Gluten-free food is expensive, but for people with celiac disease, gluten-avoidance is vital to remaining healthy. Here are some ideas for how to save money on a gluten-free diet. You will probably notice that many of these choices are better for your overall health and nutrition, and less harmful for the environment.
Before You Shop
Do your research:
Look for coupons and promotions online and in stores. Shop the sales and if you have the space, stock up on items you know your family will use. Our nutritionist also suggested joining the mailing lists of gluten-free food manufacturers because they might send you coupons and alert you of upcoming promotions.
Make a plan:
Plan your meals around what you already have on hand. This will reduce food waste and discourage you from buying more food than you need. Base meals on what’s in season and on sale. Create a list for the grocery store and stick to it.
Another way to stretch a budget is to eat less meat. Participate in Meatless Monday for all your meals or even just for dinner. Once you get that down, add another meatless-main meal to your week. You could also simply reduce the serving size of meat. Consider using meat as a garnish rather than the star of the meal.
Think about what fruits and vegetables are in season. Besides tasting better and retaining more of their nutrients, in-season produce often costs less than food that is harvested far away and shipped to the store. Another option is to prepare frozen produce. Fruits and vegetables are usually frozen soon after harvest, so they keep more of their nutrients.
At the Store
Loyalty is a great quality, but not necessary for your brand relationships. Try something different when it’s on sale. Compare the taste and quality of generic brands to those of national brands.
Often it is more economical to make your own food rather than buy it prepared. Consider the cost of a bag of rice versus a microwavable pouch, or what you pay for dry beans compared to canned. Most meals cooked from scratch are less expensive and healthier than their prepared counterparts. Pass on empty calories, and purchase nutrient-rich food.
Follow your list:
Remember that list you made during meal-planning? Stick to it. If you find a great deal on something, know what you will do with the product or make a note of it and come back if it is something you will use. Don’t make a purchase just because the price is right—it will always go on sale again. Also, it should go without saying: avoid going to the store hungry.
Cook in batches:
Double a recipe, then freeze left-over portions in lieu of packaged frozen meals. Casseroles and burritos are two examples that usually freeze well. Prepare large batches of whole grains then freeze portions for convenience. This works for beans and soup too.
Reduce food waste:
One of the first pieces of advice I was given about gluten-free baking is to refugerate unused flour. Gluten-free flours become rancid more quickly than wheat flour. Refrigerate or freeze gluten-free baked goods as well.
Save and use leftovers: they make for an easy lunch or dinner the next day. Even if there is not enough for an entire meal, leftovers easily incorporate into omelets, salads, pilafs and casseroles. Save vegetable scraps in the freezer, and when you have collected enough make vegetable stock. The same system is suitable for making bone broth as well.
Decide what you value more: the price of convenience or the time it will take to prepare food yourself. This will be different for every family, and may vary week to week. For example, some people may have the time and motivation to cook a batch of beans, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Pick where you want to spend your time and energy. Start with one or two of these ideas and see what works best for you.