This post is probably going to make a lot of people mad, but just keep in mind it’s my opinon and you’re entitled to yours.
I’m really tired of hearing people whine about the high cost of gluten free foods. Their grocery bills are outrageous, they pay too much for gluten free bread, my grocery store doesn’t have what I want or their prices are too high. Waa waa waa. Around my house we call that B & M. First word is a female dog and the second is moaning, like Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter. But I digress to my happy place.
First I AGREE that much of the processed gluten free foods are expensive, there is no doubt about it. So why are you buying them? Why not make it yourself? Please don’t tell me you don’t know how or you have the time. I can go toe to toe on being busy and does not have extra time. I have a full time job where I work 40-70 hours a week, plus my wonderful food world of blogging, plus I do have a family with a son in high school who is not driving yet and one in college. I intentionally left our dog off the list because I have given all of those tasks to the rest of the family.
Sunday’s I now spend baking breads, muffins, quick breads, cakes and anything else we want to eat for the week. Now if you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know I really was not handy in the baking department. This is something new I am learning in order to save money and enjoy the baked goods we’re eating.
I’ve been trying lots of great recipes from great bakers like Karina the Gluten Free Goddess, Shirley gluten free easily, Ali and her cookbook Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, Elana’s Pantry and her Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook, Shauna the Gluten Free Girl and Susan and her Gluten Free, Sugar Free Cooking cookbook. I’m following the directions and learning how to bake. We’re also learning what flours we like the taste of and which ones we do not.
Now that I have found some recipes that are being requested by my family, I’m going to take one afternoon and pre-measure the dry ingredients for the recipes and place them into a plastic bag. I’m basically making my own mixes ready to have on hand for when we run out of muffins mid week. Do you have any idea how much money that saves? I also make a lot of other things myself. I utilize great kitchen equipment like a crockpot to save me tons of time and money. I also utilize my pantry and freezers. Now I will admit to having more than one refrigerator which makes storing extra foods easy.
The point is to use what you have available and make those high cost foods yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of being afraid to try something new. There are so many wonderful people in the gluten free community and they are very giving and helpful. Read up on those blogs and visit their Facebook pages. Talk with the community and ask questions. We’re here to help.
For instance did you know you can buy dried beans (dirt cheap), cook them and then freeze them in little baggies to pull out for your recipes instead of buying cans of beans ready to go? Soak them overnight and then toss them into your crockpot. Total time investment around 15-20 minutes. Basically you are creating those convenience items that save you time when you need it, at a time when you might not.
There are tons of ways to make things yourself for less money, that tastes better and that gives you more control over what ingredients are in there and are not. I’m guessing when you make something yourself you don’t add in all of those extra chemicals and preservatives.
I recently read a great post by Linda at Gluten Free Homemaker on saving money called Gluten Free Frugality. She did share a tip on shopping around for good deals. That’s true for processed and whole food ingredients. Buy things when they are on sale. If you live where it’s warm all year I hope you are heading to the farmers markets or growing some of your own foods. I can’t wait to grow some of my own this summer. I’ll have to get creative with our home owners association but if there is a will there is a way.
If you are thinking about planting a garden check out Erin’s $5 Dinners FREE Garden Planner Printables. She is planting her second year of Square Foot Gardening.
So those of you who have some great ideas on how you save money and make things yourself please share them here. If you’re one of those who say you’re spending too much money on gluten free foods, I want to hear what you’re spending too much money on.
For those who want to yell at me I’m not intimidated, I have kids. But by all means share your opinion, I’m asking for it. Let lose, don’t hold anything back, just please do not use profanity, you will be edited with pretty symbols like @%#!!
Really, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us all on Thought-full Thursday. I really do want to hear what you have to say. Maybe you can change my mind.
This is a great post, and I completely agree – We managed a gluten free and mostly organic diet while living on only grad student incomes, so we are testament to the fact that it can be done, and it can be done when both income-earners have a very time-demanding job.
The pricey GF things we buy most often are corn pasta, quinoa, my husband found a brand of coco puffs that he likes to eat for breakfast (ha how can I deny him coco puffs?), and I do like to use those hard as a rock GF cookies for cookie crumb crusts (which I don't make often). We also purchase several ingredients from Asian stores, which tend to be cheaper than the "natural" or "gluten free" section of grocery stores, esp. for things like tamari, rice noodles, tapioca flour, etc. And we buy in bulk whenever we can.
Several GF ingredients are expensive, like some of the more flavorful flours and especially the binding agents. I'm experimenting with cutting out xanthan/guar gum to save money, using binders like eggs or gelatin instead. So far I've had pretty decent results. Still, even making a loaf of bread at home, it's about $5 worth of ingredients – I love Linda's idea about getting a grain mill – I think that would help us immensely with costs!
Jenn- Thank you. I too like pasta. I buy quinoa pasta but I'm also looking to make my own ravioli. I can't wait. Glad to hear you're not denying the coco puffs. Never forget to have fun! Let me know how the baking experiments go. I'm learning now about baking and like the short list of ingredient recipes. I've also found ground Salba to be a good binder. Thank you for sharing your ideas.
I think you're spot on! When I first stopped eating gluten (and dairy and sugar) I bought a bunch of packaged food that was from health foods stores because I felt lost as to what I could eat. But now I never shop at any specialty store and I never buy packaged food at all.
I focus on good quality fresh (hopefully local) produce and keep my kitchen stocked with a lot of root vegetables because they're inexpensive and they last a long time. I buy a lot of dried beans and other items that are more 'make ahead', but its definitely worth it!
I also spend my Sunday's baking for the week. I rarely have time to make any food on a weekday (occasionally I can spend sometime on a dinner, but they're mostly pre-made.)
I'm a student who struggles with money, so I feel proud when I can keep in budget while still keeping within my dietary restrictions. I find your insight very helpful but mostly just a great encouragement!
Aubree- Thank you. I did the same thing as you. I think it's a natural first step. It's just one some folks get stuck in. It's so great to hear you are doing so many great things for yourself. Great job!
I agree with you on the whole. However, there are certain things you can't make that really are much more expensive. How about elbow macaroni?
MocaJanelle- Yep, that pasta can be expensive. I guess if you are only buying a few of those items instead of the entire grocery bill, then it won't cost as much. Pick and choose where to spend that extra $. There is a new cookbook I'm looking into on Italian GF that shows how easy it is to make pasta. I'm going to give it a try. Of course sometime in the future I'll be writing about it. I may look for a bunch of people to try it with me. Let me know if you're game.
Our grocery bills honestly have not changed since I went gluten-free, but they certainly haven't risen. I truly rarely eat GF substitutes – GF pasta is a treat, as is GF bread, cookies, etc. I think the big thing is that you have to learn to eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods. It's healthier for you anyway, even if you are not on a GF diet, but even more critical if you are. Your body just can't heal well if you fill it full of processed foods – even if they're GF. Besides, once I got over the fear of not being able to bake GF, I've found that the homemade versions of GF breads, cookies, cakes, etc taste better than the high-priced store-bought stuff. Yes, the flours are pricey – but again, that's why these things are a treat. On a daily basis, we eat rice, chicken, fresh veggies, fresh eggs, these kind of things. It tastes better, better for you, and better on the budget.
Alta- How right your are. Hopefully we can get more folks on the real food bandwagon. So far however it looks like most people reading here are on the same train.
Oh, I'm with you, sister!! Thanks so much for the shout out, too. I completed your poll with the choices available, but really, I bet I spend less than 1%, far less, of my grocery budget on gf specialty items. (I should actually start keeping track. Hmmm, that would make a good post.) I bought a package of Tinkyada gf spinach pasta the other day, but it was the first time in probably a year that I’d bought or eaten pasta. There’s just so much naturally gf food and options out there when you really take a look and start eating that way. You can eat well and not spend any more than the next person who is eating gluten. I probably spend less money that the person who stuffs their cart with tons of processed gluten (or gf) foods.
I’m really glad that you’ve found a way to make baking work for you! I never mix anything up ahead of time though. I can whip anything up in just a few minutes. Of course, baking to me is like breathing. LOL But, I think it’s also that way because of my approach of primarily using crustless, flourless, and just simple recipes. I mean why add flour to peanut butter cookies if you can get awesome cookies without. Flourless and crustless mean you get more of the actual ingredients and not “filler,” so to speak. One doesn’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to eat well gluten free. I don’t spend any more time in the kitchen cooking or baking than I did before going gf.
There are people who won’t use Asian products because they say they are not certified gluten free. I have news for those folks, unless your product is certified by the GFCO, your products are not certified gluten free. Third-party inspection is the key IMHO. That said, I have never had an issue using Asian versions of white rice flour, sweet rice flour, rice noodles, coconut milk, etc., but I”ve had LOTS of problems using other products made in the U.S. that are supposed to be gluten free.
Enough said … great post, Diane! It’s all about looking at eating gluten free differently and changing our mindset!
Shirley- I always learn so much from you. Maybe I'll get to the point where throwing a recipe together to bake will become second nature. For now I'm going by the book, well mostly. You know I have a problem following directions. But changing up recipes is really how you learn, right! Thanks for the info on GFCO. I didn't know that.
I'm checking out that new Italian GF cookbook and pasta. I think it may have to be one of our secret ingredients for Friday Foodie Fix so we can make it from scratch. I think I'll have to issue a challenge to get people to make it with me.
I think pasta is the only thing I spend extra money on. I have made my own in the past, but Tinkyada is good and it's so much easier. As far as baking from scratch, I do spend more on gf flours than I would on wheat flour, but it's way cheaper than buying baked goods, and better too. Thanks for mentioning my post!
Linda- Loved your ideas and happy to share them.
My wife just pointed out yesterday, the increase in out grocery bill, will most likely be offset, but the reduced number of doctors visits
James- Good point. I will say that when I first went gluten free I did spend the extra money on the GF processed foods. It was a transition for me and is that way for most. Once I realized just how much more I was spending, the weight I was gaining and a lot of the products ended up in the trash because they didn't taste good. This of course freaked me out because I had just wasted a lot of money and I also thought the living GF was going to taste bad. Boy was I wrong. Making things myself now tastes so much better. Learning from others, talking with them and sharing is a great way to take that next step. Good luck to you and your wife.
Thank heavens! I've seen a lot of gf bloggers try tiptoeing around this subject lately – but I'm so glad to see someone just come out and SAY "No. Actually. Going Gluten Free DOESN'T have to expensive."
I got a $10 bump in my weekly budget when I was diagnosed with celiac – from $40 to $50, and that is for both my husband and myself. And if I'm honest… most of THAT isn't going to GF specific food – but instead to the local butcher who sells only grass fed local meat. We eat really well – lots of fruits and veggies, good quality meats – and even room for splurges. But only because I don't buy mixes, frozen premade meals, or really much convenience food. It can be a hassle at times (I'm slowly learning to make my own frozen items – marinated chicken strips, homemade english muffin pizza's, etc are saving me on the days I just can't bear to be in the kitchen a long time.) but it can be done.
And heck – not only has going back to basics saved me a serious wad of cash… well. I was warned that I would pack on 10-15 pounds when I went gluten free from my doctor – that that is the average result of the change in diet.
I've lost over 65 – and my non-celiac husband who eats gf at home? He's lost 35.
Jenna- I like your choice of local grass fed local meat, fruits and veggies. Very cool about getting healthy, losing weight and not spending a fortune to do it. Congrats!
I agree with you as well! the most expensive gf items I buy are tinkyada pasta ('cause it is awesome) and xanthan gum. But I bake fairly often, so the xanthan gum is a necessity, especially as I can't use eggs or dairy. However, I have to say that unless you are using extra large cup size quantities of xanthan gum, that stuff keeps for months in the freezer. otherwise, everyday cooking involves fresh veggies and rice or quinoa. and I am one of those who have never had any problems using Asian products-coconut milk is a staple at my house, as are rice noodles. I actually think I might spend less money this way, since there are now no processed foods in my cart. (I might have to research my reciepts)
Jamie- Love how you stock your kitchen! It would be fun to do a price comparison. Maybe sometime we'll do that together.
Alta you are so right! I was in Whole Food Market and someone new to the whole gluten free lifestyle was complaining about the cost of the cookies, for her 3 year old. Cookies are not a snack, they are a treat, so if you buy a box for 4 or 5 dollars they should last for at least a week. Please feed that kid an apple! (sorry to rant…)
My tip is to look for gluten-free items online. Luckyvitamin.com carries a ton of products for alot less than the supermarket and saves you a trip on top of it. Amazon does a decent job as well.
The first month I went strict gluten free/vegan (as a part of an Elimination Diet to find food that gave me an adverse reaction), I could not believe how much money I was spending in groceries. I budget for $60 a week for groceries (just me, no one else), and I found I was spending almost double. But, I was shopping at the specialty shops because I didn't know better. Now, I make my own almond and teff flour, buy organic quinoa and brown rice in bulk from Costco, take the time to buy dried beans, and I menu plan like crazy! Each Saturday I plan out the week (usually smoothies for breakfast and some sort of salad for lunch/dinner), make a strict list, and head out shopping. I have to shop around, but last week I was able to do it all for $55. I was so proud! Plus, I started a vegetable garden, and am lucky enough to have a dad that keeps me supplied with freshly caught wild Pacific Salmon.
I am generally finding that the closer to raw that I eat, the cheaper it is. Great ideas… I just found your blog, and I LOVE it.
Megs- WOW, you go girl! I love your attitude and your ingenuity. I hope everyone who reads this gets the fact that you can take just about anything and make it work if you're willing to be creative. So glad you found us and took the time to share with us. I hope you'll be back soon.
I've had to deal with special dietary issues of one type or another ever since my oldest was born 23 years ago, and while I have to agree it can be more expensive to eat right, especially when you can't find the ingredients locally, but let me assure you, it was much harder 23 years ago to find wheat free, sugar free, and dairy free products. I had to have much of it delivered via special delivery refrigerated trucks back then. Now you want to talk expensive?
I have always been allergic to milk, but up until 5 years ago, I was able to still eat yogurt and cheese. Still, it took me a very long time to figure out on my own what I needed to avoid besides just milk, as the medical doctors in my area seemed clueless as to what to tell me to help me. Only after reading on my own did I figure out I needed to also avoid Casein and Whey. That being said, I am ecstatic to have found this blog, and the suggested cookbooks, and other materials. This has led me into a whole new world of being able to eat more than just plain meat and vegetables. In just the past two weeks, my world has opened up having found a relatively near-by Whole Foods Grocery! So, armed with two cookbooks, this blog, and several recipes I've found via this site, I have successfully located silken tofu, nutritional yeast, and the confidence to follow in the footsteps of others who are like me, and make 2 pies, brownies, and dairy free lasagna! I've even found that pre-packaged GF exists! I haven't eaten so well in 5 years!
I look at it this way….what is my health, comfort, and confidence worth? Is it worth a few extra dollars either to be able to have a few conveniences to help me maintain this new and different diet and finally enjoy some food? To me….it DEFINITELY is….and once I feel a bit more confident with the recipes, I may feel more confident to be able to make more from "scratch" rather than pre-packaged GF, but that will be a "bonus" in my little bank, to maybe be able to splurge on some kitchen appliance which might help me, or a second refrigerator.
Thank you Diane! I am not quite sure how I stumbled into your blog, but only you can appreciate how excited I am to have this information, and some good food choices that literally won't threaten my life! (Yes, I'm a severe dairy allergic person…epipen always at the ready).
Keep up the good work!
Linda- Welcome. I'm glad you're looking around and finding the resources here. You are on the right track and I'm so happy to hear that. I hope you'll be back soon and keep sharing with us.
I just don't eat pasta and mostly not bread. I use the Hodgson Mill baking mix to make some biscuits and use those as hamburger or manwich buns and that's pretty much it. I make the 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies when I need a treat (1 cup pb, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg). I make chicken rice soup instead of chicken noodle soup.
Dana- Love the 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies. I like how you are being creative.
try working 40-70 hours a week, single mom, full-time student and then tell me you have time to cook bread (etc) to keep the cost of gluten-free food down. My week is full of work, kid activities and homework every night and weekends trying to grocery shop, wash all the laundry, and do my own school work (grad school is very intense). You might re-think your blanket statement that you are busy and cannot condone excuses. You are way off base. Both my kids are celiac and I do it all by myself. Match that!!