Monday, June 20, 2011

Gluten Free On A Budget

Eating gluten free can help you feel better and healthier than ever, but there can be some negative side effects as well. Most of these side effects take place in your wallet. Gluten free foods can be more costly than the average bread, cake, cookie or cracker. If you've been feeling financially run down, follow these simple steps to healthier and more cost efficient eating.
1.) Stick to the Basics. Your body is programmed to process fruits and vegetables, and they cost less than most junk foods or specialty gluten free foods. Try dishes that have these, plus lean meats, low to non-fat dairy, beans, nuts and seeds. You can also pick up whole grain gluten free flour from a company called Bob's Red Mill, which tastes something like pumpernickel bread. Gluten free whole grains are a great way to add fiber and B vitamins to your diet. Also, the calories you are taking in by eating whole grains are put to good use in your body, unlike the highly processed, sugar-filled and calorie dense competitors on the market. When you go shopping, try sticking to the perimeter of the store. Visit the produce section, then meat, then dairy, and check out. Frozen vegetables, honey, beans and brown rice are the few foods that are nutritious in the inner isles of the supermarket.  Remember not to get caught up in what you cannot eat, think about all that you can.
2.) Think International. Take a trip to your local Asian food market. You can find plenty of flours that are not in the traditional Euro-diet, but can be found internationally. For instance, rice flour sells for about 89c per pound, varying in different locations. You can also find Tapioca flour, bean flour and others. Another good thing about these stores is that you can pick up other gluten free treats like sushi, seaweed, rice crackers and bean threads. A big bag of bean threads costs less than the average brown rice pasta, and can be used in soups. You can also find some of these items in the international isles of your local supermarket.
3.) Tax Breaks for Celiacs. Are you a diagnosed Celiac? You have to check with your state's regulations, but if you buy enough gluten free foods for the family (Celiac's Disease is genetic, so remember to check everyone), then you may qualify for a tax write off. Celiac’s Disease falls under the Americans With Disabilities Act. For New Jersey, this is the difference between the average product and its gluten free counterpart. Look up your local laws, but money is money.
4.) Regular Brands That Don’t Advertise. Take the time to look up brands that may be gluten free. Foods that advertise themselves as "gluten free" are not the only ones out there. For example, La Choy soy sauce is gluten free, but does not advertise as such. You can also substitute foods, like putting plain Rice Chex in the food processor, add some seasonings, and you have bread crumbs for other recipes. All you have to do is get creative. You can usually call the information number on a product’s box and ask the manufacturer directly if the product is gluten free.
5.) Buy in Bulk or Online. Chances are that your local health food store raises its prices quite a bit. You can eliminate this problem by buying certain products online. Buying in bulk will also save on the shipping cost. Check out websites like to see if you can find your favorite products at a discount.  Many times the manufacturer will also have savings on their own website.

These simple strategies can help you lead a more nutritious, delicious and cost effective gluten free lifestyle. Remember, keep it simple and get back to the basics. Your body craves more natural, healthy foods.  Don’t be afraid to branch out and learn new things, new cultures and new ways of eating. Good luck in all of your gluten free endeavors.

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