I’ve been gluten-free for (almost) 10 years (in other words, I did it before it was cool and trendy). When people discover I am gluten-free I am almost always asked, “Isn’t it expensive?” Yes, it can be…but it does not have to significantly increase your grocery bill. After nearly a decade of trial and error, here are a few simple ways I have learned to enjoy being gluten-free on a budget.
Avoid processed foods. Yes, there are so many great gluten-free options. But gluten-free pastas, breads and specialty cookies, cakes, etc. will easily double your food budget. They are also very high in sugar. I buy a loaf of gluten-free bread and often keep it in the freezer. This way I can have a piece of toast or a sandwich if I really want one. Sandwiches and gluten free pastas are not everyday items though. I have to remind myself that the goal is to be healthy – not just gluten-free. Many gluten-free items are great substitutes but are not healthy.
Enjoy oatmeal for breakfast. Baked oatmeal can be made in endless varieties. In the summer we enjoy overnight oatmeal and boiled eggs often for breakfast. Unless you are a true celiac, don’t worry about buying the certified gluten-free oats.
Rethink lunch. Eating leftovers, making nachos or quesadillas and salads are some of the easiest ways I’ve found to have a gluten-free lunch. While many companies now make fabulous gluten-free tortillas, they are often expensive. Buying the generic corn tortillas for quesadillas has become a cost-effective lunch option for our family. Large salads (with lots of protein like black beans, boiled eggs or grilled chicken) is another tasty option for lunch. Adding a few tortilla chips to a salad can add a crouton-like crunch.
Think potatoes and rice vs. breads and pastas. Instead of rolls or bread, serve potatoes or rice as a side at dinner. It’s quite inexpensive and there are so many ways to add variety.
Stock your pantry when gluten-free items are on sale. I have to admit, I am not usually good at remembering to check for sales on gluten free items. My mother-in-law is though and for that I am very grateful. I currently have a freezer stocked full of multiple containers of gluten free flour because she found an amazing sale.
Use cornstarch to thicken sauces and soups. It is less expensive (and more effective, in my opinion) than gluten-free flour
Look for new ways enjoy traditional meals. I love lasagna. Instead of buying the expensive gluten-free lasagna noodles, I enjoy making Skinnytaste’s zucchini lasagna. Delicious, full of flavor and a much healthier option. It is almost always possible to find a way to substitute items which contain gluten and replace it with something healthier.
With a little creativity and planning it is possible to enjoy gluten-free food without doubling your grocery budget. It require creativity, planning and, perhaps most importantly, changing the way you think about food. You can do it, though!