Gluten-Free on a Budget

Many ask, Isn’t it too expensive to eat naturally?

Consider - Isn’t it too costly not to?

This is a common question that truly can be answered in two ways.

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Yes, it can be. Commercial “health foods” can be very expensive. If you’re going to eat prepared and packaged health foods, this gets very costly. Specialty gluten-free versions of popular American fare are also prohibitively expensive.

No, it doesn’t have to be. Truly natural foods are some of the most inexpensive foods around. Dry grains, beans and seasonal produce can be incredibly inexpensive. Consider that you will be eating more in keeping with how the majority of the people throughout the world eat. Simple diets based on whole grains, beans and fresh seasonal produce can be incredibly cost-effective (say nothing about incredibly good for your health and naturally gluten free!).

 

Be sure to access my great list of 14 Thrifty Shopping Tips!

What about organic?  Do I need to buy everything organic?

If cost weren’t a factor it would be wonderful to exclusively buy local and organic, but most families can’t feasibly afford all organic groceries. Also be careful of the term “organic” attached to a food.   It doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for you. “Organic sugar” is still just refined white sugar.

Certain plant-based foods, like broccoli and avocados, naturally have their own built-in protection so chemical pesticides are rarely used on them. Other foods, like strawberries and peaches, are more fragile and are commonly heavily sprayed with chemicals. Because of this we can be selective about our organic purchases. To get the most up-to-date lists of those foods with the most chemical exposure and those with the least, check it out at www.ewg.com. Otherwise, you might enjoy my handy reference (with a built-in memory system)- Prioritizing Your Organic Purchases.

The True Cost of Gluten-free Flours

There's no denying that gluten-free prepared foods, gluten-free mixes and gluten-free cooking can be very costly.  Gluten-free mixes and flour blends easily cost $5.00 to $12.00 per pound!  Gluten-free starches, powders and gums (which I don't recommend using) are incredibly expensive!  To be able to prepare gluten-free foods from whole, natural ingredients will cut some of your costs, yet many of these flours and grains are more expensive than traditional ones as well.  It may help to "console yourself" with the fact that you are actually making an investment in your health with these expenses.  Not simply by avoiding the reactions and symptoms you would have if you ate in the traditional way, but also with the superior nutrition you receive by eating such richly nutritious whole foods.

The gluten-free flours that I focus on cost, on average between $2.00 and $3.00 per pound.  This is a lot, there's no denying it.  Certified gluten-free oats cost even more (upwards or $3.50-$4.00 per pound- yikes!).  Yet a little dab will do ya'! Just last night I made a dinner Banana Teff Pancakes for dinner for my husband and myself.  I used 1 cup of teff and 1/2 cup brown rice flour.  This was about 2/3 of a pound of flour (I'll explain why I know this in just a moment).  So, those pancakes (with the banana included) only set us back only about $2.00.  Not bad.  It's when we buy these whole ingredients in quantity that it takes our breath away.  But on a day-to-day basis, we only use them in small amounts.

One comment I received recently was from an individual concerned about the cost of gluten-free oats.  I hope, in time, as gluten-free foods become more common, the prices will come down, but for now gluten-free oats are very costly.  But then I began to consider how light oat flour is and that to use a cup of oat flour couldn't be as great a portion of a pound as say a cup of brown rice flour (which is very heavy).  So I got out our postage scale and began weighing the flours.  Here are the results.  (Can anyone tell I used to be an elementary school teacher and I'm stuck in "science fair" mode?)

You might find this comparison interesting but, more importantly, I hope you remember that we're making an investment in our health when we pay the higher price for these gluten-free whole grains.

If you like information like this, then you'll really appreciate my 30 Day book that takes a person by the hand and walks them through healthy diet and lifestyle changes - featuring over 40 healthy vegetarian gluten-free recipes.

Type of FlourAmount per cupApproximate cost per poundApproximate cost per cup
Brown Rice5.6 oz$2.00$0.70
Oat3.3 oz$3.40$0.70
Teff5.2 oz$2.90$0.94
Buckwheat5.6 oz$2.00$0.70
Sorghum3.9 oz$2.25$0.55

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