Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Living on the Cheap with Celiac's Disease

Sometimes going to Whole Foods can be like a trip to Disney Land for a gluten-free gal such as myself.  These days there are endless options in the aisles of wheat-free fare...gluten-free burritos, ready-bake pizzas, cake mixes, even crackers that look like Ritz!  Almost ten years ago, when I first received my diagnosis, this kind of heaven was just a dream.

But heaven comes at a price...If you've perused the shelves at your local Whole Foods or organic market, gluten-free foods, especially the ready-to-eat kind, can be 5-10x as much as the wheat-enriched varieties.  This isn't an issue for some, but many if us have to be careful with our paychecks...I, for example, have the grad school monster eating up a hefty chunk of our resources.

I'm here to tell you that you can eat gluten-free and do it on the cheap.  But cheap come at a price, as well, and that's your time.  But if you have time on Sundays to prep a little food, you will have grab-and-go gluten-free options to last you the whole week!

Are you ready for some tips?  Here we go!

1) Shop the periphery of the store.  All of the "whole" foods that you will need for a healthy and balanced diet are most often gluten-free, too!  These are also the less expensive items, since you will have to prepare them. 
2)  Buy organic when you can, but there are somethings that are ok to buy that aren't.  Eggs and milk are no contests in the 'Teef house.  We always buy these organic.  I use this little guide to help me know what is a no-no or not.
3)  Buy in-season.  Oh, you want fresh cherries in November?  Not gonna happen unless you are paying a pretty penny for it.  If you have a hankering for cherries year-round, buy them when they are in season and freeze a bunch for shakes, smoothies, or baking.  Some things are available year-round, like onions and potatoes, so don't worry too much about buying these in season.

4)  Stay away from pre-packaged gluten-free foods.  Gluten-free bread?  $5 a loaf.  Gluten-free crackers? $6 a box.  Gluten-free mac and cheese? $3 a box.  Are you getting the picture?  If you are craving these items, go ahead and purchase, but know that this is a splurge!  There are a lot of great gluten-free recipes that you can make at home, for pennies on the dollar.

5)  Stock up on your gluten-free flours.  Now this will be an investment starting off, but you will have a gluten-free arsenal that will allow you to make all of the goodies from #4 that you abstained from buying.  Must-haves in my pantry are: coconut oil, Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix, garfava flour, arrowroot flour, potato starch, brown rice flour, and gluten-free baking powder.  You can make pretty much any gluten-free baked good or treat you are craving with this basic foundation...except for you, gluten-free mac and cheese!

6)  Get cooking on Sunday!  Make a big batch of some gluten-free meal and portion it out for your week as lunch or dinner.  Hate leftovers?  Make something that can be gussied up quickly in different iterations.  Make a stir-fry that could be served over rice, wrapped in lettuce leaves or corn tortillas, or served over savory oatmeal.  Which leads us to #7...

7)  Learn to love savory oatmeal.  You can make this in a jiffy and it has about 1000 iterations.  It's also dirt cheap and delicious.

8)  You don't need to buy gluten-free cookbooks, there is a plethora of recipes online.  But IF you do want to spring for a cookbook, I would highly recommend Babycakes two cookbooks.  I have yet to be disappointed with a recipe and the treats I can whip up are crowd pleasers, be you gluten-sensitive or not!

9)  Never underestimate the power of a hearty salad.  A bunch of veggies thrown on a pile of greens with a little cheese and dressing can really hit the spot, especially of you are tired and short on time.  Leftovers also go well on a bed of lettuce!

10)  Allow yourself some leeway.  If you didn't get around to making that big batch on Sunday or you just MUST HAVE that brand of gluten-free mac and cheese, IT'S OK.  Know that you are human and sometimes a ready-made oven-bake pizza is what you crave!  (And if you want to know, Trader Joe's has a gluten-free pizza for only $4!)

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