The Coach's Top 23 Tips for Eating Gluten Free on a Budget
Kim Hopkins is the founder of Food Sensitivity Resources. She is a licensed social worker and someone that "lives to eat" despite having multiple food challenges. Her mission is to combine her thorough, personal knowledge of food safety concerns with her lengthy counseling, training, & consulting experiences to help people live fully despite dietary restrictions. She offers personal coaching, an informative blog, the Safe Suppers Dining Club, as well as consultation for businesses & schools.View all articles by Kim Hopkins
- Plan your meals: It sounds simple, but it’s one that is often ignored. Sit down before you do your weekly grocery run. Know what you are going to make for each meal including snacks. Find out what’s on sale before you make your weekly meal plan. Stick to the list when you shop!
- Develop a file of dependable, go to gluten-free recipes. My people report that, when they are short on time, that’s when they are likely to make extravagant purchases. Take the thinking and guess work out of meal planning by looking through your file. You can even write down the estimated cost of the meal.
- Eat foods that are naturally gluten free found at the regular grocery store. Corn tortillas are cheap and have many uses, including for sandwich wraps. Beans are a nutrient-rich starch substitute, as are lentils.
- Eat whole foods. Whether you are gluten-free or not, it is healthier not to eat packaged, processed foods. Just because a product is marked gluten free doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Processed gluten-free products often lack nutrients. Limit these to a couple times per week or less.
- Eat foods that are in season. This means they had to travel less far to reach your grocery store, therefore they will be cheaper.
- Grow your own. Learn how to can and/or jar the extras. Live in a cool climate? Some veggies can be started inside.
- Make a soup. Soups are filling, and they are a great way to use up items in the fridge.
- Eat more vegetarian and vegan meals. Eliminating meat from two dinners per week will save you quite a bit of money.
- Eat breakfast for dinner. Make a frittata – cook 3 strips of bacon in a skillet. Set aside and drain off most of the fat. Add diced onions. Cook for 5 minutes. Add diced red pepper. Cook another 5 minutes. Add a package of thawed, drained frozen spinach. Salt and pepper to taste. Add bacon back in. Beat 5 eggs and pour them all over the filling. Top with cheese and bake at 350 for 8 – 12 minutes, or until the eggs are set. Serves 2 – 3.
- Get creative. For thickening sauces or gravy, substitute equal amounts of cornstarch for flour. Mashed potato flakes also make a great, inexpensive thickener and binder in place of breadcrumbs. Xanthan gum is used in many gluten-free recipes to serve as the “glue” to hold the product together; use 2 tsp. unflavored gelatin to replace 1tsp. xanthum gum in some recipes such as cookies. Cornmeal or crushed potato chips can be substituted when a recipe calls for a coating or crunchy topping.
- Buy in bulk. Once you found something you like, save big by buying in a large quantity. The Gluten-Free Mall has bulk discounts and many other ways to save you money. See their "Shop Smart & Save Money!" section on the top-right corner of their site.
- Create or join a bulk buying group. Ask around at your local support group, or link up with local folks online. If you like the same products buy a bulk order and split it.
- Cook ahead and freeze meals in individual or family-size servings. If you are not someone that cooks and you are watching your budget, it makes sense to learn.
- Invest in a good vacuum food sealer. This will help keep leftovers fresh for longer = less waste.
- Bake 1-2 times per month. Things like Pizza crusts, bread, and pie crusts will freeze well if wrapped properly.
- Make gluten-free cookie dough from scratch and freeze in a roll. Cut and bake what you need. This will curb your desire to buy an expensive mix.
- Start a gluten-free dinner swap (like a holiday cookie swap). Get a few families to cook up a large quantity of gluten-free meals and swap them for variety!
- Join a food co-op. Co-ops are groups who use their purchasing power to get lower prices.
- Make your own blend of gluten-free flours ahead of time and store in an air tight container.
- To prevent contamination, purchase extra appliances (like a toaster) from Craig’s List or Goodwill.
- Track your purchases. Seeing it in black and white can be very revealing.
- Consult with your employer’s human resources department. Do they offer a flexible spending account (FSA) benefit? These accounts hold your money pre-tax for medical purchases. If so, will the FSA recognize gluten free food (and related shipping charges)? Get it in writing! If your employer doesn’t offer this benefit, ask them to look into it. This will save you about 30%.
- If you are not using an FSA and you spend a lot of money on medical expenses, consult with your accountant. Are a portion of your gluten-free food purchases tax deductible? Shipping charges often can be reimbursed from this account, as can mileage to and from specialty stores.
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