The Valentine’s Marathon Event-last minute tips

Welcome to the Semi-Annual event of “Men Shopping the grocery store.” This event occurs semi-annually at Thanksgiving and Valentines Day. Although the events are similar, men of all ages, sizes, looks, and education wandering around the grocery store almost completely lost, the events are completely different.

The Thanksgiving Day event is scavenger hunt based. On this day, these wonderful men only have about a three to six hour window to endure shopping at the grocery store. They are armed with a list of obscure items their wives forgot to pick-up, but are essential to the success of dinner and the added pressure of finding the correct thing and having guests to get it right for. They often wander around the store completely lost, murmuring under the breath, or you find them staring blankly around for the store directory. The grocery store on Thanksgiving Day offers a perfect volunteer opportunity for people to go to the store just to help these poor gentlemen find these strange and obscure items.

Valentine’s Day however, is a marathon event which usually starts around 5pm on Feb 13th. While the Thanksgiving Day scavenger hunt is much more obscure, most men are armed with a specific list. On Valentine’s day the stores have several aisles pointing men in the direction they need to go. They are not as lost in the store, and there are other specific RED stop points along the way. They enter a store and have a red aisle to grab the Chocolate. Figuring out the correct chocolate and other gifts, that’s the challenge for this event. Nuts, no nuts, does she like Dark chocolate. Did she like this brand last year, or is this the brand that she can’t stand? They are bombarded with all these choices and more…and then the flowers. “Why do I have to buy flowers that are just gonna die? Now, is she allergic to these or was that something else. Oh no, the red ones are gone, now WHAT!?”

Our local grocery even made it super easy as they have cards, chocolates, and cute things all in the same aisles. The flowers will be somewhere else in the store, though there might be a little stand of wilting roses in the Valentines’ aisles, and those are also demarcated in the store with RED.

This year, 2011, the event will be extra exciting as the hours for this marathon are shortened. Usually, these wonderful gentlemen in our lives are reminded to stop at the store on the way home by their female co-workers or secretaries the night BEFORE. They stop, grab their goodies, and they have gifts for their loved ones to gift in the morning by 6 or 7pm. Sadly, this year the 13th was a Sunday, so many sweet, well meaning guys will be buying extra items: the “oops, I’m so sorry you didn’t get a gift this morning,” makeup give and the real romantic gift. I predict sales to be up this year.

I don’t know why, but I enjoy these semi-annual days. They are just sort of, well, cute, funny and sometimes give me a chance to be nice and help someone. I admit, it’s much easier to help on Thanksgiving than Valentines Day though. I mean, I like Dark chocolate, but other women like milk. I can point someone to the condensed mushroom soup and cornstarch so much easier.

Of course, if you have a loved one who is celiac, you have an extra challenge. So, for those sweet gentlemen who still need go get your wives, girlfriends, etc. chocolates or a gift in the next few hours, here are some quick tips to keep them safe:

-Gluten Free chocolates are your best bet
-Look for any labels that say “PROCESSED ON EQUIPMENT THAT shares WHEAT” DO NOT BUY,
even if it says Gluten Free- unless it carries the “Certified Gluten Free Label”
-Avoid the ingredient “modified food starch” – unless it actually says Gluten FREE on the label
Reeses peanut butter cups are tricky. Many of their “shapes” and specialities contain wheat to help them keep their shape. I suggest stay away from Reeses. I always get sick.
-Overall, I’ve been told by several manufacturers that the speciality chocolates will often contain wheat that may not be present in other “regular brands.” The best course is usually to stay away from things like the hearts or speciality shapes. Grab some red foil to wrap it, and you’ll be fine.
Russell Stover has been another where I’ve personally gotten ill.  They usually share equipment
-Many Godiva contain wheat or barley. That’s not a brand, sadly, that I don’t trust
-More and more of the Lindt chocolates are now containing barley, malt, and barley extract. Make sure to look for those on any of the chocolates.
-For those who don’t know, Whoppers are OUT; they contain malt.
Sees Candies, if you are lucky enough to have one close, they claim almost all their regular products are gluten-free. The staff is usually knowledgable and helpful. I have been warned against buying the “speciality boxes,” however.  Sees is by far my favorite AND I do great on them!!!

-I personally have not had problems with DOVE, Three Musketeers, or York Peppermint Patties, but please check the ingredients etc before you purchase.

-I personally would rather have a package not say gluten-free, but have a statement that says where the products are processed. However, that is not acceptable for many, so you might have to check with her.

If in doubt, go purchase a gift certificate for a spa, or something else.
You can also dress up some Kozy Shack Pudding. They are dye free and Gluten Free. The chocolate is divine.

Here are some links to allergen statements for you too:
Mars Candies Includes, Dove, snickers, M&Ms
Hershey’s this includes “Kisses,” “Mounds”, “York Peppermint patties”

There are of course plenty of brands out there, and a google search can help you find the brand you might need. Remember to stay away from “products processed on equipment that shares wheat,” products containing wheat, barley, Malt, barley extract, and Modified food (or corn) starch
unless the product specifically states certified gluten-free.

Enjoy shopping for your ladies, and relax at the store. You’re not alone. In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s day and enjoy your evening. And don’t worry, for Mother’s day, you have these chocolate tips and your kids to help you navigate through the store and tell you what she likes.

Disclaimer: these are not official statements from any company. Most of the chocolates I recommended or did not recommend are based upon personal experience. I’ve included a few allergen statements, but please always double check the packaging or talk with the person you are buying for. Some of us have various sensitivities. There are sometimes other ingredients such as soy that might cause problems. So please, this article is just tips, not the bible on gluten-free valentines chocolate. It’s a place to get started. Please remember everyone is different. I am also in no way trying to insult any man who does the shopping. So, if you do the shopping, please don’t take offense. 😀

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