Sunday, November 14, 2010

5 Tips to Surviving House-sitting

So, this past weekend I had the pleasure of staying at a friend's house and watching her kiddos.  For the most part, this was a very painless and fun experience.  I had a few weekends away over the last few months, to really get a feel for what's needed to pack for meals.  My friend is a pretty wholesome eater, so I knew her pantry was pretty well-stocked with basics.  But I put together a game plan for those stays with friends when you've got to be gluten-free and dairy free.
Photo by Adam Belles

  • Do an Inventory
If you can check out the pantry you'll be confined to, it'll help you get an idea to what you'll be dealing with.  Sometimes, it can be awkward asking over the phone, "So, whatcha got in your fridge?"  You don't necessarily want the person to feel obligated to spend a hundred bucks on pre-packaged meals from Trader Joe's....mmmm.....Trader Joe's....I digress.  But if you can get a feel for what you have to work with, you can pack less.  If they have rice, beans and corn tortillas, I'm good to go.  Also, my family can have oatmeal, (I know not all gf people can,) so, knowing the my friend had all these things, I was able to work around our meals.
  • Pack Some Basics
 If you're planning on doing a little baking, don't forget the xanthan gum, or guar gum.  Also, bring flaxseed meal for egg substitution, and rice or almond milk for any dairy needs.
  • Stick to Staples
For my family, this means I bring rice noodles wherever I go.  They're simple, the thin ones can be cooked in 2 minutes, and my kids love them.  It may mean gf cereal and almond milk for your family.  It may mean eating in a rut for a weekend, but sometimes, it's more about survival than exotic new dishes.
  • Get Creative
The best part about staying at someone else's home is being forced to try new things.  It's like getting clothes from a friend rather than buying them at a store.  I think, "I'd never buy it myself, but I really like it."  It expands your tastes and stretches your GF Dairy Free comfort zone.  And if your kids don't eat it, don't worry, they'll only go to bed hungry once before they break down and eat what's in front of them.
  • Be Strategic (AKA, Pick Your Battles)
I sat down and drew out a loose idea of what the meals would look like each day.  Then I baked a double batch recipe of my chocolate pumpkin muffins, and went on over.  A lot of my plans went out the window, but I created more than I thought I would.  I baked a pumpkin pie and made pumpkin pancakes, (my kids were so sick of them, they had oatmeal, while my friend's kids ate up the pancakes like they were the greatest thing in the world!) I wish I had remembered my xanthan gum to improve the texture of the pie, but...next time.  I was going to make a loaf of bread to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but ran out of time.  So I made pasta, (whole wheat for her kids, rice noodles for mine,) and whipped up a sauce.

I'm really trying to master the balance between keeping my family healthy and being a gracious guest.  My only solution so far is to bring the meals, which I love doing.  We'll see how things progress.

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