We are a family of 5 (Mom, Dad, three kids aged 2,5,8 when we started GAPS) and we are doing the GAPS thing as a family. We were previously following much of the Nourishing Traditions and Alice Water’s recommendations. GAPS seemed like a necessary step to help with my yound son’s multiple food allergies. As our kids grow, as do their extra-curricular activities (church choir, piano lessons, sports, and hobies). There are times when GAPS feels great- we have adjusted our eating and lifestyle to focus on gut health as much as possible, we lost some weight, feel good about our dollar-votes). Even though we often times neglect the non-food lifestyle components of the protocol, we try to remain active outdoors and sleep as well as we can. But no doubt about it, GAPS is a lot of work compared to the standard American (or other developed countries that have similar habits) diet. It is not convenient. It takes planning, careful shopping, and quite candidly a boatload of labor per meal. But we have reached a point (3.5 years in) where we have made certain choices to simplify things and occasionally that has meant purchasing store-bought items that are GAPS-compliant (or close enough). I will share in this post (and update over time) products we’ve tried, some items we use and tips for making GAPS more convenient. Sure there are times when we probably get more Omega 6 than optimal, but hey, we take fermented Cod Liver Oil so cut us some slack!
Store bought items we rely on
- Organic Valley or KerryGold butter (we experimented with making our own from milk, but it seemed unnecessary)
- Lara Bar check labels carefully-not all varieties are GAPS legal. Box discount of 10% at Whole Foods or order via Amazon Prime to save $$
- Clif Kit’s Fruit and Nut bars. Box discount of 10% at Whole Foods or order via Amazon Prime to save $$
- Organic canned tomatoes (when our summer stock runs out) – GAPS recommends against this but we do a lot of tomato-based sauces (see Grow Your Own below)
- Applegate Great Uncured Hot Dogs
- Applegate Farms roast turkey or roast beef (be careful because there are other varieties of their lunchmeat that have sugar- Whole Foods often has these on sale at the deli counter)
- Crofter’s Organic just-fruit jam
- US Wellness Meats (sugarless bacon, soy-free chicken, beef sticks, beef jerky-read my related post ) (mail order)
- Whole Foods rotisserie chicken (Herb crusted chicken, Salt and Pepper chicken, or naked chicken) – and lately we’ve become fans of the family meal that includes roasted potatoes and garlic green beans. Supposedly just olive oil and herbs on the veges
- Pickle-It is a product that accelerates fermentation and prevents unwanted airborne molds from entering the food chamber. The fermentation lock fits into a small opening in the lid, similar I am told to one that homebrew beer folks use. We have only been using this for a month or two, but it has made faster batches of sauerkraut and other veges like green beans, turnips (yuck-I don’t like them but others do), and peppers.
- Anytime you cook a meal, make enough for leftovers, period. The only meal we don’t usually do leftovers of is breakfast. Some meals we simply eat leftover for lunch the next day. Some meals (like meatballs, sausage, pizza sauce) we make and freeze for future use.
- Waffles make great sandwich bread! Every Sunday I make waffles or pancakes. It’s a tradition that pre-dates our GAPS excursion. I always make a quadruple batch of the recipe on this blog (it’s the maximum I can fit in the Vitamix). My daughter takes an almond-butter and jam sandwich to school everyday (sometimes two)
- Bone broth weekend. We collect bones in the freezer. Chicken, pork, beef, even duck, we got em all. It is a huge effort to make bone broth, and some of them really stink up the house and its inhabitants (you know a GAPS family by the smell of bone broth in their clothes)! But we try to make big batches and keep them on-hand in the fridge 1/2 gallon Mason jars. We don’t drink broth as much as we should (after year two we slacked off a bit), but we make plenty of meals during the week that include broth. The trick is to start the broth in the morning on a Saturday or Sunday. After 1/2 hour soak in cider+water, let it simmer all day. Since we are typically on the go during either or both of those days, you don’t end up smelling like broth (until you pour the broth out into jars which is typically at night after the kids are in bed).
- Deep-freezer or second refrigerator is really helpful and can be economical. Fermented foods, bone broths, stocked up frozen meat, veges or fruits take a lot of space. Having a second fridge or a deep freeze given you space to park the backup items. Plus, you can take advantage of bulk buying, shopping clubs, and seasonal pick-your-own bargains. This year we bought a deep-freeze for about $500. We also had someone give us a deer carcass (which we cut up for dog food) thereby saving on the dog’s food (he’s on the raw diet). We also bought half a grassfed/finished cow which gave us about 250lbs of meat for about $4 per pound (equivalent purchase at the farmers market runs about $7.50 on average per pound depending on the cut of meat) saving about $800 [250 * ($7.50 – $4) = $800] We also can take advantage of buying bulk from US Wellness meats (free shipping and they often have discounts on bulk purchases). We do a lot of trips to the pick-your-own blueberry, cherry, peach farms near our house (at $3 per pound we save big bucks compared to buying at the store). So we tend to freeze bags of those. Each year we also had a bumper crop of chestnuts so we freeze those too (I noticed the newer edition of GAPs recommends against chestnuts, but we’ve had no issues and they grow on our property). So for us, the deep freeze has already paid for itself.
- Grow your own! OK, I know, this section is supposed to be about efficiency? You don’t need or want more chores to do in the garden. But there are two points to ponder in the context of efficiency: money and time. Money- growing vegetables can be very cost efficient. A little dirt, some compost, a few seeds and you have veges for months (and if you put them up perhaps all year through). I will grant you it is work, but consider this. In our little garden, we grew about 50-lbs of tomatoes, about 10 lbs of cukes, about 10 butternut squash, 12 cooking pumpkins, 40 garlic plants, and about 80% of the herbs we use for cooking (rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, parsley, cilantro, chives, mint). We also did starts of kale, collards and chard that produced all we needed about 6 months. We have not been as diligent as we should about weeding, so we could have grown even more. The tomatoes were all grown from about $5 worth of seed and $15 to make my own seed-starting mix. The transplants were 4 for $3 at the farmer’s market. We played around with growing carrots, spaghetti squash, peas, peppers but didn’t have as much luck. The point is, if you can find a way to garden just a little bit, you save tons of money over buying organic produce at the store/market. As for time efficiency of gardening- as our hero Robb Wolf (author of The Paleo Solution book/blog/podcast) reminds his readers/listeners, outdoor chores like raking leaves, gardening, and cutting firewood are in effect exercise. So if you consider that chore time as a replacement for gym-time or whatever exercise time you spend, then gardening can be time efficient.
I hope to add more product and efficiency ideas to this post as time goes by.