Practical ways to live better on less.
Initially, going gluten-free is a frustrating experience. Not only do you have to forgo many of your favorite foods like breads, crackers, and desserts, but you also have to skip some of your favorite restaurants which unfortunately offer a predominately wheat based menu. Add in, spending more money on small serving sizes and paying over the top prices on variations of your favorite snacks. Luckily, you can easily take out most of the stress!
Although many equate gluten-free diets with increased grocery expenses, this fortunately is not always the case. You can actually save money on a gluten-free diet if you use common sense, smart shopping strategies, and live a healthy lifestyle. Below are a few tips for shopping gluten free on a budget. Feel free to share some of your favorite strategies as well!
10 Tips for Shopping Gluten-Free on a Budget
1. Skip pricey gluten-free crackers and snacks. Most of these overpriced snacks come in miniscule boxes. You are wasting your hard earned income on unhealthy, marked up snacks. Many of the snacks on the market today are just taking advantage of the popularity of the diet and the limited availability of the products. Limit processed junk food in favor of naturally gluten free snacks like air popped popcorn.
2. Bake your own treats. Gluten free treats (brownies, cupcakes, cakes, etc.) are often the most outrageously overpriced out of all the gluten-free items in the store. Many companies take advantage of several aspects of the diet, especially the cravings for sweets those on a gluten-free diet can experience and the low accessibility for these treats. They also take advantage of those with no time to bake, no baking skills, and those who are afraid to try new recipes.
Save money and make your own recipes from scratch. You will need to experience with different flours to achieve your preferred taste. To start, look up some simple recipes online. Many times it is as simple as replacing regular wheat based flour with a rice, almond, or coconut flour base. Thousands of recipe exist online from the simplest to most extravagant. Do your research and start experimenting with new creations! I have sampled gluten-free cookies to relatives and they haven’t even noticed a difference!
3. Check company websites for coupons. Many gluten-free brands offer special deals to attract new customers. You can often receive a coupon by liking a Facebook page. You can also sign up for the company’s email list to stay up to date on new products. For example, my favorite gluten-free brand, Amy’s Kitchen, offers a coupon for 0.75 cents off on their website. This company offers lots of affordable gluten-free frozen meals in addition to canned soups and snacks. Check each individual brand’s website.
4. Choose naturally gluten free foods. Foods that are naturally gluten- free are cheaper and healthier than prepackaged foods. Change your eating habits. Choose fresh fruit instead of granola bars, raw veggies instead of crackers, etc. These healthy snacks will fill you up more than the processed stuff. See my 40 Affordable Gluten-Free Snack Ideas article for a full list of healthy, affordable choices.
5. Shop at Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is a wonderful grocer that specializes in many allergy friendly products, including snacks, staples, refrigerated and frozen goods, and beauty products. Items are clearly marked gluten-free throughout the store and any item containing wheat/gluten are marked as so. Prices are affordable and most items are even tastier than the brand name versions. Store employees are friendly and willing to help you out with any allergy related questions.
6. Eat more vegetarian meals. Many vegetarian dishes like stir fried rice, soups, and taco bowls are naturally gluten-free, delicious, and incredibly cheap. Incorporating a few veggie based dinners each week will save you over buying pricey meat, fish, and poultry dishes.
7. Make potatoes your new best friend. Both regular and sweet potatoes are simple, cheap, versatile foods that can be incorporated into dozens of different meals. They are also naturally gluten-free and very affordable. A big sack of potatoes only cost a few dollars, even if you buy organic. You can use them in so many different recipes including soups, casseroles, breakfast recipes, and so much more. I like to have a simple loaded baked potato for lunch every once in a while. Baked, boiled, fried, whatever your preference, potatoes are a cheap, filling, gluten-free food.
8. Learn to cook. Take advantage of the recent surge in popularity of the gluten-free diet. There are thousands of free recipes online, many with step by step instructions. Cooking your own meals, while time consuming, is cheaper and healthier than anything you will find in a restaurant or in your grocery’s freezer section.
9. Shop at farmers markets. Buying produce at your local farmers market can save you a lot of money over the traditional grocery store. Prices are often much lower, plus the quality is often superior. I find the fruits and veggies to be less bruised, more plump, and even more delicious.
10. Check sales flyers for weekly deals. At the beginning of each week, scan you local grocery store sales ads for upcoming deals. In addition to produce and dairy deals, you may find a deal or 2 on specialty gluten-free products, especially on newer items. Treat yourself occasionally when special sales are offered.
Are you following a gluten-free diet? Has the transition been hard? What are some of your strategies for saving?