How to Eat My Way Out of House and Home: An Answer

In reading Jen’s post, I realized this isn’t something the 3 of us gluttons have discussed, but it is a big deal! Eating gluten-free is expensive and it hurts to see gf food go into the trash because I didn’t plan properly. Back before Matt and I were see Dr. Woo Woo, I’d make a meal plan, but we’d get tired or lazy or have a bad day (or all three) and decide we needed to eat out instead of cooking whatever was on my menu. Then we’d have leftovers from eating out, which would take over another slot, and before I knew it I’d have way more groceries than we could consume just rotting in my fridge. I’ve become incredibly cognizant of this since both my husband and I are gluten, grain, dairy, and sugar free right now. Eating out is no longer so easy, so I’ve made it my mission to eat what we buy and not have so much wasted food!

So how am I doing it?

1.) Organization. This step is crucial! Once Dr. Woo Woo handed us down Phase 1 and 2 diets, I went home and cleaned out my fridge, pantry, and freezer.

  • Non-perishables that I knew would be back on the menu after we graduated to Phase 3 went on the reeaaallly high or bottom shelves in the pantry (aka not on eye level). The stuff I’m most tempted by went so high I’d need to get a ladder to get it down. Usually laziness will prevent me from getting the ladder out to climb up there!
  • Once the bad stuff was in a bag to donate, I organized so that everything was easy to find. I even have a spot for my husband right at his eye level with “Matt Snacks” in a bowl. These include homemade trail mix, rice crackers, cans of soup, and otherthings he can grab and eat without worrying if they are OK for his diet.
  • As for the fridge, I cleaned out all of the past-date condiments, and got rid of any leftover cheese, dips, milk, and other tempting goodies. Then I organized the doors and shelves by type–being sure to put easy snacks at eye level in the fridge. These include baggies of carrots and celery sticks with individual containers of hummus and guac, Tupperwares full of clean, sliced berries, sliced celeriac root for making baked fries, goat cheese and sliced nitrate-free deli meat, and sliced peppers.
  • The freezer got a deep clean as well and then things got sub-divided into bins. One holds meat, one has frozen veggies, one has gluten-free phase 2 frozen meals for Matt, and one has frozen fruit. There’s even plenty of room for me to make and store popsicles and homemade sauces. I always make sure to put the “need to use” first items (like meat that’s been in for a month or so) at the front so I use it up before it goes bad!

2.) Once I had a blank slate in terms of food storage, I made a meal plan for the week. This took a while since I was trying to make sure each meal coordinated with the others ingredients-wise. After all, why buy a piece of ginger for just one recipe? It will probably go bad before you get to use the rest. So I made sure that any herb or other ingredient on my list could be used in multiple meals or added to a salad. I also made sure to work in the scant ingredients left in my fridge after the “Great Fridge Clean of 2012.” I also documented breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for myself and my husband. Next, I shopped. I hit up Costco, Whole Foods, and Kroger to get all of my loot for the week.

My Meal Plan 

Breakfasts: Egg cups and smoothies (eggs, sliced turkey, peppers, onions, goat cheese, almond milk, frozen berries)

Lunches: Salads (baby spinach, celery, carrots, cucumbers, beets, radishes, red onion, strawberries, grilled chicken, veganaise chicken salad, veganaise tuna salad, avacados)

Snacks: Veggie sticks with hummus or guac (carrots, celery, peppers, individual hummus cups, 100 calorie packs of Wholly Guacamole), crackers with chicken or tuna salad, pears with almond butter

Dinners: 
Monday: rotisserie chicken with steamed broccoli 
Tuesday: Strawberry & Spinach Salad with scoop of tuna salad
Wednesday: Filet Mignon with asparagus and baked celeriac root fries
Thursday: sliced turkey rolls (goat cheese, sliced peppers, spinach), sliced veggie sticks, berries (This was our airport dinner)
Friday-Sunday: Out of Town
 
Desserts: Mixed sliced berries or smoothies (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, almond milk, vanilla protein powder, almond butter)

3.) Once I got all the food home, I cleaned it thoroughly and got chopping. I cut everything up based on how I would use it and stored it separately. I made big baggies with the mix of veggies I needed for each dinner recipe and then made smaller containers for chopped salad toppings (I kept them separate so I could vary ingredients per salad so I wouldn’t get too bored). I also made batches of egg cups for grab-and-go breakfasts, with leftover rotisserie chicken I chopped half, and made chicken salad with the rest. I made tuna salad too. Then I made sure it was organized in the fridge and everything was easy to find. I also walked my husband through where everything was and went over the meal plan with him so that we were both on the same page. (Matt says it looks like hippies have moved in. I couldn’t help but agree–but I’m OK with it!)

4.) I packed my lunch the night before (and sometimes Matt’s too) and included snacks. I also portioned out vitamins and made sure breakfast was easy to find and heat up. With everything prepped and easy to go, it made life so so much easier. I was able to grab lunch and breakfast easily and din’t end up skipping meals, which meant everything got eaten instead of thrown away. And prepping dinner ingredients ahead meant I had no excuse not to cook. It helped a lot.

The outcome: We threw away some pears and avocados (maybe the Costco size bags weren’t the best idea!) but we ate everything else and left to go out of town with a clean fridge. The only leftovers in there were eggs and milk that isn’t even close to expiring, goat cheese, and bottles of water. Success! I went to the grocery last night with a meal plan in mind, and even though I was exhausted from traveling, Matt and I got everything cleaned, cut up, and put away and packed lunches for today. So far, so good. We’re on track for another good week!

Obviously, everyone is different, but a few hours of shopping, cleaning, chopping and organizing on Sunday have been saving me time and money through the week. It was amazing what a difference it made. Anyone else have any good tips?

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How to Eat My Way Out of House and Home

I want to make a plan to eat my freezer and pantry EMPTY. It’s bugging me that we have all this food, and I want to see how little I can spend on groceries over the next two months. Kind of an experiment. Both are pretty well stocked. The pantry is very organized. Mostly. I mean, I know where everything is. A stranger might think I’m an idiot. The freezer, uh . . . not so much. I look at it and KNOW I’m an idiot.

Have you done this before? How did you find the time to plan and organize? My life has changed so much since I started working out of the house again. I have such limited time. My weekdays are a wash. Alarm goes off between 5:30 and 6:00. I read in bed and cuddle the cat until about 6:30. Get ready, pack brekkie and lunch (on an ideal day), out the door, and off to work. I usually get home around 6:30–7:00—except on the couple nights I have commitments, which lands me at home closer to 8:30–9:00. And now that I joined the Y and will become a fitness maven, who knows when I’ll come home. (That’s a joke, btw.) Dinner is often unexciting. Like a veggie scramble and fruit, a salad, or GF frozen waffles with almond butter and fruit. I ain’t got time for no planning during the week.

Weekends haven’t been much better. I find that they often revolve around laundry, catching up on housework, grocery shopping and errands, and WORK. That’s an entire freaking day right there, and if it’s a day like today, I may have thrown in cleaning my bathroom, but I still haven’t even showered, paid bills, or changed my bedding. As MacKenzie mentioned, this is busy time in publishing-land, and my weekends show it. I just can’t seem to muster the creativity to come up with a plan. At the moment, I can’t even remember what my favorite foods are so I could even begin drafting a meal plan. What did I used to cook? I have no idea. Also, I can’t even keep my fridge organized at this moment, so there’s that. The only step I’ve taken so far is to start systematically using all my lovely frozen chicken stock, which I made back when I used to have time for this domestic Martha Stewart nonsense. It’s so worlds-beyond better than the carton stock from the grocery store and has made my quinoa and sprouted brown rice sing. But that’s as far as I gotten. Not good enough.

Have you ever done this before—a month of pantry/freezer eating (with a little shopping for produce)? Do you have any suggestions for a girl with very limited time? Is it possible that I could figure this out in less than two hours on a Sunday afternoon? That’s really all the time I have to devote to it at this point. I’d love some ideas!

So . . . We’ve Been Kinda Busy

But we have not abandoned our blog or our gluten-free lifestyle. We’ve just had a hard time coming up for air recently.

All three of us work together in the publishing industry—an industry that never sleeps and happens to get particularly busy this time of year for those of us working on fall releases. Between that and the rest of life, we’ve all been a little slammed.

And although too much busyness can negatively affect all parts of everyone’s life—would someone like to come and clean my bathroom?—it’s still possible to be busy and gluten free. And, it’s even possible to be gluten free and stress eat. For example, I spent most of last Sunday afternoon and evening putting the final touches on a big presentation while intermittently stuffing my face with chocolate Almond Dream bites and Trader Joe’s sea salt potato chips.

We’ll be back with more recipes, tips, thoughts, and things we learn about having a healthy, gluten-free lifestyle. Today, however, I really have to clean my bathroom.

Where and When We Eat Matters

Check out these incredible infographics! Who knew data about food and health could be so much fun?

I knew I ate healthier at home, but I didn’t realize that the time of day affected my eating so badly until going back on Phase 1 of Dr. Jana’s diet. But I can see it–after all, when do most people want to eat a whole bag of chips? It ain’t for breakfast, that’s for sure.

Hope y’all enjoy this as much as I did!

21 Days to Make a Habit: 90 Days to Make a Lifestyle Change

In the first month I started my new “lifestyle change” of trying to avoid gluten, sugar, and dairy, my mom saw a segment of the Today Show that talked about the difference between a habit and a full lifestyle change. Apparently you can make or break a habit in 21 days. But overhauling the way you eat entirely is something that takes about 90 days.

I am really happy to say that I have hit my 90 days. And not only that, I actually like my lifestyle change. Quite a bit, in fact. I look forward to eating a meal that I know is really healthy, but still very satisfying.

I would say I am about 90/10 or 85/15 when it comes to my new habits. Maybe a little worse. Since I don’t have celiac or other major allergies, admittedly, I cheat in all categories. I would have to say that sugar and dairy, especially cheese, are my worst tempters. Losing the gluten is really not all that bad. I like gluten-free bread and pasta, and I don’t often crave their gluten-filled counterparts.

Some of the positive things that have come out of this for me are:

1. I have lost 13 pounds. I fluctuate a pound or so, but I’m only one more from my original goal.
2. I feel better. And when I cheat, I usually remember why I don’t eat that way all the time.
3. I’m cooking more and enjoying cooking more. I get excited about trying new things, I like trying Molly and Jen’s recipes, and I look forward to cooking delicious foods that are really good for me. (Side note: I made Molly’s egg cups over Easter, and they were a big win!)

If you’re interested in changing your lifestyle for health or weight reasons, I’d really encourage you to do so. It takes some adjusting, but it is—dare I say—fun. Really. It’s amazing how good it feels to know you’re filling your body with nutrients and foods that are good for you. And shedding some unwanted pounds—that’s really fun. Buying new pants in smaller sizes—well, let’s just say that’s the best part.

My next habit—or probably lifestyle change—is adding exercise back to my to my routine. I pretty much let that go over the winter.

Which is harder for you to maintain, healthy diet or exercise?

She’s Just Being Gluten-Free

Another celebrity has joined the gluten-freebies ranks–Miley Cyrus. She’s claiming her new gluten-free diet has helped her lose weight, and it probably has. But when I came across this article I had to laugh. I can’t tell you how many times friends of mine have opted to go gf to lose weight, but have basically only eaten the foods from this slideshow and been disappointed when they gained pounds instead of shedding them. Check it out:

8 Gluten-free Things That Won’t Help You Lose Weight Like Miley Cyrus

Worst Blogger Evar. With a Side of Asparagus Salad.

Hello, strangers! A combination of crazy-hectic work schedule, deadlines, personal overcommitment, losing my darn cat (and then finding him!), tiredness, and lack of inspiration has added up to me not cooking much or blogging here the last couple weeks (or even staying up to date on what my fellow GFGs have posted). Sorry! No more sleepless nights of wondering where I’ve been.

I did manage to pull together a meal for Easter Sunday. I googled “Easter menu items” and cobbled together a last-minute mishmash of make-ahead dishes and what sounded easiest and tastiest at the moment and would allow for the longest Easter afternoon nap possible. The meal wasn’t a slam dunk. Oh well. At least I made an effort. And EVERYTHING would have been gluten-free if I hadn’t screwed up the pie (I don’t have time to tell that story). The menu consisted of:

  • ham: Meh. I put a glaze on it. It was still kinda gross. I’m not a huge ham fan anyway.
  • potato salad: based on this recipe but with some significant tweaks. YUM. Anything with potatoes makes me very happy. Note to self: raw onions have given you heartburn for all of the 30+ years you can remember. Why did you put them in this lovely potato salad–and then suffer for the next 48 hours?
  • shrimp shooters: marinated in olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, cilantro, and some other stuff. Dang good.
  • banana custard pie: which I managed to ruin by trying to make trying to make gluten-free . . . and then subsequently made not gluten-free because I ran out of ingredients.

  • asparagus, walnut, and feta salad: based on this recipe. I kindly overcooked the asparagus. If I hadn’t? This would have been my favorite component of the meal.

So I’m going to share a recipe with you that I ruined but that I still loved and that I hope you’ll make and not ruin. Makes perfect sense.

Asparagus, Walnut, and Feta Salad

based on this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2-2 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 small purple onion, thinly sliced wedges
  • 4-6 ounces crumbled feta (goat cheese feta if you can find it) or goat cheese

Instructions

  1. Bake walnuts in a shallow pan at 350°, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted; set aside.
  2. Combine oil and next 5 ingredients; cover and chill.
  3. Bend asparagus until it snaps. Cut the remainder up to the same height to remove woody stems (if you’re being frugal, save those stems for soup). Submerge asparagus in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until crisp-tender and still bright green. {No longer! I’m serious! You turn away to watch three minutes of a car chase on Fast Five and you will have ruined your dang asparagus.} Immediately plunge asparagus into ice bath to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.
  4. Re-whisk vinaigrette if needed and pour over cooled asparagus. Sprinkle walnuts, onion, and cheese over the top. Allow to sit at room temp for 30 minutes before serving.

So the asparagus portion of the salad was kinda crappy because of the overcooking, but this dish will definitely be on repeat for me. I loved the vinaigrette and the combo of flavors. I wisely sliced the onion in thin slices rather than dicing so I could easily remove the heartburn-causing monsters from my dish (I wasn’t so smart with the potato salad). Asparagus is looking lovely in the market right now. I hope you’ll give this recipe a whirl!

What did you make for Easter dinner? Any flops? Standouts? Please tell me I’m not the only one who made something that didn’t turn out AT ALL.

Gluten-Free No-Bake Energy Bites

I found this recipe on Pinterest several months ago before I was actually gluten-free or really even considering it. Molly and I share an office, so I would pin yummy looking GF ideas if I saw them. I am so glad I found this one.

You can find the original recipe here at smashedpeasandcarrots.blogspot.com. I tweaked it just a little.

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup almond butter (I used crunchy almond butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
1 to 2 tsp cinnamon

Throw everything into a bowl and stir it up really well. Cover and put in the fridge for at least an hour. When it’s chilled, take out and roll heaping tablespoon-sized balls. I thought my mix was still a little too dry, so I added a little extra honey and almond butter.

These will stay fresh in an air-tight container up to a week. They are so fast and easy! I think this is going to become a regular snack at my house.

Can you date me…and my gluten-free lifestyle?

Last week I talked about how friendships can change when you go gluten-free, but dating is one of the toughest things to do gluten-free! Just picture it: you are out looking good at a bar or party when you meet someone charming. You flirt all evening, careful to put yourself in the best light, and then it happens–he asks you out. Yay! Now comes the hard part, you say “yes, but…” and with that but you invite him into the difficulty that is feeding you.

It can be embarrassing enough to explain your eating restrictions to family and friends, but it’s much harder to lay it all out for a guy you are seriously crushing on. After all, admitting to be gluten-free often gets an initial “wow, you must be a freak” reaction, which is not so fun. Of course, any guy worth dating won’t mind that your meals are a little high maintenance, but it can be an adjustment. I warned my now-husband about my restrictions mid-flirt and he asked me out anyway–he just made me pick the restaurants until he got a better idea of what I could and couldn’t eat. He also worked very hard to plan dates that didn’t just revolve around food–he took me to a comedy show, to watch the circus elephants parade into Manhattan, to a fun wine bar, on a walk across the Brooklyn bridge, and to Coney Island to ride the famed Cyclone. He also did his research and called ahead if he wanted to take me to a particular restaurant. (He’s a catch, I know!)

If you are a guy reading this and you are gluten-free, dating wont change too much for you since the onus is usually on the guy to plan the date! Just make sure to pick restaurants with food she likes that also has gluten-free options, call ahead to ask questions, and make reservations. Picking her up with a bouquet of roses is a good idea too!

For girls, it’s a little tougher, but here are my tips:
1. Be upfront with your date about what you can and can’t eat when he asks you out.
2. Have a list of gf restaurants of different price points saved in your smartphone. That way if he suggests a dinner spot that won’t work for you, you can suggest something similar that will.
3. If you know where you are going, call ahead and ask questions so you can know exactly what you want to order. It will save you time during the date that could be better used for flirting!
4. Skip the crowds and offer to cook your date a delicious gluten-free meal.
5. Suggest an afternoon or morning date that doesn’t involve food. You could meet for coffee and a hike, go to a museum or concert, play tennis or another sport, go to a movie, or pack a picnic!

And, this should go without saying, but any date that encourages you to stray from your diet, calls you a “hippy” or “freak” or makes light of your restrictions, especially if you have celiac, isn’t worth your time. Just tell him you hope he has fun cuddling with his bread 🙂

Gluten-Free Airport and Conference Food

This weekend was the first time I’ve flown since I’ve gone gluten free. To be honest, I had such a busy week, I didn’t think much of it till the day before my trip, at which point I thought, Huh. Wonder what I’m going to eat this weekend? I was headed out for a day-trip to Texas to see one of our Revolve Tour events for teen girls and spend some time with a couple of authors/speakers/friends I dearly enjoy.

I left my house around 4:45 Saturday morning (groan) and probably wouldn’t have eaten anything if I hadn’t still been on medicine for my allergies and congestion. I grabbed a piece of GF toast on my way out the door. Other than some juice on the flight, I didn’t have anything else till I got to Dallas and was delighted to find a smoothie shop complete with Kind Bars. I got a regular strawberry-kiwi green tea smoothie, which served as my breakfast and coffee all in one. Spending more than $8 for this and the bar made me gulp till I reminded myself I was at the airport. I probably would have spent about that on any breakfast that included food and a beverage. And the Kind Bar? Delicious! The coconut almond was awesome!

The rest of my day was up in the air. I didn’t bring snacks with me because I wasn’t checking bags on this 32-hour trip, and I didn’t have time to stop anywhere. Once I got to my final destination in Austin, I had to get my rental and book it to the hotel to be picked up by the shuttle and taken to the conference; I walked in right before it started.

The rest of the day, I was at the mercy of the catering brought in for the staff and/or what was at the venue. Lunch included pre-packaged subs and cookies, but the subs were big enough that eating the turkey, lettuce tomato, and cheese was actually enough to hold me over for awhile. For dinner, I was pleasantly surprised by baked chicken with spinach and tomatoes (and a sauce that may not have been safe for someone who actually has celiac but was surprisingly good) and salad. Can I tell you I ate four pieces of chicken? Not full-size chicken breasts or anything, but still.

This morning I left my hotel at 5:30 (again, groan) and grabbed a shell-less breakfast taco at the airport and a Naked smoothie. Apparently, breakfast in Texas only comes in tacos. It, too, was actually pretty good. Eggs, potatoes, and cheese. When I got back to Dallas, I got another Kind Bar because it was just so good yesterday.

Overall, I think I had more options this weekend than I do when we drive through Kentucky on our way home to Ohio. No offense, Kentucky.

And now for my shameless plug; if you have daughters or friends who are teen and tween girls, please check out the Revolve Tour. This was my third event, and I think my most favorite yet. They used to be two days in big arenas, but now they are one-day events in smaller, more intimate venues, and I loved it. The music, the speaking, the beautiful church, time catching up and chatting with people I don’t see terribly often—it was all a much-needed day away from regular life for me. My friends Chad Eastham and Jenna Lucado Bishop and the rest of the team have some really powerful messages—messages that I needed to hear as an adult—plus it’s a really fun day. Just stash some Kind or other GF bars in your purse.