14 Ways to Eat Gluten-Free on a Budget

Gluten-free on a budget

Learning a foreign language is hard. Doing math is hard (at least for me). Keeping your nice, “work pants” clean while chowing down on a burrito is hard. Eating gluten-free on a budget isn’t hard. At least it isn’t as hard as everyone makes it out to be. Read on for my all-knowing wisdom, my friends.

1. Become a member of a CSA
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a network of members who have pledged to support local farms and in turn, get a share of the bounty. I’m a huge supporter of my CSA and more than anything, I think it has helped me to stay on budget. Read more about that here.

2. Farmer’s Markets
Almost everything at farmer’s markets are “safe” foods, like produce. Foods at farmer’s markets are generally cheaper because you don’t pay for transportation. And the food is local! For us U.S. folks, you can find your local farmer’s market here: http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/

3. Buy local
I know, this kind of sounds like the tip above, but I want to expand a little. Not everyone lives close to a farmer’s market. I know, I’ve been there. But there are roadside stands and entrepreneurial farmers eve-ry-where. I’ve saved myself some serious dough by buying produce out of the back of some guy’s truck. Or by picking at a local farm. And it supports your local economy. Wins all around.

4. Grow your own!
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a green thumb. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned, but if you do have the gift, growing your own food can be a super saver. Learning to grow my own food is definitely on my life to-do list.

4. Eat seasonally
Strawberries are cheaper in the early summer. Eat them then, and freeze the leftovers for when you get a hankerin’ in December. And nothing tastes better than fresh berries during the depths of winter. In other words, eat your favorite fruits and veggies when they are cheap and in-season and freeze the leftovers. So easy.

5. Buy in-bulk for select items
Buying in bulk is hard when you have no space to store everything. I get it. I live in an RV. But sometimes buying in bulk really does pay off. I make a bi-annual trip to Costco with my mom (who has a membership) to buy staple items, such as quinoa, spices and toilet paper. (TMI?) Take a page out of my book, find a friend with a bulk foods membership card and mooch.

6. Buy naturally gluten-free foods
Naturally gluten-free foods are always, always cheaper than imitation glutenous foods. Go check out the price of gluten-free bread and then check out the price of regular bread. Are you in shock? Do I need to call 911? Yeah. Stick with the naturally gluten-free foods to avoid budget explosion.

7. Stay away from prepackaged foods
Prepackaged gluten-free foods are becoming more widely available. They’re awesome and I’m super happy that I can easily find a granola bar now, but I could drain my entire life savings on the price of some of those gluten-free bars. If you must, must, must have gluten-free breads and goodies, to save some cash, I would…

8. Learn to cook!
Before I learned that I had a gluten intolerance my culinary skills mostly consisted of turning on the microwave and heating up a Lean Cuisine. Perfecting the art of cooking has helped my budget tremendously. And now I totally impress people with my skillz.

9. Be flexible
When you are adapting recipes to make them gluten-free or just whipping up a quick dinner, be flexible and don’t be scared to try something new. If you are feeling a little uninspired, sites like Supercook and Recipe Key can help. Just enter the ingredients you have in your pantry, some internet magic happens and out pops recipes for those ingredients.

10. K.I.S.S.
Keep it simple, stupid! I try to apply the K.I.S.S. philosophy to every aspect of my life, but it is especially important to K.I.S.S. when cooking and shopping for gluten-free goods. Recipes with less than five ingredients will always be cheaper, and easier, and often time better than super complicated ones!

11. Check out other blogs
There are some ahhhh-mazing gluten-free blogs out there. Por ejemplo (that’s for example in Español) I adore Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Shauna, the blog’s author, is an amazing story teller. Together, she and her chef-husband create some of the most gorgeous gluten-free dishes I’ve ever seen. There’s so many blogs out there that I admire, but my favorites are a post for another time. Blogs just give recipes away! It’s so crazy.

12. Shop international markets
Shopping at international markets is a blast. George and I have spent hours just giggling at the packaging in our local Indian and Hispanic markets. I’m sure my international friends do the same at American stores. And, not only am I entertained, but international markets often carry food at unbeatable prices. I always stock up on corn tortillas, rice, beans and coconut oil.

13. Order online
It’s no secret that I love Amazon.  I’m an Amazon Prime member just for the free shipping. Yes, I’m on a savings spree, but Amazon carries many gluten-free items for much less than your local big grocery. Take an hour out of your next weekend to visit your local grocery store, write down the prices of the food you normally buy, then compare it to online retailers. You’ll be happy you did.

14. Ask for reduced costs when ordering in restaurants
When you are gluten-free, eating in a standard restaurant can be a land mine. I always recommend cooking at home for your meals, but sometimes you just need to/have to/want to eat out. Most restaurants will tweak their menu items for the gluten-free, but there’s always the possibility of cross-contamination. I hate doing it, but I quiz the waiter on the practices used and while I’m being super annoying, I might even ask for reduced cost. If I want a burger without a bun, I shouldn’t have to pay for the bun. Am I right? Some restaurants will oblige and others won’t. (I also make sure to tip the waiter well!)

What tips or tricks do you have for eating (gluten-free or not) on a budget? Let me know in the comments!