Tell me a sprue story about…grocery shopping

In the wake of the FDA finally announcing gluten-free labeling rules (read about it here, here, and pretty much everywhere), I’ve been thinking about grocery shopping even more than usual, if that’s possible.

In the spirit of celebration, I’d love if you would share YOUR stories about gluten-free grocery shopping—make them sad, funny, infuriating, short, long, general, specific, anything you want…as long as they’re “sprue.”

Gluten-free aisle

Photo © Memphis CVB | Flickr

Here’s mine.

For me, shopping with celiac in tow is only slightly more stressful than it used to be (and still likely not as stressful as having, say, a toddler in tow—or with both, a plight with which some of you are familiar).

That’s because even before I went gluten-free, my grocery shopping trips were already interminable processes of pausing, considering, picking up, rejecting, and repeating. I blame this on:

a) calorie consciousness, which adds time spent reading labels and doing little calculations like, “X calories times Y servings per equals WTF HOW CAN THERE BE THAT MANY IN THIS TINY BAG?,” followed by hunting for more reasonable choices;

b) money consciousness, which adds time spent chewing over this option versus that option and more little calculations like, “X dollars divided by Y servings equals WTF HOW CAN IT COST THAT MUCH FOR THIS TINY BAG?,” followed by hunting for sale items (something that now takes less time, because it’s simple: the gluten-free items are NEVER on sale);

c) lack of spatial awareness or visual memory (I can’t see images in my mind, perhaps due to mild dyscalculia, which would also explain why the aforementioned calculations always take me so long), which adds time spent wandering slooooowly down aisles looking at each item and hoping that one of them will magically turn out to be the thing I came in for, which I sort of thought I’d seen before somewhere, but in which aisle or store I couldn’t say;

d) vegetarianism, which adds time spent scanning ingredients lists for gelatin and trying to remember which cheese brands use microbial rennet (and trying to nail down once and for all my viewpoint on animal-derived rennet—a philosophical dilemma that also, incidentally, adds time to my shopping trips);

and I could go on.

In other words, with or without gluten, I suck at shopping. With so many hem- and haw-worthy items in mind, I dawdle my way through the aisles. When I finally emerge from a Whole Foods or a Fairway or a TJ’s, I feel a bit like a mortal departing the fairy underworld, leaving behind halls bursting with enticing and enchanting food, and having no idea how much time has passed in the outside world.

I lug my bags home in a daze and often find, as I sort through the treasure, that in a sudden panic after too much time spent deliberating I managed to buy several items I do not need, will never use, or cannot use (such as, recently, those two boxes of granola bars whose first ingredient—oats, even gluten-free—is one I do not eat). Perhaps I do this unconsciously to form a link between myself and those magical realms; I must return, you see, to make the return.

Despite all this, and even though nobody likes a slow shopper during the afterwork rush hour, I always make it through with my sanity intact. And even after a rough trip when nothing is certified and everything is overpriced, I don’t feel discouraged for long.

Because…I must admit…I like grocery shopping. I like discovering interesting new ingredients, I appreciate marketing slogans and packaging strategies, I enjoy checking items off the shopping list, I indulge in people- and cart-watching, I sniff the bottoms of pineapples like a pro, I savor the sudden chill of the freezer aisle and thrill to the sight of a good bargain, and, above all, I know it’s all in service of a great cause: delicious gluten-free, vegetarian, (mostly) thrifty, nutritious, home-cooked meals.

Worth every second.

Don’t forget to share your story about gluten-free grocery shopping for you or others. Alternatively, tell me how you feel about the new labeling rules. Are they everything you hoped they’d be? (Links to your own blog posts on the subject are, of course, welcome.)

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16 thoughts on “Tell me a sprue story about…grocery shopping

  1. Althea Cavanaugh says:

    Stop making me LOL on the bus! Is dyscalculia a symptom of celiac? I wouldn’t be surprised.

    My sprue story: In the two-month-ish time span between my diagnosis and my officially going GF, I ate a lot of gluten-containing or cross-contaminated foods just because I would never be able to again (spoiler alert for guest post #3). Standing in line at RiteAid one day, I stared longingly at the array of candy bars and contemplated which impulse purchase I should make. Being fairly calorie-conscious myself, I resolved not to buy anything, but then the Twizzlers caught my eye. Twizzlers are a nostalgic food for me and have always reminded me of family vacations in Cape Cod, or eating them with popcorn on the couch with Mom (for a balanced meal). My train of thought was as follows: Oh, Twizzlers. Those contain wheat. But I don’t really need them. I guess I’ll just never have another Twizzler again for the rest of my life. [sudden despair].
    And then I bought the Twizzlers.

  2. My shopping trips go like this (as told from inside my head):
    Where’s my list? F***! I forgot it. Well I have the one on my phone at least. Why do I have two lists anyway? Man I am so disorganized.
    Anyway. I’m glad Farmer’s has this whole aisle of gluten free stuff right here by the entrance. That’s handy.
    Hey! Pretzels! I like pretzels!…. damnit. Soy. Why does everyf******thing have soy in it?! I just wanted a freaking pretzel. I still have a bag of pretzels in my fridge. I should make those for Kayla. SHE can eat them.
    Speaking of, where did she get off to? She’s wearing yellow for cripe’s sake, how can I miss a 10-year-old in bright freaking yellow?! There she is.
    Ugh, she’s going to ask for that. Every time she asks and I buy it sits at home and rots. Maybe if I tell her she has to eat it before dinner. It’s fruit, so that’s okay, right?
    Oh, hello Mr. Cute Guy. Buying some apples? I like apples
    YOU shut up, I can look at the menu all I want, I just can’t order from it. And he’s in KOREA.
    Good point. Now where’d Mr. Cute Apple Guy go? How long can I look before it’s considered the creepy kind of staring?
    Coconut Aminos. That doesn’t have soy, right? I think. Well, I don’t see it anyway. I’ve really got to find a Whole Foods or something. Buying food off the internet is no fun. I bet there’s a Whole Foods in Albuquerque. There’s also two malls in Albuquerque. I should go to Albuquerque. For the food. Mostly. I bet I could find a nice winter jacket there. I’m sick of the one I have. I look like an unshapely pink blob in it.
    Okay, here’s the Bob’s Red Mill stuff. Are there any flours I DON’T already have? Hemp? What would I use hemp flour for? I wonder how many stoners try to smoke that. Yeah, skip the hemp.
    Goat cheese… goat cheese… there. Yaaaay goat cheese. Man I miss cheese.
    Oh.My.God. If this kid asks me one more question, or points out another.freaking.thing I can’t eat, I’m tying her to the roof rack for the ride home.
    Yes, checkout lady, I’m fine. Nevermind the $100 bill on my 1/4 filled shopping cart. That’s totally cool with me.
    Now where the hell did I park?

    • mellieann85 says:

      lol I totally love your stream of consciousness…it almost seems crazy to think people shop without thinking this much. lmao at creepy kind of starting. 🙂

      • Molly says:

        I love it, too! I was laughing out loud but also TOTALLY recognizing myself in it. Although I do NOT have a significant other, so I can stare to my heart’s delight and hurt nobody except for the poor creeped-out Apple Guy.

  3. mellieann85 says:

    I love when you find confusing labels: ie. GF symbol on front but the back says processed in a facility that processes wheat products? Or sometimes the things that should say they are gluten free but it doesn’t say gluten free on the package? So I decide well something must be wrong with it or something and put it back…I also have an app I love called GF Overflow that helps keep up with products that are gluten free, so if I cant figure it out, I look it up there and if I still don’t trust it I go to the manufacturer’s website and then sometimes still can’t figure and put it back. Ahhh but I do love grocery shopping even though it sounds terrible. 🙂

  4. Laurie C says:

    Twizzlers aren’t as good as they used to be. They’ve probably changed the original formula to make them more cheaply. I have every intention of never buying them again but CVS keeps targeting me with coupons for them and putting them on sale. In the supermarket, I try to stay on the outer aisles, but do get lured into investigating unusual items in the GF aisle or the “ethnic” sections, and spend/waste a lot of time reading labels there.

  5. […] check out yesterday’s post and share a story about grocery shopping now that you’ve had some time to think about it. […]

  6. […] have the sanity to spare), I’m going to tell you to read the comments here — Molly’s written about grocery shopping with celiac and asked for your stories, too. Ready to tell […]

  7. Mary Kate says:

    When I first started my allergy elimination diet, which was before anyone thought to attempt to properly test for celiac (frankly, it’s too late now), I thought, “OH! Ice cream! I can still have coconut milk ice cream!” So I perused the flavors and bought cookies-‘n’-cream, which is somewhere in the top ten of favorite flavors, but definitely not up in the top three, which don’t last long.

    THIRD serving (so three days later) before I figured out that the COOKIES part was, you know, wheat. Duh. I was so sure I knew that label (and I do — I’ve memorized the mint chocolate chip one) that I didn’t even read it.

    Mostly I hate the days when I look around the grocery store and just see stuff that will make me sick.

  8. […] out, revealed your doctor horror stories, cheered me on when my results came back, shared your grocery shopping adventures, helped me write a letter to my doctor, and indulged me when I wondered whether packing […]

  9. […] Now, buying groceries with gluten in mind is annoying enough, but this was harder still. I’ve never been more grateful for my smartphone. I scrutinized package labels and manufacturers’ websites until I thought my eyeballs would fall out and roll away down the aisle. It seemed every brand of chocolate that wasn’t processed alongside wheat was processed alongside nuts—or, failing that, contained soy. […]

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