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We're in a cost-of-living crisis right now and being gluten free on a budget has become more important than ever.
The price of free from foods is on the rise - along with everything else - and it's time to tighten the purse strings.
I've always tried to be a savvy shopper and make eating gluten free as affordable as possible and I want to share these tips with you.
The good news is that while the free from aisle's prices are enough to make you wince, there are tonnes of ways to bring your food bill down without missing out!
"But eating gluten free is expensive!"
Lots of you have told me you'd really like some tips for cutting the cost of being gluten free so I really hope this piece will help you.
I don't believe that having something like coeliac disease or an allergy or intolerance should mean you have to pay a premium for basic foods.
Let's face it, if you try to just straight-swap everything you're cutting out of your diet when you go gluten free, it's going to be a shock at the checkout.
Even the cheapest gluten free bread costs 36p a slice compared to 8p a slice for the cheapest 'normal' bread.
And that's not to mention the fact those slices are usually half the size too!
So without further ado, I'm sharing my top tips for eating gluten free on a diet and saving some cash in the process.
A lot of these tips also work if you're not gluten free too or have a different allergy or intolerance so I really hope these will help anyone struggling.
Look for naturally gluten free foods
The biggest thing you can do to cut costs with coeliac disease is to think outside of the box and learn to read ingredients lists.
Once you learn what is gluten free and what's not, it makes it SO much easier to shop outside of the free from aisle!
For example, in Tesco a 500g bag of gluten free pasta will set you back £1.05 - which is 21p per 100g.
However, a bag of 1kg Basmati Rice, which is naturally gluten free, will cost you £1.85 - which is only 18.5p per 100g.
Grab a 2.5kg bag of Tesco's own Perfectly Imperfect Potatoes for 89p and that's a crazy 3.6p per 100g.
The list could go on-and-on, but in buying these naturally-gluten free whole foods, you'll get a more nutritious meal AND save money.
Some examples of naturally gluten free foods include:
- Fresh and frozen meat
- Fresh and frozen fish and seafood
- Fresh, tinned and frozen vegetables
- Fresh, tinned and frozen fruit
- Most dairy products
- Rice Noodles (always double check as some have wheat or may contain warnings)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Quinoa (check for may contain warnings)
- Lentils and Chickpeas
There are all sorts of ways to get creative with food instead of relying on all the foods you ate pre-diagnosis.
Love pasta? Why not buy some potatoes and make your own gluten free gnocchi?
It's easy to make, tastes amazing and will save you a considerable amount compared to buying bags of free from pasta.
Be wary of which 'free from' products you buy
An important caveat of the free from aisle is that it is a FREE FROM area and not just a GLUTEN FREE area.
Which means it will cater for other allergens as well as just gluten.
Aside from baked goods and things like gluten free pasta, you'll actually be able to find perfectly safe gluten free alternatives in the rest of the supermarket.
For example, Sacla's vegan pesto is £2.75 a jar and in the free from aisle, marked as gluten, dairy and wheat free.
But if you can eat dairy the Sainsbury's own normal pesto costs £1 a jar which is less than half the price, and still gluten free.
Tesco's Free From Tomato and Herb Sauce is 500g and costs £1 (it's gluten and dairy free) but they also sell the Hearty Food Co pasta sauce for 39p a jar (440g).
This version is gluten and dairy free from the ingredients anyway and will save you 61p a time - not bad when it all adds up.
If you're only avoiding one allergen like gluten, just be aware that you may be paying for a more expensive dairy or egg free alternative you don't actually need.
Hunt for 'yellow sticker' bargains
I'm always raiding the bargain corner and finding food close to it's use-by date in a yellow sticker bargain is a great feeling.
I tend to have a few rules when looking for yellow sticker bargains to avoid food waste and ensure I can capitalise on it properly.
Grab any fresh meat and fish that takes your fancy and freeze it if you don't want to eat it right away.
This can be frozen right up until (and including) it's use-by date and I always grab things like fish fillets, steaks, gluten free meatballs and chicken breasts.
It can sometimes be less than half the price and it means when you need those items you can defrost them and use them saving lots of money.
I tend to buy reduced fruit and veg I know I'll use in the next day-or-so - I don't tend to abide by 'use by' dates for products like this.
A good 'sniff test' usually does the trick and until it's mouldy it tends to get eaten in our household!
I always used to avoid the 'normal' bread aisle but I often find reduced gluten free bread is put in with the reduced bakery items.
As it's all sealed I don't have a problem with this, and I take any reduced loaves of bread I want home and freeze them, defrosting a slice or two when needed.
Batch cook everything!
Making meals in bulk has been a game-changer for me in terms of saving time and money.
When I get super busy or tired I rely on grabbing a gluten free ready meal or pizza from the supermarket and this was starting to cost me a fortune.
That way next time I'm feeling lazy I can just heat it up in the microwave and I have a delicious and nutritious meal that didn't cost the earth.
And making things in bulk actually makes it cheaper per portion, despite the bigger initial outlay.
For example, if I make a chilli for two people and buy a 250g pack of 5% fat beef mince, it may only cost me £1.89 but that's £7.56 per kg.
If I buy a 750g pack of the same mince it'll cost £4.29 outright but is £2 per kg cheaper!
This means per portion the cost has gone down immensely and I'll be saving myself a load of effort the next time I'm feeling tired.
If you need some inspiration, I have a tonne of gluten free batch cooking recipes here to inspire you.
Plan your meals
My Mum used to always tell me off for just going into the supermarket and deciding there and then what to have for dinner every night.
Turns out, she had a point (sorry Mum!).
If you plan your meals for the week in advance, you'll only buy the ingredients for what you actually need.
I try my best to sit down on a Sunday and plan out what we're going to eat (at least for the next few days if it's a crazy week).
Having the ingredients in the fridge will stop me nipping in to buy a pizza after a long day's work or - even worse - shopping when I am hungry.
Plus then I can think about whether I can batch cook at least one meal so I have some spare food for the next week when my plans inevitably fall apart!
Think about your cuts of meat
If you're a vegan or veggie then skip to the next part, but meat-eaters listen up!
The cut of meat you buy can affect the price a lot and there are ways to save money and still enjoy the foods you love.
For example, a 650g pack of diced chicken breast will cost you £4.85, which is £7.47 per kg.
But buy a 650g pack of chicken breast portions for £4.20 and you're saving £1 a kg - only because you have to chop them yourself.
A 600g pack of chicken thigh fillets costs £4.30, which is £7.17 per kg, but if you buy a 1.2kg back of chicken thighs on the bone for £2.30, you'll save over £5 per kg!
Cooking chicken on the bone takes a little longer but you actually get way more flavour and even though some of that extra weight is bone, generally it's a lot cheaper.
Become best friends with your freezer
I've mentioned freezing things a lot above but it honestly has helped so much in cutting costs.
Throwing away food is a huge waste of money and not good for the planet.
But most food can be frozen which means you won't be missing out or wasting perfectly good products.
If you're the only coeliac in the family and find your gluten free bread often goes stale, freeze it and defrost slices as needed.
Most of the cakes and treats in the free from aisle can also be frozen which will save a few pennies too.
And of course any meal leftovers can be frozen either in part or as whole meals to defrost and eat when you need them.
Go meat free for a meal
I don't want to cut meat out of my diet but I am making a conscious effort to introduce more meat-free meals into our lives.
Switching beef mince for mixed beans in a chilli is just as tasty but way cheaper.
Making a chickpea curry instead of a chicken curry is equally as delicious but it's just a different way to enjoy your favourite cuisine.
Pulses like lentils, beans and chickpeas are also a great way to get fibre into your diet and I love exploring the different flavours or textures.
My courgette and halloumi fritters are a tasty meat-free meal and the leftovers are great in lunches making the stretch further too.
Try adding one or two vegetarian or vegan meals in a week and I guarantee you over the month that saving will buy you more than a few treats in the free from aisle!
Get on those apps!
I have every single reward card going - Nectar points, Lidl's app, Clubcard... and I find it saves me so much money overall.
I tend to shop around the different supermarkets and I'm always on the lookout for a bargain.
The Lidl app always has different coupons and rewards when you spend certain amounts so I often find that helps me think of different meal ideas.
Tesco often runs Clubcard prices on free from products (which are cheaper than the standard prices).
And I am racking up those Nectar points ready to use on some extra treats when it comes to Christmas this year.
I do think if a supermarket is offering a rewards scheme it's worth using as one way or another, it should save you some pennies down the line.
And if you have extra points stashed away this can be really handy if you have a week where you're feeling short on cash but need to buy essentials.
Bake your own gluten free treats
One of the biggest expenses in the free from aisle is buying gluten free cakes, bread, and treats.
Baked goods are the hardest thing to find an 'accidentally gluten free' version of so we tend to have to go to the free from aisle for these.
But I am a huge advocate of baking your own gluten free treats for a number of reasons.
Firstly, baking your own gluten free bread is easy, you can make a 'normal'-sized loaf, it freezes well and it's a fun skill to learn.
Baking your own gluten free cakes and treats like brownies taste so much better than the shop-bought versions and again, it's not difficult.
The idea of baking can seem daunting which is why I make my recipes as detailed and guided as possible so you can't go wrong.
I also have lots of guided video tutorials on my YouTube channel which will help you and it will work out a lot cheaper per portion too.
Never shop when hungry!
My final piece of wisdom to impart on your is another classic from my Mum and honestly the best bit of advice I can give.
I'm pretty sure when I'm hungry the cost of my food shop goes up by at least a third.
I just reach for random foods which take my fancy or snacks I can scoff in the car on the way home.
And what's worse, I often get home to find I have a bunch of random things I saw and wanted, that don't actually go together to form any sort of meal.
The best time to go shopping is when you've eaten.
Eat your lunch or dinner, plan your shopping list and then get it done - you'll probably save a fortune if you're anything like me!
Got any gluten free money saving tips?
I always love hearing your advice, so please share your best money-saving tips in the comments!
Let's all help each other out and try save some pennies too!