When it comes to eating Gluten-Free and healthy, the name of the money-saving game is HOMEMADE.
Buying gluten-free foods already made in the store will usually cost you a pretty penny (and an ugly penny, too).
If you’re like me and are striving to eat healthy, gluten free, and not go broke, it means you’re going to need to make a lot of foods from scratch.
When I first started on my gluten-free journey, I started to think I might not be able to afford to feel better by not eating gluten. Gluten-free eating was getting ridiculously expensive, and I had actual thoughts of, “maybe I should just buy regular bread and deal with the stomach pains.”
If you’ve wondered if you can afford to eat gluten free on a budget, I’m here as proof that you can
And I’m absolutely rooting for you and wanting to give as many tips as possible so you can live a healthy life and feel great...without going broke!
One of the biggest hurdles in the beginning of this journey is investment. When money is tight, the last thing you want to do is buy a bunch of expensive stuff. I get that. 100 million percent.
But investing some money up front will seriously save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Before getting into the tools you’ll need, my first tip as you begin this journey is to prepare yourself mentally
Your health is worth it.
Feeling better is worth it.
Eating good, nutritious, homemade food is worth it.
It’s worth all of the time, energy, thought, and investment.
As a mom, feeding my family really does take up a huge portion of my time. We have a family of six. Granted, one is currently nursing, but that still means I’m feeding her and giving my time (maybe even more so than the rest!).
Everyone needs food.
Because homemade food is healthier and can be made gluten free while sticking to a budget, I spend a lot of time making food that I used to just buy.
I seriously used to cry about it.
There once was a time when I’d buy spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce and enchilada sauce. In the beginning of making these myself, I almost hated it. I just wanted to go buy a can. But I knew that making all these various sauces myself would save money and would ensure there were no hidden nasty ingredients (now I’d so much rather make it and I totally cringe when I have to buy it on trips away).
I want you to know that this is a hard switch in the beginning. You may have an easier time than I did, but in general, making things yourself can feel overwhelming when you’re just starting out.
But it’s worth it in the end. All of the learning, the hard work, and the investment pays off.
I love having the skills to make many things from scratch, and you will, too. It’s empowering.
The tools of the trade
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To save money and start the gluten-free journey, these are kitchen must-haves. These are tools that will help prepare your kitchen to feed and nurture your family.
1. Kitchen mixer
Having a kitchen mixer will change your gluten-free life. I use mine nearly every single day. From breads to muffins to breakfast cookies, having a kitchen mixer makes a lot of recipes do-able. So many gluten-free bread recipes require xanthan or guar gum as a binder. This actually works best when it’s beat on medium high for 2 to 3 minutes. And THAT works best with a kitchen mixer, in my book. I just don’t have the arm strength for that. But if you have arms like Thor, you might be able to skip this one…nah, I’d still say the kitchen mixer is better.
What’s in my kitchen: Artisan KitchenAid Mixer
2. Silicone baking mats
Healthy (and maybe sometimes unhealthy) cookies, biscuits, pizza crust, and hamburger buns all need to be baked on either parchment or reusable silicone mats. My silicone mats get a ton of use. Gluten-free baking is a bit (ok, a lot) stickier than normal baking, and silicone will come in handy. Parchment paper also works great, but silicone mats are reusable and will save you a bunch of money in the long (and short) run.
What’s in my kitchen: Amazon Basics Silicone Mats
3. Food processor
My husband loves to remind me of how this is one of my favorite appliances. He told me YEARS ago that I should get one and I always poo-pood him because I didn’t want one more appliance filling space in my kitchen. But he was right. I needed one. This baby gets used weekly, if not daily, to puree vegetables (check out a great trick to extend meat in this post), make homemade peanut butter, shred cheese (because blocked cheese is almost always cheaper), and make my favorite homemade lara bars. This appliance will definitely save you time, which is extremely valuable as a mom who is now making a lot of food from scratch.
What’s in my kitchen: Hamilton Beach Food Processor
4. Storage containers, and lots of them
This really is a multi-faceted must.
As you start stocking up on gluten free necessities, you need ample containers to store it all in. When saving money on gluten-free foods, you’ll want to buy a lot of things in bulk. I reuse protein powder containers for things like rice flour, potato starch, and oatmeal.
You’ll also need containers to store prepped food and chopped vegetables to help make your life easier. Baking in bulk can also save you time, so having ways to store and freeze extra loaves of bread or pie crusts is essential to a well-oiled gluten-free kitchen.
What’s in my kitchen: Durahome plastic containers, Anchor Hocking containers, 16 oz mason jars, half gallon mason jars, and recycled protein powder canisters.
5. Quality pans and baking dishes
This goes for anyone who cooks in their kitchen on a regular basis, gluten-free or not. But it’s certainly worth mentioning here. Because you’ll want to cook most of your meals, having pots and pans of good quality are important.
One thing I grew up not knowing was that not all non-stick pots and pans are actually good for you. Many are coated with a toxic film that can leach and chip, and then be ingested.
Cast iron and glass are good options that are easy to cook with once you get the hang of them. My cast irons skillets are, like, my favorite present I’ve ever gotten. They’re non-stick when cared for properly, and whatever they do leach into your food is actually good for you! Hey-O iron!
For a family of now six, here’s how many of each thing I have:
- 1 large pot
- 1 medium saucepan
- 1 small saucepan
- 1 cast iron wok
- 1 12 inch cast iron skillet
- 1 10 inch cast iron skillet
- 2 bread pans
- 2 8×8 baking dishes
- 2 9×13 baking dishes
- 2 pie pans
- 2 cookie sheets
What’s in my kitchen: Tramontina cast iron skillets, Imusa cast iron wok, Pyrex bread pans, Pyrex pie pans, Pyrex baking dishes, Chefmate cookie sheets (these are no longer available, but when I purchase new ones I will be getting these ones)
6. Really good knives
When spending large amounts of time chopping vegetables and preparing healthy, nutritious, homemade food, a really nice set of knives will be a God-send. Investing in a good set of knives now will save you frustration, time, and maybe even a finger. Whenever I stay somewhere for a few days, I’m always tempted to bring my knife set with me. I love them and now I hate using cheap-o ones that just aren’t efficient.
Investing in quality knives is pretty expensive up front. I’ve been on a tight budget and know how this sort of investment just isn’t possible some times. If you’re in that position, I recommend buying at least one really good vegetable knife like this one. Also, keep your eye out for knife sets on sites like OfferUp and Craigslist. Sometimes people part with some really nice knives! I’d certainly start by looking there.
What’s in my kitchen: Cutco Knife set
7. Digital thermometer
Because gluten free bread will sink if it’s under baked, which makes it dense and gummy, it’s important to know when it’s fully done (usually around 200 degrees F). Having a thermometer will make things go more smoothly. It’s also really important for making yogurt or cheeses if that’s something you plan to delve in to.
What’s in my kitchen: Digital waterproof thermometer
8. Silicone spatulas
Again, sticky, sticky. Gluten-free doughs are just sticky. Silicone spatulas are awesome. They’re one piece so they’re ridiculously easy to clean, and they help manage all of the sticky endeavors I put them through. Get yourself some.
What’s in my kitchen: Allwin Silicone Spatula Set
9. Coffee grinder (for spices)
I’m not even joking…we’ve had our coffee grinder for nearly ten years. It’s on the cheap side when it comes to coffee grinders, but we use it for more than just grinding coffee. Having a coffee grinder to grind up flax seeds and various other spices makes things simple. I use quite a bit of ground flaxseed in my baking for nutritional boost and to substitute eggs in some recipes. It goes great in so many gluten-free recipes to add a whole grain flavor. Freshly ground flaxseed is the best, so I use this coffee grinder to grind mine every week instead of purchasing pre-ground flaxseed (which is also more expensive, too! SO saving money here, y’all)
What’s in my kitchen: Mr. Coffee Coffee Bean Grinder
We use our blender to make sauces, soup bases, blender pancakes, dutch baby pancakes, and of course, smoothies. Having a decent blender makes so many gluten-free foods easy and quick. Again, time is super important as a mom (period), but especially as a mom who is making foods from scratch. You’ll want a high powered blender. Even though the cost is more up front, it ought to last you many, many years.
The first blender I got after our wedding was a really inexpensive blender. After making a smoothie one morning, I noticed my smoothie was extra chunky. I thought there were big ice chunks at first. After trying to crunch one, I found out it was actually plastic from the blender itself. Insert panic. Yuck. I still bought another cheap blender after that because I really didn’t want to spend more money. But after the next cheap blender died within a few months, I bit the bullet. We invested in our blender and I’m still using it seven years later without it needing any new parts. This thing is an ice-crushing machine.
What’s in my kitchen: VitaMix Drink Machine
When building your kitchen tool kit, grow it slowly
You don’t need to run out and buy all of these items right now before you can start cooking gluten-free. I know I couldn’t have done that in the beginning, either! I do suggest setting aside money and buying one or two items a month until you have the things you need.
Make a list of what you already have, what items you need, and what the items cost. Start budgeting now!
Look for second-hand items in good condition
It’s wise to check local thrift store and second-hand places to see if you can score an awesome deal. In the western world we live in abundance. Many people get appliances for Christmas gifts, rarely use them, and then donate or sell them for next to nothing. One of my friends is gluten intolerant and couldn’t make her own breads because she didn’t own a kitchen mixer. We were able to find one for her that was practically new on OfferUp for a much more reasonable price than buying one brand new!
My last tip with kitchen tools is to keep them off your counter space as much as possible
With the larger counter appliances, the only one I actually keep on my counter is the KitchenAid mixer. It’s just too dang heavy to get out and put away every day for use. But that’s it. I store my blender and food processor in my cupboard. It literally takes me 5 extra seconds to get them in and out.
My kitchen has limited space (and maybe yours does too?). Storing my appliances off of my counter space frees up the space I do have for all the cooking and baking I’m actually doing. Having a clutter-free counter really puts me at ease and I love being in my kitchen!
So, I highly recommend decluttering your counters if your kitchen bothers you. If you can’t stand being in there because of the mess, try making space in an easy-access cupboard for some of the appliances.
Extra related tip: Don’t have a “junk drawer” or a spot where papers pile up. If you don’t need to use it in the kitchen, get it out of the kitchen.
I certainly hope that this post was helpful for you as you begin to eat a healthy and gluten-free diet.
To recap, take time to mentally prepare for the good work you’ll be doing! Investing in your health by cooking food in your kitchen pays off. Second, investing in the tools that will save you time and money will also pay off.