How to eat healthy gluten-free food on a budget
Eating gluten free doesn’t have to be expensive! Learn the ways we save money (as a family of 6) while eating a healthy gluten free diet. These simple tips will help you stay on budget while eating healthy, eating clean, and eating gluten-free meals.
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 money-saving series, I’m sharing some of the top ways that we have LEARNED TO SAVE OVER $600 A MONTH ON GROCERY AND HOUSEHOLD ITEMS, KEEPING OUR MONTHLY BUDGET FOR A FAMILY OF 6 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.
How to go gluten-free on a budget
(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)
1. MAKE BREADS FROM SCRATCH
One of the most expensive things to buy gluten free in stores is breads. Cakes, sandwich bread, bagels, rolls. All of these will cost double, if not quadruple what regular store-bought breads cost.
So this is honestly the best tip I have for you when trying to save money on gluten-free foods:
Make your own.
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.
Buying gluten free biscuits, pancakes, cookies, etc, also add up fast. All of these things are very easily made at home from scratch.
When making this sort of quick bread recipe, all you have to do is replace regular flour with a gluten free flour blend (just make sure it is an all-purpose blend, not just a flour, like straight up almond flour)
Click here to learn more about gluten-free flours (and how to make your own!)
(Although it’s not technically a bread, another way to save money is making your own snack bars at home. I’m a huge sucker for Lara Bars, but I make them at home for about 20-30 cents a bar now)
2. INVEST IN THE RIGHT KITCHEN APPLIANCES
If you’re going to be making gluten free meals 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.
Here are some quick tips to get you started cooking gluten-free meals from scratch
- This is the flour blend 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).
- Recipe hunt on Pinterest and Google and create a list or board with recipes to try. 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.
- Take time at least once a week, preferably more if you can, to actually try making a gluten-free recipe from your research. The more you actually practice making gluten free meals, the better you’ll get! So start cooking!
- Consider the trial and error an investment in your health and budget! Don’t cry over gluten free 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.
3. BUY GLUTEN FREE FLOURS IN BULK
I’m extremely blessed to have a WinCo store nearby our home that carries bulk gluten-free flours.
Some of the flours and starches 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.
NOTE: 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:
4. USE AS MANY FRESH PRODUCE ITEMS AND WHOLE FOODS AS POSSIBLE
When eating gluten free on a budget, you can naturally lower the costs of gluten-free foods by avoiding a large quantity of processed foods—and by processed I mean store-bought crackers, cookies, chips, 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!
Here are a couple tips to cut out the processed foods:
- Instead of snacking on crackers, chop up fresh crunchy fruits and veggies.
- Make a homemade ranch dip or peanut butter to go with fruits and veggie snacks
- Make your own trail mix using nuts, seeds, and dried fruit (buying in bulk will save you here, too)
- Keep hard-boiled eggs on hand for a protein snack or lunch
Note: Even when splurging on processed foods, know that the majority of tortilla and potato chips are already a gluten-free food and don’t need to be bought “special” gluten-free.
Check out this post on how to keep veggies fresh as long as possible.
5. MEAL PLAN TO SAVE $$
Going into the week without a solid menu plan is going to add up. We tend to make impulse buys instead of hunting for the best deals when we don’t have a meal plan set.
Here are the main ways meal planning has saved my sanity:
- I actually save TIME because I’m not trying to put together a meal frantically, usually at the most stressful time of the day, when I don’t think very quickly and am distracted.
- I save FOOD and waste less because I have a plan to use all of what I buy.
And that means…
- I save MONEY since less food waste=less money waste.
6. EAT FOODS THAT ARE NATURALLY GLUTEN-FREE
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 because 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!)
- Oatmeal (certified gluten free, I buy this brand in bulk here)
- Nuts & seeds
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.
Here are some naturally gluten-free meal ideas:
- Stir-fry over rice
- Whole roast chicken with salad and potatoes
- Street tacos
- Peanut Butter Thai Noodles
- Sweet potato, turkey, and brussels sprout skillet
- Taco Soup
- Korean rice bowl with fermented veggies
- Cream of potato soup
- Beef stew
- Turkey and rice soup
- Enchiladas with corn tortillas
- Vietnamese Banh Mi bowls
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 you eat this way, though, you don’t miss the gluten because it’s normally not there to begin with.
7. KNOW THE PRICE-POINT OF GLUTEN-FREE FOODS & STOCK UP!
Here are a couple tips to help you find the best priced gluten free foods in your area
- Drive to a few stores and look at the prices for a list of specific items, like noodles, tortillas, etc. In a notebook, write down all the prices for each item. Then circle the store with THE LOWEST PRICE.
- 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.
Bonus tip to save money 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).
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 bunch of money while eating gluten-free.
Want to save MORE money?
Check out these posts from the Money Saving Series:
Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below. I love talking food—especially gluten-free food!