Husband: “Hey, hon? I know you are going to hate what I am about to ask you, but I have three coupons for the grocery store that are going to expire. Can you make a grocery list?”
Ugh. This request seems innocent enough, but for me making a grocery list is like riding a bike uphill for miles in the blazing heat. I’d rather clean the porta-potties on the route. But seeing as I am the gluten-free, corn-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, anorexic-celiac-friendly chef of the household, all meal planning and grocery-list making falls to me.
We’re kind of desperate over here. My kids have eaten hot dogs for dinner three nights this past week. My husband and I basically eat the same thing every night: some sort of grilled meat or fish with a side of veggie and starch (either sweet potato or rice). That is the extent of our menu these days.
Thank God my husband enjoys the shopping. I can’t walk into a grocery store alone without going into a panic attack. Literally. Braving Whole Foods the other day on my own, I had teetered on the edge of a full-blown attack; I had to sniff soap to calm my nerves before I could make it through the check-out line with my single box of quinoa hot cereal.
After I spent the entirety of July feeling physically ill and having multiple food reactions, it seemed perhaps a food sensitivity test would be the logical next step in figuring out why my gluten-dairy-corn-soy-free lifestyle wasn’t solving my intestinal distress.
The results were surprising as it revealed that most of the foods that had become safe and staple elements in my restricted, leaky-gut- and-celiac-friendly diet were indeed NOT safe. Almonds and anything almond-based, like almond butter, almond flour, and almond milk had become the anchor-source of safe and calorically dense nutrition. Turns out my system is off-the-charts sensitive to almonds. And also all other nuts. Adding “nut-free” to my growing list of dietary restrictions, I also learned many basic produce that I eat every day, such as bananas, lemons, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, and lettuce were also big no-nos.
As for the basic celiac-friendly grains, my body rejects aramanth, brown rice (another basic staple), lentils, and oats (even the gluten free version). While we’re at it, I may as well mention egg whites, cinnamon, mustard, plums and white beans all cause bodily discontentment.
The good news: Lima beans are a no-go! That news was like finding $100 bill in a pile of wet poo.
So what in the world is a busy anorexic-celiac writermama of two hungry munchkins and wife of an athletic husband supposed to eat and feed her family?
I don’t know. Hence the panic attack in Whole Foods the other day. I went in to simply to purchase millet–one of three grains I can eat. What’s millet you ask? You might recognize it as the main ingredient in–wait for it– bird seed.
Yup. My diet has been reduced down to the mere culinary delicacies for birds. Rabbit food would be a five-star treat at this point. 🙂
Meal planning and grocery shopping are like picking a bouquet of wildflowers in a radioactive minefield. There is a multitude of brilliant foods that look so colorful, fresh, and nutritiously rich to choose from, yet these days, anything I pick is contaminated with ingredients that are unsafe for me. One misstep and BOOM! I experience a physical reaction that will make me ill for four to seven days. Believe me when I say, I have become a good label reader, but most products I pick up I must put back; most recipes that catch my eye need a customized overhaul. I haven’t yet gained good knowledge of the safe and delicious substitutions to create a new dietary landscape for my household.
I digress. You can see why making a grocery list isn’t something I can just whip up. I found myself pacing and wringing my hands together, trying to figure out where to start. I would need to look at recipes–maybe paleo recipes and then adjust accordingly? It seemed so hard, and I wanted to cry. Enter my friend Nikki who was scheduled to come over for coffee (decaf, Swiss-water processed coffee, of course).
I poured out my plights and heard myself plead, “Will you help me make my list?”
Nikki was so happy to help! “Let’s come up with five meals,” she suggested. That seemed doable to me. She sat with my food sensitivity test next to her and within five minutes she helped me come up with 10 meal ideas based on the foods I could eat! Whoa! We spent the next hour online researching recipes for each dish that would be easy to make and easy to make substitutions. Nikki helped me think of fresh ideas. For example, I cannot have lemons or limes, but we found a great pineapple-mango salsa recipe that is great for fish!
When our list was complete–we celebrated. I’m talking high-fives and happy dancing! It felt amazing to have the list done, and I had that glorious relief feeling–like the feeling you get when you’ve finally popped your taxes in the mail knowing you are getting a fat refund. All the tedious hard work is done and there is great reward to come. Thank you, Lord, for Nikki!
Then I crashed. I was so exhausted and had quite the headache, as if I really did just ride for miles uphill in the heat. While having Nikki by my side made this task achievable, the anxiety that burdens me around anything food-related still built up inside–only this time it didn’t explode into tears, panic or self-loathing. It stayed dormant until the task was complete. I was too elated to dwell on the hardness of the task. Instead I curled up and took a nap–resting in my accomplishment.
For the first time, I allowed myself to be okay with the weirdness that making a grocery list is really hard and exhausting for me. Meal planning and grocery shopping are the most basic of tasks for any stay-at-home mama, but for this mama it is a dizzying challenge; it all makes my mind spin. I am confident this won’t always be the case, (and I won’t always rather clean porta-potties) but for right now, I have to allow myself to take this journey one list and one meal at a time.
Upcoming Meal Plan (with links to the recipes I’ll be modifying)
Chili (a modified version of the one I usually make)
Mango-Coconut Rice w/Chicken
Salmon Patties w/millet-quinoa broccoli medley
Turkey w/cauliflower rice