Isn’t social media amazing? A few months ago a fellow local coeliac mentioned on Instagram that there was a market stall in our local indoor market which specialised in free from foods. I’ll be honest; I don’t think I’d been into the market since I was a young child and my Nana took me to a greasy spoon cafe there! I’d almost forgotten the market was even there. So during my next trip to Hanley I popped in, and Heavenly Free From Foods is now my first stop of any visit and sometimes has justified a visit specifically to go there! So, what makes this place so amazing?
When I was first diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2009, many stores didn’t have specific free from foods as it was still an unusual thing to be looking for. My local supermarket at the time had a shelf with some gluten free bread and crackers. Fast forward almost eight years and most supermarkets have half an aisle dedicated to a variety of different free from products and even local convenience stores often have a bay of free from items. Heavenly Free From Foods takes it to a whole new level again though; a store full of free from items! The range is incredibly varied; from flours and baking goods, to pastas and ready meals, frozen foods, cupboard staples and snacks. Product ranges cover a variety of different dietary needs too, including a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan items. So many great brands are sold here; including some you can usually only buy online (Free From Fairy flour is stocked here for example!). We’ve been introduced to loads of new great foods thanks to Heavenly Free From Foods, and are trying more almost every time we go!
As a ‘free from’ store, obviously not everything stocked is gluten free, though most products are clearly labelled and the owner is incredibly knowledgeable about the products he stocks so you can just ask if you’re not sure.
Any coeliac knows a usual ‘free from’ shop is more expensive than a regular shop and it’s understandable that there is a premium due to the sourcing of ingredients and production processes. The prices at Heavenly Free From Foods reflect this of course, though the prices are comparable to supermarkets despite the fact many of the items are specialist. I know I’d far rather my money go to a local independent store than a supermarket. There are frequently offers on things too; especially items that are close to their best before date (which to be honest I usually don’t pay too much attention too for cupboard items!).
Saving the best until last! As soon as I stepped into Heavenly Free From Foods I was made to feel so welcome by the owner, Paul. He’s incredibly helpful, and he really knows his stuff when it comes to free from products (we do differ on our views of some products but I accept we all have different tastes!). He’s also just an all round great guy who loves chatting to people who visit the shop, and taking on board their suggestions for new products. I’m pleased to now call him a friend – which considering I only went to the market about 3 months ago is really saying something! Over the summer holidays his daughted is giving him a helping hand too – he was much happier about having a photo taken when she promised to be in it too! 🙂
Where is it?
Hopefully now I’ve introduced you to this great store you want to pay a visit yourself. Heavenly Free From Foods is currently in Hanley Indoor Market but will soon be moving to Merrial St in Newcastle-under-Lyme (which fortunately for me but unfortunately for my bank balance is in walking distance from our home and just a few minutes away from my gym!). If you’re in the area and looking for some interesting free from products, I highly recommend paying a visit. For more information check out the Heavenly Free From Foods Facebook page.
Whilst you’re in the area, do check out some of the other local places we love – my husband Chris recently made a list of some of the local free from offerings we enjoy – see Newcastle-under-Lyme Free From Survival Guide.