How to be Gluten Free on a Budget
Going gluten free is a bit of a trend these days, but for many (namely those with Celiac Disease), eating foods with gluten causes severe damage to the small intestine and intestinal tract. Others choose to eat gluten free to increase energy and reduce bloating (and weight) that is often associated with gluten-based products, such as breads and pastas. Typical gluten-filled foods include wheat, rye, barley and any foods that contain these ingredients.
A fear or misconception that many people have is that gluten free foods are tasteless, but this is not the case. While there are many cardboard-like gluten free foods on the market, there are also many other options that are quite delicious. Just know that if you are going to try a gluten free alternative, it’s best to look at it like you would compare bacon to turkey bacon – while it’s not like the original, it still tastes good.
If you are currently gluten free or if you have committed to switch your diet permanently, here are 9 tips to eat gluten free on a budget:
1. Eat naturally gluten free foods.
Did you know that many foods are naturally gluten free? Choosing foods that are in their natural state can save you money, and give you peace of mind that you are eating cleanly and making healthy choices. Plus, these foods are often lower in calories and better for your waistline. Here is a quick list of naturally gluten-free foods:
• Flax Seeds
• Nut Butters
• Rice Noodles (think Pad Thai)
• Fresh and frozen Fruits and Vegetables
• Meats and fishes
• Ice cream (check the label for mix-ins)
• Many cheeses
• Plain Greek Yogurt (added flavors may not be gluten free)
• Coconut Oil
• Potato Chips
• Tortillas and Tortilla Chips
2. Shop smart.
Now that gluten free is in the mainstream, there are a variety of store and name brand options for you to choose from. Many major food manufacturers now offer gluten free products in traditional supermarkets without the hefty price tag. Also, if you are looking for a quick snack, you can always go for popcorn or corn- or rice-based cereals such as Chex, which is naturally gluten free and reasonably priced.
3. Put on your chef’s hat.
Foods such as rice, potatoes and beans are typically very inexpensive, so be sure to utilize these ingredients in your meals. When you prepare your own meals, you know what you’re eating (no mystery ingredients here!), and you save money. You can even make your own pastas and bread with prepackaged mixes or from recipes online. Time saving tip: cook or bake ahead of time and freeze until you’re ready to use.
4. While you’re at it, make your own flour.
Gluten free flour can be expensive! If you are a baker and you cannot imagine life without breads or cakes, you can save a ton of money by making your own flour. Buy basic flours and mix flavors and ingredients, or grab a blender and grind your own rice or beans for inexpensive and easy flour that can be prepared ahead of time.
5. Clip those coupons.
If you have a gluten-free brand that you cannot live without, check out their website or social media channels, which often have money-saving coupons. Many brands will send you a coupon if you sign up for their newsletter or contact them and let them know how much you love them.
6. Shop online.
There are many online sites that offer “gluten free” labeled foods at a discount. Abe’s Market and Thrive are two to check out; each has a large selection of foods and offers regular sales and discounts. In addition, when you spend a minimum total you can get free shipping, which will help you save on time and gas. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up for the new Prime Pantry and get a monthly delivery of your go-to gluten free staples.
7. Stock up and save.
See a good sale? Snatch it up and buy multiples so you won’t run out and be forced to pay a high price tag later for the same item next time. Buying bulk is another option to consider. Many Costco and Sam’s Club locations offer gluten free products.
8. Think internationally.
Be creative with your menus and explore international foods that you may not have tried before. While that gluten free pizza from the local parlor may cost you twice as much as the regular pie, many Mexican, Asian, and other international dishes are naturally gluten free and prepared without compromise or substitutions. Grab an enchilada, sushi roll, or plate of Pad Thai and enjoy yourself!
9. Claim it on your taxes.
If you are gluten free for a dietary reason such as Celiac Disease, claim it on your taxes for end-of-year relief. Yes, you can actually write off gluten-free foods as a medical expense if you have been medically diagnosed with Celiac Disease. You can only claim the price difference between the gluten filled and gluten free options, but in many cases you can claim $5 for that $6 loaf of gluten free bread.
Remember that highly processed foods are not good for you whether they have gluten or not. Just because something is labeled gluten free does not mean that it is healthy or a “diet” food. Also, if you are considering going gluten free, know that you might not be able to go back. Your body may adjust to a diet that is free of gluten and if you try to eat gluten-filled foods or “cheat,” you may experience adverse reactions like stomach aches.
As with any big diet or lifestyle change, there is a lot to learn.
Are you a seasoned gluten free eater with tips to share? Start the discussion in the comments below. Knowledge is power!