A few years ago, my oldest daughter Emily and I both had to give up gluten and wheat for health reasons. Truth be told, we actually handled the upheaval remarkably well because….
- We’re laid back gals and it takes more than being cut off from Filet of Fish Sandwiches and even doughnuts to rattle us.
- We’re acutely aware that a lot of people deal with much worse things than this.
- Frankly, we were just glad to feel good again!
Having said all of that, we do occasionally commiserate over the cost of gluten free food. I simply have no idea why my body decided to take this route. She’s aware of my grocery budget…. and yet, she decided to turn down this road anyway.
I do not in any way claim to have all of the answers when it comes to budgeting ANYTHING, let alone groceries, but I have (through trial and error and error and error) discovered a few things.
As always, if you have to eat gluten free, always check the food item for a certified “Gluten Free” label.
- This tip holds true whether you have to eat gluten free or not – When using ground beef in recipes, replace half the meat with vegetables. Usually a mixture of onion, garlic, green peppers, and/or celery does the trick. You take out unnecessary fat and replace it with something better and cheaper.
- Master the art of cooking great rice, beans, salads, soups, and stews. They’re great at stretching your dollar and the possibilities are endless. You can use whatever produce/meat are on sale that particular week.
- This is a tip from Emily: Breakfast meals are almost always cheap! When she told me that one day, I got to thinking and discovered just how right she was. Eggs, bacon (or sausage), French Toast, pancakes, fried potatoes, grits, oatmeal, waffles.. they’re all very budget-friendly, even if you have to eat the gluten free version of each. Start a tradition of having breakfast style dinners at least once a week. They’re as delicious as they are inexpensive, so you might want to even aim for two or three nights. The French Toast pictured at the top was thoroughly enjoyed for supper one night along with bacon and a fruit salad. Insanely inexpensive and insanely good.
- Check the circulars each week – plan your meals around the best deals.
- Coupons aren’t what they used to be, but they’re still worth having on hand – just in case.
- Have you ever heard of Ibotta? It’s actually pretty cool. Download the Ibotta app on your iPhone and find out (quickly and easily) how you can start getting money back on select items from grocery stores and department stores. When planning my meals, I take the current “promotions” on Ibotta into consideration along with the specials in the circular. I use the money I get back from Ibotta for extra money for Christmas and birthdays. Having extra money when you need it most is all kinds of cool. My referral code for Ibotta is iyjbib.
- Beware of the food items that tout being Gluten Free and take this label as an excuse to charge you more. I’ve seen a few extracts, seasonings, and soups pull this trick. Before falling for something in the “Gluten Free” aisle, check the inner aisles of your grocery store. Many foods are naturally gluten free – there’s just no reason to pay a couple of dollars more because the words Gluten Free are written bigger.
- Don’t forget about good old Wal-Mart! I’ve found some ridiculously good deals on gluten free food at Wal-Mart. As far as that goes, I once found a killer buy on Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free mixes at Big Lots of all places. Be sure to check there as well. It’s worth driving around to find the best deals.
- I’m obsessive when it comes to checking dates on food items in the grocery store, but I’m especially obsessive when it comes to gluten free foods. The last thing you want to do is pay good money for a gluten free cookie dough, pie crust, or pizza crust just to get it home and discover you’d wasted your money. Been there, done that, and it’s why I’m obsessive these days.
- Read food reviews and gluten free food reviews. Again, wasting money isn’t much fun – read reviews before you pay for something that’s disappointing. If you can’t find a review for something in particular, contact a food blogger (such as myself) and ask them if they’ve ever tried it.
- Amazon is a fantastic place to try new gluten free food products. I’m not going to pretend that they’re ALL inexpensive, but there is a huge, huge, huge assortment of gluten free food to choose from. [See: Gluten Free Food on Amazon]
- Make a list of your favorite Gluten Free Food companies and visit their websites. Most have newsletters you can sign up for. These newsletters often include coupons, sample offers, and rebates. They’re more than worth the time it takes to sign up.
- Cereal is a great, usually healthy, and inexpensive food to have on hand for kids and adults. Before you pay more money for “Gluten Free” cereals in the health food section, check the good old cereal aisle – a lot of favorites are already gluten free.
- This is a tip that I, personally, do not yet follow. However, a lot of people do and they swear by it – Buying in Bulk from Club Stores (Sam’s Club, Costco, BJ’s..). While I do love the idea of stocking up and cutting back on the number of times you go to the grocery store (since we inevitably spend more than necessary when we go frequently), I simply have not joined a club store. After reading a few articles recently, it’s something I’m now thinking about. See Buy and Save in Gluten Free Bulk and Gluten Free Food at Club Stores.
- Krusteaz and Pillsbury both now have exceptional gluten free flours (I’ve only seen them in the traditional flour and baking aisles). They’re quite a bit cheaper than the rest and I’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences with each.
- Speaking of Pillsbury, I’m thrilled that they’ve entered the gluten free arena because their products are excellent and A LOT less expensive than the rest. They don’t have a lot of flavors or varieties out yet (I’m seriously hoping they’ll make more), but their boxes of gluten free cake mix and their gluten free cookie mix make TWICE as much as others on the market and they cost less. I’m hoping they’ll influence the others to find ways to come down in price.
- If you have the space and time, growing your own herbs, vegetables, and even fruit isn’t just a fun hobby, it’s an economical one. Those who grow a great deal of their own food, then freeze or can their produce are way ahead of the game. When I was growing up, my grandmother and grandfather had a huge garden. She canned beans, pickles, green tomato relish, cauliflower, etc. and froze just about every other vegetable you can imagine. She had a large freezer in her basement that was always full. Grocery trips, for her, were few and far between and, when she did go… they didn’t leave a bruise on her pocketbook.
- Look for alternatives to pricey ingredients. If you’re making a recipe for something you saw your favorite chef make on the Food Network but don’t have his/her budget, look for alternatives. Either use your own imagination or search for “alternatives to saffron (or whatever pricey ingredient you’re taking exception with).”
- Finally, keep in mind that the main thing when planning meals is to strike a healthy balance of vitamins and nutrients and the healthiest things, generally speaking, aren’t the most expensive things. A great tossed salad and piece of grilled chicken will leave you just as full as a more expensive meal.