I’ve noticed that a lot of people are concerned about the cost of eating a wheat-free diet, and I’ll admit that I was initially nervous about this too. A diet that is free of wheat, however, can actually be less expensive than one that revolves around it, I have found.
Here are some of my tips for going wheat-free in a money-savvy way:
1) This is probably the most important thing that will save you money – do NOT simply replace all of your wheat-filled foods with wheat substitutes. For example, switching from eating regular pasta (which is cheap) to eating rice pasta (which costs more) is not a wise way of going about things. Firstly, this kind of negates all of the hard work you are putting into this whole new lifestyle change. Why go through all the effort of meticulously cutting out wheat only to replace it with more carbs? Go big or go home, I say! Because hey, spelt pasta is effing pricy, and you’re not really going to lose much weight (if that is your goal) by replacing carbs with carbs. And your wallet will be all empty and when you open it a moth might even fly out. Honestly, food companies take advantage of people that are gluten-free and they jack up those prices because they know you literally have no other choice. If you look at the gluten-free aisle, if you have one, it’s all garbage food anyway; cookies, cake mix, chips, etc., the only difference being that there is no wheat. But if you sit around eating bonbons all day and buying overpriced wheat alternatives, you’re going to end up fat and poor. So next time you are cooking, pretend carbs don’t exist. To you, they aren’t invented yet. Make a salad with apples, pecans, spinach and feta cheese. Bake some carrot sticks with ginger and salt in the oven like faux french fries. Slice open a red pepper and fill it with baked tuna and chives. Get creative! Step away from the carbs.
2) Now I’m going to say the opposite of what I just said (sort of). If you absolutely cannot live without your rice/spelt/chickpea/coconut bread or what have you, make it yourself. It’s really not rocket science. I know this because I bake my own bread and I definitely do not understand rocket science. Or any math for that matter. I can, however, deduce that paying $6.99 for a tiny loaf of rice bread every week will tip me over the poverty line. So what you have to do is buy a bread maker. And you’re going to buy it used. And that’s going to be okay with you because you know that the bread you buy at the store was made in a bread maker that someone else operated also, so it isn’t a gross or disturbing concept. Now, I can’t speak for every place in the world, but where I live I cannot walk into a thrift store without bumping into a basically new bread maker. I have had 2 different bread makers – one which was purchased new for about $200, and another from the thrift store which was almost the exact same model but cost $9. The thrift store one works better. So I urge you to step into your local Salvation Army or equivalent and grab yourself a bread maker. Because you might find that after spending $200 on one that is new, you don’t actually like baking bread. And then you’ll donate it to the thrift store. And someone savvier than you will buy it for $9.
3) This is a bit of a continuation of my last point, but if you are making your own bread with wheat-alternatives, I implore you to venture outside of your usual chain grocery store. The price of rice flour at Safeway is actually laughable it’s so incredible steep. I have found this to be common at any “common” grocery store. They market rice flour as though it is exotic or something. But it really isn’t, it’s just not the usual go-to product. Other cultures, on the other hand, use rice flour, and other types of flour, very often, so that little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese grocery store on the sketchy end of the street is probably harbouring really cheap rice flour. This actually applies to all food that you will be purchasing: do not shop at chain stores. Honestly, the whole point of this wheat-free thing is to be healthier, right? Not to sneakily find ways to almost be eating wheat. So what you need is more vegetables. And where you’re going to buy them is from that little Korean market you usually drive past on your way to the big chain store. The second you decide to do your produce shopping at a big chain, you have accepted that you are willing to pay upwards of 10% more for your food. Bananas at my local chain store are 99 cents per pound, and 59 cents per pound at the Nature Market nearby. $2 for an avocado vs. 89 cents. $3.99/lb for a red pepper vs. $1.99. That’s a big difference! The problem with these markets is you can’t get everything you want there, and honestly, you shouldn’t. For some strange reason that I’m sure is not so strange once you actually know what it is, milk, cheese, and meat are obscenely expensive at these tiny markets, so I do purchase these items at the chain store. Basically, if you are willing to go to more than one store to do your shopping, you will save a buttload of cash over time.
4) Learn. to. cook. I cannot stress this enough. And don’t overthink it either. It doesn’t have to be this massive undertaking that leaves you lying awake at night wondering about the preferred width of julienned carrots. Just do what works for you and keep it simple. Eating out or buying pre-made “gluten-free” dinners is your ticket to the poorhouse. Making a salad will cost you about $2, whereas buying one will cost as much as $12. Buy chicken in bulk and freeze what you aren’t using immediately. Thaw it when you want it, throw it in the oven, and voila. Not hard, but requires adjustment.
5) Don’t buy snack food. I don’t mean “don’t snack,” just don’t buy food that has been categorized as snack food. They are always overpriced, never good for you, and are only popular because they require no thought or effort. But you are willing to put in effort because you’re poor, like me, right? So instead, you’re going to snack on other things. Go to the bulk aisle and buy yourself some cashews. Again, it may be worth checking out a smaller non-chain store for these kinds of things. Don’t buy pecans because they cost so much that they will make you question everything you believe in. Walnuts are cheaper. Peanuts are cheapest but they aren’t actually a true nut, and are therefore not as healthy for you. Especially the salty ones. Cut up cheese slices for a snack. Kraft Singles don’t count, you cheater. Buy a tub of yogurt and have a small bowl whenever you can’t make it until dinner. It’s not hard, but it is harder.
6) Eat breakfast often. And I don’t just mean for breakfast! Ever notice that breakfast is just really cheap? Even at diners or restaurants, it manages to be inexpensive. A cheap dinner out would probably be $15, but a cheap breakfast will be $3.99 and you will be rolling around like a beached whale due to fullness afterwards. So cook breakfast a lot. Who says eggs, turkey bacon, baked tomatoes, and a rice cake with peanut butter can’t be a dinner? To anyone that does, I ask, who made you king of the meals? I can have my breakfast and eat it too. Twice even.
Okay, I’m sleepy now and my brain has stopped functioning for the day but I hope that helps. Add your ideas in the comments if you like! Powering…down….beeeeeeeeeeeeep.