“I can’t eat gluten-free . . . it’s SO expensive!”
Back up that impossible train, GF go-getters. You don’t have to sacrifice your health for your bank account. In fact, you can have both!
Let me explain:
Yes, gluten-free foods are usually more expensive. But, what if I told you there are ways to eat GF and save money at the same time?
Get ready to pop the impossible bubble! In this article, you’ll explore exactly what goes into finding cheap GF meals that still taste fancy... and won’t wreck your insides.
Table of Contents:
- Creamy Vegan Sweet Potato Soup
- Gluten-Free Tuna Cakes
- Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowls
- Chickpea Kale Soup
- Vegan Tofu Poke Bowl
- Skillet Garlic Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Oven Roasted Breakfast Potatoes
- Curried Rice and Red Lentils
- Garlic Butter Chicken Thighs
- Spicy Black Bean Soup
- Gluten-Free Pancakes
- Homemade Chicken Apple Sausage
- Gluten-Free Hawaiian Turkey Kabobs
- Black Bean Tacos
- One Pan Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice
- Veggie Breakfast Scramble
- The Easiest Crustless Gluten-Free Quiche
- Glass Noodles Stir Fry with Shredded Cabbage
- 5-Ingredient Stuffed Peppers
Why, Oh Why, Are GF Products Extra Expensive?
First comes first:
What is with those $$$$ GF products?
Prices are largely based on supply and demand. In this case, the market for GF products is smaller compared to traditional wheat-based foods. Basically, people don’t buy as much gluten-free, making prices a wee bit higher.
But that’s not all.
The production process for GF products is way more complex. Makes sense, right? The rules and regulations that go into making sure foods don’t have even a trace of gluten is super important...and complicated.
Production, packaging, and delivery have to go through a strict process of inspection, while the typical GF ingredients used, like rice and maize, are usually more expensive than wheat.
Eat Like a Queen: 7 Royal Tips for Gluten-Free Budgeting
So, if GF foods are more expensive in general, how can you eat gluten-free on a budget?
Simple! You use these frugal GF-living tips:
1. Peruse the Perimeter
Here’s the thing:
Yes, processed GF foods are more expensive. But, those naturally gluten-free items?
They’re just that– normally-priced. You can find most of the naturally GF goods around the perimeter of the store, like the fruits n’ veggies, dairy, and proteins.
To top it off, most of the foods around the outside of the store you can buy in bulk for great deals. For meat, you can find deals when you also buy in larger portions, and if you’re going for grass-fed/ free-range meat, consider investing in a freezer and talking to a local farmer about purchasing ¼ to ½ of a cow at a time.
2. Shop Til’ You Drop: Farmer’s Market Style
$7 for 10 raspberries? Yeah, those out-of-season goods can make your credit card cry. Instead, focus on purchasing fruits and veggies that are solely in season. You can find some pretty cheap deals at local farmer’s markets if you look hard enough– just watch out for those premium organic farms.
Keep in mind:
Your produce won’t last as long on the counter as usual, since they’re not coated in wax or other preservatives.
3. The Bulk Club: More for Less
Remember bulk? Yep. Bulk is our BFF.
Those gluten-free flours can pack a pricy punch when bought in small amounts– especially the flour mixes.
So, curb the cost by buying in bulk and making your own flour mixes. You easily find rice in hefty amounts at warehouse clubs or Asian markets for a fraction of the price. You might also try finding large bags of GF goods online.
If you go to a store with bulk bins you scoop from, some stores don’t always clean the bins thoroughly, so they may be contaminated with wheat remnants. You can ask a manager how they’re cleaned or just avoid them altogether.
4. Hop the Mainstream Brand Train
Thankfully, large brands are catching the gluten-free lifestyle wave and offering gluten-free products as well.
These mainstream brands are typically cheaper, instead of those specialty GF brands and products.
Check out this giant list of Frito-Lay gluten-free products. There’s also a bunch of mainstream gluten-free kids’ cereals!
5. Single Life? Or Together Forever?
Are you the only one in your family who’s going GF? You might consider not sending your entire family down the gluten-free trail, too.
Otherwise, you’ll have to buy a lot more sans gluten products, sending your budget sky-high. Just evaluate how you would make it work cooking two different types of diets, and if it’s worth it.
6. Don’t Be Afraid of Homemade
If you’re avoiding most GF processed foods, you’re probably going to be doing a lot of cooking and baking.
And if you don’t mind increasing that list, you might also consider making even more ingredients from home, like mayonnaise or flavored vinegar.
Specialty gluten-free ingredients can be hard to come by, especially if your grocery store is lacking in the allergy-friendly department. Plus, when you make everything from home, you’re safe knowing exactly what’s in it.
7. Cash Up the Coupon Drawer
Who doesn’t love saving money? This tip is the easiest and most self-explanatory:
Load up the coupons!
You can find lots of sites online that offer gluten-free coupons, some you have to register for and others you just print right off.
Also, lots of GF brands have mailing lists and will send you discounts and coupons as a thank you for being a subscriber. Lastly, try checking out local gluten-free support groups or food fairs. There are usually coupons galore!
Don’t Stop the Swaps: 6 *Cheaper* GF Foods
There’s nothing like a good food swap to put things in perspective.
I’ve been talking about how expensive gluten-free products can be. So what are some of the least expensive GF foods to buy?
Side note: We’re not basing these off of what is healthier– only what is the least expensive of the two.
Rice Beats Quinoa
Yes, quinoa is typically more nutritionally-dense than rice. However, rice is cheaper, especially when bought in bulk as mentioned earlier.
If you want to up the nutrient density, even a little bit, go for brown rice instead of white.
Oat Flour Beats Almond Flour
Everyone who eats nuts knows:
Almonds are not cheap. And almond flour is no exception. While there are lots of different gluten-free flours to use, oat flour is the least expensive, along with rice flour. Try using different variations of the two.
Sunflower Seeds Beat Raw Nuts
Again, the one thing on your grocery list that racks up the end total:
So instead of eating raw nuts as a snack, grab some sunflower seeds. Even pumpkin works, too! And you still get that protein, fat, and fiber to keep you full.
Natural Peanut Butter Beats Almond Butter
Okay, you get it. Nuts are expensive. But what’s the least expensive you can buy?
Usually, it’s peanuts. So instead of that $12 jar of almond butter, buy some natural peanut butter for half the price.
Still trying to be somewhat health-conscious?
Watch out for added sugars and oils in regular peanut butter brands!
Black Beans Beat Meat
Black beans are like gold nuggets for vegetarians and vegans. They’re amped with protein and fiber– a great meat replacement.
Well, the same goes for budget-friendly GF picks. Canned black beans are incredibly affordable and a great substitute for pricey meats.
You can also trade out chicken for chickpeas, like this chickpea salad sandwich recipe. Chickpeas are cheap, too!
Regular Produce Beats Organic
Wait. You want me to pick regular produce over organic?
Well, only sometimes.
The Environmental Working Group comes out with a Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list each year, the dirty dozen being the foods you should buy organic because of their high pesticide content, while the clean fifteen are foods you don’t have to buy organic.
So, check the 2020 list and see which foods you can skip purchasing organic. Save a few extra bucks!
*The EWG comes out with a new list each year, so make sure you’re looking at an updated one!*
No More Money Guilt! Gobble Up These 19 Cheap GF Meals
Here you are at the center of today’s article: 19 GF meals that won’t send your wallet into a fit...or make you feel financially guilty for taking care of yourself.
You can have it all!
The minimal, the better, and this sweet potato soup envelops all things simple, sweet, cheap, and fall.
Could it be any more perfect?
Sweet potatoes are inexpensive, and a small bottle of spice lasts forever.
These gluten-free tuna cakes are basically fried versions of the typical tuna salad, except way yummier.
It’s filled with vibrant herbs, smooth mayo, pickle relish, GF breadcrumbs, and of course, low-priced canned tuna.
Spaghetti squash is not only cheap but perfect for cleaning out those random ingredients in your fridge.
For instance, you can throw in any random veggie or topping for these spaghetti squash burrito bowls. Feeling scared of the squash? Don’t worry– it’s just like zucchini. It takes on any taste you pair it with.
20-minute soup, anyone? This soup was made for people who live busy lives and prefer simple cooking.
You know what else that means?
It’s really inexpensive to make with just kale, chickpeas, and a couple of pantry items.
Meal bowls are at the heart of any low-cost recipe. You have so much control over swapping out ingredients. This vegan tofu poke bowl is perfect for those who love to throw food together and see if it works.
And let me tell you, this dish works!
Chicken and rice might sound basic, but they make up every frugal heart’s go-to items.
You got your protein and cheap carbs with the rice, and while yes, it might be sparse, this recipe is actually a comfort food delight.
Chop, drop, and bake!
It’s time to take your breakfast/brunch to the next level with these oven-roasted breakfast potatoes. And it’s exactly how it sounds:
perfectly cooked potatoes mixed with bargain veggies.
Complete protein alert! Every vegetarian/vegan knows of the classic rice and bean combo that magically turns into a complete protein.
You have this here and more: sparks of spicy flavor and dreamy textures.
You had me at garlic butter.
Garlic is an extraordinary vegetable with both crazy flavor potential and amazing health benefits. So why not combine it with butter and cover it over a scrumptious protein source? Combine it with rice for those needed GF carbs!
Don’t underestimate the spice with this one.
Spicy black bean soup is an AH-MAZING way to amp up your protein and fiber. To create that creamy effect, use an immersion blender or transfer half the soup to a blender and mix until smooth.
Hallelujah! Gluten-free pancakes exist! . . .life just wouldn’t be the same without them. In this recipe, Sheena mentions how to make your own gluten-free flour to cut the costs.
This way you don’t have to break your bank over those sneaky GF flour mixes.
(Also if you're interested in GF baking science, check out this article)
High-quality, GF store-bought sausage can be pricey. But these chicken apple sausages fill that gap with budget ingredients like apples, onion, and ground chicken.
Plus, they’re healthier without all those preservatives.
How to make dinner fun 101:
They’re super easy to personalize and load up with frugal foods, like fresh veggies. To top it off, this recipe offers an exciting Hawaiian twist– a delicious, inexpensive pineapple juice & GF soy sauce marinade.
14. Black Bean Tacos
Hello, Taco Tuesday! . . .and Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Tacos make the bestest weeknight meal since all you do is cook up a filling (like black beans and spices), then lay out all the other tasty toppings buffet style.
For gluten-free tacos, just use corn tortillas or a certified GF tortilla brand.
(Heads up! Corn is way more inexpensive.)
Super budget need-to-know:
Asian and Mexican-style meals tend to be cheaper because they use lots of rice and bargain spices and condiments.
Well, let’s dive a little deeper into the Mexican cuisine with this delish one-pan dish, all things cilantro & lime flavors.
Breakfast for dinner? How about a snack?
The veggie breakfast scramble recipe is for every time of day, as it’s packed with fresh veggies and protein-ridden legumes.
Oh, there you are again, chickpeas!
You can even wrap the scramble in a GF tortilla for a breakfast burrito.
Eggs, veggies, and cheese– yes, please!
You can skip the crust altogether when it comes to quiche, not only making this more cost-effective but also satisfying those gluten-free requirements.
Turn this recipe into quiche muffins and meal prep a large batch for breakfast done the entire week!
Glass noodles are crystal clear noodles usually made from starch. They cook in minutes and pair perfectly with any flavor on the planet.
Also, they’re low-cost, along with every other ingredient in this stir fry cabbage recipe. Just remember to use GF soy sauce or another substitute like coconut aminos.
What if we combined the cheapest foods in the grocery store into one meal?
That’s basically what this 5-ingredient stuffed peppers recipe is! Carve out some peppers, load it up with your fav filling: quinoa, tomato sauce, veggies, and cheese.
P.S. Food swap alert! You can totally trade out quinoa for rice here.
Leap On the Cheap! Healthy, Budget-Friendly GF Recipes at Your Fingertips id="recipes"
Sit back, relax, and revel in the fact that you can eat healthily and save money at the same time. With the above tips and GF recipes, you and your bank account can live happily ever after.
Cheers to health and happiness!
Want more gluten-free tips? Check out our article "40 Healthy Gluten-Free Desserts to Shamelessly Devour."