Because I read every label I have found some things that do not have wheat or other major allergens in the label where you would not expect them. This list represents some quick hints of things to look for if you are new to this and don’t want to spend all day looking at labels.
You still must look at the labels of everything you put in your cart in case things change.
The goal is to save you time.
For most of the items here I am considering them wheat free if they do not have wheat on the label. If the item has a gluten free label that will be mentioned.
Almost all spray oils have Soy Lecithin in them (including ones labeled 100% Virgin Olive Oil) with the possible exception of some of the high temperature versions designed for grills. (This has improved since this post was written, but most still have soy)
Almost all condensed soups have wheat in them. However the ones made by Pacific generally do not unless it is a soup that contains noodles. Pacific condensed soup is hard to find in mainstream stores (Probably you will have to go to Sprouts or equivalent health food grocery store to find it.) They also make some larger boxes of shelf stable soup that are ready to eat. These are found in a wide variety of stores. They are likely to be on the top shelves. When Pacific soups are labeled as gluten free it is generally on an obscure place on the label instead of right up front unlike most gluten free products.
Unlike almost everything they make including the versions of their soup that are ready for the microwave, the only Campbell’s soup that seems to be wheat free are the new plastic pouches that have the screaming kids on the front.
Hormel chill without beans has wheat protein, Hormel chili with beans may not have wheat in it. Dennison’s, Wolf, and Stagg (made by Hormel) may not have wheat in them.
Soy and Teriyaki sauce. Look for cheap store brands of soy sauce. On the high end look for San-J brand. Kikkoman even makes a gluten free version but it is very hard to find.
Some people stay away from palm products for allergy or environmental reasons. In cookies and other baked goods look for the cheap store brands in stores other than the Safeway chains. The last few times I checked everything I looked at in the Safeway cookie isle had a palm product in it.
Pringle’s generally all have wheat in them last time I checked. However Original Lay’s Stacks have a gluten free label. Most (but not all) Stacks are gluten free
Plain Potato chips might be ok. Doritos generally do not contain wheat ingredients but may be cross contaminated. Look here for more information on Frito-lay products: http://www.fritolay.com/nutrition/special-dietary-needs/us-gluten-free-products-and-products-not-containing-gluten-ingredients.htm
Brands to look for: Udi’s, Glutino, Van’s, San-J, Pacific, Schar and Mikee . Bob’s Red Mill is the name to look for in brand name gluten free flours and baking ingredients if you are in a main stream store. Bisquick makes a gluten free version that is available in most larger stores.
Barilla and some store brands like Kroger make gluten free pasta that can be found in major grocery stores. Generally you just have to look for it carefully. I recommend that if you are just starting out with gluten free pasta, select pasta made with a mxture of both corn and rice if possible as they will cook almost identical to the wheat pasta you are used to cooking.
If you see the “eating right for” brand in the store, you can probably find some of their gluten free products which are generally quite good! They make both frozen entrees and products that are competitors to Hamburger Helper.
Where are things in the stores?
Many stores have a gluten free section. It pays to ask if they have one. Some stores in a chain may have a gluten free section and other stores do not have one. I have been in a Walmart that had gluten free section including store branded gluten free pasta items. Most of the time if you ask a stock clerk in Walmart about a possible gluten free section they look at you like you were asking where the caviar is.
That does not mean that the gluten free stuff will only be there. I have never seen a store with a gluten free section that had all of their prominently labeled gluten free items in that section.
Bread is usually found in the freezer section. This is because gluten free bread does not generally have the shelf life that wheat bread does. Schar makes a shelf stable bread that is sealed in two layers of air tight packaging. I think this is basically canned bread. Once it is opened it should be eaten within a few days. Refrigerating gluten free bread changes the flavor. You can put what you know you will not eat promptly in a sealed bag in the fridge or freezer.
Sometimes you will see Udi’s or other normally frozen bread on the normal shelf. Be very careful with this. Frequently this means some store manager has decided that the bread would sell better when displayed with the other bread. When I see this I can usually find one on the shelf that has mold in it. Once thawed, it will only last a few days at most.
If you pick up a loaf of gluten free bread in a store and it feels like it is five times as heavy as you expect you will probably find that nobody will like eating that bread.
In the freezer section gluten free items may be scattered in amongst the normal items. For example, Tyson makes gluten free chicken strips and nuggets and they will likely be right between two other breaded Tyson products. I frequently find the gluten free products next to other specialty items like vegetarian burgers or turkey burgers.
If you have time and are in a store that you regularly shop at it is a good idea to look at every shelf and see what you can find. The grocery industry has not really decided how to deal with the issues in a consistent manner.