Published On: Fri, Oct 5th, 2012

Gluten-free at University

With the new term starting, for many of you this is the first time living alone. The transition from daughter/son to independent young adult is hard enough, but if you have a food allergy like myself, it is even harder. You have to be extra careful when you shop; the basic cost of food is more expensive; you have to be careful of cross contamination in your own kitchen, and don’t even think a greasy take away after a night out is safe – it isn’t. Being a coeliac means you have a gluten intolerance. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts and triticale. Most companies don’t specify whether their products contain gluten or not, so you have to read the ingredients section very carefully; if you spot ONE of these ingredients or the note ‘Produced in a factory that produces products containing gluten’, PUT IT BACK ON THE SHELF unless you want to be very ill for the next couple of days.

It isn’t easy being a coeliac at University, and watching your flatmates eat Two for Tuesdays from Domino’s Pizza is torture, but I am here to let you in on a few secrets I have learned during my 3 years here at Liverpool University. Today I’ll be giving you a few quick hints to help you along, and each week I’ll continue to keep you up to date with more information and even some recipes and money saving tips.

Living with a father who was also a coeliac back home was easy as he sorted everything, but when the time came around for me to ‘go it alone’, suddenly shopping become a necessity I had to do alone. I went to supermarket after supermarket for the cheapest gluten-free products; after days of walking around I had a breakthrough, as I found Asda on Smithdown Road. The supermarket does the largest range of gluten-free products in the area, with its own ‘free from’ range as well as top labels like Warburtons, Genius and DS. The prices are good and they tend to have one or two offers each week. Massive tip: if you go at the right time on a Sunday evening (half an hour before it closes), and go to the reduced section you may find discounted bread! RESULT! I went every Sunday and found discounted bread, along with a bunch of other items. Gluten-free bread lasts a lot longer than normal bread, so stock up because chances are the bread will last another two weeks – but if you’re worried, take some freezer space up and freeze some. If Asda doesn’t offer you what you want, try the large Tesco in town on Hanover Street; prices are higher, but the selection is good and is ideal if you want sweet products such as cakes, muffins and cookies, which Asda seems to lack in.

I, like so many of you, shared a kitchen with 6 other people in my halls – none of whom had any allergies or understood what coeliac disease was. Trying to explain to them that they WILL make you ill by using your cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils is easier said than done, but cross contamination is more common with university students than any other group of people, so it needs to be done ASAP – otherwise, you will end up like me and ill by the fourth day in Liverpool. One item I found essential when I moved to university was toaster bags; they are a couple of pounds for re-usable ones, or non-reusable ones a pound. Most retail supermarkets will stock them, including Poundland, but I have found reusable toaster bags cheaper on eBay, and reusable will cause less of a hole in your pocket.

A website I would recommend for any coeliacs out there is Coeliac UK. The website includes information and help from the NHS and fellow coeliacs, keeps you up to date with any changes in companies’ ingredients and sends you a free information book which comes in very handy when unsure whether you are able to eat certain products. Have a quick look and sign up; it will benefit you in the long room. Whilst you’re at it, sign up to ANY gluten free companies you know of: Juvela, Genius, DS, Barkat. Chances are, they will send you a massive free sample hampler like this:

I got this little lot yesterday, I do it every start of term. Trust me, it’s a money saver. Do it!

Well, for now I will leave you with this small bit of information; next week I’ll be informing you of a lot more. Until then, good luck.

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