Gluten-free diet on a budget
We know that specialist gluten-free foods like bread and pasta are often three to four times more expensive than standard gluten containing varieties, but with a few changes it is possible to follow a healthy gluten-free diet on a budget.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t need to be expensive. Shop bought, processed foods may save time but can make a huge dent in your wallet and may not always be the healthiest option. Making some small changes to the foods you choose on your diet can make a difference in looking after the pennies and also in the nutritional balance.
The key to eating on a budget is planning; plan your meals for the week to cut down on food waste. Foods like rice, potatoes and lentils are naturally gluten-free and often cheaper to buy in bulk. Pulses (peas, beans and lentils) and vegetables can be added to meals based on meat to make meals go further and make them healthier options.
Having two or three meat free days can also help to reduce the cost of your shopping bill and may help you reach the recommended target of at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day.
To help with the cost of gluten-free foods you should be able to get staple items such as gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta and gluten-free flour on prescription. However, as over a quarter of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are now restricting access to gluten-free food on prescription for people with coeliac disease, it may now be more challenging for some people with coeliac disease to follow a gluten-free diet.
Planning is the key to eating healthily and helps to reduce waste. Planning your meals in advance means you can make a detailed shopping list and only buy what you really need. If a seven day meal plan feels too rigid, try a five day meal plan for Monday to Friday to allow some flexibility at weekends or aim for one night a week when you go off plan.
If you have children, get them involved in planning meals for the week ahead. This can really help if you have a child who is more particular about what they eat as they feel more in control and can choose their favourites. Set aside a few minutes each week to plan your meals and try to do this before you go shopping, so you only buy what you need.
Make a shopping list
When you are planning your meals for the week, make a list of everything you’ll need and take this with you when you go shopping. If you only buy what you need this will help you stick to your budget and ensure you don’t over buy and food doesn’t go to waste. Try to avoid shopping on an empty stomach as if you’re hungry you might come away with a trolley full of high fat/sugar foods and undo all your good intentions. Keep your meal plan to hand, stick it on the cupboard or fridge door so the whole family know what the plan is for the week.
If you are on a tight budget, taking cash with you rather than your debit or credit card will help you to stick to your budget.
If you have access to the Internet, ordering your shopping online can help you resist some of the offers and temptations that can be found when shopping in store. To make it easier, once you’ve placed your first order, you can then create a shopping list that you can automatically select when you shop again, to avoid buying things that you don’t really need.
When shopping in-store follow these tips:
Fruits and vegetables
- Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables where you can. These are often cheaper and packed full of flavour.
- Fresh, frozen and canned all count towards your five a day.
- When choosing canned vegetables, opt for those that are in water without added salt. Choose fruit in juice rather than syrup.
- Opt for cheaper cuts of meat, such as brisket, skirt and shin when buying beef, or chicken thighs rather than chicken breasts. Buy a whole chicken to have roasted for Sunday lunch and then use the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.
- We should all be aiming to have two portions of fish each week, one white and one oily. When choosing white fish, pollock or coley are often cheaper than cod or haddock and tinned oily fish such as mackerel and salmon are often cheaper alternatives to fresh. Tinned tuna does not count as the oils are removed during processing. Choose tinned fish in water rather than brine.
Store cupboard staples
- When choosing between two similar products, for example two tins of baked beans, compare the price per 100g. Larger packs are often better value for money. Store cupboard essentials such as canned fruits and vegetables are often on offer and have a long shelf life, so as long as you have storage space buying in bulk can prove more cost effective.
- Choosing own brand versions of breakfast cereals or gluten-free pasta can work out cheaper than branded products.
- Make use of your leftovers, they can be taken to work the next day for an easy lunch or can be frozen so you have meals on hand for when you need them.
- Leftover cooked vegetables can often be added to soups or pasta dishes or savoury muffins so they don’t go to waste, Pureed overripe or cooked vegetables can be transformed into a pizza topping or pasta sauce. Add some chopped herbs to add more flavour.
- Use your leftover roast chicken from your Sunday roast to make a stirfry or risotto on Monday or Tuesday night, or use cold as a sandwich filler or as a base for a salad for lunch the next day.
- Use up overripe fruit in baking. Bruised bananas can be transformed into a banana bread or muffins which can be eaten as pudding, a snack or added to packed lunches. Or slice up bananas and pop them in the freezer, once frozen they can then be added to smoothies or blend on their own to create a healthy alternative to ice cream. Fruit that is past its best can be used to make a smoothie, simply blend together with milk for an easy breakfast, or use on its own as a fruit puree that can be added to porridge or yoghurt for a quick breakfast. More breakfast ideas.
Set aside some time every week or once a month to batch cook meals for the week ahead or to pop in the freezer for days when you have less time. Making a big batch of mince on a Sunday afternoon means you then have a base for lasagne, shepherd’s pie or chilli con carne during the week. Vegetarian? Roast a whole load of mixed vegetables with herbs and a little oil, these can then be added to pasta, as a pizza topping, or rolled up in a wrap for a delicious lunch or midweek supper.
Cooking tonight’s dinner? Make double the amount and use the leftovers for lunch the next day or to pop in the freezer for a later date.
Stuck for ideas? Search our Recipe Database for a wide range of recipes suitable for a gluten-free diet.
Download our Gluten-free Diet on a Budget leaflet for more information.