The Money Thing: Gluten Free On a Budget
A couple reasons I hear when people want to ditch their gluten free diet is that it’s “too expensive” and “eating gluten free on a budget isn’t possible.” Now, at face value that may seem true. My first reaction is to say, “What you will spend on money you will make up for in health.” What do I mean by that? You may be able to reduce medications, cut back on vitamins, take fewer trips to the doctor, and spend less money on toilet paper [a genuine concern].
But, at first it’s totally overwhelming and can be costly when you begin reaching for convenience foods. I totally get it – I lived off Amy’s and EVOL [packaged frozen foods] in college for that reason. Before you can see the pay off in your health, it’s hard to stomach a grocery bill that’s steeper than usual. Well, it’s totally possible to eat gluten free on a budget. Here are some tips to help you eat gluten free without breaking the bank:
1. Eat foods that are naturally gluten free.
This means you would be eating fruits, veggies, meats, nuts and seeds. I recommend this approach to eating gluten free, not only for health reasons, but also to keep your costs down. While I love a gluten free donut as much as the next person, these products are SUPER expensive due to the specialty ingredients and niche market. Plus, to be truly gluten free, the stuff has to be made on separate equipment, produced with allergy friendly handling practices, and possibly tested for gluten. These procedures are helpful to those of us who are extremely sensitive, but it adds to the cost. Remember: eating processed bread, donuts, pastas, pizzas and other delicacies every day is not the healthiest choice, even if they are gluten free.
2. Make things from scratch!
Occasionally you’ll want a donut or cake or pretzel or almond butter ice cream [just me for that last one?]. We are all human. So your best option is to make it yourself! With that, the gluten free flours can still be expensive compared to wheat flour. Good news: you can actually make your own almond flour in a food processor to save major moolah. Egg based, flourless recipes are also a wonderful option! [here’s a good one for muffins]
3. Eat local and in season vegetables and other products if you can
Not only does food taste better when it travels less to get to your plate, but it can also be significantly cheaper. For those of us in the northeast and colder climates, this could be a bit more challenging, but it’s definitely possible. I’m actually sprouting green onions in my living room window, and I have the opposite of a green thumb. I SUPER failed at gardening over the summer [legit disaster]. So if I can do it, you totally can.
You can also get your favorite type of local, in season produce in bulk and freeze or ferment it to enjoy later. This summer we froze blueberries because they are my favorite fruit, and we JUST ran out [sad face]. Additionally, when buying local products like meat, nuts, and cheeses, you can talk to the producer to learn about their handling practices. Getting this information straight from the source is much easier, especially if the product is not labeled gluten free. It will be a comfort to your mind and belly.
4. Don’t be afraid to order online
Okay, so this maaayyybe seems the opposite of #3, but hear me out. I check Amazon and Thrive Market for specialty products and choose whichever is cheaper. I have actually found the most cost effective & best quality coconut oil to be the cheapest on Amazon. Plus, if you “subscribe” to the shipment, it reduces the cost even further. I’m also a huge fan of Paleo mayonnaise [NO way I’m making that myself. MAJOR snaps to those of you who do] which I can find on either site.
I’m all for shopping locally, but the closest store with the mayo I like is a 45 minute drive. And actually, I’m 90% certain the Amazon warehouse is closer. Find my fave Amazon products here and if you choose to go with Thrive [they’re always giving away free stuff] click here to get a discount. Sign up and wait for an email with a product offering you will enjoy!
5. Coupon! It’s less frightening than it seems
Some people think coupons are “embarrassing.” Or that it might give people the impression that you are “poor.” Well friends, to that I say: who DOESN’T want to save money..?! Especially when you are trying to eat gluten free on a budget. Now, I’ve tried the whole crazy-couponing thing and it was TOO much for me. But, I still wanted to save some cash so I found a very happy medium.
First, I use an AMAZEBALLS app called Ibotta. You can join my team here and get a $10 bonus for signing up! How it works: before you go shopping, browse through the list of items available for the store you shop at, click an offer you like, and upload the receipt later. You cash out with PayPal, venmo, or gift cards and those can totally be used for grocery shopping. The thing I love about Ibotta is that they carry lots of “any brand” offers, which means whether you shop at Wal Mart or Whole foods, you can still get 25 cents off an apple.
Another similar app is Checkout 51. Not quite as lucrative for the naturally gluten free life, but “healthy choice” offers allow you to pick your discount. And they do a raffle for ANY shopping trip over $60 [I will win one of these days…]. If you are a Wal Mart shopper, the “Savings Catcher” app is a MUST must for eating gluten free on a budget.
but WAIT, there’s more..
Next, when I go to Target, I use the cartwheel app. Simply scan items in the store with your phone, and then the cashier scans your barcode at the register. Done. Target brand everything is always on sale. If you get a Target card [they do credit and debit!] you’ll get an additional 5% off, and they print out coupons related to what you buy at the store. Win win.
Lastly, along the same line as coupons, bring your own bags!! Sure, you can use a fancy canvas bag, or you can honestly just use plastic bags from your last trip. Most stores will give you 5 cents off for doing this [in some places they charge you for a plastic bag]. ALWAYS ask!
6. Avoid cooking multiple meals
If you are the cooker or grocery shopper in your family, then you are in charge. This may be the hardest on the list, but it will seriously help. Buying and cooking multiple meals not only requires extra money and planning, but also your valuable time. Time is our only nonrenewable resource.
I live with a non-gluten eater, so it’s tough, I get it. But your health comes first. In our house, our dinners are 100% gluten free [and Paleo + lowish carb] but I buy snacks and lunch stuff for my beau as a compromise. He is responsible for making his own lunch [sammies] and breakfast [honestly not sure, I’m not awake]. Plus, he is insanely careful with gluten, so I don’t have to worry about any of my food being glutened.
Eating gluten free doesn’t have to be costly. Personally, I will spend as much money as I want on food and cut back on other things [shampoo? what’s that?], but I realize it’s not like that for everyone. I am here to help! If you are struggling with this stuff and eating gluten free on a budget seems impossible, I want to chat with you! Send me your deets here and I will contact you to schedule a chat.
What about you – what are your tips for eating gluten free on a budget?