Gluten Free on a Budget

Being on a gluten free diet can be very expensive.  Many of the specialty gluten free items such as gluten free cakes and cookies can be very pricey.  However, being on a gluten free diet does have to wreck your budget.  I (Robin) personally have Celiac Disease and live a gluten free life.  So, I thought I would share a few of my budget friendly tips.

1.   Fresh fruits and vegetables are ALWAYS gluten free.  I have really grown to appreciate and love many different types of fruits and vegetables.  I like to try different varieties every time I shop.  For instance, I may buy Navel oranges this week and Heirloom oranges the next.  This keeps it interesting and tasty.  Most fruit and vegetables are also very portable.  At any given time, I usually have at least a few apples, oranges and chopped veggies in my purse.  That way I ALWAYS have a safe snack with me.  I have found this to be much cheaper than buying expensive gluten free snacks.  Plus, it is much healthier.  Some of the gluten free products contain more calories than the gluten containing item. 

2.   Make items that are naturally gluten free staples in your diet.  When you shop the perimeter of the store, you will find many items that are naturally gluten free.  For instance, fresh meat, poultry and seafood that has not been seasoned or breaded will always be gluten free.  Many dairy products, eggs, cheeses are also gluten free.  However, be sure to always double check the labels for hidden sources of gluten.  Yogurt or string cheese can be a great budget friendly GF snack. 

3.   Keep Gluten Free Bread in the Freezer.  Gluten free bread is one of the specialty items that I do buy on a regular basis.  I always keep in the freezer and just thaw the amount I need prior to use.  I do not like to eat the heels of the loaf.  Instead, I save them and when I have quite a few I will toast them in the oven and then pulse them a few times in my food processer to make bread crumbs.  I use these bread crumbs to coat items such as chicken and pork chops prior to baking them.  I also use them to bind meatloaf.  I do not want to waste any of the expensive bread.  This is a much cheaper alternative than buying pricy GF bread crumbs.  Plus, I can season them exactly the way I want them.

4.   Watch for items to go on sale.  If there are certain gluten free products that you really want to use, watch for them to go on sale and stock up when they do.  For instance, any time I see my favorite gluten free crackers on sale, I always buy.  Crackers are an item I can use in many ways.  I often crush them and use to coat fish or chicken prior to baking.  I can also use as a snack or with a dip.

5.   Get creative.   Use items you already have to make dishes gluten free.  For instance, I always use cornstarch to thicken any recipe that calls for flour as a thickener.  If you are craving a dessert or need to take one to a party, try a flourless chocolate cake or make pudding instead of spending money on expensive gluten free dessert mix.  I love to take slivered almonds and chop them up and coat chicken breast with them and then bake.  It gives the chicken a great crunchy texture and I don’t have to worry about having a special gluten free coating or mix.  Rice is a great economical choice.  You can flavor rice in many ways and serve it as a side dish.  You can even make a dessert with it.  So, have fun and explore with the items in your pantry.

Overall, I believe a gluten free diet is not an option for someone with Celiac.  It is a must and should be followed strictly.  It is also very important for anyone with a gluten allergy or intolerance. Expense should not be an excuse.  I live every day on a budget friendly gluten free diet by simply having a diet that focuses on fresh and nutritious food. When I buy fresh items, I don’t have to worry about reading labels, wondering if it was prepared in a gluten free facility or if I will like it or just be throwing away money on a bad product.  I buy very little prepared items.  The items I do buy, I try to use them as many ways as I can to justify the cost. 

If we could help you live a more budget friendly gluten free diet, we would be happy to show you how on one of our Living Gluten and/or Dairy free Dietitian Store Tours.  Please visit www.marketstreetunited.com if you live in West Texas or www.marketstreetdfw.com if you live in the Dallas area.

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