Gluten-free on a budget
Some reasons for a gluten-free diet
For some people eating gluten-free isn’t a choice, coeliac disease is a dangerous autoimmune condition that is triggered when the person eats gluten. It can cause long term health conditions and is very important that no traces of gluten are consumed.
Some have gluten-intolerance / gluten sensitivity, this is not life-threatening but will cause uncomfortable side effects after consuming gluten. Some people suffer more severe side effects than others. It can range from bloating, tiredness and headaches to diarrhoea or constipation.
If you are suffering from side effects after eating gluten it may help to see a doctor to ensure you do not have coeliac disease.
Gluten-free diets have risen in popularity and necessity; brands have taken note and most supermarkets now have dedicated shelves lined with free-from foods. However, most of these products are pretty expensive and unnecessary. It is possible to eat a gluten-free diet inexpensively.
How to eat gluten-free inexpensively
Eat naturally gluten-free food
Almost every single natural food is gluten-free! By removing packaged foods from your diet you’ll also be eliminating lots of other preservatives and chemicals and consuming lots more vitamins and nutrients from fresh foods instead.
Shop bought free-from foods such as bread usually have lots of added sugar. Gluten-free granola is pretty easy to make at home, cheaper than store-bought which can contain added sugars.
Naturally gluten-free inexpensive foods:
Fruit, veg, tofu, nuts, beans, rice, eggs, lean meats and some legumes such as lentils (however, not all are processed in a gluten-free factory, check the packaging to be sure). Other gluten-free grains include Quinoa, Brown, black, or red rice, Buckwheat, Amaranth, Millet, Corn, Sorghum and Teff, however, these tend to be more expensive.
Some of these products do not directly contain gluten but can be contaminated with gluten during production. If you have coeliac you must only eat foods approved gluten-free, if you have a sensitivity you may be ok with these foods. Even the foods that are certified gluten-free can legally have a very small trace of gluten (20ppm).
If you are not coeliac, you may find that non-specific gluten-free products are suitable for you and are often far cheaper than those branded free from.
Specifically free from items that can be helpful to buy:
Eating a gluten-free diet requires a little more effort since most pre-packaged food contains gluten but it’s worth it to know your food is free from contamination and the health benefits of eating fresh whole foods. However, there are situations where time is short and a few quick replacements make life easier.
The specific free from items that I do buy include oats, brown rice flour, couscous, pasta and occasionally bread (I prefer to use rice cakes as an alternative). These foods make mealtime so much quicker and easier when I need it, couscous only takes 5 minutes to make!
Planning ahead means you’re less likely to impulse buy which makes a cheaper (and less frequent) shop. You’ll also likely find you have less waste, spend less time thinking and wasting precious decision making energy throughout the week plus your meals are likely to be much healthier with some thought already put in.
- For flavour add natural dried herbs and spices for flavour instead of buying sauces and pre-made spices, this is a cheaper and healthier alternative
- Make food at home from scratch rather than from jars, packets or eating out
- Don’t look for direct store-bought replacements, cook more at home. There are lots of gluten-free recipes on Pinterest for savoury and sweet foods
- Many restaurants do now have gluten-free options but some charge extra for a gluten-free substitute
- Cook and bake more than what you need for one meal and freeze for some quick meals this saves time and money
- When shopping, check the price per gram / kg instead of per item.
- Freeze overripe fruit or use it to bake something which works well with overripe fruit. E.g. banana bread. This prevents waste if food is starting to get old or you could buy food from the reduced section with the intention to freeze it
- Baking your own sweet treats at home is cheaper and much healthier than shop-bought, there are so so many preservatives, sweeteners and sugars in shop-bought free from cakes!
- A Paleo-style diet may be helpful since this diet excludes processed foods along with other food groups. However, you should be careful excluding food groups from your diet, ensure you are still consuming a variety of necessary nutrients and speak with your GP prior to drastically altering your diet
- Buying frozen fruit can often work out cheaper than buying fresh
Eating healthily is really cheap, the ‘superfood’ powders etc. are not necessary for a healthy diet. There are lots of natural ‘superfoods’ – just take a look down the fruit and vegetable isles. Going back to food basics is almost all gluten-free and lots healthier.
- Spiralised courgette instead of pasta
- Rice noodles instead of spaghetti
- Rice instead of pasta
- Lettuce instead of bread e.g. as a burger bun
- Rice cakes instead of bread
I’ll be adding some quick, easy inexpensive meals in the next couple of weeks.