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.
1. Make Cheap Bread. There are ways to bake bread at home that are cheaper than buying specialty items; rolls, baguettes, and corn flatbread are all easy to make. There are also less expensive ways to buy gluten-free flour, if you buy it in very specific places.
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: beans are much more ecologically sound, and less expensive, than beef, because they take less fossil fuel to produce–not that I’m advocating not eating any animal protein–just eat less. Bush’s Beans and some Heinz beans in cans, are gluten-free; dry beans can be cross-contaminated with wheat.)
3. Rice is your friend. Rice is cheap, and extremely versatile. It can be cooked and kept in the refrigerator for salads or stir fry for up to a week, or just reheated for breakfast. It’s also a good substitute for pasta.
4. Look for gluten-free labels away from the, “gluten-free,” aisle. Manufacturers pay for placement there, and anything marketed there is paying for that marketing in the price. Also, the Asian food aisles in larger grocery stores are full of rice crackers and noodle soup packages marked, “gluten-free,” and they’re usually much cheaper.
5. Make your own coffee and iced tea. Coffee and tea aren’t always gluten-free. 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. Crack your own walnuts and shell your own peanuts. Anything that has been in a larger mill, like nuts and seeds, isn’t guaranteed to be gluten-free, unless you buy it more expensively (paying for that gluten-free marketing) or you make it yourself. (Blue Diamond almonds are the lovely exception to this. They make certified gluten-free almond crackers and almond milk, and they sell shelled almonds that are gluten-free.)
7. Avoid gluten-free versions of wraps, and pie crusts. They have too many ingredients, and that makes the gluten-free substitutes expensive. Chard, iceberg lettuce leaves and rice wrappers make good sandwich bread substitutes; for dessert pies, like apple and pear, use 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 or not all that healthy. (Examples of nutritious, cheap gluten-free junk food are as follows: homemade steak fries; Cocoa Pebbles, which actually have very little fat and lots of supplemental vitamins; cheddar cheese and peanut or almondbutter for quick snacks; refrigerator pickles from leftover vegetables; Jenny-O frozen turkey sausages and hot dogs, all say, “no gluten,” or “gluten-free,” on the back–rolled up in homemade corn tortillas, they make very inexpensive meals.) 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.