Today I want to talk about something somewhat food related, though not entirely. Today I want to discuss affording the food that we need to buy for our special diets. We all know that it's not cheap. I've given lots of tips before on how to make it more affordable, but really, with the various flours, alternative products, and gas spent running to all the different stores (because it seems no one store can carry everything we need!), it's just an unavoidably expensive way of life. Aside from doing all the tips and tricks that I mentioned before, another way I make this life doable is through budgeting. Everyone has a different way, I'm sure. And, like with most things, one style may work for one person, it may not work for another. Today I want to share the way that works for my family.
First of all, a bit of background. My husband and I have debt. Most Americans have debt. You, reader, probably also have debt. Being a bit vulnerably honest here, we have quite a bit of debt. We have school loan debt, wedding debt, lived-off-the-credit-cards-when-we-had-no-income debt, and of course, some naive, what-was-I-thinking, stupid debt. In spite of that, Hubby and I have excellent credit. We always paid our bills even if it meant sacrificing other things, we've never missed a due date and we're always on time. However, when it came to the leftover money for our food, entertainment and household, we didn't always know how to manage the money. We did our best but really, we just didn't have a plan.
About 3 years ago, we decided to try budgeting. For the first few months, we tried several different techniques including writing down everything with pen and paper and then reviewing it, making a humble little spreadsheet and then the "envelope" technique. Everything sort of worked, but nothing gave us the organization we wanted, the ability to fix our mistakes and to plan ahead for those big "oh crap" once or twice a year bills. So, I set out to find such a program and luckily, it was out there.
That is when the program You Need A Budget (YNAB) entered our lives. This program addressed all our above issues and even went a step further. The program creator, Jesse Mecham, developed four practical rules to budget by (like "giving every dollar a job" and "live off last months income") and they're smartly built into the YNAB program. In the last 3 years and with the help from this program, we have been able to put literally thousands of dollars into the bank and have even been able to budget for some new, non-necessary things what we just wanted - like a Wii. This was all while still putting a good chunk of change towards our debt, paying for my expensive diet, and buying other things we needed. I can not imagine having done all of this before budget. It would have been pay the debt OR buy the Wii OR buy expensive gluten free flours, but now, those "ors" are "ands" - and we couldn't be happier about it.
Oh and let me add that A), I am in no way affiliated with YNAB (other than me and my now fuller bank account being very happy customers) and B) that this review was by no means solicited by the makers of YNAB or anyone affiliated with YNAB.
I have mentioned before that I'm not a big cereal person and that as such, I didn't want to pay more money for specialty cereal, that I would just get general store cereal that happened to be gluten free. Well, that has changed. Introducing Natures Path new whole grain, gluten free cereals, Crunchy Maple Sunrise and Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise.
Both contain an impressive ingredient list which contain corn, rice, flax, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. The cereals are organic, kosher, and a good source of fiber (3 grams per serving) and omega 3's (f0.15 grams per serving). They are also soy, nut and dairy free - score!
These cereals are not only good for you, but taste great too. As the name suggests, both are intensely crunchy and have great texture with the mixture of large corn puff balls, rice puff ovals, small crunchy balls that I think are quinoa or amaranth and multi-grain flakes. As the names also suggests, one has a maple flavor which I find is quite strong (which I like, it reminds me of the maple frosted doughnuts I used to get) and one has a vanilla flavor which is fairly mild but is great with vanilla flavored rice milk.
With the nutrition of the whole grain and the delightful flavor, these cereals are definitely winners. I found them locally for $3.99 each and they are worth every penny. Seriously, run out and by them ... Now ... They're that good. Yum!
One of the most asked questions from gluten free novices is "Can gluten free flours be substituted for wheat flour one-for-one"? The short answer is that gluten free flours do not substitute one for one with wheat - however, gluten free blends can. Let me explain.
Gluten is what gives wheat elasticity and thus provides that chewy, doughy texture. Gluten also retain gases during the baking process which enables dough to rise, makes it stronger and less likely to collapse. That combined with it's light crumb is what makes wheat the "perfect" grain and why many of those who came before us worked exclusively with it. No other flour combines all those properties into one the way wheat does. So, in order to recreate those properties, we must combine flours and make blends. By combining a grain (brown rice, sorghum, millet, etc) with a starch (corn, potato, tapioca, etc), we are able to imitate wheat by having the grain (flavor and nutrients) and the chew (from the starch). Better yet, if we combine multiple grains and multiple starches, we get even closer to wheat because each grain and starch has their own unique properties and "bring something to the table" so to speak. There are a plethora of other types of flours like bean flours, coconut flour and nut flours and those all have different properties that they can lend too. Finally, we can give flour blends a "stretch" factor and help them bind and emulsify together better by adding xanthan or guar gum. Very little is needed and it adds yet another wheat-like property to gluten free baked goods. So, a blend of flours and starches can mimic wheat and can be replaced one-for-one whereas a single gluten free flour (only brown rice or only sorghum, etc) does not have all the properties needed to replace wheat on its own.
While understanding and learning about all the different flours can be intimidating and difficult at first, the sheer variety provides numerous opportunities for creativity, an assortment of flavors, and ensures that there will be at least one blend that you will enjoy. Personally, my favorite all-purpose mix is this one, though I freely admit that I'm probably just a bit biased since I created taht mix myself! ;)
The chickpea miso tamari offered by the South River Miso Company offers the soy intolerant an exciting opportunity. Living soy free makes enjoying Asian cuisine a real challege. Although there are several other prepared Asian sauces that one can use, none the distinct flavor (which the Japanese call "umami") or versatility of soy sauce. However, chickpea miso tamari has a very similar flavor to soy sauce and is just as versitile.
According to their website,
In Japanese, tamari means "little puddle" and refers to the savory liquid that collects in a vat of miso. Our genuine tamari is similar to its cousin, soy sauce, but much sweeter and lighter in taste. Friends who buy directly from our shop come back year after year, declaring that there is no seasoning comparable to South River Miso Tamari. Gathered from the vats of chickpea miso -- Made from deep well water, organic brown rice, organic chickpeas, sun-dried sea salt, organic sea vegetables, and koji culture. Aged in wood for a minimum of 3 months.
As this tamari takes so long to make and is only made in small amount, this sauce is often very limited. If you are interested in this sauce, please order as soon as possible. The South River Miso Company tries to ensure that there is enough to go around by rationing everyone to only one or two bottles per order. So if you're interested in trying some, be sure to order soon!
While both the words miso and tamari typically mean soy, the South River Miso Company uses chickpeas instead of soybeans to make a naturally soy free miso paste. They also make two additional soy free miso pastes - one from azuki beans and one from chickpeas and barley (though this flavor is not gluten free).
Whole Grain Blend Biscuits
by Clara Ogren, Six Food Intolerance Living
Makes 10 biscuits
1 cup dairy free buttermilk (I make mine by mixing 1 cup of unsweetened original flavored hemp milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice, stir and let sit for 3 minutes)
1/4 cup Earth Balance dairy-free, soy-free butter
2 cups of my Whole Grain Blend
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
As I am a big proponent of "practicing what you preach," I thought that I should provide allergen-free candy for Halloween. I figure that if I want others to provide allergen-free options for me and others, then I should provide the same to trick-or-treaters.
So, I made my sign (please realize that I'm not an artist! LOL) which said "ALLERGEN-FREE Candy Available. Please Ask." To my dismay, no one asked. Though, I only had about 20 kids come by. Regardless, I think that this is something that I will do every year and maybe one day, some one will ask! ;)