of all of that for about 15 years. And I've accomplished more in that 10 years than I could have dreamed of. If I had not made that change, I would have never been able to do any of that. I would have been stuck. Stuck in the job I had, stuck in the town I lived in, and stuck in the relationship I had. Even with the bad shape I was in, I really fought not taking strong pain medication. But that would not have lasted. The pain was continuing to get worse, and was very debilitating. I knew at some point I'd have to start taking prescription pain killers. That's what the doctor's wanted me to do. If I'd had to do that, I would have lost what little bit of brain I had left.
For me, that was the turning point. That's what made me take stock, and clean up my diet. It was a lot harder back then. There just was so little information available. But I muddled through, and made some dramatic changes. And I got my life back. So I know first hand how powerful this process is.
Over the years, there have been many people who've made these kinds of changes, and had just as dramatic of improvements. Many have really come back from death's door, and are fully recovered, and have their lives back.
Even if you're not in rough shape, but still want to clean up your diet, I want you to really get a grasp on the fact that if you take this seriously, then you get to fully avoid all these terrible things. If you're a parent with a child with Celiac disease, you're in a position to transform their lives now, so they can fully live their future without all the related Celiac related illnesses. My goal isn't only to help people get better, it's to help people never get that bad in the first place.
Eating well is not just for the sick, to get better. It's also for everyone, so they don't get the chronic illnesses that are so common these days.
Whatever shape you're in, just start. Start to enjoy the kind of food that will make you strong, and alive.
For some inspiration on gluten free food check out our Recipes section, where there's lots of great food that you and you family will love.
Cook, eat, and enjoy!