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When my husband received his Celiac diagnosis, I was a little overwhelmed. We’d figured the diagnosis was coming and we have family members who have been eating gluten free for years, but making such a big lifestyle change in our home was daunting. I felt like everything was going to have to change and our kitchen and food storage would need a complete overhaul!
It’s been almost six months since we started incorporating gluten free foods into our house, and I can honestly say that it has been a million times easier than I thought it would be! I’ve been grateful for family and friends who eat gluten free and have shared their methods and favorite foods. We’ve done a lot of research, joined groups on social media, found some great websites and experimented with different foods until we found the ones that my husband enjoyed.
There are still days when being gluten free is hard! Being “glutened” is never fun and food isn’t quite as enjoyable at this point in the journey. My husband doesn’t full enjoy some of the gluten free alternatives to his favorite gluten filled foods, like pizza and oreos, but I know that after a few years, he’ll hardly remember the difference, at least that’s what family members who have been eating gluten free for years have said. I’ve made it my personal mission to test every gluten free option available until I find the things that my husband enjoys eating. He will tell you that without my dedication to finding good, gluten free food options, he would be eating protein bars for every meal.
6 Things to Do After Receiving a Celiac Diagnosis
Decide the level of gluten free your house will be
In our house, we’ve decided not to go completely gluten free, we just make efforts to avoid cross contamination and make non-gluten substitutions for the meals that our entire family will be eating together. I know some people who have chosen to eliminate gluten in their house altogether, to give the gluten free family member the best chance at healing and a safe place that they can eat without risk of getting sick.
You have to decide what will work best for your family, with input from your doctor on what you might specifically need to do to help heal your body. I would just suggest remembering that for those in your family without a gluten intolerance, adopting a completely gluten free lifestyle might actually be more harmful than good. If you are able to set some rules and do things that will keep your house safe for your digestive system, while allowing your family to eat regularly as much as possible, that’s the best thing to do.
Prepare your house to be a gluten free environment
Getting our house ready for my husband to start eating gluten free might have been one of the most overwhelming parts of his diagnosis. There were so many things to do, and every time we crossed one thing off of our list, we thought of three more things to do. Having this list already written for you will hopefully help to relieve some of that stress as you make changes to your daily routine.
Wash everything! It’s time consuming, but I promise it’s worth it, especially if your gluten intolerance is more severe. When I say everything, I really mean everything. Run a few loads in the dishwasher to clean silverware and dishes extra well. Dedicate one night to washing every pot/pan/cooking utensil in hot, soapy water, using a brand new sponge that hasn’t washed anything yet. Make sure it’s all clean and officially gluten free.
Purchase new appliances. If there are any appliances that you can’t easily clean or make gluten free friendly, you might want to get a second one. The biggest thing I thought about with this was the toaster. We purchased a cheap one that stays in a cupboard to avoid getting any crumbs inside and so it can be dedicated to gluten free products.
Create gluten free space. To avoid cross-contamination, if your family has decided not to have a completely gluten free household, create space in any area with food, that you plan to make completely gluten free. Bleach and clean one counter top really well and dedicate it to gluten free food prep only! It might be a good idea to post a sign on that counter space to remind you as you’re working to create new habits. We also have a gluten free side of the pantry where my husband knows he can grab snacks and other things without having to read the label. There’s a drawer in the fridge that serves the same purpose and an entire shelf in our upstairs freezer filled with his gluten free food.
Avoid cross-contamination with shared food items
A lot of condiments, sauces and dressings could be gluten free, but can become easily cross contaminated if they come in contact with something that contains gluten. The most common way this could happen is if you’re using a knife to spread something on a bun or piece of bread and then put it back into the jar after it has touched gluten. Or if you’re using something with a nozzle that you let get too close to the gluten filled food.
We have a separate, small chunk of butter in a tightly sealed container that is deemed “gluten free”. I use it when I’m buttering corn before grilling it, for a roux or to add into anything that I’m intentionally making gluten free, and my husband uses it on his pancakes or toast or anything else that he’s buttering. We also have the squeeze bottle mayo and other condiments and dressings to eliminate potential cross-contamination. Our peanut butter, jams and jellies are harder because they don’t get used enough by my husband to warrant his own container, so I’m just very aware and don’t put knives back in after using them on regular bread and such. We go through a lot of knives this way sometimes, but it works!
Be willing to try new things and branch out!
If you find or hear about a new brand of something that is gluten free, try it out! We found a decent pizza that we liked, but still continued to try different brands. A few brands later, we found one that my husband loved even more! There are so many gluten free options for everything you can thing of out there, and we’re lucky that gluten free foods are continually improving and becoming available. Even though your favorite foods might not taste quite the same, you can find an alternative that’s much better than eating cardboard. ;)
You’ll find the brands that you love and trust and start to buy those regularly, so don’t worry that you’ll spend the rest of your life reading every single label in the grocery store. Yes, there will be label reading and research whenever you’re in a new place or at a party, because you can never be too careful, but it will get easier, I promise! Six months in and I’m already feeling more confident in the purchases that I make at the grocery store.
Educate yourself on different sources of gluten
We have learned, and are still learning, that there are many places that gluten hides. A quick check of an ingredients list might not reveal any obvious gluten, but there are a lot of lesser known gluten sources that go by other names. I'm still learning, but to help me out, I downloaded this free resource from Good for You Gluten Free. It lists 100 potential names and sources of gluten and is really helpful for anyone with celiac disease!
Join a few social media groups
One of the best things about social media is that there is a group for everything! We joined a couple of local gluten free groups because they’re a great resource for finding gluten friendly
Gluten Free Meal Options and Snack Ideas
The tips and food options listed in this post have been key in helping us manage this celiac diagnosgoimove forward without too much upheaval in our home. I have personally tasted every single one of the gluten free foods that are shared and they have come recommended by multiple other people, so you know that they’re good! I’d highly recommend doing some research and taste testing of your own! My husband’s preferences are based on both flavor and texture, where another person might have different preferences. You might enjoy thin crust pizza, giving you other options, where he wants to get as close to that thick pizza crust as possible so he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out! There are also a lot of options out there for making your own breads and other baked goods from scratch, that’s just not something that we’ve experimented with yet, but we will write another post with recipes and tips when we do.
Gluten free staples to keep stocked
Gluten free breads
We’ve tried a few different brands of bread, from fresh to frozen, and we have a couple of favorite brands. Franz is great to use for making French toast and Canyons is the best brand for sandwiches and toast. Even my kids love having cinnamon toast on the gluten free bread, but it’s expensive stuff so we don’t share with them very much.
My husband doesn’t eat bread very often and gluten free bread will go bad a lot quicker than a regular loaf. To help it last longer, we freeze half the loaf and put the other half in the fridge. Then I make a point to serve sandwiches of some kind for dinner or pack them in his lunch to use up that bread if it hasn’t been eaten within a week.
Gluten free buns
Your options are often limited when it comes to buns. If you go out to eat, you’ll notice that a lot of restaurants use one specific, well-known brand of gluten free bun, which has not been our favorite. Red Robin has the very best gluten free bun that we have found and we are on the hunt for what that is so we can purchase them and have them on hand for my husband to use. (I’ll update this post when I’ve found them.)
Canyons is again, one of the best brands out there! They have hot dog buns, hamburger buns and a hoagie roll type bun you can use for sandwiches and other meals. Schar has a great hoagie roll that could be used tor sandwiches or to put your lettuce wraps on from your favorite restaurants. It’s great to buy a bag and keep them in your deep freeze, so you can pull them out quickly for a party, dinner or when you’re going out.
Other gluten free breads
Canyons has the best gluten free bagels, in a variety of flavors. And Mission has gluten free flour tortillas if you don’t like corn or are getting tired of just eating that all the time. We haven’t found a great option for fluffy gluten free dinner rolls, although we have a few recipes we need to try, but whenever we have rolls at a Sunday family dinner, I bring Brazilian cheese bites for Joe to eat instead and he hasn’t minded that swap. Gluten free bread crumbs are a big one as well, and I found the only option at our grocery store and haven’t noticed a difference when I use it in our meals occasionally.
Gluten free flours
I mentioned that we haven’t ventured into a lot of baking, so we haven’t needed to use the flours we bought very often. I like having it on hand to bread chicken or use in a roux or even to roll out the pre-made sugar cookies before I cut them into cute shapes. The two brands that have been recommended to me multiple times, and that I have stocked in my pantry are Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur Flour. I have used the King Arthur flour on a few occasions to replace flour in a breading our as a thickener in a sauce and so far it’s been really great! As I learn how to use gluten free flours a bit better and which kind is best for what (all-purpose, almond, tapioca), I’ll write another post and share!
Gluten free sauces, dressing and condiments
Sauces, dressings and condiments can be one of the hidden sources of gluten. The top three that I’ve found to contain gluten are soy sauce, barbecue sauce and teriyaki sauce. Because the thickening agents for a lot of these things often are a gluten based source, you have to be cautious and really pay attention to the ingredients label. Whatever sauce or dressing you are purchasing, be sure to read the labels!
There are a few different brands of barbecue sauce that are safe for those with a gluten intolerance of some kind, but Sweet Baby Ray’s is our personal favorite, and they have a great chicken dipping sauce you can get as well. La Choy labels their products as “always gluten free” which is great for soy sauce but also for things like sweet and sour sauce if you want to use that to make homemade Chinese food. I also recently discovered the brand San-J, which has a variety of Asian sauces and other products, all gluten free! They might be our go to brand for the future because they offer such a variety and everything we’ve tasted has been great so far!
Gluten free breakfast ideas
French toast - I mentioned that we really like using the Franz brand gluten free bread for French toast at our house. But because it’s more expensive than a regular loaf of bread, the rest of the family uses regular bread for ours. I have a big griddle that we use to cook things like French toast and pancakes on and I really love it! To avoid cross contamination issues, I make sure that I clean the skillet really well in between uses and cook the gluten free French toast before anything touches the griddle with each use.
Egg-wich - This is my husband’s go to breakfast. Jimmy Dean makes a “bunless” breakfast sandwich that uses two egg frittata type things as the bun that sandwiches a sausage patty and cheese. They cook quickly in the microwave and are great for on the go, plus they’re pretty filling! It’s a more expensive breakfast option, but my husband really enjoys them so I’ll continue to buy them.
Pancakes or Waffles - There are great gluten free mixes out there for all sorts of home baked goods, including pancakes and waffles. I haven’t tried any of them yet, because my husband doesn’t love those foods for breakfast, but I know that they’re out there! I’ve also noticed (and tried) a couple of different freezer waffles that you can pop into the toaster and eat. I thought they were decent, but definitely not as good as the real deal. This is one of those things that you have to experiment until you find something that fits the taste and texture that you’re used to.
Oatmeal - This is one I feel I need to mention because if you don’t look for gluten-free labeled oats, you could be risking cross-contamination from the manufacturer. I LOVE having a container of slow-cooked oatmeal in my fridge that I can eat throughout the week and feed to my kids as well. Oatmeal packets can be good for a quick breakfast, but not necessarily safe for someone eating gluten free, so pre-cooked oatmeal is the best, quick alternative.
I put a cup of oats, a cup of water, a dash of salt and sometimes some flaxseed in a pan on the stove. Then I turn the heat on the lowest it will go and let it simmer, uncovered, stirring it every five minutes or so until it’s thickened up. It can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, but it’s so worth the wait! Dish up a bowl in the morning and heat it in the microwave, then add any fruit, nuts or other add-ins that you like!
Protein Shake - If you’re not big on breakfast, but do need something to eat in the morning, a protein shake might be a good alternative! My husband takes one of the Premier Protein shakes in the cookies and cream flavor or the chocolate flavor, every morning with his breakfast sandwich. I also use the same brand as a base for my smoothies every morning. You can reference this post for my favorite protein smoothie recipes if that’s something you enjoy. We love the Premier Protein brand because it has the highest amount of protein for any shake we’ve seen (30g per shake) and only 1g of sugar and they taste really good!
Cereal - There are gluten free cereals you can get to replace your favorite cereals that you ate before your diet change. My husband’s personal choice is rice chex or corn chex sprinkled with a little sugar. Be cautious of cereals like Cheerios and other cereals that don’t contain gluten, because they’ve been reported to have still been making people sick because of cross-contamination at the manufacturer. They may be made gluten free, but those flying particles can ruin a good, comfort filled bowl of your favorite cereal with milk. Read labels and be aware of what you’re eating!
Gluten free meals and alternatives
Tortillas - Taco Tuesday is alive and well at our house, so a good gluten free tortilla is a must! My husband has mentioned that he prefers eating corn or white corn tortillas with whatever I make, but Mission brand also has a flour tortilla option out there that isn’t too bad, it just tends to be more fragile than a regular tortilla.
Pasta - We used to eat pasta multiple times a week in our house. We don’t eat it quite as often, and mostly get ours from Noodles & Co. which has great gluten free options. For good gluten free pasta at home, we suggest the Barilla brand. Gluten free pasta doesn’t tend to reheat quite as well or last long in a pasta salad without getting too mushy, so we usually only make what will be eaten right then.
Chinese - We eat orange chicken on a regular basis at our house. Our favorite freezer brand is Hart, and we recently discovered that they make a really good gluten free freezer version of their orange chicken as well, so we stock up on a bag of each whenever it’s on the menu. For other Chinese food favorites, we grab a bottle of sauce from the San-J brand line because they have a wide variety that we can use to make any dish. Tapioca flour has been a great breading in place of flour when we’re making our own at home and it fries really well. Rice noodles are also great for mixing with soy sauce, chicken and veggies for lo mein.
Pizza - This has been our biggest gluten free challenge because a lot of the options out there are more of a thin crust and my husband really enjoys a good crust on pizza. Freschetta or Kroger brand gluten free pizzas have a decent crust that he’ll eat and really enjoys. His very favorite frozen pizza so far is the Sabatasso’s brand from Costco. It comes in a three pack, is bigger than most gluten free pizzas and he really enjoys it. We love to grab cheese pizzas and add our own toppings before popping them in the oven. If we’re going for a white sauce or barbecue sauce pizza, the Caulipower brand has a great crust that comes in a three pack in the freezer section of the grocery store and can be topped with anything your heart desires!
Chicken - You can always find a great, grilled alternative to things like chicken wings, chicken tenders, chicken patties, etc. We’ve also found a brand of breaded chicken strips at Harmon’s that is gluten free, but it’s expensive for a small box. If you’re not into the grilled chicken and really like yours breaded, I suggest using gluten free bread crumbs or I like to crush up crackers or chex cereal to use in its place.
Misc. Foods - It’s been really easy to make our meals gluten free, with just a few tweaks in the sauce or the thickener. Sometimes we’ll have two pots of pasta going on the stove so there’s a gluten free alternative, or I’ll just make rice to use as the base. By making a few tweaks and keeping our dinners as gluten free as possible, my husband doesn’t feel too left out or like he’s a burden because he’s able to eat the exact same things that we eat. If you have a meal that you’re struggling with, get creative or ask around in gluten free social media groups. I guarantee somebody’s tried it before and can give you some different suggestions!
Gluten free snack ideas
Crackers - My husband loves a good, cheesy cracker than he can munch on while he’s watching his favorite show. We’ve tried out quite a few different brands that are gluten free or made with alternative ingredients and our favorite by far are Nut Thins. They come in a variety of flavors, but the cheesy ones are probably our favorite.
Chips - This is where I’ve been surprised by hidden gluten. Some brands will be gluten free and then surprise you with a flavor that contains wheat products. Be very aware of every brand and variety that you buy and always read the ingredients label. We always buy the Kirkland brand of tortilla chips because they’re labeled as gluten free and a really good value.
Jerky - After he was first diagnosed with celiac disease, my husband went to the store on his lunch break, searching for some jerky he could eat. He called me really frustrated because every single one of them had wheat products in them. I’ve done my research and found that the Kirkland brand Steak Strips are gluten free as well as anything from the brand Perky Jerky or the brand Country Archer. You might have to order them online, but if you love jerky and are gluten free, it’s one of the only ways to get it because your options are limited.
Protein Bars - My husband made a joke on Instagram the other day that if I wasn’t as supportive as I am with his new gluten free lifestyle, he would eat protein bars for every meal. It’s a good thing we’ve discovered this brand that tastes really good and has a good amount of protein to fill you up.
Moon Cheese - This is one of my husband’s favorite gluten free snacks and we were bummed with Costco stopped stocking the big bag. They’re a big more expensive, but he loves the flavor and the texture of those better than some other comparable snacks like cheese wisps. The benefit to purchasing them online or at Harmon’s (the only other place we’ve found them), is that you can grab a variety of flavors, not just cheddar.
Cheese Bites - I mentioned earlier that when we’re having rolls for dinner, I bring Brazilian cheese bites for my husband to eat instead. Brazi bites are the popular brand, but a bit expensive compared to the Gusto Brazil brand. We love these and they’re a staple in our house, in a variety of flavors. We love the original cheese as well as the bacon and cheese ones.
Gluten free treats and desserts
Cookies - My husband’s very favorite cookies are the Mrs. Hewitt’s brand that we’ve been getting from Costco. They come in a variety of flavors and they’re really delicious! His favorite are the peanut butter (with chocolate kisses added after they come out of the oven) and the classic chocolate chip. I personally love the tuxedo (chocolate with chocolate chips). He’s kind enough to share one with me when he makes them, but they’re a little expensive so I try to save them just for him. They’re perfect when you’re craving warm, fresh baked cookies and don’t want to take the time to whip up a batch yourself.
Baked Goods - My husband isn’t big into cakes and pastries, so we haven’t tried many things like this. I have noticed a wide variety of mixes at the store though and I know that you could make your own with great recipes available on the internet. There are also great bakeries out there that sell baked goodies, if you ask around in social media groups.
Ice Cream - This is one thing that I will always check the label on. When we laid sod at our house this summer, I bought a bunch of ice cream sandwiches and ice cream bars at the store as a treat for those who came to help. I had fudge bars that I was sure were gluten free, and that I was told later are gluten free in most other brands, but this particular brand contained wheat. Most sources of gluten in ice cream will come from the add-ins, but just be sure not to assume and always check the ingredients list.
Oreos - We’re still on the hunt for an oreo cookie alternative that my husband really loves, but there are a few that he is ok with. The Glutino brand is the closest he’s found, he just feels like the vanilla flavor of the filling is a little overpowering. I’m a big fan of the Kinnikinnik brand, but they don’t taste anything like an actual oreo, they’re just really good. I’ve heard really good things recently about the Great Value brand (Walmart) and need to grab a package to try out. I’ll definitely update this post when we find a brand we love!
Tips for eating out with celiac disease
While you can control what goes on in your own kitchen, being sure that you won’t be subjected to cross-contamination or accidentally ingest gluten while you’re out to eat is more of a challenge. Eating out can be overwhelming and just not fun anymore, once you have been diagnosed with celiac disease. I’ve done a lot of research on restaurants and gluten free options, maybe even more than I’ve researched what to buy for our own kitchen, and these are the things that we’ve found work best.
Do your research
When we’re trying to decide where to go out to eat, it’s no longer just a decision of what sounds good to both of us, we also have to take into account where my husband can find good gluten free dishes that he’ll enjoy. Almost anywhere we go has gluten free options, but they’re not all tasty and a lot of times the restaurant doesn’t prep the food in a way that avoids cross contamination. I do a lot of research before trying a new restaurant or when we’re going to an area we aren’t familiar with. I find their gluten free menu or allergen information so that I know there are options my husband will enjoy and can tell him about those when we get there.
Download the Find Me GF app
We really love the Find Me GF app because no matter where you’re at, you can find the most celiac friendly restaurants near you and read real reviews from other people with a gluten intolerance! We’ve found some great places to eat through the app and definitely plan to utilize it when we’re traveling or just in an area a little further from home. I’d also suggest adding your reviews when you try a place, so people can get more good information from the app!
Join a local social media group
This is where we find lots of great ideas for places to eat out and real life experience with what actually tastes good and where you won’t get sick! I used our statewide gluten free group to ask for ideas of where to eat when we were planning our anniversary getaway and I often see others do the same. I’ll use it in addition to the Find Me GF app, when I’m not finding enough reviews and want more input from people who have tried a restaurant. Or if I find a gluten free menu for a restaurant and want to know if the food on it is actually good, I’ll post for more information.
Bring your own bun
One of our biggest frustrations with some restaurants is that they don’t offer a gluten free bun option, just a lettuce wrap, or their gluten free bun leaves something to be desired. The bread is my husband’s favorite part of a sandwich or burger, so those places aren’t good options for us. We’ve known people to order a lettuce wrap or the sandwich without the bun and bring their own bun to put it on. Some restaurants don’t love it when you do this, so I’d just call ahead and check, but if they don’t have an option to accommodate your food allergy, they should be willing to let you bring that little thing in, as long as you aren’t broadcasting it.
Specify that it’s an allergy
Preparing food in a space that is safe and clean and not at risk for cross-contamination takes a lot of effort on the place of a restaurant, unless they have a dedicated space in their restaurant. Often if you ask for something to be gluten free, your server will ask if it’s an allergy or just a food preference. For food preferences, they won’t go to quite the same extremes to avoid cross-contamination as they will if it’s a food allergy and if they know that you have celiac disease. If you aren’t sure how a restaurant functions, I’d for sure mention that you have an allergy and need the food to be prepared in a clean space. You’ll often still risk some cross contamination, depending on the food and how they prepare other foods around it, especially at places where flour is present, like a pizza restaurant, but they’ll make sure you know what precautions they take so you can decide if it’s worth the risk for your specific condition.
The best gluten friendly restaurants
Earlier this year, I wrote a post for my local date night blog, sharing all of the best places to eat in our area, if you have a gluten intolerance. I add to the list often, as we discover new places to eat that are gluten friendly and taste yummy. There are a lot of great options there, but I thought I’d share some of my favorite chain restaurants here for those of you who live somewhere other than Utah.
The Pie Pizzeria - I think this is Utah specific, but their pizza is really good and the way they prepare their gluten free pizzas is great so I wanted to include them! The Pie has a gluten free menu, separate from their other menu, so you know all of the sauces and toppings on those pizzas will be gluten free as well, where they might not be if you just swap the crust on a normal pizza. They also have a separate area of the kitchen where they prepare the gluten free pizzas, to help avoid cross contamination and flying flour.
Red Robin - Red Robin is one of the most gluten friendly we’ve found and the food is really good! They have their own bun that is so good, it almost tastes like the regular ones. And their fries are fried in a dedicated fryer so they don’t get cross-contamination from the fried foods that are breaded. There’s a lot on the menu that someone with celiac disease can order and it’s become one of my husband’s most requested restaurants to go to.
Noodles & Co. - Noodles offers a few different options that are gluten free, in place of their regular noodles. There are gluten free noodles, rice noodles and zoodles as well! If you’re ordering one of the noodles that isn’t specifically gluten free, I would just make sure you note that you are gluten free so that they take extra precautions when preparing your food. We forgot to mention that once when we ordered rice noodles and ended up with a regular noodle in our dish, which worried us. They also have a great allergen information page on their website that lists the allergens for the different sauces and other ingredients. This is where I found out their barbecue sauce is gluten free, so my husband could still order is favorite dish, with just a few tweaks.
Outback Steakhouse - We haven’t eaten here yet, but I’ve been told they’re a great place to go for gluten free foods! A lot of other steakhouses season their meats with a mix that contains gluten and we’ve found that those same places don’t have gluten free dressings, and their options for food are limited. Outback Steakhouse even has some desserts that are gluten free, so you can really enjoy a good meal!
P.F. Changs - This is another restaurant we haven’t tried yet, but they’re opening a location near us and it’s on our list to visit next! I’ve been told that they prepare their gluten free dishes in a separate wok and then bring them out on a different colored plate than all of the rest of the meals, so you can be sure that you’re getting the right dish. This is great because a lot of times it’s tricky to get good Chinese food that is gluten free!
Jersey Mikes - My husband loves sandwiches so this is one of his frequented lunch places. They are good to change gloves, clean off counter space, and avoid preparing other sandwiches near the gluten free one. My husband still notes that he has an allergy, just to be safe, but they’ve always done a great job!
The Spaghetti Factory - We love going to The Spaghetti Factory for date night and love that they have a good gluten free menu and everyone we know has had a great experience eating there. My husband ordered alfredo the last time we went, and the sauce was fairly runny, like they’d just left out the thickener, but he said it was still pretty good.
My biggest tip when you’re transitioning to a gluten free lifestyle is to continue to try new things and not ever settle for mediocre! Gluten free food isn’t often going to taste just like the real thing, but there are so many good options out there these days, that you can almost always find a version of your favorite foods that you’ll enjoy. It’s taken a lot of patience and we’re still adjusting to this new lifestyle on a daily basis, but with the help of other people around us and the tips that I mentioned above, we feel like we’ve got it under control and aren’t letting it run our lives too much.