Providentliving.org suggests we store 25 pounds of grains per person, per month, most of which often comes from wheat. And for most people, that’s fine. But more and more people are being diagnosed with gluten intolerance, an autoimmune disease sometimes known as Celiac disease, which means that ingestion of this nutrient can cause minor or even life-threatening reactions. Currently, 1 in 10 people has a gluten intolerance, but experts expect that diagnosis to rise to 3 in 10 within the next 10 years.
Gluten is often easy to discover, found in any wheat-containing product, but can sometimes be hidden away in less obvious foods such as barbecue and soy sauce, chicken bouillon, hot dogs and sausages, foods containing MSG, caramel flavorings, some ice creams, and even the adhesive you lick to seal envelopes.
Daily dietary decisions become difficult in the face of gluten intolerance; food storage, which is already confusing to many, becomes overwhelmingly so.
Luckily, in today’s ever-expanding global food market, many other grain options abound. Many people avoid bread-like products and find rice to be a food staple. “We eat a lot of rice and baked potatoes, so it’s fun to eat lots of different types of rice, like sticky rice, long-grain rice, and short-grain rice,” says Nicole Lawson of Provo, Utah. Quinoa and amaranth are other great grain options to look into. Storing these grains in large quantities can avoid the need for breads and pastas.
Life without the baked goods, however, is much less fun. Gluten-free mixes are available, but they are pricey and can thus be impractical for long-term bulk food storage. But with the many varieties of flours available, you can learn to bake gluten free from scratch. Michelle Snow, author of Gluten-Free Food Storage: It’s in the Bag, uses amaranth, millet, quinoa, rice, potato, teff, oat, buckwheat, corn, and almond flour.
“Rice flour is the main—the base—of all the other flours. We mix the others in as a way to soften the texture,” Lawson says.
A few of these, like white rice flour and bean-based flours, can stay good at room temperature, but the rest need to be stored in the freezer. A better option can be to store these grains in their whole forms, which will prolong their shelf life, and then grind them yourself. “The only flour I do not mill myself is the almond flour,” Snow explains. “This is due to the oils ruining my mill; therefore, I always buy my almond flour.”
A word to the wise: if you’re grinding wheat for other members of the family, you’ll need two separate wheat grinders for gluten and gluten-free products.
Eating gluten free doesn’t mean just replacing flours, though. There are several other ingredients to keep track of and make sure you have stored as well. Here are a few common ones:
Xanthan/guar gum: used in almost every GF “bread” recipe, including items such as waffles or cakes, to bind together the GF flours. Lawson suggest xanthan gum because it doesn’t have the strong flavors that some others do.
Dried eggs: more common in GF baking than in normal baking, again, to hold all the ingredients together. Many GF recipes call for whole eggs and additional egg whites, so having both on hand is important.
Starches: necessary to combat the heavy, dry texture most GF grains produce. Corn, potato, and tapioca starch are all helpful to have on hand. You can buy them and then put them in large pails for storage.
Vinegar: the more economical version of store-bought GF dough enhancers.
On the To-do List
The most important part of gluten-free food storage, though, is not necessarily gathering the ingredients—it’s learning to use them.
“We’ve been gluten free for about five years, and through that whole time we’ve been going through lots of recipes, different bread pans, tweaking amounts of flours—finding which ones taste the best and make the best texture. . . . If anybody has a little time to experiment, they should,” Lawson says. And her efforts have paid off; now the family is starting a gluten-free bakery, and Good Earth already wants to carry their product, saying it was one of the best gluten-free breads they had tasted. Now they’re just looking for investors. “It is possible,” Lawson affirms. “It’s possible to eat gluten free and still eat delicious food. It just takes a little experimenting.”
Most people who live gluten free suggest preparing a few basic homemade mixes—bread, waffles, pancakes, etc.—and storing those so that you can easily prepare these recipes. After you find the perfect flour mix for each recipe, combine all the dry ingredients, including the flours, sugars, xanthan gum, dried eggs, starches, and anything else into a bag. Attach recipes to the bags, giving proportions of dry to wet ingredients and directions for baking, and make sure you have those other ingredients on hand.