I debated about writing this post, because gluten sensitivity is so common these days, and perhaps everyone already knows all there is to know about going gluten free. Then I started to think about when I had to go gluten free six years ago, due to my son’s intolerance to any gluten in my breast milk, and how I had to learn what to eat, what to buy, etc., along the way. I know that in my quest to eat gluten free, I wasted a fair amount of money on different products that were gluten free, but were also quite expensive. At that time, my goal was to eat a healthy diet that was gluten free and delicious, without driving us into the poor house.
Here are some things that I would suggest to you if you are just starting out on your gluten free journey, and don’t want to break the bank.
1. Naturally G-Free: Focus on the foods that are naturally gluten free, and fill your pantry with those foods first. Beans, rice, seeds, potatoes, root vegetables – these items are all gluten free, and have nutritious carbohydrates that your body needs and that will probably crave. There are a ton of varieties of each of these items to add some different flavors and textures to your diet.
Brown rice, Basmati rice, red rice, wild rice, pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, lima beans, white potatoes, yellow potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips…the list goes on and on! Now is the time to experiment, and since these foods are naturally gluten free, and not a processed gluten free item, they are often very affordable and can be found on sale at a normal grocery store rather than a higher priced health food store.
All fruits and vegetables are gluten free – so you can watch for sales on your favorite produce. Buying frozen fruits and veggies is a great way to save money and to always have healthy options in the freezer!
Of course, buying produce locally from your Farmer’s Market is another great option when it’s in season. That way you’re supporting your local farmers and saving money!
2. Snacktime: When you are busy and out and about and get hungry, that’s when you are most susceptible to spending more money on a special gluten free snack item. Prepare your snacks at home. Nut, seed, and dried fruit mixes are a healthy option, and all three of those items can be bought in bulk and mixed up at home. However, if you are eating gluten free because you have Celiac Disease or a wheat allergy – it is not safe for you to buy from the bulk bins – there is a huge risk of cross contamination, so don’t do it!
Gluten free crackers are super expensive, but it’s surprisingly easy to make your own. Larabars are one of my favorite portable snacks, and if you don’t want to buy them, you can make your own pretty easily and inexpensively. It’s also easy to make your own granola bars – make a big batch and freeze them individually so that they stay fresh.
3. Baking: Now for baking blends, you have a couple of options. There are a lot of great cup for cup gluten free flour blends for your baking needs. I personally prefer to purchase a gluten free flour blend rather than make my own just because I have two little boys and making my own blend would be just one more thing to do. We love Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend (affiliate link) and it’s available in a huge bag at Costco right now, so that’s a great deal. Of course, there are many different blends available, and you should read the labels on any blend that you choose. We are sensitive to dairy, so several of the popular gluten free blends are not an option for us. You can definitely try making your own blend – this is a very straightforward recipe. It may be cheaper to make your own blend, especially if you can find the different flours in the bulk food section.
4. Shopping: There are several surprising stores that stock gluten free pantry items at a very low price. Big Lots is one of my favorite places to find gluten free flours, snacks, and cereals at a really reasonable price. The Big Lots in my area has a wide selection of Bob’s Red Mill items, including, rice, gluten free oats, and gluten free baking mixes. The price on these items is much lower than what I would pay at my local health food store.
TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Homegoods also have an often changing selection of gluten free foods. I have found chips, crackers, cookies, granola bars, and bake mixes at these stores.
We live in an area that has many different ethnic food stores. I have found that it is possible to save a lot on gluten free pantry items at these stores. You can find rice, dried beans, and spices at the Indian grocery stores, rice noodles, rice, and tamari and the Asian grocery stores, and lentils and other items at the Lebanese grocery stores. It is worth checking out some of these stores to save on these staples. Of course, if you have Celiac Disease, you need to be cautious about the manufacturing practices on these items.
I have also found that my local Kroger and Meijer stores are now carrying more gluten free items. I particularly like going to our Kroger, because they seem to clearance out items from the Healthy Living section pretty frequently. I have seen gluten free cookies, Lara Bars, and cereal on clearance for a REALLY reduced price. My most recent find was our favorite Puffins cereal for .69 a box! Since the date was good until December, we bought 20 boxes. Yes, we are cereal hoarders. I can’t guarantee those kind of finds at every Kroger, but it is worth checking your store to see if there is a reduced item section.
Aldi is now carrying a line of gluten free items called Live G Free. I just recently picked up the baking mix, and a box of chocolate chip cookies, and both were very good! We also really enjoy the Live G Free brand of gluten free pasta – it’s corn based, and delicious!
If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, they have some gluten free staples at reasonable prices. Gluten free waffles, bread, granola bars, candy, and more can be found at Trader Joe’s. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, make sure to stop by the information desk and ask for the list of gluten free products.
5. Online Shopping: I also use Amazon to buy some gluten free staples that we use frequently. Since I am an Amazon Prime member, the free 2 day shipping is very convenient, and I can usually find what I am looking for at a competitive price. I use the Subscribe and Save option on items that I know we go through regularly. That simply means that I tell Amazon how often I want a product shipped to me, and when I subscribe to that product, I receive an extra dollar or two off of the item. If you search “subscribe and save gluten free” (affiliate link) you’ll get an idea of what gluten free staples are a part of the Subscribe and Save program.
6. Coupons: I find that it is a little bit harder to find coupons that are good for gluten free (or dairy free, or allergy friendly) items, but there are a few places to find them. The Peaceful Mom posts a roundup of gluten free coupons each week. When I shop at Whole Foods, I always check out the Whole Deal when I walk in, because you never know what coupons will be included, and there are often allergy friendly product coupons with a high value.
If you shop at Target, it is worth it to use the Target website, or to use the Cartwheel App. I’ve saved money on rice, gluten free crackers, tortilla chips, and produce by using their coupons. Some companies, like Udi’s, make coupons available for those that sign up for a newsletter. All Natural Savings is another nice site that finds current coupons for whole foods and allergy friendly foods.
That’s it for now! I hope this was helpful. What’s your favorite way to save on gluten free items? How do you keep your food bill down when you have to buy allergy friendly foods? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!
Because I firmly believe that allergy friendly food can be fun and delicious, I’ve written two allergy friendly ecookbooks: Allergy Free & Delicious, and Allergy Friendly Comfort Food. These cookbooks are full of colorful, tasty, easy to make recipes that are allergy friendly.