Friday, June 8, 2018

How To: To Do Lists Continued

I know what you're thinking..."Continued?!? I thought it was so simple, just a few lists!" Well, yes. For my regular weekly planning, this is all I use. But what about the "I don't want to forget that, but I can't deal with it right this second" kind of lists? I do have lists for those things! I call them my "Brain Dump" lists. Here is what I keep track of:

Blog Ideas
Gift Ideas

I keep these in my Family Binder (discussed here) under the "Miscellaneous" divider. I have these available in my Etsy store. You will receive BOTH the 8.5x11 AND the A5 lists with one purchase. They are just ONE DOLLAR. HELLO?!? You can't buy anything for a dollar anymore! No taxes, no hidden fees! Just a dollar!

Please also note I have reduced the prices of some of the other items in my store, so be sure to check it out!

I keep one more list. It is a list I use for my day job. I use the Bullet Journal system. It is very efficient. You could replace your normal To Do list with this if you wanted to combine work and home activities.

But wait, there's more! I have two FREE printables for you!

If you get a binder for your Family Planner with the clear sleeve on the front cover, you will need a cover page. I have one for you! It even matches the planners I have in my Etsy shop! Download here.

The other printable are the task symbols for bullet journaling. Here you go - enjoy! I printed this out and used washi tape to secure it to the inside of the notebook I use at work.

Once you have these systems in place, you will be all set!

I almost forgot the most important thing! Recent Google searches!!!

"how many Pokemon are there" (a LOT)
"Magic: The Gathering Rules" (11 pages...intimidating!)
"California smoking law" (No smoking indoors since 1995!)
"when is arugula ready to harvest" (Follow me on Instagram to see that it was ready, and delicious!)

What did you research today?

I Love Ikea

Saying, "I love Ikea" is sort of like saying, "The sky is blue". But it's also like finding the love of your life. You just want to shout your love from the rooftops, even if everyone already knows. I will go into detail after...

Recent Google searches:

"dream interpretation"
"Blues Brothers" (costume ideas for my son's school play - we found some great items at Goodwill!)
"YouTube tie a necktie" (^related)
"NSync 90s outfits" (^^also related - you would think I would know that one since I was a HUGE NSync fan)
"Chateau Tivoli Bed and Breakfast" (looking for rooms for the wedding in March!)
"Olympic Club" (^related)
"interesting facts about Jupiter" (my son got a hold of my phone)
"the real size of the sun" (^related!)

What have you researched recently? I love having a record of all of my Google searches. It creates a timeline of things that are happening in my life.

Back to the good stuff - Ikea. We took a trip to Ikea yesterday (something you would know if you followed me on Instagram, which I think you should). I am not sure there is anything in that store I don't like. We picked up a bin for our playroom to store toys, a few kitchen tools, a bedskirt, and a shower curtain.

Let's pretend the bedskirt isn't wrinkled. This is real life, people.

Same with the shower curtain...Instagram needs to invent a no wrinkle filter!

Love the plastic bag storage under the sink!

Because I had been looking ahead in my 2014 Master Calendar (available in my Etsy shop by itself here, or with a ton of other goodies here), I knew I would be focusing on organizing my kitchen this week. So I also picked up two new packs of food storage bins, some plastic plates and bowls for the kids, a pack of dish towels, and a plastic bag holder.

This is what I did yesterday. I did this in 15 minute increments.

*Vacuum fridge coils

*Clean HVAC filter. It was sooooooo dirty. This felt really good.

*Declutter kitchen table. This has turned more into "declutter kitchen island" since I moved into a house with an island. I have a basket, and I throw everything that does not belong on the island into that basket. When the island is cleared, I dump everything on the living room floor. Then I create piles, one for each room of the house, and place each item into the pile of the room for which it belongs. Once everything is sorted, I take a couple of piles (i.e., bedroom and bathroom, since they are near each other), and go put everything in it's place. This "declutter kitchen table (island)" is on the Master Calendar in January because I also take this time to evaluate what I want to be on the island permanently. I used to keep my purse, work bag, and a few other work staples on the island. But I felt it was too much visually. So I cleared a shelf in the hall closet, and now I keep those items in there. The result is that the kitchen island has more room for food prep, and visually more appealing overall. Each week, when I get to the kitchen as one of my Daily Zones, I do the whole "basket/pile/put away" procedure.

I used to use a very large basket for this, but I found that I allowed clutter to accumulate longer because it took a lot to fill up the basket. So I repurposed the basket for muffin tins and cookie sheets, and I placed it on top of the fridge. 

Now I use a smaller bin, which makes me disciplined in keeping clutter off the counter!

*Declutter plastic cups and water bottles. I threw out all of the bowls/cups/plates/bottles that had been chewed by the dog. I also threw out the sippy cups that are not spill proof.

*Declutter dish towels. I recycled the towels with holes, cut them up into rags, and placed in the hall closet for dusting and washing the car.

*Declutter kitchen gadgets, tools. I threw out broken spatulas, burned wooden spoons, and replaced them with the new Ikea kitchen tools.

What I had left was figuring out a re-purpose for the old food storage. I had so many mis-matched lids/containers. Here was my plan:

*Match the lids/containers.

*Throw out lids with no container to match.

*Find uses for containers without lids - I'm thinking nail polish storage, junk drawer organization, desk organization, baking supplies, etc.

*Find uses for containers with lids - random screws/nails and store in my husband's toolbox, small toy storage, craft storage, etc.

Here are the results!

Are you following along on the calendar? I would love to hear your challenges and successes! Link to your photos/blogs below for me to follow!

Self Care

How was trick or treating? Ours was fun! I was surprised at how on board our little one was with the process. She just followed the two older kids without a second thought.

Google searches!

"best online shopping sites" (to refer to our exchange students)
"synonyms for shield" (in order to name my son's fish - he settled on "Escutcheon")
"symptoms of depression" (you would think I know all of them since I have dealt with depression for years, but I wanted to site a reliable source - the internet)

What did you research today?

^I know I ask this each time. I really want to know. Please leave a comment and let me know what you have been googling!

Let's talk about self-care. Who cares for you? I know you care for a lot of other people; your husband, your kids, your boss, your parents, your friends, your pets. But who takes care of you? Do you take care of you? Does your husband take care of you? Do your friends?

Who do you EXPECT to take care of you? I think a lot of us think that other people should take care of us. After all, we spend so much time caring for others, can't someone stop for just ONE second and pay attention to US?!? Can't anybody look right at you and see the disheveled hair, the legs that haven't been shaved in weeks (okay, months), the paint on your nails that isn't from a manicure, it's from craft time, the bags under your eyes from not sleeping through the night since 1996, the piles of clothes strewn around the house in their various laundered stages, the toddler snot on your yoga pants (which have a hole in them), the half empty cup of cold coffee abandoned on the counter, the empty bottle of Xanax you have been too busy to refill...CAN'T. YOU. SEE. Someone should be able to take one glance, realize how desperate the situation is, stop everything, and say, "HAY! ALY NEEDS A BREAK OVER HERE!" They should sit you down, rub your feet, bring you chocolate and wine, tell you how wonderful you are, how beautiful you are, how much you are appreciated, then take the kids away for a couple of hours, and let you curl up in front of the fireplace with your favorite magazine, pee alone, and eat a hot meal that doesn't involve chicken nuggets.

How often does that happen? For me? Never. Do you know why? Because the only person's job it is to make sure I am cared for, is me. I am the only one who truly knows how stressed out I am. I am the one who needs to learn when to say "WHEN!" And ask for a break. This is not to say that a husband or friend can't assist with that break. But it is not up to them to recognize the need and push me to take that break.

At times, I feel resentment that I spend all this time caring for others, and nobody cares for me. Do you want to hear a hard truth? THAT is a selfish thing to do. I am an adult. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Taking care of others until you are run ragged and then complaining or resenting people for not taking care of you is being a martyr. Take the break you deserve and stop complaining. It's not attractive. And we need all the help we can get with being attractive; anti-wrinkle cream can only do so much.

What is NOT selfish - and this is something I have struggled to accept for years - is taking care of yourself. Sounds contradicting, right? Taking care of myself isn't selfish. Why is that? Because when we take care of ourselves, we are better equipped to care for others. Then we aren't so busy looking inside and grumbling about how I don't get the help I deserve. We are looking outside of ourselves because our inner self is well nourished. When you do things to take care of yourself, you feel better about yourself. You are relaxed, and you have more energy to give to put into others.

It doesn't have to be extravagant. It doesn't have to put your family into debt. Maybe it's a hot cup of coffee with a friend. Maybe it's going grocery shopping without the kids. Maybe it's as simple as going to the bathroom alone!

So where do we start? With a free printable, of course! We need to make a list of self-care activities to choose from. I only put space in here for three activities. I know that for some of us, coming up with just three items will be a challenge. When we lose ourselves in our families, we forget what we enjoyed doing before we had our families. If you can come up with more than three activities, that is great! Print this out as many times as you need.

What did you like to do before you had kids? Did you read? Doodle? Journal? Shop with friends? Shop alone? Draw? Paint? Scrapbook? Photography? Pottery? Do you want to develop a new hobby? Knitting? Sewing? Exercise? Manicure/pedicure? Massage? Think of some things that you want to try that only involve you. And perhaps one friend. But not children. If you try something and you don't like it, this list can easily change. So don't be afraid to try something new. Write down three ideas.

How often are you currently including these activities into your regular monthly schedule? Zero, zero, and...ZERO?!? That's what I thought.

How often would you LIKE to include these activities into your regular monthly schedule? Let's start with once a month at a minimum. Don't feel badly if you want to do your self care items more often than that! Be bold! Go for once a day! I like it!

Now look at your schedule. Where can you put this activity in your schedule? Don't say you don't have time. You might not want to make it a priority. But trust me, you have time somewhere. You might have to sacrifice time doing something else. Like watching TV, surfing the internet, even sleep if you must. Does your daughter go to dance class three times a week? Do you watch her during each practice? Make a compromise - watch her during two sessions next week, then take a book and read in your car during the third session. As an adult, she will need therapy for much more than you skipping one of her dance sessions. Trust me.

If you need help finding room in your schedule, then use the 30 minute time block printable. For at least one week, be dedicated to honestly write down everything you do each 30 minutes. I think you will be surprised how much time is devoted to Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/texting/reading this blog (that's allowed). This should show you where you have time to spare. And if not, if you are truly busy and working efficiently from the time you wake until the time you hit the pillow, then you REALLY need a break. So find a time and write it down. These cards will fit into your planner, so write down your activity and then physically stick this card in your schedule.

You have your activity, you have time in your schedule. It's time to alert your family of your intent. "I am going to do ABC activity on XYZ day. I will be out of the house (or still in the house but am not to be disturbed under any circumstances, maybe even arrange to be alone in the home) for this much time, and I am going to take care of myself. Thank you." Block off this time in your calendar, post it on the fridge, tattoo it to your husband's arm, etc. Then DO IT. Don't put it off. Don't change it unless it is a dire emergency. Which does not involve whiny children.

Enjoy your self care time! Pat yourself on the back for NOT being selfish! Tell me what you end up doing. I would love to hear your successes.

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween! As promised, here is your treat - the 2013 November Master Calendar. I can't wait to get things done next month. A fresh start!

That's it! Short and sweet today. Well, except for my recent Google searches...

"tie dye" (crazy sock day at my son's school)
"a night on bald mountain" (related to his music class)
"how tall will my three year old be" (not very tall!)

What did you research today?

Have a fun and safe Halloween!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How Does She Do It

My girlfriends and I were discussing the contents of our purses this week.  They shared the contents of theirs, noting the clutter and disorganization.  One even had a pair of grown up shoes in her bag!  I confessed that one time I found a lose receipt in mine, and how upsetting it was.  Then I begged her to not throw her shoe at me.  They expressed their envy of my clean bag, and asked how I did it.  They felt their purse was a direct reflection of themselves; disheveled.  My organized purse does not make me feel like it is a reflection of myself.  With all of my attempts at control/planning/organizing, one might think I feel as though I have my life together.  I do not feel this way at all.

Organizing is a default setting for me.  Nature or nurture, the desire to plan and have control comes from within.  It is at my very core.  There is a sense of relief and satisfaction that I receive from cleaning and organizing a space.  I explained that my own mother makes my life look like the inside of the messy purse with the pair of shoes in it.  I often feel like a failure because I am comparing my own skills to hers, and mine pale in comparison, like an albino polar bear in a raging snow storm.  This is why I always tell you that you have to figure out what works for you and your life.  Just because what I do doesn't work for you, doesn't mean you're failing.  It just means we need to find something that does work for you.  We don't all have the same instincts, nor do we have the same lifestyle.  I don't have the same lifestyle my mom had.  I have taken her examples and adjusted the concepts until they work for my lifestyle.  And I have to continuously modify my processes based on my husband's work schedule, the kids' extra circular activities, etc.  If I don't reevaluate on a regular basis then the tasks don't get done, and I fall out of the habit of doing them at all.

I am always brought back to wanting to figure out how to fit these undertakings into my life because having order brings me peace.  I am an anxious person, so disorder does not do well for my soul.  Being surrounded by mess does not bring me joy.  It brings me a feeling of unease and discontent.  The only person who can change that is me.  I either have to accept the discontent, or do something about the disorganization.  I choose to do something about it.  If the disorder surrounding you does not bother you, then there is no rule that says you have to change it.  There is no moral code that deems clutter as less than.

If you do want to do something about it, then think about it this way:

There are 168 hours in each week.
56 hours are spent sleeping, less if you don't sleep for 8 hours each night.
40 hours are spent at work.
Give yourself another 12 hours spent commuting/picking up/droping off/general driving.

That leaves 60 hours left over.  It would take less than 5 minutes to clean out your purse each night.  That is less than 35 minutes for the entire week!  Could you dedicate 30 minutes per day, or even 3 hours on a weekend, to setting some kind of order to your life?  If the answer is no, then look at what your priorities are and how you spend your time.  That will tell you what is important to you.  Maybe it's reading.  Maybe it's working out.  Maybe it's playing with your kids.  Maybe it's Netflix.  Once you figure out what it is, you need to decide if you would rather continue doing those activities over creating new structural habits.  After the habits become routine, you will be surprised at how little effort is required to keep them up.  Which will free up so much time for additional activities.  Like Netflix.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Set Up

My daughter's birthday is in June.  We always have leftover paper products after her party.  This is perfect for summer.  I grab the disposable plates, napkins, utensils, and throw them in a basket.  I keep the basket on the counter, and then I can easily take it outside for dinners on the patio.  This makes cleaning up dinner very simple.  Everything might not match, but that's okay!  If I'm having a get together with friends or family, I can always pick up some cute matching disposables beforehand.

If you don't have a basket, get creative with what you do have.  Do you have a diaper caddy?  If you're handy with a sewing machine, you could make something like this.  Finding containers I already have to reuse is one of my favorite things.

After enjoying dinner outside, why not play a game of badmitten?  Blow bubbles, hopscotch, jump rope?  The girls love doing yoga with me on the lawn in the evenings.  Have the kids look for weeds to pull in the garden (younger children should check with you before they start pulling things out of the ground!), pick up the backyard, sweep, etc.  All of these things are time spent as family, and everyone is pitching in.  It can feel fun, instead of like a chore!  If the kids are happily playing, you can have a moment to clean up a bit, or sit down and take a moment for yourself to breathe and enjoy your surroundings.  If one (or more) of your children is clinging or not wanting to help, sit with them and watch their siblings having fun.  It's okay.  The messy backyard will wait.

I know this is easier said than done.  Heck, just yesterday I didn't follow this advice.  It's not always going to be perfect.  You're not always going to respond perfectly to the tantrums.  Allow yourself the grace to mess up.  Then take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and start over.

If you're looking at the Master Calendar, you know that I planted celery this month.  It is REALLY hot here, so my celery isn't very happy.  We will see what happens to it!  I am obssessed with cherries and peaches right now, which is perfect since they are in season.  My kids are loving watermelon, and I also am enjoying zucchini "spaghetti".

The Master Calendar is filled with outdoor things, like cleaning screens, and decluttering pool toys and grilling supplies.  I do try to make June "light" on the To Dos, as our social calendar has usually exploded with parties and extra summer activities.  If you need to pass on a few days and wait for a free Saturday or Sunday to check off some items, go for it!

Since the birthday party planning is now complete, I am trying to decide what to do for Father's Day.  I love doing photos, but since Father's Day is this weekend, we will see if I have time for that.  What are your plans for Father's Day?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Gluten Free

I am often asked how I do gluten free at our house.  Over two years ago, my son had horrible eczema covering the bottom portion of his legs.  So much that he refused to wear shorts to school.  In our 100* summers, shorts are not an option.  I knew I had to get to the bottom of his itchy misery.  I myself had mild eczema, and figured whatever I found could benefit both of us.

Gluten was a cause, and an easy fix, so I decided to eliminate it from our diets and see what happened.  Along the way I learned A LOT.  It comes up quite a bit, as food is a huge part of our lives as humans.  I decided to make a document that I could add to when I learned something new.  Then I could send this document to people if they were interested.  I have received a lot of wonderful feedback from sharing this info, and have decided to share it here.

Feel free to message me or leave a comment with any questions you have about going gluten free.  I love sharing my experience and helping people learn about gluten.  BONUS:  I lost fifteen pounds without even trying by going gluten free.  My son lost ten pounds, which was over 10% of his body weight at the time!  We were both so fluffy!

Please always discuss any dietary changes with your physician first.  Please note that I am not a medical expert, and am only sharing my personal experience.

Keep in mind with gluten free, if you are wanting to test your sensitivity, you need to go 100% gluten free.  This is not something you can experiment with a little bit.  One exposure to gluten can take up to six weeks to leave your system.  Therefore, you will not have true results if you have even one bite of that donut.

Naturally gluten free foods.  These are the foods that you should mainly buy.  They are natural and unprocessed (with the exception of the dairy products).
·         Fruits
·         Vegetables
·         Nuts.  Any nuts that have been treated with a powder flavoring, you should check the ingredients list.
·         Meats, fish, and seafood, with the exception of processed meats (bacon, sausage, lunch meat, hot dogs, etc. you will have to check the labels)
·         Dairy (eggs, milk, butter, etc.), with the exception of certain cheese, like blue cheese.  You will also have to check the ingredients in ice cream.
·         The following grains/flour are gluten free, although, I would ALWAYS check the ingredient list to make sure it only contains the one item, and/or was not processed in a facility with wheat.
o   Almond Flour
o   Arrowroot
o   Brown Rice
o   Brown rice flour
o   Buckwheat
o   Coconut flour
o   Corn Flour
o   Corn Grits
o   Corn Meal – commonly not gluten free, double check ingredient list
o   Flaxseed
o   Millet
o   Potato flour
o   Quinoa
o   Rice flour
o   Tapioca Flour
o   White Rice
·         Condiments to be careful of:
·         Soy sauce and teriyaki sauce are not gluten free unless specifically noted on the packaging
·         BBQ sauce
·         Salad dressing
·         Gravy
·         Powdered seasonings (taco, chili, dips, etc.)
Most baking items in their raw state are gluten free (i.e., oils, baking soda, baking powder, sugars, spices, herbs, etc.)
Most beverages are gluten free (i.e., water, soda, tea, juice, coffee, hot chocolate, etc.).  Wine is gluten free.  Beer is NOT gluten free, although they do make gluten free beer.
You always want to check the ingredients on pre-prepared foods (i.e., canned goods, frozen foods, boxed foods), but these are generally safe:
·         Baked Beans
·         Corn Chips
·         Corn tortillas
·         Canned Beans
·         Canned fruit
·         Canned vegetables
·         Baked Beans
·         Corn
·         Green beans
·         Kidney Beans
·         Pinto Beans
·         Potato Chips
·         Rice Cakes
·         Rice Crackers
·         Spaghetti Sauce
·         Tortilla Chips
·         You will need to check the labels of frozen items, such as veggies, fruits, potato products (french fries/hashbrowns), and anything that includes a sauce.
I buy gluten free bread (Target and Walmart sell Udi’s and Rudi’s loaves in the frozen section).  They also make frozen hamburger and hot dog buns, but we don’t use them very often.  Sometimes I buy gluten free frozen waffles (the brand is Vans).  We get gluten free noodles in the dried pasta section, there are quite a few major brands that sell GF pasta, then add your own sauce.  Annie’s makes two gluten free boxed mac n cheeses that are really good.  Target carries a frozen chicken nugget bag by Purdue.  Walmart has one by Tyson, but I don’t think they taste as good!  I also buy gluten free pretzels on Amazon.  Here are links to some of these products:
I still make cookies, cake, pancakes, etc.  We buy in bulk Pamela’s Baking Mix from Amazon, and I can basically substitute that for flour in ANY recipe.  Sometimes I tweak recipes, but nothing has ever come out the first time so awful that we couldn’t eat it!  Tip:  Gluten free products burn faster in the oven!
Things that would surprise you that commonly have gluten in them:
·         Salad dressings
·         Rice Krispie Treats
·         Rice/Corn based cereals
·         Fruit snacks
·         Many candies/chocolates
·         Beauty products (shampoo, make up, lotions, etc.)
·         Vitamins
·         Playdough
Ingredient List.  Look on the list of ingredients.  An easy way to tell is at the very end, it is required to have listed if one of the top eight allergens are in the product.  It will look like this:  “THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS SOY AND WHEAT”.  Or milk, nuts, etc.  If you see WHEAT, it’s NO GOOD.  Put it down and walk away!  Also, if it says, "Made in a facility that processes wheat."  That is a no no.
Hidden gluten ingredients to look for – this is where you have to be careful.  Many cereals contain Malt or Maltodextrin, but it doesn’t say “contains wheat” at the end of the ingredient list!  Rice Krispies, which one would think would just be puffed rice, contains malt!  I think it’s unnecessary, especially since they make a gluten free kind, but that’s the kind of thing you need to watch for.
·         Malt (extract, syrup, flavoring, vinegar)
·         Dextrin
·         Maltodextrin, unless it specifically states “derived from corn”
·         Malt extract
·         Soy sauce
·         Barley
·         Spelt
·         Matzoh
·         Brewer’s Yeast (regular yeast is okay)
·         Modified food starch – THIS IS A BIG ONE
·         Anything with “wheat” in it (wheat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat starch)
·         Couscous
·         Hydrolyzed vegetable/plant protein
·         Rye
·         Graham flour
·         Gluten, gluten flour
·         Bulgur
·         Artificial coloring
·         Caramel coloring
·         Vegetable starch
Common items that are NOT safe:
·         Baked beans – check the ingredients list
·         Flavorings
·         Marinades
·         Sauces
·         Seasonings
·         Meatloaf/Meatballs
·         Breading
·         Soups – I have not found many soups that do not contain gluten, which makes me so very sad.  I love soup in the fall!!!
·         Soup bases
·         Bullion, although you can find gluten free bullion and stock at health food stores.
·         Gravy
·         Stuffing
·         Puddings
·         Candy
·         Ice Cream
·         Frostings
·         Boxed rice/potato mixes
·         Chocolate
·         Imitation seafood
·         Veggie burgers
·         Imitation bacon
·         Salad dressing
·         Sausage
·         Communion wafers
·         Licorice!
·         Breads
·         Crackers (no more Ritz, goldfish crackers, graham crackers)
·         Pastries (no rolls, muffins, donuts, flour tortillas, flatbreads, bagels)
·         Baked goods
·         Cereal, granola.  Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles in my area are gluten free.  Chex also has gluten free cereals, but not ALL of their cereals are gluten free.
·         Breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles, biscuits
·         Croutons
·         Look at all ingredients on chips.  Potato chips, Nacho Cheese Doritos, and Cheetos in my area are gluten free.
 So what do we eat?  Here are our main meals:
·         Breakfast:  Gluten free cereal (Chex or Fruity Pebbles), scrambled eggs, gf pancakes, gf waffles, fruit (apples, pears, peaches, bananas, oranges, etc.), homemade hashbrowns, bacon, yogurt, cottage cheese, gf toast.
·         Lunch:  Sandwiches with gluten free bread, quesadillas on corn tortillas, fruit, veggies (cucumber, spinach, avocado, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, etc.), chips.
·         Snacks:  Gluten free pretzels, string cheese, peanuts, baby carrots with hummus (check ingredients on hummus), cottage cheese, celery and peanut butter, raisins, nacho cheese doritos, potato chips and salsa, popcorn, apples.
·         Dinner:  Pork chops, chicken breast, hamburgers, spaghetti, rice, chili, gluten free mac n cheese, corn, baked potato, tacos, gluten free pizza, breakfast, pulled pork.
How to eat out.  Order salads without dressing, or just lemon wedges, or with oil and vinegar.  Nothing breaded, like crispy chicken or nuggets.  Be aware that most places do not have a dedicated fryer for gluten free products, so even though french fries don’t contain gluten, then could be contaminated by other items placed in the fryer that do contain gluten.
·         Do a little homework before you leave the house.  See if the restaurant has a website with a menu, or google “Restaurant name gluten free options”.
·         Order burgers or sandwiches without bread.  Many places will do lettuce wrapped instead.
·         Ask how items are prepared:
    • Is the meat marinated in soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or Worcestershire sauce?
    • Is the chicken dusted with flour before pan-frying?
    • Is the oil used for French fries also used for frying onion rings (or other breaded foods)?
    • Are there croutons or bacon bits on the salad?
    • Do you use wheat flour to make the gravy (or thicken the soup)?
 Places that cross contamination occur:
  • toasters
  • flour sifters
  • deep fried foods cooked in oil shared with breaded products
  • shared containers including improperly washed containers
  • condiments such as butter, peanut butter, jam, mustard, and mayonnaise may become contaminated when utensils used on gluten-containing food are double-dipped
  • wheat flour can stay airborne for many hours in a bakery (or at home) and contaminate exposed preparation surfaces and utensils or uncovered gluten-free products
  • oats – cross-contact can occur in the field when oats are grown side-by-side with wheat, select only oats specifically labeled gluten-free)
  • pizza – pizzerias that offer gluten-free crusts sometimes do not control for cross-contamination with their wheat-based doughs
  • french fries
  • non-certified baked goods e.g. “gluten-free” goods from otherwise gluten-containing bakeries
  • bulk bins at grocery stores or co-ops
 How I would suggest starting:
·         Go through your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and get rid of everything that contains gluten.  You don’t have to throw it in the garbage!  Donate it to a local shelter or church.
·         See what you have left.  Make some meal plans based on those items.
·         Make a list of your common favorite meals.  We are creatures of routine and aside from the occasional Pinterest meals, you probably rotate the same recipes.
·         Based on these meals, make a grocery list, noting what from your recipes will need to be GF specific (i.e., spaghetti noodles).
·         Go to the grocery store.  ALONE.  The first few times you go, plan to spend some quality time there.  You are basically relearning how to grocery shop.  Don’t take the kids or the husband.  Go alone and really look at ingredients.  Many stores have a gluten free section.  Ask a store employee where it is.  Get some fun things to try!  Cookies, brownies, etc.  Find the items on your list, maybe get a few different brands if you can (make elbow noodles in one brand, spaghetti noodles in another brand).  Take note of prices.  Read ingredients and familiarize yourself with what is not gluten free.
·         Come home and make new food!  Take note of which products you like and don’t like.  For example, in the gluten free section, there are mixes for cakes and brownies.  I much prefer the taste of the kind I make with the baking mix than those mixes.  But maybe you will like them, and maybe they are simple and that’s what you need right now!
·         After you know what you like and don’t like, really look at the packaging.  Maybe take a pic of it with your phone and keep it in a “gluten free” photo album.  This will help you familiarize yourself with the packaging the next time you go to the store.  We could all be half blind and head into any Target and grab a Kraft Mac n Cheese box from the shelf.  This is how it will be for your products after awhile.  You will be able to shop “normally” again.  Each shopping trip won’t require so much time or effort.
·         Try to bake something fun!  Celebrate that you can still have treats.
Other source of information:  Blogs.  Google “top gluten free blogs”.  Follow them.  Sometimes they have recipes.  They answer questions, have extensive lists of what not to eat, what to eat, etc.  Great resources.

I know this is A LOT to take in.  After you read this, let me know if you have any questions.  If you ever have a question about how I do something or is something gf, I would be happy to discuss.