I have a confession to make.
I’ve been eating gluten for the past 2.5 months.
Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not; but I have been eating it. My stomach is a mess. And I’m tired. And I’m mad at myself. None of the gluten-filled food that I ate was even that good. I just ate it because it was there. And I was hungry.
Tax season this year was about survival. Keep food in the pantry. Throw together something for supper. Hope that there’s food for breakfast and lunch. Wash clothes only as needed. Housecleaning…let’s just say that the dustbunnies are more like dust gorillas.
I wasn’t ready for this tax season. I did not plan. I did not think ahead. It was like a whirlwind that caught me up before I even knew it was coming and blew me further off course than I could have imagined.
But now it’s over. And it’s time to cook good food that will heal my body. And it’s time to reflect on what I could have done better and share that with you.
Here’s what I will be doing to prepare for next year’s tax season. Maybe it will help you plan for busy times in your family’s life too.
1. Stock my desk with gluten free snacks:
The first gluten that I ate this season was a bag of Cheez-Its grabbed hastily from the huge snack boxes that my company replenishes twice weekly. I must have been thinking hard about something because I didn’t even realize I was eating gluten until I was pouring the crumbs into my mouth.
Next year my desk will be stocked with some or all of the the following:
gluten free chips and crackers
gluten free bars
(Just a thought, I should probably keep some of these items in the car too, for the next time David is hungry and CANNOT wait until we find a safe place to eat.)
2. Pre-mix enough baked goods for 2.5 months.
A few days before David was born I had the foresight to mix up several bags of the dry ingredients for my Finally, Really Good Sandwich Bread recipe and throw the bags into the freezer. With most of the work already done for me, it was easy to pull a bag out and make a loaf of bread while holding a little tiny infant.
Next year, I plan on mixing up 2.5 months worth of baked goods so that we don’t have to suffer through the dry loaves of gluten free bread from the grocery store.
3. Plan a month’s worth of easy meals to rotate.
Umm. . . so meal planning came to a grinding halt around her about a month ago. I couldn’t find the time to sit down, plan a menu, make a grocery list, and go grocery shopping. So I just went grocery shopping. And the result was a completely stuffed pantry, random and uninspiring meals, and very few leftovers. (For some reason I cook smaller when I don’t plan, which was completely unexpected.) By next year I’d like to have a month’s worth of easy meals (and shopping lists) planned before things get busy.
4. Take more salads and leftovers for lunch.
As I mentioned above, we’ve had a lot fewer leftovers for the past several weeks. Whatever leftovers we did have usually stayed at home for John and David’s lunch since I had access to food at work. However, the food at work must have been contaminated because my tummy stayed in a constant state of mild rebellion. Next year – more salads and leftovers for lunch. I’ll have to plan this into my month’s worth of meals, but it will save my tummy and my budget.
5. Have back-up frozen meals at work, just in case.
Despite all the planning, I’m sure that there will be days when I just don’t have time to pack up my lunch. Or nights when I realize that I’m going to have to stay at work till 11. These are the circumstances that generally lead to me caving in to gluten foods. I’m hoping that a stash of Amy’s frozen meals will keep the wolves at bay.
6. Check with restaurants to identify safe foods.
My company had a pretty neat program where they arrange for us to order-in lunch from different restaurants every day. We make our selection by 9 am, lunch is delivered around 11:30 and the payment is taken straight out of our paycheck. These lunches were a real blessing on the days when there was not much food in our house.
However, instead of actually calling the places that we ordered from to determine if any of the selections were gluten free – I just made a best guess. Some days that worked well (salad from Roly Poly); some days it did not (Falafel wrapped in pita from the local Lebanese restaurant). Next year I need to respect my body more and take the time to call ahead and ensure I’m getting gluten free food.
7. Request permission to order in my own overtime meals.
I try not to stay for supper during tax season, but sometimes it is inevitable. The firm brings in supper several times a week and those meals seem to be more gluten-filled than not. Think Papa John’s pizza and lasagna from the neighborhood Italian place. I tried to only stay on nights that we were having Mexican for supper, but even then you never know what seasonings have been used on the meat and veggies. Next year, I will ask if I can order in my own meals and have the company reimburse me for the expense. This would still be in accordance with the tax laws for overtime meals, and would keep my healthy.
8. Use the word “allergy” when making requests.
For good reason, people take notice when you tell them you have a food allergy. Celiac is not an “allergy” so I usually don’t describe it as such. But when I do, it’s amazing how much more responsive people are (especially restaurant workers). Since my health is at stake, I’m going to start describing my problem as a serious wheat “allergy” when I really need people to make modifications for me.
9. Premix hot cereals for breakfast.
Does anyone else struggle with getting a reasonably priced, healthy, and gluten free breakfast on the table? We subsist on hot cereals during the winter and they are not necessarily the fastest breakfast to cook. I’d like to try putting all of the ingredients for an individual serving into a freezer bag so that John or I can quickly microwave whatever we want for breakfast. I’m pretty confident that I can handle pouring the contents of a bag into a bowl, adding milk, and microwaving no matter how little sleep I’ve had. I’m going to test run this idea next week while we’re traveling and I’ll let you know how it goes.
10. Have a stash of easy snack and lunch foods for John and David.
John is great about taking on extra kitchen tasks during busy times. He’s a pro at making gluten free sandwich bread and flatbread, and he even tried his hand a flour tortillas a couple of weeks ago. However, since I’m the one who does the majority of the grocery shopping, he often doesn’t know what he can make with what I have in the fridge. Next year I’d like to keep a white board on the fridge so that I can leave him notes of what snack and lunch foods are on hand. Any thing that I can do to make his work in the kitchen easier, the happier we will all be.
If you have any tricks of your own for making the busy times of life easier, please let me know in the comments. This whole gluten free life is so much easier when we can learn from each other =)