Frugal Gluten-Free Living: Budget Friendly, Gluten-Free Grocery Staples
If the thought of making your home gluten-free is overwhelming, this list will help you gather the frugal gluten-free groceries that will become staples.
This necessary little ingredient is the only thing that will keep your fresh baked, gluten-free goodies from falling apart at the seams. Each recipe only calls for 1-2 teaspoons, so don't gag when you see the price tag (my Bob's Red Mill brand was around twelve dollars) — it goes a long, long way.
- For breads and pizza doughs, add 1 teaspoon for every cup of flour.
- For cookies and cakes, and every other delectable gluten-free treat you can concoct, 1/2 teaspoon for every cup of flour.
Not only are these perfect orbs of deliciousness yummy and diet-friendly, they are used in almost every gluten-free baking recipe. (If you can't have eggs, I am so sorry. However you can substitute flax seed oil and water.) I have a half dozen boiled in my fridge at all times for snacks and emergency food when I have to eat right away. Also, they make the perfect gluten-free breakfast food. I never buy a dozen — I always go for the 5 dozen, and I always run out before I think I should.
Gluten-Free Cereal (like Chex)
I only buy these when they go on sale, and I collect every coupon I can to add to the savings. I refuse to pay 4 dollars a box when my family can easily go through a box and a half a day. These are great not only for cereal, but for making gluten-free marshmallow treats, and for toddler hand-sized gluten-free snacking. Tell your friends to be on the hunt for any Chex coupons. You can pay them in the fruit cakes you get at Christmas.
These are my go-to for survival. When my husband comes home from work and he needs something right away, he grabs the Frito Lays. On road trips, I feed the kiddos Pirate's Booty. While these snack food items aren't essential, they are nice gluten-free items to have around. Just be certain to read and re-read labels. Mono sodium glutamate (MSG) is in quite a lot of packaged foods, and will absolutely affect your gluten allergy. And just because an item is Gluten-free one day, doesn't mean they always will be. Manufacturers are constantly tweaking their formula, and sometimes throw gluten back in. When in doubt, look for products that state, “Gluten-Free,” or avoid it altogether.
I only bought the pre-mixed, all-purpose gluten-free flour once. It was pricey. Then I wised up and made my own mix. I found a fantastic all purpose flour mix that you can substitute, cup for cup, with regular recipes (as long as you remember to add xanthan gum) at Gluten Free Cooking School. Here's her well-researched mix:
Delicious Gluten-Free Flour Mix
- Three parts brown rice flour
- Three parts cornstarch
- Two parts soy flour
- One part masa flour (In the Mexican food section)
If you can't have soy, you can substitute sorghum flour. Also, if you want to add fiber and protein, add a bean flour, like garbanzo or fava. It adds iron as well.
If you are as cheap as I am, buy your pinto beans in bulk and make your own refried beans. It's relatively easy because you can make it in the crock pot. Here's the recipe for refried beans without the refry. After I learned how easy and inexpensive this was, I had a hard time shelling out the cash for the canned beans. But either way, refried beans are a staple in our lives. We use them to make nachos on those nights I just can't pull it together enough to make something from scratch. Also, with the gluten-free flour tortillas I make, we have delicious burritos for lunch.
This easy to make staple will save you time and money if you cook it in your rice cooker and serve it alongside your dishes. It can be spiced up to match the most exotic dishes, or you can always serve it the way my three-year-old loves it: a la butter and salt. Gluten-free cooking doesn't mean your small kids have to hate you. Save the angst for adolescence.
This is nothing like rice, except that you can cook it in your rice cooker. The texture is much different. There is a nutty flavor to it that makes for a heartier dish. If you cook it with a tablespoon of tomato paste, some extra virgin olive oil and crushed garlic, it will stand up to a nice lamb or ground beef dinner. I use the exact same measurements as I do rice in my rice cooker. The grain should look translucent when it's finished. My daughter calls it “snow rice.” As long as it stays on the plate, that's fine.
You don't have to be a fantastic baker to be a successful gluten-free bread chef. Trust me on this one. However, it's good to get familiar with how yeast works. I go for the jars rather than the packets because it's easier to measure for recipes. Also, I find yeast lasts longer when I store it in the coldest part of my fridge. I'll write more about this lovely, live food product when I write about baking your own frugal gluten-free bread.
These are cheap, cheap, cheap! I got a ten pound bag for $1.78. Also, if your family likes french fries and you buy them frozen, it may contain gluten. Seasoned fries often contain flour to add to the crisp-factor. Making your own is the easiest and the healthiest option. I cut a bunch up, toss them with a splash of worcestershire, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of olive oil. Then, I throw them in the oven at 350 degrees until they are “good and done.” (You have to say that last part in a redneck accent to get the full effect.)
I left this one for last because it's the most controversial. Some people with gluten allergies are fine with oats and some aren't. Some can only have the oats that are “virginal” and have never come into any contact with any other grain...ever! To the latter, those virgin oats can be mighty expensive. It's your call. To those that can have oats, happy day. They are cheap and great for mornings when you just don't feel like eating another omelet. Also, you can throw the oats in the blender and make your own oat flour. Making your own flour? Look how fancy you've become!
I hope you're getting the picture that being allergic to gluten is not a life sentence of spending your utility budget on your grocery bill. This is a very cohesive way to gather your frugal gluten-free groceries. I realize most people have very busy lives and don't want to spend all their time and energy figuring out this gluten-free thing. So relax. Take a couple of tips where you can and learn from my disasters. (There are so many to learn from.) This list should be good for your bottom, and your bottom line!