Plugging the Gluten-Free Money Drain
I’ve been thinking about how to save money on the food budget and suspect many of you are wondering the same thing. When I first started eating gluten-free, finding the right foods seemed to be all I could focus on. That, in itself, was almost overwhelming.
As time passed, I started adding more organic foods to our diet, both meat and produce. Between that and being too busy to cook some days (I’m a freelance writer) and going out to eat, the total spent on food grew.
Eating out now tends to be more expensive than it was before, partly because we ate a lot of fast food. I’ll be honest with you: I liked fast food. An Egg McMuffin and hash browns for breakfast, Arby’s sandwich for lunch, Taco Bell burrito for dinner. I would love to be able to stop at Taco Bell for a .89 bean burrito but that isn’t going to happen any time soon. (Believe me, I know this wasn’t the best diet.)
With all of this in mind, I’ve had to think about how to slim down the food budget. I believe that what I eat matters for health so I’m not going to lower the quality of our food. Eating out less is one obvious option and I think we’re doing better on that. That’s been helped by planning ahead a bit but not as much as I should and that takes me to the first option.
I’ve attempted meal planning but in a halfhearted way. Growing up, my mom would often ask us what we wanted for dinner in the morning so that may be why I have a hard time getting my tastebuds in line for the meal I planned days before. I’m also not a huge planner in general. With that said, those excuses are going to be pushed to the side and I’m going to more seriously work on meal planning.
Cooking in Advance (Freezer Meals)
While looking through my library’s cookbook section, I came across some books on making meals in advance. Sometimes referred to as once-a-month cooking, this is something I can get into. The book I chose to check out had the option of spending a whole day cooking or doing it as a mini-session for a couple of hours using a particular meat. (Example: pounds of ground turkey, roast or chicken turned into several different dishes.)
Buying in Bulk
This one relates back to the last category. Ten pounds of something can be made into meals for later. Take advantage of sales but have a plan for what you plan to do with the food. I currently have just the freezer under my fridge, but I’m seriously considering buying a chest freezer.
Remember, don’t confuse buying in bulk with buying from bulk bins at the store. Those may not be gluten-free. You don’t know what was last in the bin, you don’t know if it was cross contaminated when it was filled (same scoop as something with gluten, etc.) and you don’t know how other customers are using it (same scoop as something with gluten, etc.)
I’m giving serious thought to all three of these. I love the idea of not only saving money by buying in bulk but also that I can savor the tastes of summer on a cold January day.
I helped my mom when she made preserves and froze produce we’d picked such as wild blueberries and cranberries – I’m originally from Alaska. I’ve seen much of it done but never done it myself. This makes me nervous.
When you find a mailorder company you plan to come back to, get on their email list to receive their discounts. Three that immediately come to mind are Honeyville, Tropical Traditions and Better Batter. All offer occassional discounts such as a percentage off or free shipping.
You probably have companies you’ve found that have great prices. I like iherb.com for both its service and prices. I know that when I order $40 or more, I get free shipping on top of those prices that I’ve already found to be lower than shopping locally. (Check my home page for an iherb discount code.) Some people have found Amazon great for low prices on gluten-free products but I haven’t tried them for food yet.
Bake it Yourself
When it comes to gluten-free treats, the cost of buying them pre-made would almost always be higher than making it yourself. You also have the ability to control the ingredients you use to make them lower in sugar and higher in fiber than many bought baked goods.
If you don’t think you have time, consider making enough muffins at one time for a week or two and freezing them. If you’ve never learned to bake, like many things, it isn’t anywhere nearly as complicated as it appears. To help new bakers, I tell them to remember when they were learning to drive. My guess is that they didn’t drive in a straight line or parallel park perfectly the first day. But with practice, it became something that came naturally.
What are you doing to save money in your gluten-free life?