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When I plan my food shopping morning, it gets complicated. It used to be easy. Go to any major chain and buy some food, take it home, and make dinner. Then if you want to go out for dinner, the sky’s the limit. Anything goes.

Not so with food allergies. Plus with multiple allergies, it’s extremely rare that we eat out. And it’s not as easy to shop. I live in a community large enough to have multiple grocery outlets, so here is my usual routine.

I begin my morning at the big box store. You know the one. It’s great for large items and household items, such as paper towels and, yes, toilet paper. And I love their rotisserie chickens. I consider them to be a guilty pleasure. If I’m making a chicken pot pie, I just cut off a breast and add it to the pie. Stir fry is easy, and I also enjoy a great chicken curry. Additionally, I get my frozen vegetables

there. They come in a very large bag, but it’s easy enough to grab a handful. I usually steam them, but sometimes they go right into to the pan, such as when I’m preparing my curry.

My next stop is the regular grocery. I have two that I choose from. This is where I get my fresh produce. Also the smaller sized processed foods, such as salad dressing, canned beans, and salsas. Part of my decision in choosing a store is whether or not I need non-dairy butter. One store has it in stick form, while the other has tubs. When I asked one of the stockers their response was: “It’s all the

same product.” While this is true, it’s simply easier to measure sticks when baking.

Additionally, one of the two stores has become a big winner as they carry a large selection of locally produced foods. Everything from jelly to artisan breads, to gluten-free mixes. They also stock many varieties of allergy free foods. I have taken the time to personally thank the store manager for stocking so many great choices for allergy sufferers.

I visit both the big box store and the local grocery once a week. My other shopping is on an as-needed basis.

I use a restaurant supply store a few times a year, that’s where I buy my meat. It comes in giant pieces, so I need to schedule time to do some butchering and then then they go into Food Saver bags. They last for many months in the freezer. I also buy a giant tub of minced garlic there, as well as some snack items – such as nuts.

There is one other trick to be found at the restaurant supply. I buy sleeves of to-go coffee containers. For the price of two cups of coffee on the road, we can buy fifty empty cups and lids and enjoy our own coffee with our preferred milk substitute.

We are a large enough community that we can support small specialty grocers where I purchase many varieties of non-dairy cheeses. Most are local or regional, and they are delicious. So far, the hard cheeses need some improvement, but the soft cheeses offer wonderful combinations of flavors and possibilities. This is also where I get my gluten-free pie crusts, seriously one of my guilty pleasures.

Finally, there are a few items that I must order online. When I compare when I started this adventure to now, this has been the biggest change. I used to order so many products online, now it is very few. Please don’t misunderstand me, I love the freedom of online shopping. But it’s also wonderful to be able to get most the special things I need locally.

It’s all about time. When I know I can go into the store and be back in an hour it is easy. Online is an entirely different process that requires more planning since I order now but it comes in a week.

There are so many wonderful products available to experiment with and enjoy. Gluten-free flours and grains, egg-free breads, dairy-free delights. Don’t be afraid to try new products, but when you find a perfect product, embrace it!

So when I’m asked where I shop, I have to respond: It’s complicated.  

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