This is definitely the first reaction when finding out that you must eliminate all wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats from your diet - and that most foods at the store will contain some questionable ingredients and no allergen label for gluten. Here is the front-line info that you need.
First: Basic, Easy Survival The fastest, easiest thing to do to survive first is to not try to substitute the way you used to eat, but to eat differently. You don't have to read ingredients if you buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh meats. Start shopping the outside of the grocery store rather than up and down the aisles. Think South Beach/Atkins Diet. Your grill can be your new best friend. Make simple rubs for meats and grill your veggies too, then add fresh fruit. First try cooking like this, then you can start looking for other products that will start to be more like some old favorites. Don't be discouraged! This is harder and more time consuming, but it could also be much healthier for you. As you find meals that you like, write them down on a list. When you have seven dinners, seven lunches, and seven breakfasts, you have a weekly menu! When you have twenty-one of each (you may not need that much variety for breakfast and lunch), you have a three week menu that can be rotated, and you only will need new recipes or foods when you want to find them for a little variety or special occasion. It's also easier to make extra of your dinner and eat leftovers for lunch than it is to find specific "lunch" foods. Or just grill an extra piece of meat and cut it up for a lunch salad. Stick to major national brands for condiments and other processed foods ( to get started at least). They will either have a full disclosure policy on allergens or a phone number on their label.
http://www.allergygrocery.com/search.php these are ready made food or mixes that are free of allergens. They are very expensive and vary in taste, but convenient. We rarely buy stuff like this, just a few cake mixes or packaged cookies occasionally. You can learn to do it yourself if you want to.
Okay, for flour substitution. There are many choices. Many are healthier (whole grain or bean blends), but I went with this because I can get it cheaply and it substitutes well for plain white flour. Mix 6 cups of rice flour, 2 cups of potato starch ( not the same as potato flour) and 1 cup of tapioca starch (tapioca flour is the same thing) - I think this is a Bette Hagman blend, she writes gluten free cookbooks. You can get these flours at a large health food store, but I get mine at a local Asian food store for much less. Then get a bag of xanthan gum at the health food store. It's expensive (about $13 for a bag), but lasts a long time (probably at least a year for one person). You can then substitute your flour blend cup for cup for regular flour. Add xanthan gum to improve texture and prevent the crumbling that is characteristic of gluten free baked goods.
Addition of xanthan per cup of flour is:
1/2 tsp for cakes
1 tsp for breads or pizza
0-1/2 tsp for most cookies
Cookbooks. Our library system has a bunch that you can try out. The only one I've ever bought is The Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook(Hammond). She doesn't use weird ingredients and actually made all of her cakes and muffins with plain rice flour and no xanthan, so it's an easy place to start. I just went through my collection of cookbooks and marked anything that I could use with a tab. There are a lot of recipes that are easy.
Pasta. Our Walmart actually carries rice pasta (De Boles, I think). Not my favorite pasta, but it makes a mean baked ziti (I'll put that up soon.). Tinkyada Pasta Joy is good pasta that comes in several shapes. Gluten free pasta will not hold up well in leftovers like soup. If you want to freeze soup, freeze it without the pasta and add the pasta when you reheat it. I like to make a big batch of chicken stock with onion, potato, and carrot before winter colds set in, then I freeze it in individual portions, thaw it out and add pasta when someone gets a cold or the flu. (There are some commercial brands of chicken rice soup that are GF, and you can always skip the expensive GF pasta and use rice instead for a lot of things.) Okay. My favorite pasta if you want it to look and taste like real pasta is Bionature's pasta. You can get it at Whole Foods and maybe Earth Fare. Corn macaroni is available and tastes good in things like pastitio. For the cheapest alternative, the Asian store sells many kinds of rice noodles. One is called Newton Rice Sticks made with rice and corn flour. It makes a very thin (like linguine) clear pasta. It doesn't look like regular pasta, but it tastes great doused in spaghetti sauce for good old spaghetti.
Pizza. Whole Foods has a gluten free bakery in NC, so in addition to the other brands of GF foods they sell, they have a frozen section of their bakery goods. They are wonderful! The pizza crust is delicious and the hamburger buns thawed also make good pizza crusts.
Desserts. The best cake mixes we've used are by the Gluten-Free Pantry. All of the health food stores and some grocery stores carry them. Pamela's Cookies are yummy. Enjoy Life and Glutino are two other excellent brands for packaged cookies, pretzels, etc. The sticker shock is high on these, but don't forget ice cream, milkshakes, pudding , popcorn, corn chips, tortilla chips, and jello desserts are usually naturally GF.
Cereal. I don't know if you are avoiding oats as well. That narrows this category down considerably. We eat oats, so let me know if you do. Some regular grocery stores carry several gluten free cereals, as do the health food stores. Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles are GF. check Kix and Cocoa Pops - I don't remember if they have oats. Most instant grits are okay. Ingles also carries gluten free waffles. Lifestream taste better than Van's. We like Van's now too, but the taste buds adapt. I remember not liking them at the beginning, but the Lifestream waffles, particularly the Mesa Sunrise, are yummy. You can also make eggs, smoothies, Carnation instant breakfast, rice pudding, sausage, bacon, and other non-bake options for breakfast.
RECIPES! - baking tip - GF baked goods tend toward dryness. Choose recipes with added moisture, such as eggs, banana, pumpkin, or other fruit.
Pancakes and Waffle Mix
1 1/4 cup GF flour blend
2 T sugar
2 T baking powder
1 cup milk
1 T oil (opt)
1 tsp xanthan
I like to add pumpkin. Just a couple tablespoons greatly improves the flavor and texture without tasting like pumpkin, add more if you want them to be pumpkin. Also try adding flaxseed for whole grain flavor and extra fiber, blueberries, chocolate chips (esp. in waffles), grated apple and spices.
1 cup Peanut butter
1 cup sugar
Mix and put on cookie sheet. Bake 350 for 8-10 minutes.
I have zillions of other recipes I'd be glad to share. Let me save you the trouble of trying three recipes to find a decent version. Also let me know of anything else you need information about or want to find.