Tag Archives: groceries

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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Dispatches from Bob’s

Remember the $50 gift card I received from the best parents in the world? No? You don’t? Why doesn’t anybody pay as much attention to the minutiae of my life as I do?

Anyway, Mom and Dad sent me a gift card (along with the infamous baking mixes) to help me restock my gluten-bare cupboards, and I put together an order in record time. When my box arrived, it was a time of great anticipation and anxiety. I’d switched out items in my cart so many times—trying to get the total as close to $50 without going over, agonizingly making my way down from $53.78 to $51.12 to $50.03 (“Come on! Can’t I get a break on the pennies?”)—that I couldn’t recall what I wound up ordering.

Here’s me opening my box:

Photo on 2-28-13 at 1.59 PM

Yes, that’s how I look on Christmas day, too. Except with even worse bedhead, if you can believe it. And yes, I took these pictures at work. Hey, you take your lunch break your way, I’ll take mine my way.

Even though I picked all of the items myself, I still felt the packing list read like the contents of an interplanetary dispatch from Mars:

Organic raw buckwheat groats
Organic amaranth grain
Flaxseed meal
Xanthan gum
GF mighty tasty hot cereal
TVP (textured veg protein)

I guess that’s what comes of being not only intestinally challenged but also a wannabe-gan.

The buckwheat groats, which I’d never seen raw before, did not look anywhere near as appealing as that buckwheat pilaf from Quintessence I had in mind when I ordered them. But, you know, I’ll make it work. You will never, ever see those pictures, though, because a) the only camera I have access to is the one on my computer at work, and b) buckwheat groats pilaf is just one of those things that tastes better than it either looks or sounds.

After taking the totally candid photo above and setting aside pesky questions like, “What the heck was I planning to do with 16 ounces of flaxseed meal?,” I moved on to more important ones like, “Are packing peanuts gluten-free?”

Photo on 2-28-13 at 2.04 PM #5

I sure hope so!

By the way, the nice folks at Bob’s recalculated my shipping after I placed the order and the total plummeted to $47.08. Darn! I could’ve bought the teff flour after all. Or even more flaxseed. Anyway, the total might as well have stayed where it was, because I will never, ever remember to use that $2.92 on a future order.

Are you an online/bulk orderer? Where do you buy your gluten-free Martian ingredients? And what the heck am I going to do with all that flaxseed?

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