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grovermummyC4

Low Income, How To Aford gluten-free Food For Family Of 4?

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I am a single mother of three on a fixed income and half of my income goes to rent. I have been trying to keep my family gluten-free due to Celiacs in all 4 of us but it is to the point of choosing between paying the basic bills and buying food. I have been told that this is not a disability so i can't get help that way and the services provided to parents in need wont help ether due to the special diet and needs of my children. I can not even get respite care or sign up for the local association because i can't afford it. any ideas would be wonderful, TY

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Eat simple, potatoes, rice, chicken, tuna--you do not need to buy the processed "gluten free" foods to be healthy. If you bake, then yes, you will have to buy the more expensive "gluten-free" flours, that's true. Lay's regular potato chips are gluten-free, there are a host of regular products that are gluten-free, you just have to learn to read the labels. Fruits, veggies--that's what's important--not the expensive proceesed things. Do the best you can. That's all y ou can do.

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I agree with simple back to basics cooking both for budget and for health. Buy fresh fruits and veg in season, they will be the cheapest and most flavorful at that time.

Consider buying rice in large bags from an asian market or other international market if there is one near you. We buy 20 pounds of rice for around $10, and I'm sure there are better buys out there. Some flours can be purchased inexpensively at asian markets too. I buy Vietnamese tapioca and white rice flour for around 70 cents a bag and Korean potato starch.

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I'm so sorry you are having such a tough time. Sticking to the basics is what is going to get you by. Fruits, meats, veggies, and rice. For lunches it can be lunch meat and cheese and some carrot/celery sticks maybe. Progresso Chicken w/ Vegetables and Rice is gluten-free as well and can make a good lunch. Applesauce, fruit snacks. Pudding cups. All make great lunch add-ins and are not expensive, especially when buying them for 3 kids if you get the economy packages, etc. Cream of Rice cereal is very inexpensive. As are eggs w/ cheese and some fruit or tomatoes in the morning for breakfast.

There is also a frozen slow-cooker meal by Banquet that is chicken w/ rice and vegetables that is only about $6 and easily feeds a family of 4. Like the others have said, there's really no need for all the gluten-free substitute foods.

Also, I'm quite surprised you were told it is not a disability. You might continue to push on that one with whatever organization told you it is not a disability.

Can you look into food stamps? Are you involved in a church that might be able to help you out? Perhaps work with your children's school to come up with a plan to make sure they are getting a good meal at school as well (I think it's called a 504 plan, but I don't know much about them).

Some other inexpensive food ideas that are easily gluten-free:

Tacos (double the recipe and use leftovers in lunches)

Potato Soup

Pulled Pork

Italian Sausage with Polenta

This web site is a wonderful resource and I'm sure if you had any questions about regular foods that are gluten free anyone would be happy to help out. Hang in there. I was a single parent for a time, too, and even without Celiac it was a struggle just to feed 2 of us at times.

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Some more ideas

Cooking from scratch has been the biggest help to me in getting wheat out of the diet. Running the cost count, it's also cheaper than buying processed foods, and you avoid all those additives that are iffy healthwise, but aren't strictly a problem for celiacs.

People have given good ideas for lower budget eating in this thread.

Another nearly wheat-free cuisine is Indian food, but a person has to have a taste for it, and the spices need to be ground. Once you get your stock of spices, it's cheap food, too: chicken, fish and the cheap cuts of lamb. Or completely vegetarian. If you have 4 kids they may or may not take to Indian food if they haven't had it, but it's one of my aces in the hole. The recipes look long but they're really a snap, basically one-pot cooking.

Italian cooking, once you get past the pastas, often is extremely easy and quick. The library in your area will have quite a big section of cookbooks. I've occasionally gone to the downtown library and just sat in the cooking section, leafing through books, and then I use their xerox machine to take home a handful of new recipes that I can see will be gluten free. That's a way around having to buy cookbooks.

If you're a mom of 4 you've got your hands full during the day. One of my best time-savers is a pressure cooker. That's an old way of cooking, but it shortens cooking time immensely, and it produces a much more flavorful result than microwaving does. You can pick up a pressure cooker in someplace like Target or Walmart. I got mine in a big grocery store. They are much much safer to use than they were when I was growing up. There are pressure cooker cookbooks, too. One I use recommended that I buy a stainless steel pressure cooker, not an aluminum one, and that has paid off. They clean up easily and don't absorb the food in their surface.

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I cook a bunch on the weekends and make individual frozen dinners.

If your kids have access to a microwave at school, that might be an option.

Soups, rice, potato, sweet potato, corn all freeze well.

In addition to buying seasonal veggies, frozen veggies can be a real time and money saver. Frozen spinach especially.

Rice and beans, when eaten together, are a complete protein and a really cheap source of it.

Are your children in public schools? If so, they might qualify for assistance through a cheap school lunch program, but it would depend on whether or not the school could provide gluten free meals.

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The biggest thing you can do is not use specialty gluten-free foods. Find a cheap, naturally gluten-free substitute for all your old gluten foods. Try corn chips instead of crackers, corn tortillas or lettuce wraps instead of sandwiches, rice instead of pasta. Buying in bulk or buying brands labeled as "ethic" can save you money. I buy 10lb bags of rice from the Indian section of my store. I buy 4lb bags of rice flour for $2 in the Asian section of my store. (I am lucky that my local grocery has a good Asian section).

Family-sized bags of frozen veggies are much cheaper than fresh and can be used to supplement veggie intake. They also go on sale so you can buy then and save for later. Or try farmer's markets in the summer. Produce is often less than half the price.

I am a crazy coupon-clipper: watch the store ads so you can buy when things go on sale.

I like to eat Thai Kitchen "ramen" noodles for lunch. It's about three times more expensive if you buy them with the microwaveable bowl. I buy the packages without a bowl and bring my own bowl. Foods are almost always cheaper if you buy the large, non-individually packaged sizes and package them yourself.

You can also save money by using tupperware instead of disposable bags and sending real silverware. I often bring plastic forks, but wash and reuse.

You could check if your local grocery store offers a refund for bringing your own bags. It's usually just 5cents/bag, but it's something. You can bring your own canvas bags or just reuse the store bags you already have.

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I know a family in our town with a Celiac dad and son. They get assistance for the son each year through our local Children's Miracle Network. CMN has an account for him at a health food store for $1000 each year, until he turns 18.

I can give more particulars if you want, but the criteria probably vary from place to place, depending on how much funds are available.

Good luck!

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Grovermum,

Have you looked into a food bank? I think you might have to call them and talk to them/educate them ahead of time but they might have staples like canned tuna, canned beans (kidney, garbanzo, black, mexican refried), canned veggies like corn and tomatoes, spagetti sauce, rice. You wouldn't get to be as choosy with brands but with some good label reading (or giving them a list ahead of time) you could get some expensive staples. Good luck!

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Guest Doll
I am a single mother of three on a fixed income and half of my income goes to rent. I have been trying to keep my family gluten-free due to Celiacs in all 4 of us but it is to the point of choosing between paying the basic bills and buying food. I have been told that this is not a disability so i can't get help that way and the services provided to parents in need wont help ether due to the special diet and needs of my children. I can not even get respite care or sign up for the local association because i can't afford it. any ideas would be wonderful, TY

In Canada, we can claim our gluten-free food on our taxes. A poster here said this was not the case in the U.S., but I *just* saw an article that said gluten-free food CAN be used as a tax credit in the U.S. I will try and find that article for you. Have you checked with the government to make sure it's NOT considered a disability? The diet IS a medical necessity if you have Celiac Disease. I am pretty sure that even people here on welfare get money for the diet.

You may want to see if the local Celiac association offers sponsored (free) or low cost memberships (i.e. pay what you can). Some food banks even offer (limited) gluten-free food. Local health food and specialty stores often have sales on all foods and bargain bins, including gluten-free.

In the meantime, try to eat things that are naturally gluten-free, healthy, and cheap. Rice, beans, canned tuna, frozen bags of mixed veggies, potatoes, etc. Most of the gluten-free products are processed and high in carbs, things no one needs. Sure it's nice to have gluten-free pasta once in awhile, but there are alternatives.

You can also try getting fruits and veggies from the foodbank and farmer's markets. Universities often have a "Good Food Box" where you can buy a box of eggs, veggies, etc. for cheap directly from the local farmers. It's usually offered to students, but I highly doubt anyone would turn you away.

Bottom line is that there should be some sort of program in place to help get you food.

Hang in there!

P.S. Here is a link to a posting that mentions gluten-free deductions...apparently it's a little more complex in the U.S. than Canada, but hey, it's better than nothing:

http://www.everydayhealth.com/cs/forums/2/...ShowThread.aspx

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In Canada, we can claim our gluten-free food on our taxes. A poster here said this was not the case in the U.S., but I *just* saw an article that said gluten-free food CAN be used as a tax credit in the U.S. I will try and find that article for you. Have you checked with the government to make sure it's NOT considered a disability? The diet IS a medical necessity if you have Celiac Disease. I am pretty sure that even people here on welfare get money for the diet.

P.S. Here is a link to a posting that mentions gluten-free deductions...apparently it's a little more complex in the U.S. than Canada, but hey, it's better than nothing:

http://www.everydayhealth.com/cs/forums/2/...ShowThread.aspx

The article talks about you only being able to claim the difference between the cost of a gluten-free item versus a gluten item. I think there's also something about medical expenses having to take up a certain percentage of your income to claim it, too. I don't know the specifics, but I know it's a fairly high percentage which excludes most people from claiming. Since you have a lower income and lots of kids, though, you might qualify.

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Yeah I think it has to do with the extra amount you had to spend to get the gluten free versions of foods and it has to be over a certain percentage of your income. It sounds too complicated, so I haven't bothered.

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Yeah I think it has to do with the extra amount you had to spend to get the gluten free versions of foods and it has to be over a certain percentage of your income. It sounds too complicated, so I haven't bothered.

For people with a medical flex account through their work, you can usually claim the different through there and it's a lot easier. There is no criteria about % of income and you still get the price difference tax-free.

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