I have figured out an inexpensive and simple system that keeps those of us with food sensitivities safe, while still letting everyone enjoy their favorite foods.

It is possible to coexist peacefully in the kitchen.

It is necessary to clean out your kitchen when you first become dairy free. With your list of dairy and hidden dairy at hand, carefully read every single label in your kitchen. You will be amazed at where you find milk and milk derived ingredients. Throw out or separate any opened product that contains milk or milk derived ingredients.   If possible, donate any unopened nonexpired product that contains dairy.

The next step is to thoroughly clean your kitchen.  Wipe down all surfaces, clean the refrigerator, microwave and oven, and vacuum and mop the floor. Think of it as an excellent opportunity to spring clean, no matter the season.

Most people who do not live alone will not have an entirely dairy free kitchen.  Whether you are living with your family or roommates, you will need to separate dairy free products from products that contain dairy.  You need to be careful if you are storing dairy free and dairy dry goods in the same space. If your pantry has wire shelves, store dairy free items on the top shelves to avoid any contaminants falling through. You will need to always think carefully about cross contact. For more information on cross contact, see our information on cross contact and cross contamination. Cross contact is often a problem when it comes to the use of naturally dairy free foods that everyone uses frequently such as condiments, jellies and peanut/almond butters. A simple solution is to purchase condiments in  squeeze bottles. This may cost a little more because of the packaging, but I have found that the extra cost is well worth the peace of mind knowing that there will not be any cross contact. Not all products are available in squeeze bottles.  In these cases you will have to buy two items and clearly label one as dairy free.  In fact, label everything, and I mean everything, that is dairy free.  Use a big black permanent marker to write DF on all dairy free items in your kitchen. Cereal, spices, snacks, chips, butter, peanut/almond butter and everything in between should be marked DF if it does not contain dairy. This is simple to do, easy to understand and will save you a lot of money since you will no longer have to throw away half used products that may have been contaminated.

There are also allergy stickers available online to place on groceries, if you prefer. These stickers are available for all allergies and work just as well as labeling. Which every method you use, being consistent is key to keeping the foods in your kitchen safe and dairy free.

Click here for our list of naturally dairy free foods.

The next thing to consider is everything else in your kitchen outside of the pantry and refrigerator. You have pots and pans, utensils, and small appliances that all must be kept allergy compliant. Using a dairy free color scheme is a great solution if you have a shared kitchen. Pick a color and designate kitchen tools in that color as dairy free only tools. This system is simple to use and easy to understand. Don’t immediately run out and duplicate everything in your kitchen. Starting small with a spatula, a pair of tongs, spoons, cutting boards, a couple of knives, and a whisk will be enough to help you cook in your kitchen while keeping your food free from dairy contaminants. Pick your favorite color or colors. No one has ever said that being dairy free can’t be pretty.

Pots, pans, items that you cannot immediately duplicate and all other shared items that come in contact with dairy need to be cleaned in the dishwasher or washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water in between uses.

As you go through your home, please remember that the items you can no longer safely use can always be donated to your favorite charity to help others.

Using cloths or sponges in the kitchen can lead to increased cross contact.  I use paper towels instead to clean kitchen surfaces. I can wipe down the counters and then throw them away without having to worry about contamination from a cloth or sponge.

When you have guests for meals, if possible, cook everything dairy free. If serving dairy free and dairy dishes at the same meal, always explain why separate serving utensils must be used.

When first going dairy free, understand that it will take time to teach family and friends how to be careful in the kitchen. Don’t feel bad about being persistent in keeping dairy free dishes safe from cross contact.

With time, it will become easier for everyone. Patience, persistence and humor go a long way in educating your family and friends.