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Food Storage Tips: Food storage for the allergic

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Safely Gathered In has started a guest post series about storing food for those with food allergies. Unfortunately, I also have a little experience with this. Fortunately, the experience was short-lived. When my youngest daughter was a baby, we discovered that she was allergic to milk, wheat, eggs, and nuts. Oy! She was exclusively breastfed, which meant that I needed to avoid those foods.

I valued breastfeeding, so I started the horrible diet. I lasted for a couple of months until my health got a little iffy. I switched her to soy formula for a couple of months, and we were successful in switching her back to breastfeeding after that. Within that time, she had gained the ability to process the proteins in my milk, and she kept nursing until she was 13 months old.

She outgrew the wheat allergy by the time she was about 1 1/2, thank goodness. She outgrew the allergy to milk and egg by the time she was 3. She still avoids nuts, but her allergist thinks she will outgrow that in the next couple of years as well.

The wheat allergy was the killer. Some people thought that a wheat allergy just meant that I would just have to avoid whole wheat products. Nope. White flour is made of wheat, of course, and it is in just about everything.

How can you adapt food storage to your or your family’s special dietary needs?

Figure out what you can eat. If you are new to the diet, it takes a while to figure out what you are able to eat, and what you want to eat regularly.
Figure out how to cook what you eat from basic ingredients. Instead of depending on items from the store, try to figure out what your diet would look like if you were to make the items yourself. Some examples of basic cooking for allergies from food storage ingredients are below. This can be challenging. Look for food allergy cookbooks from the library, or websites and internet message boards devoted to people with the same dietary restrictions.
Store those basic ingredients. In our case, we added more barley and soy beans to our food storage. I added nutritional yeast (an ingredient in dairy-free cheese sauce) to our three-month supply.
Tools. With food allergies, extra tools become even more helpful. Usually the special ingredients that food allergic people require are very expensive. A grain mill is helpful for milling various non-wheat grains. A soy milk maker saves a ton of money compared to buying store-bought soy milk. Canning, dehydrating, and freezing your own allergen-free foods may also be necessary.

Here are a few things I learned when I was in that world:

Barley is a decent substitution for wheat. If you are allergic to wheat and not gluten, I had decent success with substituting barley flour for wheat flour in recipes. I believe they sold “white” barley flour at the health food store. Barley has gluten, so this wouldn’t work for gluten intolerant people.

Waffle bread. My neighbor with Celiac told me his cool trick. He makes his “bread” for sandwiches in a Belgian waffle maker. Because gluten-free flours do not rise, they have the consistency of play-dough. There are no air bubbles baked in the bread to make it lighter. But the waffle iron bakes the air holes in. I think he used a wheat-free cornbread recipe. He bakes up big batches at a time and stores it in his freezer. With this “bread” he can make sandwiches.

Soy milk maker. After my daughter weaned, she was still allergic to milk. I started making our own soy milk. I used the SoyaJoy soy milk maker, which was a good machine. I dumped in soy beans that had been soaked overnight, and filled up the jug with water. I turned on the machine, which ground up the soy beans and heated the water. Fifteen minutes later, I had soy milk. I added some sugar, salt, and a vitamin tablet for calcium, then placed it in the fridge to cool. Cheap soy milk! In 2003, when I was doing this, a half gallon of soy milk at the store cost around $3. The soy beans for a half gallon of soy milk cost between 25 and 50 cents at that time. I already had some soy beans in storage that needed to be used up, so the cost was even less for us. Vickilynn Haycraft estimated that making her own soy milk saved her $500 per year.

I once experimented with making soy milk without a maker. It was a difficult process. I boiled the soy beans, and then ground them up, and then squeezed the hot soy pulp through a piece of cheese cloth (burning my hands). I liked the soy milk maker much better.

Instead of storing powdered milk for my daughter, I stored soy beans. If you drink soy milk and do not want a soy milk maker, or want to store soy milk in another way in case of a power outage, there are shelf-stable soy milks that can also be stored. I’ve also seen powdered soy milk.

Soy flour egg substitute. I’ve posted about substituting soy flour for eggs before. I used it often when I was on this diet.

Fats. Milk allergies make it difficult to figure out what fats are safe. Butter is out, as are many margarines. My daughter could tolerate Blue Bonnet Lite Margarine. Nucoa was also milk-free. Coconut oil, olive oil, lard, and shortening are safe for most people with allergies. Coconut oil and unopened olive oil store for 1 to 2 years.

Thickeners. My beef stew recipe had flour in it, in order to thicken the sauce. What could I substitute? I found The Cook’s Thesaurus, an excellent website for figuring out substitutions. I learned about instant tapioca. I added that to the stew instead of flour, and I could eat beef stew!

Available “normal” meals for the milk- and wheat-allergic. I ate a lot of tacos with corn tortillas, and a lot of rice pilaf. Sauces were difficult, because most had milk or egg in them. Tomato sauce was still available, thankfully. For dessert, rice krispie treats were legal. I also made this hot fudge cake, substituting barley flour for all-purpose flour, and soy milk for milk. Get good at reading labels. Some breakfast cereals don’t have wheat.

Cream of chicken soup substitute. The book Country Beans by Rita Bingham teaches how to make quick meals using bean flour (i.e. beans run through the wheat grinder. This is a good use of old beans.) Her book has a recipe for Three-Minute Cream of Chicken Soup, using water, bean flour, chicken soup base or bouillon, and optional diced chicken pieces. This is a great option for the food allergic. I tried it once and it tasted good.

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