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AIP Kitchen Tour is a monthly feature in which we profile a member of the AIP community and their kitchen setup in hopes that it will further inspire us to get our kitchens organized and set up for success! We’ve interviewed folks who are making the AIP lifestyle a reality in everything from college dorms and small city apartments, to large households with non-AIP family members, and everything in between. Through these interviews, we hope to share how they make it happen across a variety of budgets and living situations, and give the community a wealth of inspiration. Read more Kitchen Tours here!
Name: Donna Allgaier-Lamberti, age 65
Location: Pullman, Michigan, USA
My most pressing health concerns are Hashimotos’ thyroiditis, throat nodules, osteoporosis and adrenal fatigue. In my 20s and 30s, I also had debilitating and painful endometriosis, and HS (repetitive bacterial infections and skin issues).
How long have you been eating AIP?
I am fairly new to AIP, working this program since November 2015. Once I discovered AIP, I made up my mind to embrace this and I took it on in full force. I wanted to heal! For me, I discovered that it all starts with changing my mindset.
Have you successfully reintroduced any foods?
I just began reintroductions in January of this year. I have reintroduced black pepper and sunflower seeds.
How has the AIP changed your life?
AIP has definitely change my life (and my husband’s as well). Beginning AIP was an overwhelming challenge for me at first for several reasons. I was barely eating meat when I began AIP so I was adapting myself to eating meat again. I had just begun seeing a functional medicine physician who diagnosed me, and I began taking quite a few supplements (which I had great difficulty with because I am not a pill person). Eating meat was tough, BUT the total life and diet change felt familiar since I had been on Weight Watchers most of my 20s, 30s and 40s. Self-discipline for a larger goal was a major part of that program, too.
Progress towards my improved health moved rather slowly for me as I personally did not see many changes until about my 8th month on AIP. But because of the online AIP support group, I believed that the program would work and I never once lost heart. I know that good things sometimes take time. At my age, I know to just hang in there and good things will come. Gradually I began to feel better, lost a pant size and lost my wheat belly as well. I am still working on my adrenals and chronic fatigue but I feel a lot better than when I began AIP.
Size of your kitchen:
My kitchen is 12 feet by 12 feet (not including pantry). I know I am very lucky to enjoy this generous size kitchen and my terrific pantry, which is 6 feet long and 2 feet deep with seven wooden shelves on each side and is closed off with double doors. The former owners of our 1950s ranch-style home had remodeled this kitchen, added a bar counter and put in new cupboards before we moved in. The pantry was built at that time too.
When we moved here in 2000, this kitchen was like an empty canvas. As an artist and DYIer, I enjoyed this. I enjoy giving it my TLC and making it mine. I had previously cooked, canned and frozen foods (while raising my two sons) in a tiny galley kitchen in a 75-year-old city home where we lived for 27 years.
So when the opportunity to move to our current homestead came up, I was super excited to have this spacious kitchen to work in. We actually moved to our current rural property to be more self-sufficient; to grow our own food, to keep organic chickens and to garden on a large scale. I felt the best way to do this was to have control over our food at the source.
We have a large vegetable garden, 8 chickens, 8 fruit trees, and are blessed to live in what is called the “fruit belt” of SW Michigan. We are surrounded by orchards and farmland. I am thrilled to be part of the food revolution and have been studying agriculture, horticulture and food for some time now. Spending my money locally and with the grower directly to help them survive and thrive is a political act I have chosen to embrace. I believe that our health is our wealth!
Favorite thing about your kitchen:
My favorite kitchen thing is my pantry. To have this generous space to store dry goods is like a miracle to me. Because we live so rurally, and watch our gas use closely, we only drive to town one day a week to shop for groceries. We also only drive to a larger town an hour away (with a Sam’s Club and a fabulous health food store) once a month. So we stock up for the month or two and plan and buy ahead.
Because this kind of pre-planning was already second nature to me, I think this is one reason I was able to easily adapt to AIP and batch cooking. That was just an extension to the planning ahead way of shopping and cooking I was already used to. My adult son in his 40s finds this all quite curious…I needed to know on Monday if he was coming to dinner on Sunday because I needed to get the big 8-lb. chicken out of the deep freezer to thaw 3 or 4 days in advance. This is not the way his generation operates!
My second favorite thing is my two freezers. Without them I would be sunk! I buy my organic chickens for the year in the fall after the chick season ends. Or if I buy a half of a pig, or a lamb at the fair, I fill my freezer as well. This is how I find the healthiest meat possible at the best price possible and have it on hand at all times. No last-minute rushing around for me.
Least favorite thing about your kitchen:
My least favorite thing about my kitchen is the small size of my refrigerator and how fridges are NOT set up for the kind for cooking I do. I’ve decided that engineers simply do not cook! If they cooked, they would realize that fridges need to be larger and designed differently. In the wintertime our overflow food sits on an unheated porch on a table but in the summer time it is difficult to get all my food in our fridge.
Are there any cheap gadgets or little tools that you have found make AIP easier?
I am not a gadget person. I am more into function than form. I tend to keep my cooking process pretty simple and use my hands and sharp knives. I only have a Cuisinart (that my husband already had when we came to our mid-life marriage).
What is the biggest thing that changed in your kitchen setup when you adopted the AIP?
The biggest change in my kitchen setup: I now have two significant chopping and prep areas. Once I stared cooking AIP, I was at first getting up at 4 a.m. and chopping, preparing and cooking (while doing laundry) in the early hours of the morning. Then I found myself resentful that I was up every day early and working in the kitchen while my husband was sleeping. He does not like to get up until 8:30. So I sat him down and we had what is called a “come to Jesus meeting” and as a result he now helps me more in the kitchen. This means we need two prep areas, two large cutting boards, etc. I’ve coined this “His & Hers” cutting boards and chopping areas.
If someone was just starting to invest in some useful but more expensive kitchen tools, which one would you tell them to buy first?
I would recommend a crockpot first (to make bone broth), then cast iron pans (the safest cookware), then a Cuisinart, and finally, sharp knives for everything. A cast iron Dutch oven would be next. If I cannot find an old cast iron pan to restore, I usually buy mid-range priced cast iron pans from Lodge.
Are there any tricks you have learned to make AIP work in your space?
My best tricks in my space: a comfy stool with a soft cushion to sit down on while prepping.
How do you deal with food for family members that are not AIP?
I take everyones’ needs into consideration and cook a wide variety of foods. I try to have several vegetables from which to choose and always have salsa and ground pepper on hand. My meals consist of a meat and lots and lots of vegetables. I no longer make desserts but focus on meat and vegetables now.
I place everything out on the counter top and every one serves themselves buffet style, taking what they enjoy eating and leaving what they don’t. I keep my focus on the people, not the foods I am not able to eat.
If I am traveling to my daughter- and son-in-law’s, I get up early in the morning before anyone else is awake and do my AIP cooking, refrigerate the food, and then when they sit down to eat, I warm my foods up. Again, it’s about being together as a family at the table, not what I am missing.
Are there any tools or appliances that you’ve stopped using now that your diet has changed?
I stopped using my microwave and my Bosch mixer, as I am no longer making and eating bread.
What are your favorite meals to batch cook?
I am a simple AIP chef. I batch cook three to four meats all at once while the oven is heated. Then our meat is ready for the next few days. Then, I concentrate on the vegetable on a daily basis. I don’t really make “recipes.” I have meat and vegetables made and in the fridge, and then my husband and I eat when we are hungry.
What are your favorite AIP and Paleo cookbooks?
The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, The Hashimoto’s Cookbook and Action Plan, Idiot’s Guide Autoimmune Cookbook
Do you have any tips for those starting an elimination diet and setting up their kitchens for the first time?
1) Start slow on buying your equipment and see what you really, truly need. It’s easy to get caught up in the buying thing and I don’t think it is necessary to your AIP success.
2) Focus on organic vegetables and organic, free-range meat over buying kitchen gadgets.
3) I’m a “frugalista”. Use the free resources available first. I always take out books first at the library and read them. Only then after I think I cannot live without them do I buy them. Then I purchase them gently used 95% of the time.
4) Pick your own fruits and vegetables in season and freeze them for winter eating. We pick our organic strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches and pears and freeze them. I started this when my two sons were very small and we made an “adventure” of this event. Now I take my granddaughter whenever I can.
5) Keep your knives sharp!
6) Listen to as many online health summits as you can. The online world is full of free and terrific information for those who are interested. This is life-altering information available at the tip of our fingers.
7) And remember AIP is simply mind over matter. Teach yourself to eat cold meat so you can pack that in a lunchbox and remember that breakfast choices are the same and that’s okay. I never thought I would eat meat and vegetables for breakfast but now this is truly keeps my blood sugar stable and sustains me, day in and day out.
Would you like to be featured in an AIP Kitchen Tour? We feature members of the community who are willing to share the real spaces where they cook, as well as their stories of transitioning to this lifestyle. If you are interested, fill out our interest form!