grocery guides are helpful in purchasing mainstream brands of foods that happen to be gluten free (which can be much cheaper than always buying specialty products). I have 3 separate coeliac / gluten-free grocery guides that I’ve purchased. note that none of them are the most recent versions available, but they were all within the past couple of years, so I will tell you which edition I’m referring to in my reviews, as I’m sure each may have made improvements with each edition. I also want to mention that although there are more and more gluten free restaurant guides being published online for free, I’ve yet to find one for grocery guides. in my opinion it’s better to have a book to carry along to the grocery store anyway, because you never know which brands they’ll carry until you get there.
I start with my favorite grocery guide: Cecelia’s Marketplace. Cecelia’s Marketplace grocery guides are small and thick, easy to throw in a big purse and bring to the store. I own the 2008/2009 edition. the items are listed alphabetically, and under broad terms. an example would be to look under “sausage”, whether you’re looking for breakfast sausages, deli meat sausages, or summer sausage. but if you try to look something up too specifically, it’ll usually direct you to the heading it’s listed under. so it’s pretty easy to use. a great benefit to Cecelia’s Marketplace is that they actually have 3 versions: gluten free, gluten and dairy free, and gluten, dairy & soy free. so if you have additional allergies, it saves a lot of time checking labels. also, on their website (which is where you’d order the books from) they update things that are in their guide that are no longer gluten free (changed formulas, etc). this is also quite helpful~ it saves me from having to order a new book each year. I also found that this guide had a lot more main-stream brands than other guides.
Triumph Dining also has a grocery guide. I bought the first edition, where it was normal-sized paper and pretty thin. but since then (they just released their 3rd edition) they’ve made their books small and thick (like Cecelia’s). in my version, it’s split into grocery sections, as you’d find in the aisles of the store, which is a nice format. it’s a helpful book, but I found that there were fewer main-stream brands and more specific grocery chain brands, like Safeway, Albertsons, Hy-Vee, Wegmans, etc, that made up their GF product lists (in the edition I have). since there aren’t too many of those grocery stores in the area, those items weren’t as helpful to me. but in certain foods I looked for, it was quite helpful. I’m sure they’ve added more products since my edition as well.
the third grocery guide that I own is the Celiac Sprue Association’s product guide from 2007. this comes in two forms: CD or binder. I bought the binder, which is like an inch or more thick. it has many more products than the other guides. they not only list food products, but also beauty products, lotions, home cleaning products, and many other items, which can be quite helpful. it’s a large binder though, so it’s not as easy to tote around to the grocery stores.
I like each of these books for various reasons, and I find it helpful to cross-reference all three at times. for instance, they all list a ton of BBQ sauces, but when I go to the store, I might have to search through 2 or 3 of my guides before I find a brand that my store carries. there are just too many BBQ sauces out there! so I’m glad that I have one of each.
if you only buy one (or one at a time), I’d start with what’s most important to you. if you’re just starting out and want to know all the non-food items to be concerned about as well as foods, you may want the huge CSA product listing. if you’d rather have a “pocket-sized” book, the Triumph Dining or Cecelia’s might be the way to go. and if you have additional allergies like dairy or soy, Cecelia’s would be a good option. all of the books are helpful when you get to the store, it’s just a matter of personal preference.
Post Script: I later came across another mainstream source of information, Clan Thompson. they have a grocery guide, and others, including a restaurant guide that contains gluten free menus of 33 restaurants, gluten free alcohol products, drugs (prescription and OTC sold separately), and an “everything else” guide that includes laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, soaps, craft products, etc. I haven’t explored these guides, but I’ve heard good things about them from people. it doesn’t appear that their grocery or restaurant guides are quite as extensive as other brands, but they may update them more regularly (they note the dates of their verification process). so that could be a nice bonus.