Frugal Gluten-Free Living: Kitchen Tools that Stretch Your Budget and Your Time
I am a very frugal person. So, when my husband discovered his digestive tract could not handle gluten, I had to figure out how to stay within the budget, while keeping my sanity. I attempted to make my own rice flour, but that just exploded in a soggy, grainy disaster. I discovered very quickly, that I lacked the proper tools to make the transition smoothly. Here are my favorite gluten-free kitchen tools that save me time and money, while saving my husband's intestinal tract.
This one is a no-brainer if you are like my family and have to have bread. Not only does it save you the time and preparation of waiting for the dough to rise before you throw it in the oven, but it makes a more solid sandwich bread, in my opinion. I got my bread machine at a thrift store for 8 bucks. It was missing the paddle inside, but here's the thing, with gluten-free bread, you don't need the paddle. You mix the ingredients ahead of time so all you have to do is throw it in the machine and walk away. Sheer gluten-free perfection! This one will get used often, especially if you have kids that eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Kitchen Aid Standing Mixer (or equivalent)
This is a big ticket item, I realize. And you absolutely don't have to have it to be gluten-free and frugal. Here's what I've found with the standing mixer: it saves you time, because you can prepare other things while your dough is blending. But more importantly, I'm discovering, the longer you blend certain mixes, the better the texture. Since gluten works like a web to hold all the dough together, when you take the gluten out, you're left with a crumbly texture that falls apart. That's why you have to substitute xanthan gum. It works as a binding agent so your lovely pancakes, biscuits, and cookies don't crumble. When I let the mixer blend a little longer, I find the xanthan gum makes these great webs in the dough, which makes for a fluffier, more “gluten-esque” product.
I got a metal hand crank one at Ross for 20 bucks because my husband was desperately craving noodles. It was definitely more than I wanted to spend on the thing, but as much as my family eats the pasta up, looking back now, I'd pay double. I make noodles at least once a week with this machine. The kids love helping and the noodles store for up to a week and a half in the fridge, so you can make a larger batch and save yourself time later in the week. Of course if you're ultra frugal, you can skip the pasta maker and roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cut strips of noodles with a pizza cutter. But the dough lacks consistency, and I can never seem to roll them out as thin as the pasta maker can.
I got mine at a garage sale for five bucks. It frees up the stove, makes rice and quinoa just right, and it's one less thing to think about at dinnertime.
I try to only make one high maintenance item at a time. So, if I'm making fresh noodles, I crock pot the chicken. This is invaluable if you can't spend your entire day at home preparing for dinner and experimenting with different gluten-free recipes. (Don't judge me.)
Hands down, this is the greatest money saving appliance ever. If you can cook in bulk, and freeze prepared meals for later, you'll be less likely to shell out extra cash at the grocery store for a “convenient” gluten-free dinner. Also, double, triple, quadruple bread recipes, pasta, casseroles, quiche, sauces, you name it, and freeze it for later.
Just because you have to live gluten-free doesn't mean you have to break the bank, or lose the convenience of packaged foods. With very little planning, the proper tools and an experimental attitude, you can keep your wallet fat and your belly flat.