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Eating Gluten-Free on a Budget: Part 1

More and more Americans are nixing gluten from their diet, either because they must or they choose to. And we’re all finding out the same thing – it costs a lot more.

The federal government has subsidized wheat for at least a century to help agriculture thrive and keep the needy fed. Its low cost and complete versatility has made it the backbone of the American diet.

As for the rest of us, well, we take our pocketbook in our hands every time we enter the grocery store, to say nothing of a health food shop.

But don’t tear your hair out in frustration and despair – there’s help out there. Let us show you how to have your dinner and afford it, too.

Nutritionists and dieticians offer plenty of common sense advice on how to beat the high cost of a diet void of wheat, barley and rye, all of which contain gluten.

Cook at Home

The most essential element is to cook for yourself. It’s healthier because you control the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates in your meals. You also avoid any chance of unwittingly consuming gluten – commercial soups are famous for stocks thickened with flour – and the potentially unhappy results. And, need we say it? Your meals and snacks will taste better.

And when you cook, cook a lot. If you’re single, freeze your meals in individual portions for quicker reheating. If you’re cooking for a family, figure out ways to get more than one meal out of your primary protein. Say you plan to roast a chicken one evening – turn the leftovers into fajitas, then chicken soup.  Chili, stews and soups can be eaten for a number of days or placed in the freezer to be consumed later. 

Purchase Naturally GF Food

As much as you can, say no to packaged and prepared foods. Those rice crackers, fudgy brownies, cheetos, cinnamon muffins and the like are not only costly, they’re not very good for you even if they’re, gluten-free.  

You already know the good news – naturally gluten-free foods are delicious, healthy and more affordable. Fruits and vegetables in their natural state have no gluten at all (excepting grains, of course). Neither do eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts and seeds. Nor do fats like olive oil and organic butter and of course, grains other than wheat, barley and rye.

For the cost-conscious cook, nutritionists recommend everyday grains like corn, rice and gluten-free oats. You’ll pay less for them than trendy ancient grains like amaranth and quinoa.

Now you’re armed with basic strategies for lowering your food bill and making every meal healthier. Next up: guerilla tactics to cut costs and meet your budget every single week.

Pamela Hasterok