Budget Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping

Gluten-Free pasta with Bolognese sauce

As I read an article on the very real challenges of buying healthy foods while while on a budget, a comment made by the author gave me pause. She noted that organic or gluten-free designations increased the price of food. And on one hand, this is is true. On the other…

If you’re gluten free and you’re on a tight budget, there are so many great options for you beyond the specialty food section. I think it’s common for the newly diagnosed celiac or person who is concerned gluten is a problem to hit the grocery store and buy everything labelled “gluten free”. It’s also expensive.

The following ten tips will help you find ways to save money while enjoying great meals. And, of course, if you have any ideas I haven’t listed here, please share them! I’m always looking to save money.

  • Stick to Naturally Gluten-Free Foods: Yes, it’s wonderful that we have so many specialized foods available to us, but your local grocery store is filled with delicious and naturally gluten-free items. Meats. Vegetables. Fruits. Dairy. Potato chips (What? I absolutely consider potato chips a food group! And here’s a great dip for them.). Interestingly, many common grocery items that have always been gluten free are bearing GF labels (Tater Tots!), so you’ll find lots of options as you shop.
  • Buy Gluten-Free Judiciously: As noted above, there are many naturally GF items available throughout the store. But sometimes the foods you really need are only available in their pricier version. Pasta, for example. Pay attention to sales if you eat a lot of these foods — companies who have spent time and money developing these items tend to encourage their purchase via sales. You can also check with the store manager to see if they offer discounts on case purchases.
  • Love Your Freezer: When favorite meats or other items are on sale in bulk, buy them, repackage into meal-sized portions, clearly label the item, and freeze for later. Also, if you’re making a big pot of Bolognese sauce, freeze some for later meals.
  • Buy in Bulk: For obvious reasons, I will never be one of those shoppers who hits the free sample stations at Costco. Instead, I’m the one zipping in and out because I have a very focused list. I purchase meats, rice, quinoa, and other gluten-free foods that can be stored for a long time in the pantry or freezer.
  • Shop Online: There are a many online sources for gluten-free groceries, and you can often find better prices for items. I tend to use Amazon a lot because I’m a Prime member, meaning I often get free shipping on groceries. One note about Amazon: often the great prices are because you buy a lot of one item (sometimes a case). Once again, I tend to purchase things that store for long periods of time in the pantry.
  • Plan for Leftovers: I get that there are some people out there who don’t eat leftovers, but I am not one of them. I love making meals that make great breakfasts or lunches over the next few days. Bringing my lunch to the office saves me a lot of money, and, frankly, calories.
  • Kick Up Your Culinary Skills: Many times, we reach for prepared foods because making them from scratch seems complicated. The truth is, making vinaigrettes for salads takes just moments. Pesto is super-easy to make, plus you can make it to your personal taste. Tomato sauces are so much better from scratch. The more time you spend learning to cook, the easier it is to make great foods for a fraction of the cost of prepared items. One item I always make on my own? Chicken stock. I use a lot of this stuff, and can’t imagine paying retail price for it.
  • Learn to Bake Gluten-Free Breads: Since I’ve gone GF, I don’t think much about eating breads. I do keep a loaf of gluten-free bread in the freezer for sandwiches (and I usually forget the bread is there!). If you still want your bread and you eat a lot of it, baking it yourself is the way to go. Yes, there is a learning curve and you’ll need to familiarize yourself with a range of ingredients, but it’s worth the effort if bread is your thing.
  • Embrace Meal Planning: If you plan your meals in advance — including leftovers — shopping becomes much more efficient. You’ll know what you need in advance, and will be able to leverage ingredients across meals. I have a longer post on meal planning here.
  • Get Discounts on Gluten-Free Food: Signing up for mailings lists, following brands on Twitter, and/or liking them on Facebook can result in savings for you. These companies will offer coupons and discounts to loyal customers — you!

Tip of the Week

Plan for double-duty meals by letting items from one meal form the basis for another. One great way to do this is double up on proteins such as meats or beans and store them until needed later in the week.

Menu of the Week

Enchiladas are a great way to use up leftover meats or even veggies. While this recipe uses turkey, it’s easy enough to change it to feature shredded pork, chicken, or roasted vegetables. I like a tomatillo salsa because it adds bright flavors to the dish.

One more note about enchiladas. You don’t have to roll them if you don’t want to. Go ahead and build your dish like a lasagna, layering the tortillas, salsa, and filling.

  • Turkey Enchiladas
  • Refried Beans Spiked with Hot Sauce or Lime Juice: I find regular refried beans to be a bit bland, so I generally doctor them with a bit of hot sauce or lime juice. Top with a bit of grated cheese if you like.
  • Steamed Rice or Salsa Rice: Mix a small amount of salsa into the rice after it’s steamed to amp up the flavor.

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