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5 Tips to Go Gluten-Free on a Budget

gluten free on a budget

Guest post from Jenn of Building Mommy Muscles

Our family has been gluten-free now for almost two years, due to gluten sensitivity in several members of our family.

When we first made the switch, it was confusing, overwhelming and expensive! But along the way, I have learned some tricks for keeping the gluten-free budget under control.

1. Avoid Gluten-Free Replacement Foods

Gluten-free specialty items can be extremely expensive, and they are what killed our grocery budget when we first changed our diet.

If you find a great sale on gluten-free bread or pasta, stock up. Otherwise, don’t buy it. $6 for a tiny loaf of bread just isn’t worth it in my opinion!

2. Keep the Cooking Simple

Don’t go crazy trying to make all of the amazing gluten free recipes you see on Pinterest that require seven different specialty flours. Stick to cooking things you know and expand from there.

3. Make Mexican and Asian Recipes

Mexican and Asian foods are often naturally gluten-free. Fajitas, quesadillas, and enchiladas can all be made using corn tortillas, which are very affordable and are gluten-free. Many Asian recipes use rice, which is also a gluten-free food.

4. Use Fruits and Veggies as Snacks

Not only are fruits and veggies healthy snacks, they are also gluten-free and affordable. Instead of buying overpriced and likely unhealthy gluten-free snacks, stick with fresh food. Your health and your wallet will thank you!

5. Buy Pre-Mixed Flour for Baking

Many gluten-free recipes call for several specialty flours. I recommend that you purchase one all-purpose flour that is pre-mixed and already includes xanthan gum. This will save you time, money and hassle. My favorite brands are Pamela’s and Namaste.

Going gluten-free does not have to be expensive! I hope these tips are helpful to anyone who is looking to make the change to gluten-free living.

What are your best tips to go gluten-free on a budget?

Jenn is a wife and mother to three permanent kids and many temporary ones that have come and gone through foster care. She is a gluten free, homeschooling, adoptive mama who blogs at Building Mommy Muscles.

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  1. says

    Good tips – We are a hybrid family – one of my sons has a wheat sensitivity, though thankfully not as bad as those who have celiac disease. Anyway, we basically do gluten-free for him, and I have found that baking mixes are pretty expensive – I think it’s worth it to invest in several flours and xanthan gum and make your own. I can get gluten-free flours for a reasonable price through either Amazon or Azure Standard.

    I also limit the number of “baked” gluten-free items I make to keep costs down, instead, relying on frugal naturally gluten-free carbs like potatoes or rice as a side, though I have found that Trader Joe’s has a great price for GF pasta ($2/lb, and often it is organic too!)

    • Frances says

      You may want to check Vitacost also for GF flours. You can usually buy them at lower prices than Amazon and buy them in two packs instead of Amazon’s four pack. Several of my friends share an order so we get free shipping over $49.

  2. says

    For the most part we just eat foods that are naturally gluten free, but I discovered a website called artofglutenfreebaking.com, and I love it! She has a DIY all-purpose baking mix, and all her recipes are based off of that. I just mix up a big batch of it, and I go immediately to her site when I need (want) a recipe for pizza crust, biscuits, cookies, etc. So simple since all the recipes use that baking mix, and they are all so yummy!

    • Kate says

      That’s the site I came into the comment section to mention, as well. There’s a jar of Jeanne’s flour mix on my counter at all times! My husband as a LOT of other food issues(no corn, soy or other legumes, nuts, poultry…) and this website and her cookbook have very few recipes he can’t eat.

      • says

        thank you for commentin that! We also have a good handful of allergies, which make baking hard (eggless doesn’t always work with glutenfree!). Thanks I will check out the artofgluten…website :)

    • Shea says

      I third this website. It was a life saver for us in the beginning. And being as I love baking I have found her recipes very successful and able to keep the hobby going.

  3. says

    Our whole family is glutenfree and we essentially just stick to natural whole foods. When we want something sweet we whip up cookies, etc with simple gf ingredients that we buy in large quantities via Amazon subscribe and save or in bulk stores so the flour, oats, etc are typically 40-50 percent cheaper than packaged goods of the same brand name!

  4. Jenni says

    A lot of Asian dishes are NOT gluten free. Soy sauce, an often used ingredient, has wheat/gluten. If you are gluten free and making Asian dishes, you’ll need to get wheat-free soy sauce.

    • Jen says

      Funny, I’m also a Jennifer who is gluten free. To add on to what Jenni said, soy sauce labeled “Tamari” is usually gluten-free and the label will say so. Our grocery store has it in the Asian food aisle. Tamari is a type of soy sauce not a brand.

    • emily says

      Also watch out for the other sauces: hoisin, oyster sauce, etc. It is actually pretty hard to even find a rice wine that does not have wheat. So I agree–if cooking authentic asian you might have a fair search on your hands to get the ingredients. I have found some “low sodium” soy sauces are gluten-free.

  5. Amanda says

    Great ideas!! We too have been gluten free for over 2 years now, 3 out of 5 of us, so the whole house eats gluten free (majority rules, LOL) At first I did blow the budget because you so desperately want “normal” food so you buy into the $6 loaf of bread, the gluten free mixes, and pre-packaged cookies and snacks but then I came to my senses. We started only eating naturally gluten free foods and we felt so much better but then birthday parties come up and who wants their kid to be the only one without a cupcake to eat so ….. I searched and experimented and found recipes that my family and I love. I highly recommend theartofglutenfreebaking.com …..zucchini bread, cheddar biscuits, hamburger buns, dinner rolls, lots of good stuff on her site. I also like thebakingbeauties.com, she has a recipe for a delicious Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin bread and lots of other goodies there too!! I also am blessed with an amazing husband who loves to experiment in the kitchen and can take a gluten filled recipe and make it gluten free and no one can tell the difference! He makes pumpkin spice cupcakes, pancakes, nut rolls, and all kinds of cookies.

    I do bake gluten free a good bit and have found that it is cheaper to buy separate flours and xanthan gum and make up my own mix of gluten free flour. Amazon used to be the cheapest but they have deleted a lot of the Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flours from their subscribe and save program so lately I have been ordering from Vitacost, also you can directly order from Bob’s Red Mill in bulk (once you figure out the flours you use the most), for a very reasonable price. Also, our Aldi’s sells gluten free brownie mixes and a gluten free baking mix, if you don’t want to make up your own mixes.

    Eating gluten free isn’t so bad and doesn’t have to break your budget plus you can still enjoy a sweet treat every once in a while too!

    • says

      great ideas! I love this and thank you for commenting so much detail. I’m trying to find out how to get our budget down and I’m thinking I’m going to have to be a bit more counter-cultural than I thought we already were! I’m used to just buying prepackaged.

  6. says

    I actually disagree with buying pre-mixed flours because it’s so expensive. I’ve saved a LOT of money by making my own very simple mix of flours, and even more by adding guar or xanthan gum only to recipes that really need it – and only in the amount needed. If you’re gum is mix in with the flour, you end up having too much in some recipes – and xanthan gum is expensive!

    If you want to go real hard core on saving money, grinding your own flour costs pennies on the dollar – literally!

  7. says

    I have been baking gluten-free for awhile and find that I like to use my own mix of different flours. Sorghum is our new favorite and I much prefer it to a rice based mix. It is less gritty. My favorite allergy-friendly baking book is The Healthy Gluten-Free Life. We are dairy and egg free and this book has been great for us!
    We buy baking ingredients from Azure Standard in bulk which is FAR less expensive than buying at the local store. I purchase sorghum (milo) and grind it myself. I also purchase potato starch, tapioca starch, and teff flour from Azure.
    Vitacost has xanthan gum on sale right now.
    Costo does have new gf friendly flour mixes, but with 5 kiddos I think it’s more cost effective to buy in bulk and mix my own.

  8. Anne says

    Thank you! We are waiting on celiac test results on my husband (it runs in his family) and even if it comes back negative, we are going to go GF for at least a few months. I have already been thinking the most cost effective thing to do is skip most of the GF specialty products. We already like and I know the sales cycle for GF Food Should Taste Good chips/crackers, Chex, corn tortillas, and brown rice, and I think we will just go without bread and baked goods for a while. I haven’t made quinoa before but I know I will soon!

    • Jessica W says

      you can have a wheat allergy or sensitivity if it isn’t celiacs.. just remove it from your diet and watch how well things go… also it doesn’t hurt to gleam some recipes from paleo websites as they tend to be gf w/o replacing them with additional expensive carb substitutes…

    • says

      You can do it! The adjustment is hard at first, but it is so worth it for your loved ones to feel healthy again. My husband was so sick for so long that I was just about ready to do anything if he could just be well!

      The biggest challenge for us are times when we are forced to eat away from home – thankfully, many restaurants are now offering GF options, but for true Celiacs there is always the risk of cross contamination. But you will learn to be prepared! :)

  9. Jodi says

    Thank you Amanda for the extra web sites and tips. My family is slowly going gluten free but it is hard with 10 of us. Our youngest has been diagnosed with several food allergies and many of the replacement options are also allergies (corn, soy, peanut, tree nut including coconut). I am looking for healthier options besides rice flour. I love the web sites you mentioned and thank you!!! I am also looking for bread machine recipes for GF bread.

    • dawn says

      If this helps you out- I try to avoid white flours- i use brown rice flour instead of white. You might also consider millet, sorghum, buckwheat and (gf) oat flours if they fit your other allergies.

  10. Allyson says

    My mother in law found namaste gluten free all purpose flour at Costco, $8.99 for 5 pounds. It’s usually $5/lb. We don’t have a Costco here but it’s worth waiting for her visits. Also, some of the gluten free brand websites will offer coupons, udi’s has in the past.
    I am gluten and dairy free and I find great deals.

  11. Teresa says

    I would agree with others that making your own flour blends is not difficult and will save money over time. Find one or two blends that work well and buy those flours in large quantities. Azure Standard, Amazon and Vitacost can all be good sources of these ingredients.

    I would also recommend just eating what is naturally gluten free with breads, muffins etc. being a lesser part of your diet. I also really do enjoy baking with almond flour (Honeyville Online) as well as coconut flour.

    For those who are just starting on the gluten free be patient and give yourself grace. Figuring out what works for you and your family takes time.

  12. Elizabeth says

    This has already been mentioned but Soy sauce is not gluten free. However, La Choy brand IS gluten free and easy to find in most grocery stores.

  13. says

    Check at unexpected places. I found that my local Big Lots had quite a few gluten free items including Bob Red Mill items. Never would have expected it there and the Use by dates were past those on the bags I picked up at my grocery store.

    Also make your own flour. No pricey blender is required. You can use a coffee grinder to make brown rice flour.

  14. Jessica W says

    In recommending Asian cuisine you need to make a note that SOY SAUCE Contains gluten…. one has to purchase gluten free soy sauce or coconut amino’s in order to keep it gluten free.

    Additionally soy pastes contain gluten. and so do some of their noodles, though logically they shouldn’t … but you should always read the ingredients.

  15. Jessica W says

    Jules gluten free is the best gf flour out there in my opinion… she is a celiac sufferer and formulated the flour. her mix was in the process of copyrighting before most of the name brands like pamela’s made it to market… Bob red mill being the only exception I can think of … but her flour is better than theirs. and now she has expanded her line to include prepackaged mixes, for bread (not my favorite; like form scratch recipes better), pizza crust, brownies, pancakes , oats, etc… watch her daily deals and living social offerings and you could get this with free shipping which makes it the same if not cheaper than pamela’s …. also you can do a retailer search and if a store carries it you can bypass shipping though I don’t have that option… the only other way to beat this and the cost is to make your own. you can also purchase xanthum gum on amazon for cheaper than any store price. or go directly to barry’s farm web page… but I usually purchased through amazon for them just because I already got free shipping via amazon …

  16. Natalie Waggoner says

    I use braggs liquid aminos in place of soy sauce. I use a bit less than the recipe calls for because the taste is stronger.

  17. says

    We eat gluten free in our home (my husband has Celiac). We make our own flour mix, but we bought a cookbook that EVERY recipe uses the same flour mix (called Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking). We also use a lot of gluten free oats – oatmeal, muffins with oats (or grind the oats into oat flour), energy bites, apple crisp. Buying as many products as we can on amazon subscribe and save has been helpful. Aldi’s has a number of products marked gluten free that are a big help as well. Trader Joe’s has the cheapest brown rice pasta. It’s been trial and error to figure out what our family likes, but after a year into it, I feel like we are getting the hang of it.

  18. Jen says

    I have celiac disease and have lived Paleo for over 2-1/2 years. I wouldn’t live any other way, but when I was purchasing GF substitutes, here are a few additional things I did that helped:

    1. I e-mailed several companies and told them I loved their product but couldn’t afford to buy it very often due to the high cost. Many of them sent me coupons.

    2. Go to gluten-free expos in your area. I recently went to one near Phoenix. Sadly, I only found two Paleo products for myself, but came home with a huge bag full of coupons, GF granola bars, cereals, and other snacks to share with a friend.

    3. Follow GF blogs via social media or newsletters. They frequently host giveaways that are usually simple to enter, and some of the lesser known blogs have less followers, which increases your chances of winning. I won a bunch of free GF stuff this way; 3 muffin baking mixes, a t-shirt, one of everything in the Canyon Bakehouse line…lots of goodies!

    4. Check your preferred grocer’s website for coupons, both electronic and printable.

    5. If you have a Sprouts in your area, stock up during their Gluten-Free Jubilee, when GF products are 25% off.

    6. Follow your favorite brands on social media to get exclusive coupons, deals, and heads-up on special sales.

    7. Buy in bulk from places like Amazon, Costco, or Sam’s Club.

  19. says

    We have been completely sugar, lactose and gluten free for over a year now with limited use of grains (paleo). This has significantly increased our grocery budget, but I still manage to keep us under $500/mo for a family of 4 in a tiny town with extremely minimal organic/healthy food options!
    *The cheapest place for coconut flour and sugar is pureformulas.com with FREE shipping all the time!!! It is only about $3/lb I love coconut flour because only a tiny amount is required in recipes.
    *I find that Braggs liquid aminos are the most cost effective replacement for soy sauce at only around $6 for 16-32oz from Vitacost! I also watch for sales on Vitacost and buy coconut oil, gf flour and rice pasta.
    *I buy at least 5 items at a time through Amazon subscribe & save, which gets me 20% savings on my entire order!

    I’ve had to figure out how to buy 95% of my groceries online, but feel that we can keep our costs minimal with research and stocking up with online sales. I also buy local honey & eggs which are less expensive for us. Good luck!!!

  20. Elizabeth says

    Just wanted to add a different perspective. My 4 year old son has a wheat allergy, and we do choose to buy the gluten free replacement foods. Our logic is that he is already having to go without the regular treats that his friends have. We would rather scrimp and save in other areas of our budget in order to make sure that he gets to have bread, buns, donuts and other treats that are somewhat similar to what his friends have. Food allergies are tough, and if we can make it easier on him by finding “replacement” foods, we are happy to save in other areas.

    • says

      I will say that there are times when we do splurge too. We always make sure to bring our own cake and ice cream to parties. There are times when have to spend a little bit more than we would like to in order to help our GF child feel included.

  21. emily says

    I sort of laugh when people talk about GF on a budget. What budget is that exactly? We have have been GF for almost two years now since my son was diagnosed with celiac disease, and our grocery bill has gone up quite a bit as a result. Yes, you can save money versus buying all packaged things GF, but I think it is unrealistic to expect to stay under your prior budget if switching to GF.

    My experience is it is far cheaper to mix your own GF flour blend than to buy it pre-mixed. I buy brown rice flour online from Amazon, and everything else I can buy at the asian market or patel brothers (indian grocer). The only possible negative is the storage space for all the different flours in my fridge/freezer.

    Like another poster mentioned, we buy pasta from Amazon if on sale/cheap or buy brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s (here it is $1.99/lb).

    While i appreciate that you can save a great deal of money by not baking, not baking at all is simply not practical especially if you have a child with celiac or wheat allergy. So I do bake, and quite a bit, to save money over premade things. I bake sandwich bread, muffins, cinnamon rolls, cookies, etc. What I can, I freeze because GF stuff doesn’t keep well.

    And, as multiple people have posted–you need to be very careful with Asian dishes. Most soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, even rice wine–has wheat. Read labels carefully.

  22. Jennifer M. says

    We have been gluten free for almost 5 years. Our son was diagnosed with kidney disease and we found out that being on a gluten free diet really helped him, battle digestion and bowel problems.
    We buy our own flours in bulk from Azure Standard. I don’t buy from Amazon, though I know they have a lot of stuff. (I used to buy from them but with this new idea of Sunday delivery I don’t want to support something that doesn’t keep the Lord’s day holy. ) I make our own all purpose blend and pretty much make all my own baked cookes, cakes, bread, etc. I’ve researched for good recipes we like and keep the ones we do in a handy binder. I have been buying gluten free bread at 3.99 a loaf but only because I’m still working on a better bread recipe for the whole family and with five kids under the age of 6…I sometimes don’t get much time for experimenting. I’ve bought tortilla’s but only with coupons! We are also soy and dairy free as well. So I I get a lot of coconut milk, rice milk, almond milk, dairy/soy free cheeses and yogurts , as well as natural products that are expired ( usually there still good) for almost nothing at a Sacred Heart League. We will buy something here and there but only on a special occasion and if I can save money with coupons I will.
    We buy all of our pasta in bulk from Azure Standard. I rather not buy a small little box and run out as our family eats a lot of Italian and Mexican food.
    Our favorite website is lynnskitchenadventures.com and she has a gluten free allergy section.
    Some good tips! Thanks!

  23. Just starting gf! says

    Here is a recipe for peanut butter cookies that doesn’t include any flour and is great! 1 cup peanut butter, 1 egg, 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. I wouldn’t recommend this all the time but as a special treat since they are very rich. Hope this helps someone!

  24. says

    I’m new to gluten free, mainly because I feel so much better not eating gluten. I want my kids to have less gluten too so I don’t really buy or make much bread any more, they still have it out of the house, just not often at home. As a substitute for sandwich bread, we use pancakes. I make up a large batch once a week and freeze 50 or so. The kids make their sandwiches on them and never complain, in fact, I usually hear more complaints about being out of pancakes than bread! Here is my recipe: http://domesticdeadline.com/2014/01/20/power-pancakes/ if helps anyone. I have some Jules flour, but for my pancakes I frequently grind oats, brown rice and quinoa and mix it together. Sometimes I will use almond flour. I have found this recipe to work with whatever flour I have on hand and xantham gum isn’t necessary.

  25. says

    These are great. I make all of my gluten-free stuff from scratch — cookies, breads, etc. to save money and avoid over processing. I buy my gluten free flour from Costco. It’s about $10 to $12 per 5 pounds.

  26. julie says

    When my daughter had to go GF, the websites julesglutenfree.com and glutenfreeonashoestring.com were lifesavers for us. Awesome recipes for baking; many recipes to make your own flour mixes depending on what you are making. I agree with many above, make your own flour blends. I feel they were 100X better. We all went GF at home to make it easier. She always knew everything in our home was safe for her (severe Celiac’s, even a crumb would set her off).

    For those of you who have Job Lots, they have many GF flours, etc

  27. Nicole says

    If u know of or live close to the Mennonite or any Amish they make carry GF flour blends. I use better batter and get it for 50.00 in a 25 pound bag. I also just stay away from baked goods. I have a sensitivity. I do like my pretzels and Walmart carries them. I stay away from mostpre packaged stuff too, unless it was a really good deal. You can make spaghetti with spaghetti squash, lasagna with Zucchini, BLTs with lettuce, quinoa is great and easy to use. Our walmart sells it pretty inexpensive.

  28. Rhonda says

    I have eaten gluten-free for fifteen years, long before it was “fashionable”, or easy to find GF products. So I have just stuck to basic foods – meat and potatoes, salads and veggies, rice dishes, etc. I make my own baked goods because it is so much cheaper that way. I buy tapioca starch and rice flour at the Asian Market because that is the best price. Recipes are so easy to find now! Feeling better is definitely better – and now in my 50’s, by eating GF it is much easier to keep the extra pounds off that creep onto us as we age!

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