"How can I afford to go gluten free?" is the lament I often hear. So day after day goes by and the people who need to remove gluten from their lives the most, hedge bets that things will be OK even though that still small voice inside of them tells them...... It's time. So today's post is for all the people who struggle with budgets for food, for feeding a family of fussy children that only want cereal and PBJ's. There is life after gluten.
I went on a gluten free diet in 2004. I remember the day that the decision was made all too well. I had been at my ND's office and we were discussing my health and diet after cancer treatments. I continued to struggle with gut related problems. I took probiotics and had done a liver cleanse yet there was that underlying issue.....always present. I returned home already stressed out by the cost of medical care wondering how would I work my new diet into the family diet and then there was the budget - OH BOY! I sat at my computer screen and cried as I searched for options. How would I feed my family? Two seperate meals? Then you get sticker shock just walking into the healthfood store and perusing the GF section. $5 - 8 or more is the standard cost of a single mix item. The discouraging thing was that they didn't even taste that great either. Half the time the mixes didn't turn out well and I didn't eat them and threw them away when they were stale. So how was this helping my budget?
This is my basic flour mixture. I use it for all my cookies. There are 12 cups in this batch and each bag I buy at the Asian supermarket for .99 cents / bag. The 1 lb bags have 4 cups of flour in them so the cost to put this together is $3.00.
My toll house cookie recipe uses 2 1/4 cups. That's 19% of the total container or .57 cents for flour for cookies. Add your normal chocolate chips (Aldi's are $1.19 / bag), butter (Aldi's $1.99 4 sticks - 2 sticks in recipe $1) and a few misc items like salt, baking soda and xanthan gum (more on where to get a deal later) and for about $3.00 you have a large batch of gluten free chocolate chip cookies. Cheaper than Oreo's and better for you!
This is my basic cookie flour:
9 Cups White Rice Flour
2 Cups Potato Starch
1 Cup Tapioca Starch / Flour
If you have a Trader Joe's near you, pasta is covered. $1.99 / bag for penne, spiral and spaghetti pasta. We make the *pilgrimage* 2x year 2 1/2 hours to our closes Trader Joe's to stock up. My basement looks like a warehouse.
But if you don't have a Trader Joe's the best way to find cheap pasta is to watch Amazon.com and buy it by the case. I use Subscribe and Save whenever possible. This will give you an additional discount. Don't be scared to sign up your first time. You can always cancel before the next shipment if you don't like it or if you get to the point of shipment and don't need more. I have purchased bags on sale for $1.50 - $3.00 depending on the sale. Once you start buying gluten free on Amazon they will start to e-mail you with specials.
For times that you need something in between sales I have found that Vitacost.com and iHerb.com offer some decent prices.
Xanthan Gum - if you aren't a huge baker this container will work well for you NOW 6 oz for $6.87 at iherb.com and if you bake a lot like I do you will want the industrial size you'll want to check eBay. I just scanned it today and the best prices is $9.99 with $4.97 shipping for 2 lbs. That's about 50% less than through iHerb.
The next flour blend I make is like a pastry flour. It can be used for muffins, cakes and any other
Gluten Free Cake Flour Mix
3 Cups Brown Rice Flour
1 Cup Potato Starch (not potato flour)
1/2 Cup Tapioca Flour
1 1/2 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum
Once again the potato starch and tapioca starch can be purchased at your local Asian grocer for about .99 cents / 4 cup bag. The brown rice is a bit more difficult to get. I have started to grind my own from brown rice in my BlendTec but prior to that I purchased it from Country Life which is local to me - but does ship UPS. I would recommend finding a local Weston Price group. They are a wealth of resources since they advocate baking and cooking from scratch.
Now for your challenge. I will follow up this blog post with more information on changing to gluten free but I need your help. I want you to submit your normal meal plan for a day and I will try to convert it with options that are gluten free and if possible include a cost to make themm. Just e-mail me here.
Until then. Here's to living gluten free.