Going gluten free, whether it be for medical reasons or purely as a lifestyle choice, can be daunting. But once you get the hang of reading ingredients labels, you will soon realise it is actually relatively straight forward. You will also realise that a gluten free diet is far from cheap. Food manufacturers have caught on to the fact that gluten free foods are a big thing nowadays, which on one hand is a good thing because the choices are far more varied than they were even 5 years ago. But on the other hand they also know they can charge a lot of money because people have no option but to pay it.
But fear not, there are ways to go gluten free without costing the earth!
Handy Hints for Going Gluten Free on a Budget
By making a meal plan you can make a shopping list to ensure you don’t have left over food going to waste at the end of the week. Planning ahead will also help you avoid getting caught without something to eat and needing to buy pre-packaged or fast foods on the run. Not only are these food expensive but the risk of cross contamination is far higher.
Use whole foods
Fruits, vegetables and meats are not only naturally gluten free, but you will make a huge saving against buying highly processed, pre-packaged meals. Not only will you be eliminating every possibility of consuming gluten, because you know every single ingredient that went into your meal, but it is generally much healthier and far tastier anyway!
Bake from scratch
When you start to read the ingredients lists on pre- packaged cakes and bread you will soon realise just how much extra ‘stuff’ need to be added to make them taste, and feel, as much like the ‘real thing’ as possible. And even after adding all these extra ingredients, shop bought biscuits (cookies) are usually very dry and dusty anyway. But there really is no need to spend a fortune on subpar baked good. Baking gluten free really isn’t any different to making ‘normal’ cakes and biscuits. Why not try my gluten free gingerbread recipe or my gluten free lime and coconut muffins? Both are very simple, yet yummy recipes that just happen to by dairy and soya free too!
Bake your own bread
Gluten free bread is possibly one of the biggest expenses you will spend out on with a small loaf costing upwards of £2. To make a huge saving each week, bread really is something you should consider making yourself. It can be tricky to get it right by hand but luckily some breadmakers, like the Panasonic bread makers, have a gluten free setting which makes life so much simpler. You do need to remember to avoid cross contamination by only using gluten free products in it, but what can be nicer than waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning?
Use your freezer
Unfortunately, gluten free products rarely have a shelf life as long as the equivalent gluten containing products. Bread only stays fresh for a couple of days, homemade cookies and cakes tend to start disintegrating by the next day because they don’t have gluten in to help ‘glue’ them into shape. If you only keep out as much as you are going to eat that day and then freeze the rest, you can defrost them as and when you need. Bread can be toasted straight from frozen, or defrosted in the microwave. Biscuits and cakes can be left out for a couple of hours to defrost by themselves.
DON’T bulk buy flour
This is contrary to the usual advise for being frugal, but as I mentioned in the last section, gluten free products just don’t keep fresh for very long. Unless you are making huge quantities of bread and cakes stick to buying bags of flour as you go along. This way you can ensure the flour stays fresh, meaning your baked goods will have the best chance of turning out perfectly.
Make your own breadcrumbs
If you are the only one eating gluten free in your household, then you might often find yourself with half packets of crackers, that you just know are going to go soft over night, or bread that is going stale. To save them going to waste, you can easily turn them into breadcrumbs simply by whizzing them in a food processor (popping them in a sandwich bag and bashing them with a rolling pin works just as well). With a bit of flour and egg, you can use these breadcrumbs to make tasty homemade chicken nuggets or fish ringers that are not only cheaper, but far healthier than shop bought ones.
So these are my tips for going Gluten Free on a Budget, what would you add to this list?
***This post was written in collaboration with Panasonic but all thoughts and ideas are honest and my own***