Let's face it gluten-free can be super expensive. In my area there is a very wonderful woman who provides us with a comp list for Wal-Mart each week. It's awesome! Here in the boondocks it's Wal-Mart 20 miles away or a 50 mile trip for any other option really. She's somewhere north of 1,000 people that subscribe to her comp list. Today, she contacted me about gluten-free on a budget. One of those people was asking questions on how to do it. I realized he or she might not be the only person out there wondering the same thing. It's not easy. You'll have to get creative and learn how to recreate, do without, and sacrifice.
The Comp List (If you are in Northeast Kansas check out the list) - Really the best way to save money on gluten-free diet is to simply buy whole foods. The comp list saves us on fuel since we don't have to drive so far. Here's how I do it. Each week I get the spreadsheet that is sent to me. I open in Excel and scroll through. I delete anything that isn't gluten free, i.e. cookies, candies, ect. I then glance over the ads for things that I do use that might not be on the list. The list is a free service and she does an amazing job but she has no idea that I can't use the cheapest brand of spaghetti sauce for example. There might be a brand that I can use on sale somewhere that I can use but it's not the cheapest. When there's something I use a lot of I stock up that way I don't have to buy it when it's on sale.
Coupons - I don't use them. They are hard to find. Stockpiling Mom's does have a gluten free category but there are usually not any that I would use. There's also Sunday Coupon Preview I always browse it in case there are enough coupons to make it worth my while to buy a paper. Some companies will send you a few coupons if you email them. Bob's Red Mill sent me three 55 cent off coupons.
Gluten Free Saver - This is kind of like Groupon for the gluten free community. Just like Groupon if you help them advertise by sending out their links they'll put some money in your account so you can purchase deals at even a bigger savings. This is the only way I buy mixes or boxed stuff anymore. The link here will help me.
Amazon - Amazon has a great selection of gluten free products. If you use something a lot this is a great place to order it. Plus you can save a few extra pennies by subscribing to a product and having it sent to you on a regular basis. This is not the place to try a new product. Everything is sold in bulk and you are then stuck with it. Be wise! Anything purchased via my Amazon links will toss me a couple of pennies and those pennies help keep the blog on line.
We don't buy very many gluten-free convince items any more. At one time that's all I baked with but the money wasted just wasn't worth it. We've learned to just eat my failures and move on. I'm even looking into buying a flour mill. I need to do some more research to make sure that it truly cost effective but that's the way I am leaning now.
Now for what I buy. I'm just going through the store the way we go.
Fresh Vegetables and Fruit - I do not buy things that have been waxed. There is no concrete proof that the wax is gluten-free and I have read of people having issues with it. I also buy and stock up when it's on sale. I hate paying full price for these things.
Romaine Lettuce (not iceberg! Why? Iceberg is hard to digest your digestive system is already under enough stress)
Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables - As your tummy will tolerate. Just because an item is naturally gluten free doesn't mean you'll be able to eat it without digestive issues. Things that are hard on anyone's stomach will still be hard on your stomach too.
Fresh Meat - This should be pretty easy to figure out. ;) Even though there are only two of us I still buy family package size of all meat. If I can buy a full piece versus them cutting it I do that. For example, I buy a whole pork loin roast and then cut pork chops off of that. The same with stew meat, a roast is much cheaper per pound. There are times that you can buy a whole KC Strip loin, usually at smaller grocery stores. The last time we found one of them it was $50.00. We got about fifteen 3/4 inch steaks from it. They were much larger and thicker than what you normally find in the store. Plus the store charges more. The one exception here is chicken. We only eat the breast so that's all I buy it's not saving money when you aren't using part of it.
These are where the bulk of your food budget will go. This is the basics of your diet and the rest will have to be as are tolerated. We eat very minimal amounts of dairy and eggs. They don't agree with the hubby.
Cheese - I only buy Kraft brand cheese. I stock up when it is on sale. Due to hub's semi-lactose intolerance I don't use it as much as I once did.
Deli - I usually skip this section of the store. I suck at baking gluten free bread and we seldom buy loaves of bread. Sandwiches are special occasion meals in our house. When we do buy from the deli I go to the small grocery store in our area, Country Mart. All of the meats and cheeses that they carry are gluten free!
Dairy - Real butter! Yep folks I buy the real thing for many reasons. Back when my dad had his first heart attack the doctor said he could eat the real thing since our bodies are accustomed to processing the fat found in butter. Plus I subscribe to the thoughts of all things in moderation and if I can't pronounce it I don't eat it.
Eggs, Daisy Sour Cream (only one I trust), 8th Continent Soy Milk. If I need it I buy Greek yogurt. I've found that Greek yogurt is a great sub for cream of soups in casseroles. I tried the straining of regular yogurt to make "cheaper" Greek yogurt. It worked except for one thing I needed twice as much which meant I ended up spending the same amount of money. I also buy buttermilk to make salad dressing.
Junk Food Aisles - Soda if it's on sale, Little Guy Corn Chips*, whole kerrenal popcorn, and on rare occasions Lay's Potato Chips or Staxs. Staxs are like Pringles but gluten-free. It's not that we don't eat potato chips but I make my own. *Little Guy chips are produced in KC. I've found them in a few stores in our area. They are thin, they aren't very salty, pretty fresh, and minimal ingredients.
Baking Aisle - Rice Flour, this isn't the cheapest thing in the store I know but it's cheaper than a mix. Cornstarch is one of my staples. I bake with it and thicken sauces with it. I also buy sugars, chocolate chips, and spices. Not spice blends unless I can verify that they are gluten free. Otherwise I buy the spices and blend them myself. I also keep almond flour, potato flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and xanthum gum in my freezer. These things are very expensive but I only use a little at a time and they last close to a year a bag.
Breakfast food Aisle - Chex cereal when it's on sale. I stock up and don't buy unless it is on sale. I use it for a lot of things like grahman cracker crusts and bread crumbs. Not to mention snacks for the hubs.
The rest of the store I make pretty quick work and stock up when it's on sale. Beans (dried and gluten free canned beans), rice (I buy the biggest bag they have), canned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, mayo, ketchup, mustard, Pace salsa, tea bags, coffee, frozen veggies, and on occasion gluten free tater tots.
Learn to make gluten free foods yourself. Everyone deserves a cookie or a cake from time to time. Learn to eat whatever comes out of your oven. (This was hard for me.) Think outside of the box. If all else fails send me an email and I'll listen and help.