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Budget Whisperer: 4 ways to go gluten-free on a budget

Susan Russell
by Susan Russell, Dimespring 30

When Fat Tuesday hit, I had completely overlooked the fact Lent was about to begin. I ate and was merry, and then realized I had to come up with something quick to either give up or take on.

In a way, I decided to do both. By deciding to give up eating gluten, I took on being more aware of what I was ingesting.

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My friend, a registered dietician, told me there were few health benefits to this change in diet, but it would sure wreak havoc on your wallet. We’ll see about that, I countered. So here’s how you can go gluten free and prove the financial naysayers wrong.

Go shopping first. Ok, so I didn’t actually follow this one, but I wish I had. I had gone shopping the Monday before Lent began without a clue that this was going to be my new lifestyle, so my refrigerator and cabinets were packed full of breads, breaded things and pastas. Lesson learned: don’t tempt yourself with the untouchables and don’t waste a kitchen full of food. If your new plan isn’t time sensitive, wait a week to commence and eat up all your gluten-y food items.

Don’t go “gluten free.” If something has the label “Gluten Free,” run. Just by adding that endorsement, stores at liberty to jack up the prices considerably. There are plenty of items that are naturally gluten free but don’t feel the need to advertise as such  stick with those. This does, however, mean foregoing all gluten-replacements pastas and breads, which for many is a big change. But it can be done. 

Take advantage of sales. It seems obvious for the budget-conscious, but really do it. The first grocery trip to the store I took, the one where I went in with the notion of resisting anything self-described as gluten free, there was a whole shelf of clearance “gluten free” items. I caved and bought a few boxes of pasta and some crackers, and it was the best decision I’ve made.

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I avoided the pasta for quite a while, but when my cravings for spaghetti were too much to bare, I was thankful to have it stashed away in the pantry. And the crackers? A great substitute for veggies with dips when I ran out of fresh produce. Sometimes you have to break your own rules, just be smart about it.

Pack a lunch. Fast food is riddled with glutenous products, and sit-down restaurants aren’t much better. Even a large majority of frozen meals contain wheat, so before you put that grilled chicken and rice Lean Cuisine in your shopping cart, check the ingredients  they may surprise you. Put together your own lunch and you won’t have to worry about failing your new diet. Dinner leftovers and plenty of fruits and vegetables for snacking on are the perfect alternative to that hamburger and fries you’re so familiar with.

There are some things your budget doesn’t need to know, and with a little discipline, this secret you’ll be able to keep.

Susan Russell, aka the Budget Whisperer, is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.