One of the most important things to do when starting a gluten free diet is to thoroughly clean it out. We advocate this firstly because, you ensure there isn’t a crumb or skerrick of flour dust anywhere and that is comforting (not to mention important)! Secondly, it removes temptation, no gluten filled biscuits summoning you or the gluten free person in your family to the pantry after dinner!
It is important to mention everyone’s situation is different. While a person living on their own or with their partner is able to banish all or most gluten, someone living within a family or in a share house will not have such a straight forward solution. The most important thing to do is educate the people around you. Ensure they know which is the gluten free shelf and utensils. Talk through the severity of your condition and the importance of following a gluten free diet to a tee. Explain that crumb of bread containing gluten is enough to make you sick. That if they use your toaster, you will have to buy a new one. These people respect you and love you, they will want to protect you.
So here is a step by step process to help you make sure your kitchen is gluten free friendly.
The big clean
- Start with the pantry, food cupboards, spice rack...anything that is edible. Clean out all gluten containing products (you are going to get very good at reading labels!) and pass them on to someone who can eat them. This will include any spreads and jams that have been opened because even if they are gluten free they might have food crumbs in them.
- If you live with people who will continue to eat gluten then pick a shelf or cupboard (one that is high up is good) and make it your own. Clean it thoroughly and stock it with your own gluten free products. Communicate your strategy with any co-inhabitants.
- Next move onto the fridge and freezer and do the same. Re-home any food you can if you are doing an entire clean out. If not pick your own shelf of the fridge and freezer to be gluten free. Again make sure you talk to your family or house mates about this.
- If your whole house is becoming gluten free then get to work on all appliances and cookware. Pull all appliances out of their cupboards and wipe them down with warm, soapy water. Wash all cookware and utensils. Once empty, clean the cupboards before replacing all appliances and cookware.
- Houses that have dual gluten/non-gluten kitchens you will always need to be extra careful when cooking or baking, making sure you wash everything thoroughly before starting or even better, making sure everything is washed thoroughly after it’s last use!
If you are going to have to co-exist with gluten it can be useful to designate your own place in the kitchen to prepare your food. This will limit the chance of cross contamination. Talk it through with your family or house mates.
Tools of the trade
So there are a few things that you are just going to have to buy new, whether you are an entirely gluten free home or not.
- The first on the list is a toaster. It is next to impossible to de-glutenise your existing one. Keep it for guests and buy a new gluten free only toaster or toast your bread under the grill. We have also heard lately that the best way to get an even toast on gluten free bread is with a sandwich press, but remember to keep it gluten free or clean it thoroughly before use.
- It is also a good idea to replace the flour sifter, sifting flour in gluten free baking really helps to bring the final product together but using an old sifter that has accumulated years of flour in all its crevices is not cool. Just replace it.
For homes that will remain dual gluten/gluten free kitchens the tools you may like to purchase a second gluten free option for are;
- A chopping board
- General cooking utensils such as tongs, wooden spoons and spatulas
- Cake tins and muffin trays
Many of these items can be cleaned thoroughly and will be safe to use for gluten free cooking but this will just help to ease concern. We also suggest picking a colour theme for gluten free items, it is simpler for everyone to know not to use the green chopping board and tongs for normal food. Here are some tips for cooking gluten free meals in amongst normal meals.
Label, label, label
Label your gluten free foods, especially flours, pastas and things that look similar or the same as the usual product. It might make sense for you to stick with the colour theme, for example keeping all gluten free versions in airtight food containers with green lids. It is a good idea to keep all gluten and gluten free versions in airtight containers from this point forward, to avoid a stray piece of pasta escaping or leaving flour residue over all the gluten free food. We even have a gluten free sugar in case there is any double dipping of the cup measure when baking!
So there are a few things you will have to discard or have purely separate gluten free only jars of. For example anything that could somehow get a crumb of food in it, such as the butter, jams and other spreads, mayonnaise and mustards. It is much simpler than trying to make sure no one contaminates them with crumbs from their toast etc.
If you live in a purely gluten free house but have guests who are eating normal bread etc. it is best to scoop small amounts on condiments into dishes for them. That way you needed be concerned about cross contamination. If you are ever in doubt about something being contaminated it is best to pass it on to someone who can eat it or throw it away.
The first shop
Now you know the basics and your kitchen is ready for your gluten free life, it is time for the first shop. Here are a few of our tips for that first shop;
- When you are starting out focus on buying whole foods, it is very easy to get caught up in all the gluten free biscuits and pastry on the market but what you wouldn’t eat on a daily basis when you were eating a normal diet you shouldn’t eat on a daily basis on a gluten free diet. You also need to give your body time to heal and a whole food diet is the best way to do that.
- Buy some of the basics you would have had a home such as gluten free flours, some pasta and a nutritious cereal.
- Triple check your food labels. There are plenty of items on your normal shopping list which will still be suitable for you to eat, in other words, you needn’t eat only things marked gluten free. Just be very careful that you check the label before you put it in the basket, then again before you put it in the cupboard and lastly before you eat it. Especially in the early stages.
Well it seems you are all set to go. Happy gluten free eating. Enjoy the journey, you will find a new appreciation for food in no time.