Confessions of a Shop-a-holic

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yesterday I had the pleasure crossing the border with my dear friend Lori for some shopping in Amherst, New York! We've gone many times before, (usually every three months or so) but this was a special trip because of my food sensitivity results. In the past I've been excited to visit the Weight Watchers Center to pick up some of the products we don't have in Canada as well as shop for a large quantity of snacks at Target and Wegmans, but with my most recent lifestyle change that was not going to be feasible.

I started my day with a bowl of brown rice cereal with almond milk and some beautiful organic berries.
The cereal got soggy sort of quickly, but the berries were bursting with flavor. Sunday was such a beautiful day to do anything, but a wonderful day for a drive! The last time we crossed the border it has been foggy, cloudy and raining so the glorious sunshine was a refreshing change. It was a smooth drive all the way over (Lori's GPS system "Tom" made sure that he got us there) and there was only a short wait at the border crossing. Luckily I had brought along a Pecan Pie larabar to tie me over until lunch. 

We started off the day at Target.
I love that place. Target makes me really happy and I often walk out with a few bags of stuff. I didn't find any clothes this time around but did walk away with some amazing deals on other stuff. Organic Cotton Sheets - $50! New yoga mat -$9! Yoga block & strap - $9! New yoga pants - $21! I got a little bit sad while walking around the grocery aisles. Normally I would be stocking up on cool 100 calorie packs and Fiber One products, but I got over that quickly as soon as I focused on the other wonderful things I had purchased. I reassured myself that I would find lots of great things later on...

Our next stop was the Boulevard Mall.

Most people make that assumption that we go New York to hit up the outlet stores but that is not the case. We've never actually gone to the outlet stores together nor do we feel like we need to. Before we go I often print off a bunch of coupons for the stores in the mall and we're usually pleased by the fresh selection they offer our Canadian eyes!

Since Sunday was my first "official" day of the elimination diet, I had done some research to find a restaurant where I could eat. Lori and I have always had trouble eating in the States because she is a vegetarian and I look for things that are WW-friendly. We've never gone hungry but I wanted to be prepared due to my new way of eating. I searched 'gluten free Buffalo' and came across this site, which directed me to a list of restaurants that had gluten free options. I chose Carrabba's Italian Grill because it also had some vegetarian-friendly options for Lori!

Carraba's has an entire gluten-free menu

I had determined in advance that I would have Chicken Gratella because it seemed to work with my other sensitivities. I started with a salad.

I asked for my dressing to be put on the side (realizing fully that I wouldn't be eating it because it had vinegar and potentially other things that I can't eat) I picked out the tomatoes (can't have) and olives (don't like) and topped it with some of the olive oil with herbs that had been left on the table. When our server let us know that the vegetable of the day was green beans, I realized that I had a problem. I can't eat green beans. So I opted for just mashed potatoes. 

Ummmm... Ashley? Mashed potatoes usually have milk, butter or cream in them

I had been so focused on selecting a gluten free entree that I had forgotten about some of my other sensitivities. My meal arrived with three scoops of cream-laden mashed potatoes and my chicken was coated in black pepper.

Oh dear, I forgot about the pepper.

I tried to scrape most of the pepper off and despite the dairy, I decided to have some of the mashed potatoes. It was day one and it was an educational experience for me. The people at Carraba's were lovely, the food was very good and they were really accommodating to my requests.

Since we were all fueled up, our next stop was TJ Maxx.

For my fellow Canadians - TJ Maxx is kind of like Winners, but usually better! I almost always walk out of there with something fabulous and well-priced! (Last summer - Liz Clairborne boots for $15!!) This time my sights were set on a fantastic Michael Kors handbag.

It was love at first sight. I had seen a bag at Banana Republic a few days before in a similar colour, but had wanted a different style. I tried to find it at the Banana Republic at the Boulevard Mall but they didn't have anything left in that colour, so finding this bag was like fate! The bag was priced at a fraction of what it would retail for in stores and I simply adore the colour. Lori found some great workout gear and a fantastic trunk that she is going to use as a coffee table - I wish I had taken a picture as it's super nice!

With the handbag and trunk stored away, we gleefully started the next part of our journey: food shopping.

We made a quick stop at Feel Rite.

Do you find that all "health food stores" have the same smell?? This place smelled just like the Carrot which smells like Noah's which smells like every other health food store I've ever been in. I found some gluten free cookies that worked alongside my other sensitivities and some Better N Peanut Butter. I found the prices to be similar to what we have in Canada and other than those two items there was nothing that screamed I MUST HAVE THIS.

People laugh when I say that my favourite store that we visit in Amherst is Wegmans but it is honestly great!!

Lori and I signed up for the Shoppers Club because I had read about it online. We always go there when we're in the US, so why not save some money too? We were probably in there for at least an hour. Again, I was a little sad about all the things that I couldn't have but they have a fairly extensive natural section with a dedicated gluten free aisle and I was able to find a lot of fun things that I can have. I got some items I had never seen before but also picked up some items because they were just really good prices compared to what I pay here (Puffins - 2/$5, case of larabars - $20) Here is a picture of all my food purchases!

Two varieties of Enjoy Life  gluten free granola, Pamela's ginger cookies, Better n Peanut Butter, sweet coconut thai chai tea, vegan grated topping, Earth Balance spread, ricemellow fluff, corn tortillas, Wegmans soy chips, 2 jars of Dark Chocolate Dreams, Tofu Shirataki noodles, Peanut Butter Puffins, Envirokidz Gorilla Munch, coconut milk yogurt and a whole lotta larabars

Since our Wegmans stop was a little bit long and there had been a number of people crossing the border on our way in, we decided to have dinner before heading home.

Um, what do we eat?

We decided to check out the menu at Applebee's since I recalled seeing that they had a Weight Watchers menu.
They have a number of selections on their menu that are labelled with the WW logo with the number of Points listed (although I just read that there was a lawsuit filed against Applebee's for giving false nutritional information...eek!)

Since I had chosen chicken for lunch I decided to branch out a little bit and select the Steak & Portobellos:

Juicy, flame-grilled 4 oz. sirloin steak topped with sliced, sautéed portobello mushrooms and a savory brown sauce. Paired with steamed herb potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

Learning from my earlier experience, I asked for the entree to be served without the mushrooms and brown sauce and asked that the chef not use any black pepper on my medium-well steak.

It arrived looking like this...
which was perfect! (There was a runny substance on the potatoes that I suspected was butter-based, but there wasn't very much and I scraped it off) It tasted great and my body was very happy that I chose steak. 4 oz was the perfect amount for me and was cooked exactly how I liked it. Lori's Veggie Patch Pizza was a little less successful, but only due to the sheer amount of cheese they used. Overall it was a great way to end the day and it was great for me to utilize some of the knowledge I had gained from earlier restaurant experience.

It was a great day of shopping and a fun way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon! I know that things will get easier as I get to know the ins and outs of my sensitivities and learn what I need to look for and ask for. Day one really wasn't so bad and now I'm stocked up with some exciting products to make the next few weeks that much easier!

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