Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How to do Gluten Free Inexpensively: What to keep stocked up on

I have a friend whose daughter just received a diagnosis of celiac disease and have been thinking about her a lot lately.  It can be so expensive to eat gluten free if you get all of the special gluten free products.  I've decided to write up a little guide of what I like to keep stocked in my house to make gluten free easier and hopefully a little cheaper.  (And don't worry... I'm sure you'll find that you already keep a lot of these things in your home.)

  1. Gluten free cereals.  Cinnamon Chex is my favorite, but Rice Chex is cheaper.  You can doctor up Rice Chex with fruit and nuts if you want.  It's also great to have on hand to make Chex mix or muddy buddies (yum!).  There's also gluten free Rice Krispies and Fruity/Cocoa Pebbles.  Both of which you can also make fun treats out of.  If you enjoy cereal for breakfast, this is definitely a cheaper route than the special gluten free brands.  Plus you can pretty much always find coupons for them and they're more likely to go on sale.  Of course, you can always do eggs, bacon, ham, hashbrowns, smoothies, etc. for breakfast, but I find it's best to have at least one gluten free cereal option on hand.
  2. Rice Crackers.  I get a big pack at Costco and the price is comparable to "normal" gluten-filled crackers.  I rarely eat them plain, but my kids love them that way.  I put cheese slices on the Artisan Four Cheese kind (for salty) and Nutella on the Sesame Seed ones (for sweet- it reminds me of pretzels in chocolate).  They're always great for a snack when you can't find anything else and they're a great price. 
  3. Tortilla Chips (a gluten free brand, of course).  I buy the Costco Kirkland chips.  They say "gluten free" right on the bag and they're a great price.  I use these for EVERYTHING!  When I want a snack I could have chips and any kind of dip I feel like (salsa, cream cheese and GF chili, cheesy dip, etc.) or I can eat them plain.  I also use chips as a base for a lot of things, pizza being a main one.  I just melt the cheese and toppings on and then dip them in pizza sauce (I usually make my family a regular gluten pizza when I do this.  If that will make you too sad, then everyone can have pizza nachos and I'm sure they'll love them).  Regular nachos with refried beans and any other toppings you want are a fun and yummy dinner for the whole family too.  I also crush up tortilla chips and use them in place of bread crumbs for a lot of recipes.  It's way cheaper than using special gluten free bread crumbs and still tastes delicious.
  4. Gluten free pasta.  Yes, this is a special gluten free item, but I like to have it on hand.  We don't have pasta very often, but it is nice to have in the pantry, because there are so many delicious pasta recipes out there.  And although it dirties more pots, I make myself gluten free pasta and a different pot of gluten-filled for my family.  Much cheaper.  I don't worry about having specialty shapes (unless it's lasagna).  I buy GF spaghetti noodles and penne pasta and decide which to use depending on the recipe.  If you want, you can always use rice in place of pasta too.  I prefer GF pasta, but I know a lot of people who are fine with the rice. 
  5. Rice.  It's a great staple to have in the house whether you're gluten free or not.  You can doctor up the rice for a side-dish or you can pour sauce over it. (Potatoes can work the same as rice as far as a side or to put sauce on.)
  6. Cornstarch.  Learn how to thicken gravies and soups with this.  You can use it in place of flour in many recipes (when it's used as a thickener).  It's a must.
  7. Gluten free Cream Soup Mix.  This is nice to have on hand for those recipes that call for a cream of something soup.  I make up a mix and keep it in a container in my fridge.
  8. Candy bars (gluten free ones, of course).  I don't feel the need to do this anymore, but when I first went gluten free, I liked to have candy bars on hand for those times I really wanted to eat an off-limits dessert.  
  9. Naturally gluten free snacks I think snacks are personal to each person/family and that you have to decide what you like to have on hand.  We usually have string cheese and fruit snacks around and occasionally Veggie Straws or trail mix.  Many chips are also gluten free.  Read the labels of your favorites and see. Popcorn is also a bit time must for me. 
  10. Lots of fresh fruit and veggies.  This is a good thing to do whether you eat gluten free or not.  I like to have a big variety.  That way, there's usually something that sounds good. 
  11. Gluten Free Flour Mix.  I try not to use these often because the cost can add up, but it really does make life easier if you have at least a few cups of it for those times you really want to try out a new baked goods recipe or make an old family favorite.  I prefer Grandpa's Kitchen Gluten Free Flour Blend because it already has the xantham gum in it and you can use it cup for cup in your regular family recipes. You can also mix up your own GF flour blend, but unless you really really really love baking, I'd wait on that till you're more comfortable with gluten free. (At the beginning for me I actually had just rice flour on hand and thought that was enough, but looking back I think this would have made things easier.)
  12. A mix or two of gluten free dessert (or other special treat).  I do like to have gluten free mixes on hand, though I rarely use them.  It's just nice to have them there if a craving comes up.  Pamela's has some good mixes and I also like the Betty Crocker dessert mixes. Oh, and you can't go wrong with the Gluten Free Pantry brand.  
Nice to have and makes things easier, but didn't make it on the must list (I have these occasionally, but not always, but really... I love it when I do have them.):  
  1. Udi's bread.  It's nice to have a loaf in my freezer in case I'm having a hard time finding something I want for lunch or a snack.  I prefer my sandwiches without bread now (which means it's not a sandwich, I guess... it's a lettuce wrap), so I use it for toast or grilled cheese sandwiches mainly.  You can usually find an Udi's coupon online. 
  2. Rice flour.  It's the cheapest of the gluten free flours (and even cheaper if you grind it yourself).  I don't actually use it that often, but like to have it around in case I want to coat some chicken or there's a recipe that needs only the rice flour. I keep it in the fridge, that's how rarely I use it.
  3. Gluten free Bisquick.  Yet another special gluten free item, but one I like to have on hand.  Sometimes I just really love to have pancakes or waffles.  This makes it really easy to do either.  Watch for coupons for this.  It can also be used to make a lot of different desserts. If you keep the gluten free flour blend, this isn't as necessary, but it's still nice to have on occasion.
Obviously, this list will vary depending on what your eating habits are, but hopefully it'll be a helpful start. 

What are your gluten free staples?


    Gabby The Gluten Free Guru said...

    Woh, good minds think alike!! I too just made a post about a couple of gf staples I love and how to get them for cheap. So in answer to your question, my gf staples are rice flour, tapioca flour, and rice noodles.

    Great post!

    Meredith said...

    I always have gluten free pasta, rice, GF bisquick, GF flour blend (brown rice flour, sweet rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum), cornstarch, and tomato sauce.

    Your blog is great. I so appreciate that there are other people who are gluten intolerant and want to share the little things with others.