How to save money on gluten-free foods!
Are you looking to trim your grocery and household budget? Even though I’ve learned quite a bit about trimming things up with our budget, I am always wanting to hear MORE ways to save money! We can really learn from one another. So even if you’re pretty savvy with your wallet, I’m hoping some of these tips will help you out.
In this series, I’m sharing some of the ways that we have LEARNED TO SAVE OVER $600 A MONTH ON GROCERY AND HOUSEHOLD ITEMS, KEEPING OUR MONTHLY BUDGET FOR A FAMILY OF 5 UNDER $450.
That includes everything. Food, toilet paper, beauty products, cleaning supplies, etc.
To be completely honest here, I don’t stay at home with my kids because we can “afford” it. My husband has a good job (that we’re very thankful for) but it is not a two-person income by any means. We have had to learn to be good with the money we have and to steward it wisely. We’ve had to make some sacrifices and give up some unimportant extras to keep me home. And I’m eternally grateful.
It was a choice that was important to me and my husband for our family, so we make it work.
I hope that this blog series gives you some applicable ways to keep your budget lower each month so that you are able to provide the things that are important for your family.
I’m going to tackle areas where I’ve learned how to save money and keep our grocery bill reasonable, while still eating well, eating healthy(ish), and eating gluten-free.
Today’s topic is gluten-free specific foods. If you want my top tips for saving money on meat and produce, check out those links! And stick around for tips coming up on beauty care items, and household cleaning products.
(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, but you will not be charged a penny extra! And mama, I never recommend products I don’t love or believe in. I so appreciate your support)
Here are some practical ways we save money on gluten-free foods and keep our grocery and household bill for our family of 5 under $450 a month.
MAKE THINGS FROM SCRATCH, DON’T BUY IT
When I first started eating gluten-free almost 8 years ago, it wasn’t trendy. I knew one person who didn’t eat gluten. That was it.
She was my only connection and resource.
I was teaching full time back then, so I was busy and didn’t know squat about how to bake gluten-free, nor was I really taking time to learn. The grocery stores had a few items that I started to snatch up! Gluten-free bread, bagels, cookies, oh, definitely. But man, oh man, did these purchases start to absolutely kill our grocery budget.
So I started learning how to make things at home. Usually on the weekends, and very haphazardly.
My poor husband tried so many failed attempts in my gluten-free learning journey. He ate them with such grace. But things were BAD.
Thankfully, gluten-free eating became much more popular, and the resources skyrocketed. All of the sudden there were TONS of Pinterest recipes to try and bloggers to learn from!
So this is honestly the best tip I have for you when trying to save money on gluten-free foods:
Make your gluten-free foods at home.
We save a ton of money by making things from scratch. Even though gluten-free items are now easily accessible in stores, they’re still massively overpriced. A very small loaf of gluten-free bread from almost anywhere will cost you at least $4.99. I can make a bigger, better tasting loaf, with healthier ingredients, for about $1.50.
When I did the break-down of costs I was amazed. That’s crazy! I couldn’t believe that it was so much cheaper to make my own.
Another thing I started making at home was our own snack bars. I’m a huge sucker for Lara Bars, but I make them at home for about 20-30 cents a bar now.
So with this tip comes another tip right on its heels.
Invest in the right kitchen appliances.
If you’re going to be making things from scratch, it becomes pretty important to have the right tools.
I do tend to take a minimalist approach to things, so I pair down my appliances to just a few that really make my life easier and are worth the investment AND the space in my kitchen.
With that said, these are the kitchen tools I highly recommend so your gluten-free life will be easier
If you’re new to gluten-free cooking, I’ve done some trial and error for you (a lot of error at first…although my husband might say it was a lot of trial…or full of trials…for him)
Here are some quick tips to get you started cooking from scratch
- This is the flour blend “recipe” I make myself (by make, I mean toss in a container and shake): Mel’s Gluten Free Flour Blend
You can use it 1-for-1 in almost any regular cake, cookie, biscuit, or pancake recipe with great results. It might change your life like it changed mine.
- Do not use this flour or any gluten-free flour in a regular yeast bread recipe. Don’t. All of the kneading and methods used in regular bread making are to help the GLUTEN. Which is completely absent here now. So DO look up gluten-free specific bread recipes (like this one that I make almost weekly).
- Make a list of gluten-free items you’ve been buying from the store, like bread, bagels, cookies, etc, and then start researching how to make those at home. Recipe hunt on Pinterest and Google and create a list or board with recipes to try.
- Take time at least once a week, preferably more if you can, to try a gluten-free recipe from your research.
- Consider the trial and error an investment in your health and budget! Don’t cry over things that turn out bad and feel like you’re wasting money (ok, you certainly CAN cry, I know there have been a few times when I did). But know it is part of the process that pays off after practice, I promise you.
2. BUY FLOURS IN BULK IF POSSIBLE
I’m extremely blessed to have a WinCo store nearby our home that carries bulk gluten-free flours.
Some of the flours that will make gluten-free cooking a breeze are
- Brown rice flour
- Potato starch (NOT flour)
- Tapioca starch
- Xanthan or guar gum
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Ground flax seed (buy whole and then grind it yourself)
I keep all of these on hand for various recipes.
Check around at your local grocery stores to see what they carry. Fred Meyer (Kroger) carries many of the same gluten-free items in bulk for very reasonable prices.
If they don’t carry something that you need, ask them to carry it! I’ve seen, first hand, that this can get things into your store. Just kindly ask the management to consider carrying it, and see if you can get a couple friends to also request it. Be the change, man!
Your dietary needs are not an inconvenience. They want to sell you stuff! Asking your grocery stores to carry gluten-free items so you can shop there benefits both of you. SO don’t be afraid! Start a conversation. They may even be willing to order some items in especially for you.
I know that those of you who deal with legitimate celiac may not be able to purchase from a bulk section for safety reasons, but there are still ways to buy in bulk from other retailers that are cheaper than grocery stores.
If you don’t have a local bulk section or you have celiac and aren’t able to purchase in bulk, here are some online places to try:
3. USE AS MANY FRESH PRODUCE ITEMS AND WHOLE FOODS AS POSSIBLE
By avoiding a large quantity of processed foods, you can naturally lower the costs of gluten-free foods—and by processed I mean store-bought crackers, breads, cookies, pastas, etc. It’s easy to buy gluten-free crackers these days, but they cost A LOT more than regular crackers, and really aren’t the healthiest option anyway, right?
Snacks and bread items are the biggest gluten-free foods that are easy to purchase, but can take up a good portion of your income!
- Instead of snacking on crackers, chop up fresh crunchy fruits and veggies. Make a homemade ranch dip or go for peanut butter (maybe even with chocolate chips or raisins for more of a treat).
- Meal plan to avoid over-indulging in bread-heavy meals (but hey, don’t avoid them all together!) Check out this post on meal-planning tips that save us a lot of money
The goal is to just reduce the amount of processed foods you’re buying.
This tip is very closely linked to the next one…
4. EAT FOODS THAT ARE NATURALLY GLUTEN-FREE
I realize this tip is a pretty big duh.
But when first starting out, I felt so overwhelmed and lost. I wish someone had told me this (maybe while holding my face so I’d really hear them): Eat more foods that are naturally gluten-free; there are A LOT of naturally gluten-free foods!
And not just vegetables and fruits. Things like
- Potatoes, sweet or otherwise
- Rice of all colors
- Corn—including popcorn (hey-o, favorite snack!)
Even when splurging in processed foods, know that the majority of tortilla and potato chips are both already a gluten-free food and don’t need to be bought “special” gluten-free.
Part of being able to shop regular aisles as a gluten-free consumer means knowing what gluten is IN and what to look for on nutrition labels.
Read nutrition labels on everything!
Here are things that you might find on labels that are glutinous:
- Wheat (obvi)-cracked wheat, bran, wheat germ, einkorn, spelt, semolina, couscous, kamut, and durum are all forms
- Barley-including malt
- Mir and triticale
Note: SOY SAUCE is actually made up of 60-80% wheat. TAMARI is pure soy sauce, and is made fully out of soy. Read those labels! (and buy tamari)
When meal planning, incorporate more meals that utilize starches that are from potato, rice, corn, and beans.
This often means incorporating meals from other cultures that don’t utilize wheat as often, like Asian and Mexican foods.
When you make meals that originally don’t have wheat in them, then you don’t have to substitute it with a more expensive gluten-free option.
Try to incorporate more meals that are already gluten-free, like
- Stir-fry over rice
- Whole roast chicken with salad and potatoes
- Pad Thai
- Street tacos
- Sweet potato, turkey, and brussels sprout skillet
- Taco Soup
- Korean meat with rice and fermented veggies
- Cream of vegetable soups
- Beef stew
- Turkey and rice soup
- Enchiladas with corn tortillas
- Banh Mi bowls
I hope that list just made your mouth water a little and see that eating gluten-free doesn’t have to feel deprived.
There are so many options.
When you eat this way, though, you don’t miss the gluten because it’s normally not there to begin with.
5. BUY WELL-PRICED GLUTEN-FREE FOODS AND STOCK UP!
I love pasta, but a good gluten-free pasta is hard to come by. The best place I’ve found to buy it is at Trader Joe’s for $1.99 a lb. Our Trader Joe’s is on the opposite side of town, though, so when I go, I stock up on pasta to last us an entire month (or maybe two).
That way I’m not tempted to buy it at a more convenient store for nearly double the price.
- Look at the prices at various stores in your area and know what THE LOWEST PRICE is
- When you see an item you use in your meal-plan often for a great price, stock up so that you don’t end up with an emergency run to a more expensive store.
Extra Tip to Save on Gluten-free foods:
Avoid the gluten-free specific food aisle.
This could be connected to almost every tip I’ve mentioned. Stores that have these sections are generally very over-priced and usually contain foods that aren’t the healthiest option, anyway.
Look outside of this aisle for snacks and items that are naturally gluten-free (or again, make your own!). Like I already mentioned, you can make most of these items yourself, OR you can find them in regular aisles because they’re naturally gluten free (like corn tortillas, tortilla chips, or potato chips).
To be clear, I’m not for NEVER buying these foods.
When I’m sick or when I’ve just had a baby, my husband will often splurge on some of those convenient items to bless me.
Those are great times for the convenience.
I also love to grab a box of pre-made cookies (these are my-all time favorite) for a road trip. Maybe even some pretzels . These items are great for treats, but buying them regularly will make for an expensive gluten-free diet.
There you have it. Simple ways we save a butt-load of money while eating gluten-free.
Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below. I love talking food—especially gluten-free food!