This may sound like a bizarre concept to families without allergies, and possibly even to those with. The first time I used the term, my husband* looked at me like I was crazy. “What’s emergency bread?” I explained what I meant by it, but it didn’t really sink in for him until we arrived home a few weeks later from a long trip, with hungry kids (and selves) and not much to eat in the house, and nothing that would be safe for our FPIES child without being cooked. I – somewhat smugly, I’ll admit – pulled the bread out of the freezer, popped a few slices in the toaster to defrost, and triumphantly announced, “THAT’S emergency bread!”
Now for us, bread is a staple and a common snack, since wheat is one of our safes. We haven’t found a safe bread that we can buy, and while it’s easy to make at home in our bread machine, it’s not exactly a quick process. So keeping an emergency loaf, pre-sliced, in the freezer buys us some time to get the rest of a meal together.
Again, what works for us may not work for your family, depending on your children’s ages and safes, but I hope you can take the principle and modify it for your family.
In the freezer, I always have a stash of individual-sized portions of food for my child with FPIES. I know that when you’re in the midst of dealing with the day-to-day of feeding a food allergy child, it can be hard to muster the energy to plan ahead, but I’ve found it to be easier to do this one meal at a time and build up my reserves that way, instead of trying to make an entire double batch of something.
This will depend a lot on what your safes are, but for us, a typical meal will be mini hamburger patties or grilled chicken, a carb (muffins, noodles, bread), and an applesauce pouch. So, for example, when I’m making hamburgers for lunch, I’ll just take two of those and put them in a snack-sized ziptop bag when they’ve cooled. Then, into the freezer to join other individual portions in a large, gallon-sized ziptop bag. The rest just get stored in the fridge for more immediate use. Same with other things I’ve made – muffins, biscuits, cookies, bread – just pop a few extra in the freezer as you make them. I also usually try to have these animal cookies on hand, since they make great snacks for in the car or school lunches.
I can’t even begin to describe how helpful this is in everyday life, on those days when you haven’t had time to go to the grocery store, or everyone gets sick all of a sudden, or even if you – strangely enough – want a break from cooking for just. one. meal. You can just grab a baggie from the freezer, reheat, and you’re ready to go.
It makes an even bigger difference in being able to get out for an unexpected adventure, whether that’s a last-minute picnic, or a day trip, or even just wanting to leave for a longer road trip without spending the entirety of the day before in the kitchen. Being able to grab a meal for our FPIES child straight out of the freezer has often made the difference between us taking off on an adventure or just staying home where life is easier.
For those of you thinking about going on a longer trip, one of my biggest pieces of advice is to make sure there is enough food in the freezer for one meal when you come home. Maybe it’s just me, but I am obsessive about making sure we have enough food for the travel times, and during our trip, but I often forget to plan for when we get back home. Your tired and hungry family (and self) will thank you when you arrive to an otherwise empty kitchen.
There are a few shelf-stable snacks we can buy, and I always try to keep those on hand. Our grocery store ran out of the one chip-type snack that’s safe for us, so I went straight home and ordered a case on Amazon. There are even a couple of snacks that come individually packaged, and these are worth their weight in gold when it comes to tossing some in a backpack or purse and heading out the door – or leaving a stash in the car or diaper bag.
I do want to say that in almost every other aspect of our cooking and eating, I try very hard to stick with more ecofriendly procedures. We use reusable sandwich baggies or bento box-style lunchboxes for school, store most of our food in glass containers, and recycle what we can. For most of our outings, we plan ahead and bring reusable snack containers. Because of this, I’m okay with using disposables for a last-minute or Plan B solution – I consider it as our fast-food disposables equivalent. Sometimes life happens, and I like being in a position to seize the day (and some food from the freezer if necessary).
Speaking of fast-food, for longer road trips, I have on occasion made our own Happy Meals, and they’ve always been a hit.
What does your family do to prep food for travel, sick days, or something-came-up days?
*For posterity, I want the record to show that my husband is an incredibly supportive partner when it comes to our family’s FPIES journey!
This post was written by FPIES Foundation guest blogger volunteer Janie. Janie Dullard lives in Pearland, Texas with her husband and two children, both diagnosed with FPIES as infants, though her oldest has now outgrown it. She works as a freelance editor and has written a children’s book, available here. Her days are spent chasing after her two preschool-aged children, working, and concocting strange FPIES-friendly foods that her children will sometimes even eat.