How to Eat Gluten-Free on a Budget

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness going gluten-free can double your food budget.   This extra cost is the number one stressor for newly diagnosed celiac patients.   Whether you have just been diagnosed or have been eating gluten-free your entire life, these tips can help you rein in a bloated budget.

Track your purchases

The first things you have to do in order to get your grocery spending in check is to figure out what you are actually spending and what you can afford to spend.   Setting a budget is essential in keeping those purchases in check.

It can also help to use a cash only system.   Most people are more mindful when they are spending cash than when they are using a credit or debit card.   If you take out the weekly food budget in cash and buy groceries from that, you will have a visual reminder of exactly what you have spent and what you   have remaining.

Buy naturally gluten-free foods

Many of the processed gluten-free convenience foods are very expensive   Buying rice noodles instead of the expensive GF noodles or naturally gluten-free corn tortillas instead of GF ones can save you money.   Think outside of the box.   If your family loves spaghetti they might also like a gluten-free version made from spaghetti squash in place of the noodles.

Increase whole foods and seasonal fruits and veggies

Eating fresh unprocessed foods can be a great way to avoid gluten and save money.   Whole foods like potatoes, vegetables, fruits, lean poultry, fish and lean meats are all naturally gluten-free.   Making these types of foods your staples can not only save money but improve your health by limiting some of the fat, salt and sugar laden processed foods.   Check with your local farmer's market for in-season produce to plan your healthy meals around to save additional money.

Eat in

Planning meals to make at home can save you serious dough.   According to most restaurants are making 60 percent on the food they serve.   If your restaurant meal runs you $20, it is likely you could have made that meal at home for a mere $8.   Depending on how often you eat out the price discrepancy can really add up.   Use your budget to determine how often you can afford to indulge in eating out.   Remember: The added benefit to eating at home is that you know what is in your food and can avoid potential cross-contamination with gluten.

Buy in bulk

Buying the gluten-free staples you constantly use in bulk can save you over the long haul.   For perishable items it can help to split bulk buys with another gluten-free family.   Investing in a good storage system like a vacuum sealer or deep freezer can also extend the life of your bulk items.   I like to separate any bulk buys into meal size portions before storing the excess to save time when I am eventually ready to use them.

Save money in other areas

Even with these tips you may find that gluten-free eating is still busting your budget.   Don't stress: you can save money in other areas.   Buying generic whenever possible, price matching or using coupons and going meatless twice a week can add up to big savings.   Just eating meatless twice per week can save the average family of four around $60 each month or $720 a year!

Only buy gluten-free for the family member who needs it

In our house we have one child who needs to eat gluten-free.   So, when I am buying foods to put in their lunchboxes, for example, I will buy our gluten-free girl her own special snacks and her sisters will get the regular items.   This saves me a lot of money because I only buy those expensive gluten-free items for one child instead of for all three.

We do the same thing when we make pasta.   Everyone in the family gets whole wheat pasta and our gluten-free girl gets her GF pasta.   Since both noodles cook for about the same time it isn't hard to make two different types of noodles.

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.   She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.  Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).** See More Helpful Articles:**

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