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The 30 year belly ache

by Erin on March 2, 2012

Seriously, I’ve had a belly ache since I was a little kid.

I was told I was just constipated, I had colitis, I had an ulcer, I had IBS, I had fibromyalgia, etc. etc. I experienced lactose intolerance on and off, intolerance to raw anything, reactions to chicken for two years and I had jaw pain so bad I couldn’t chew for months. I tried macrobiotics, veganism, vegetarianism, Weight Watcher’s, Atkins, and other diets. Sometimes I was so bloated I couldn’t stand it.

Then, I had twins at age 35. As they finally started to sleep around age 1, I started to feel worse and worse. I started to notice that when I ate pasta or pizza, I would swell up and gain 4-5 lbs OVERNIGHT! I’d be so puffy the next day, my eyelids would look watery. Then I started to hear about some funky diets using “primal” foods and traditional food preparation. Whether these are the right way to eat or not, I really don’t know, but I realized that when I avoided wheat products I felt better. After 5 weeks on a Gluten free diet, I felt like a million bucks! Then I had to eat it again for 2 weeks to be tested and although I felt awful again it was worth getting a diagnosis.

I have Celiac disease.

And it runs in my family. Something I only learned when I started asking about it.

I was relieved at first but after a while it does become a pain to have to watch everything you eat. So our home has largely become a GF zone. I have my own butter dish and if it comes out of a jar, I keep a separate jar for myself. However, I rarely use condiments and the fact that eating sandwich’s on GF bread leaves a lot to be desired, it makes avoiding condiments easier.
Cooking from scratch has been a life saver for me. Because I was learning to cook using some alternative ingredients prior to diagnosis, it was a little bit easier for me to adjust what I was doing.

1. Almond meal with herbs makes a perfectly acceptable stand in for shake and bake and it’s a lot healthier for everyone! (Love this! -Erin)

2. I use Arrowroot for thickener and it works just as well as cornstarch or flour in almost any recipe.

3. Corn/Quinoa pasta tastes just like the real thing. It costs more but we use our own canned tomato sauce from the garden so it’s still a cheap meal.

4. We use local meats which are a lot cheaper than buying organic meats at the grocery store AND we know where they came from. Chickens are great because you can get at least 2 meals out of 1 chicken plus homemade stock is a cinch in the crockpot! In fact, crockpots are a God send! I have a great crockpot cookbook and all the recipes are gluten free.

Although I can drink milk now, I have experimented for years with almond milk and rice milk. I like all of them except soy which also seems to bother me. Our local stores give a discount if you buy by the case and I find the price between organic milk and milk alternatives to be similar. However, you can get coupons for the milk alternatives which are rarely available for regular organic milk. So in the end it is often cheaper.

Our garden and berry patch provided a lot of produce which has stocked our pantry and freezer for the winter. We also went berry picking and apple picking and have lots of frozen fruit and canned applesauce along with our tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, pickles, and even canned stock.

We have a local farmstand that sells produce at dirt cheap prices. We can even find organics there. If we stock up before they close at Halloween, we can freeze enough to keep us stocked all winter. And we did buy a small chest freezer to keep extra meats and veggies on hand. It is much cheaper to buy a 1/4 of a cow or 1/2 pig than to buy individual pieces of meat.

Thankfully my husband is very understanding. If he wants “real” pizza, he eats it out of the house. But we experiment with all different types of pizza crust including eggplant crusts, coconut flour pancake crusts and gluten free mixes (the trick to the GF mixes is to make the crust really THIN). They’ve all been good. For me, anything with cheese and sauce and a hint of oregano is great!!

Dining out has been the greatest challenge. We don’t have many local restaurants who “get it.” But this actually helps us save money. We can’t just order chinese if we don’t feel like cooking. So I have started meal planning and it is helping tremendously with keeping us eating at home, which will always save over dining out or getting take out.

We used to spend $800+ on groceries PLUS up to that same amount dining out! Now I budget about $600 a month and we are doing better than ever at sticking to our budget. Our biggest expense is still milk for our 2 year old twins. We spend almost $200 a month on milk alone!! I wonder if getting a cow would be cheaper!! (Probably would be!)

One more thing I have found to help is to limit the variety of things we buy. When I can plan on a select number of ingredients, it makes meal planning easier and I don’t have to go crazy finding a recipe to incorporate something unfamiliar every week. Every now and then we will try something new, but with 2 little ones, usually familiar is easier to prepare. Although they usually like the weirder stuff! Chicken nuggets? no way! Buffalo steaks? They inhaled them! Go figure!!

Oh and bring your lunch! Not only will you know for sure you are not being contaminated, you will always save money taking your own snacks and lunches. I never buy soda. I bring my own tea bags or drink water from the office water bottle and at home it’s water too. And we always make coffee at home and take a mug to go if we are leaving for the day. Starbucks isn’t GF friendly anyway.

So there’s our story. We’re a work in progress. I was only diagnosed a couple of months ago so we are still tweaking our systems and I’m still working on meal planning. Hopefully we will start to save even more! Good luck!!!

Thanks for sharing, teaching and encouraging us!

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