Confessions of a Food Hoarder
Here’s an irresistible trifecta for savvy gluten-free and food-allergic shoppers: a product is inexpensive, safe and on sale for a limited time. When this happens, there’s sure to be a frenzy of people loading up their grocery carts. This mass chaos isn’t uncommon to special-diet shoppers--it’s how we’ve learned to survive with limited food choices.
When we find a product that we like, especially a new item or one that’s on sale for a limited time, we approach the store like the vintage game show, Supermarket Sweep. When I find a good sale, I’ve used the whole “sweeping items into the cart with an outstretched arm” tactic without shame.
I admit that I’m a gluten-free food hoarder. When I run out to Whole Foods “just for a few veggies,” I come home with several grocery bags, all loaded to the brim. “Oh, this was on sale, so I bought four of them,” is my personal mantra.
My cabinets are bursting at the seams. I have duplicates and triplicates of everything. I end up throwing some away because it gets beyond its expiration date before I even had a chance to try it. I’ve stocked up on an item that I didn’t try first because it was so cheap, only to discover that I hate it.
Sometimes, I get a little too carried away by sales, BOGO deals, and coupons. Sometimes I forget that I should shop for what I need, and not just what I think is a good deal. If you’re faced with the same predicament, I have two ideas that might help:
(1) Meal Plan
With shows like Extreme Couponers and Doomsday Preppers, stockpiling is more popular than ever. While I’m not expecting an apocalypse anytime soon, I’m not saying that keeping all of this gluten-free food is a bad thing. Buying in bulk is really smart – if you know how to work with it.
- Group all food items together so you know what you have. In the freezer, make separate shelves for meats, frozen entrees like Daiya Pizza and Udi’s bread and yummies (gluten-free cookie dough, of course). In the pantry, make areas for breakfast grains like cereal and oatmeal, chip and crackers, cookies and bars. Organize by expiration date, using the ones that are expiring first. Try to incorporate as many products that are on their last leg first in your meal plan.
- Plan out your meals for the week using an Excel chart or whatever methodology works best for you. Come up with breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert (of course) for each day of the week. Remember to defrost any items you need at least 24 hours in advance to deter a last-minute scramble. There are plenty of pre-made plans online if you need inspiration.
- When shopping, make a list of what you need and stick to it. Only purchase items that you’ll use in the next week or two (depending on how often you make store runs). Clip your coupons ahead and put them on the list. Only buy what you have room for in your cupboards.
- If you happen to see an item on sale during a grocery store run and your blood gets pumping, stop a minute to really think. It is something that you really need and will enjoy? Are the savings really that great?
If you’ve given up on meal planning – like I have, no judgment – or are just faced with too much stuff that you can’t possibly eat before it goes bad, consider donating to your local food bank.
Use FeedingAmerica’s food bank locator to find a food bank near you. Reach out to the director and find out what products they accept (packaged, canned, refrigerated, etc.) and how to drop them off. According to my local St. Mary’s Food Bank, some of the most-requested items contain gluten (cereals, pastas, canned soups, etc.). With 1 in 100 people having celiac disease and more with gluten sensitivity and food allergies, you can provide those in need with safe foods.
Want to go a step beyond? Host a food drive with your local chapter of the Celiac Disease Foundation or FARE. Connect with members and ask them scour their pantries for any hoarded food they might not need. Have them bring it to the next chapter meeting.
With mindful shopping, organizing and planning, even an out-of-control food hoarder (like me) can transform into a smart gluten-free, allergy-free consumer.
What's your best tip to avoid hoarding food?