How to Be Gluten Free on a Tight Budget
It’s the New Year and that means we all give more consideration to healthy living and making things better for ourselves. In my previous post Goals, I talk about my goals for 2014 and of course one of the goals includes a healthier lifestyle for me and my family. This year will really be just an expansion of what we already do. Juliana has been on a Gluten Free (GF) diet for over two years and this year our entire family is going GF. We decided to change her diet when she continued to have progressive gastrointestinal issues as she ate more and more “regular” foods. We still feel that this was the best choice for her and I’ve become quite good at providing her healthy choices without going broke. Despite the naysayers, I don’t feel that a GF diet is any more expensive. Here are the things I’ve found helpful.
Keep meals simple. Choose the obvious choices of naturally GF foods staples like rice, corn, potatoes and beans as a base; then laden meals and snacks with fresh vegetables and fruits and even nuts. These should be a part of our diet anyway so you accomplish two tasks at once.
Limit the purchase of processed, commercial snacks and meals. This is the way to kill any budget and these types of meals are expensive. A lot of large mainstream food manufacturers are now beginning to include GF alternatives in their brands, but they will still be a little more costly. Because the GF diet is becoming more popular you can find just about any type of bread, pasta or pastry GF. Save the expense and make it yourself or use a substitute; which leads me to the next point.
Learn to cook Gluten Free. This may seem challenging at first, but GF cooking isn’t more complicated than regular cooking. It’s trial and error. You have to have an understanding of what is happening with the ingredients and what mix is necessary to get the same outcome as if you were using wheat flour. Cooking GF at home removes a huge expense of buying pre-packaged, commercial foods. And you don’t have to stress over whether or not it’s really GF because you are the one who added the ingredients.
Find a good all-purpose flour recipe. If you are looking to make any type of bread or pastry, this is a must. It was actually the cost of GF bread that lead me to baking. Before I started baking Juliana’s GF bread, I purchased a $7.00 loaf from a local GF bakery. It didn’t take me long to realize how expensive this would be. Now, with all my flours on hand, I can make as many loaves as I want at a fraction of the cost. And oh yeah, my home-baked version is so much better. I use this flour guide as my main reference. My go to GF flour can be found here.
Be open to experiment. Like anything new, a GF diet will take time to master. I add more recipes as I am able and continue to try different flours and alternatives to recipes. Don’t be afraid to try millet, quinoa, nut flours and many other options.
Be creative with your shopping. I shop at three different stores during the month based upon sales. I also buy in bulk from a local natural foods company and Amazon. While it might seem extreme to buy large bags of several different flours, you save more in the long run.
Continue learning, researching and having fun. To date, I have yet to purchase a GF cookbook. I keep saying I am going to, but I haven’t yet. Instead, I get most of the recipes from blogs. I learned what I know from scouring websites for all types of information. Now that I know what to look for, I can easily read an ingredient list to see if it will yield the result I want. What I enjoy most about cooking GF is that I can pretty much make anything I see in the store. So naysayers, please re-think the claim that a GF diet is so expensive. Eating GF can be done without breaking the bank. If you are following a GF diet or considering one, what budget friendly tricks do you use to keep your costs low?