So you’re gluten-free–and you’ve figured out that it can be pretty pricey. Follow a few simple rules, and eat, without worrying about the cost.
2. Eat your conscience. If something is not in short supply and it is easy to produce, there is a good chance it’s cheap. (For example: chicken is much more ecologically sound than beef because it takes less fossil fuel to produce–that’s why it costs, on average, twenty percent less.)
3. Bush’s Beans, in cans, are your friend. (Unlike your local grocery store dried beans, General Mills beans, and expensive organic mail-order beans, Bush’s are easy to find, actually gluten-free, and free of cross-contamination, and cheap.) You’ll never be tempted to turn to fast food if you have something that easy to prepare at home. (Or some Heinz beans, if you’re in the U.K. or Canada.)
4. For the most part, eat only store-brand frozen vegetables. Odds are, you will eat them before they can get frostbite, and in many parts of the country, store brands are actually the overflow from the peak of the local harvest–which means they are better than fresh, and better than national brands.
5. Make your own coffee and iced tea. Instant coffee is almost always gluten-free; any reasonable herbal tea can be cold brewed in your refrigerator; drink it instead of soda and save several dollars a week. (There is no gluten in most Stash and Celestial Seasonings Teas.)
6. Buy some kind of seasonal fruit each week, and either keep it handy (oranges, apples and bananas) or cut it up, (papaya, watermelon, canteloupe) so it’s easy to eat at any time.
7. Avoid gluten-free versions of bread, wraps, and pie crusts. They have too many ingredients, and that makes the gluten-free substitutes expensive. Mission corn tortillas (the ones that say ”gluten-free” on the wrapper) work well as sandwich wraps for lunch meats; sturdier vegetables like squash and zucchini can hold mini-quiches, instead of pie crusts; for dessert pies, like apple and pear, invest in a non-stick pan and make fruit galettes where sliced fruit and carmelized sugar are the top layer of the crust; for mushier desserts use discounted nut-crumbles and brown sugar for crumble crusts
8. Find a good gluten-free store brand of pasta. They exist, and they’ll make your life infinitely easier when you can’t figure out what to cook.
9. Learn what cheap food you’re really willing to eat. Keep some of that on hand, even if it’s not something you think you should be eating, because it’s technically junk food. (Examples of nutritious, cheap gluten-free junk food are as follows: Ore Ida steak fries–they are about 45 cents a serving and have 3 grams of fat in a serving; Cocoa Pebbles, which actually have very little fat and lots of supplemental vitamins; Hormel Lunch Meats, and Jenny-O frozen turkey sausages, all say, “no gluten” or “gluten-free” on the back.) You can also easily make things like gluten-free cookies, cake and ice cream.
10. The only thing that you should buy in bulk is dog food. Boredom is the enemy here, “potatoes, rice, polenta, corn chips, tortillas, repeat”, gets pretty darn old pretty fast. (As you discover new food ingredients, you’ll be tempted to buy them in bulk, and then discover that you don’t actually like millet, but you’ve now got a cupboard full.) Buy less than you think you need, and then use it up. You’ll spend less, and you’ll like what you’re eating more.