How I Eat a Healthy Gluten Free Diet for Only $35 a Week

It's impossible to deny that finding cheap gluten free food isn't easy. We can't buy an off-brand unless it's gluten free. Our weekly groceries can cost up to double what they used to, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. And, if you've been diagnosed with celiac, you likely need to replace some of your contaminated cooking equipment.

However, you can eat a gluten free diet without spending an arm and a leg on your meals. And who better to share tips on how to eat cheap and healthy than me, the celiac diagnosed a few months before starting college (when dollar ramen and free pizza usually reign)? 

How A Celiac Eats a Healthy Gluten Free Diet for Only $35 a Week

Here are five easy ways you can enjoy a delicious yet cheap gluten free diet. The best part? These tips can be used by anyone trying to learn how to eat healthy on a budget!

1. Stock up on processed staples...but stick to whole foods 90% of the time.

When you're first diagnosed with celiac disease or switching to a gluten free diet, it's important to realize that you're going to need to invest in your new diet. What do I mean? You'll need to spend a little extra money on buying safe cooking equipment and stocking your pantry with processed gluten free staples like gluten free flour mixes, snack replacements, nut butters, etc.

Once you make those initial buys, though, you can enjoy plenty of cheap gluten free meals by sticking to naturally gluten free, whole foods. In fact, now that I have a decent supply of processed foods already in my pantry, my groceries typically cost $35 a week for one person (me).

How A Celiac Eats a Healthy Gluten Free Diet for Only $35 a Week
My Sweet Potato Salmon Sliders are 100% naturally gluten free!

And that's because I mainly eat naturally gluten free foods like: 
  • Fruits and vegetables 
  • Starches and gluten free grains like potatoes, rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, etc. 
  • Proteins, whether they be meat, fish or beans/legumes 
  • Dairy (or dairy free alternatives, which may not be "natural" but it's better to buy these than suffer from ingesting dairy when your body can't handle it.) 
Sticking to naturally gluten free foods is also a good starting point for any gluten free newbie. Not only will eating whole foods help your body heal from any gluten damage, but it will also make grocery shopping easier since you won't be trying to scan every label for gluten (and its many alternative names). Even if you're just trying to eat healthy for cheap, sticking to a whole foods diet will help!

2. Find grocery stores that work for you.

Gluten free groceries can also widely vary in price depending on where you shop. My personal favorite will always be Sprouts. Besides having an amazing collection of gluten free products for affordable prices, Sprouts also sells high-quality produce at a low price. I always look up Sprouts' weekly deals before I go shopping so I know what items I should load up on and which I should wait to buy. A little research is often the key to being able to eat cheap and healthy!

How A Celiac Eats a Healthy Gluten Free Diet for Only $35 a Week
What my Sprouts app looks like!

If there isn't a Sprouts near you, I've also heard amazing things about Aldi's. I'm planning for Aldi's to be my main grocery store when I move to Mankato, Minnesota for grad school. Aldi's reportedly sells many produce, meats, etc for even cheaper prices than Walmart. For Celiac Awareness Month in May, they also have more options in their LiveGfree line (which is now also soy free). While they regularly have some gluten free options like rice pasta, you kind find goodies like gluten free General Tso's Chicken and a gluten free cheesecake sampler in May. 

If you need even more store options, Vons or Safeway can have decently priced produce (especially during sales) and stock some great gluten free products. If you're searching for a specific gluten free product that isn't at your regular grocery stores, you can also look at Whole Foods Market and Natural Grocer's. They are much pricier, but if you only shop on-sale or for a few "rare" items, these grocery stores are definitely handy for a celiac to have nearby. When you're trying to eat cheap and healthy, the stores you shop at can often make or break you!

3. Discover what gluten free companies you like...and sign up for their newsletters!

One gluten free money-saving secret that I haven't heard talked about much? Signing up for the newsletters of companies you love! For instance, my mom eats a sandwich on Canyon Bakehouse bread for lunch every day. So, unlike other goodies like Glutino cookies or Aloha protein bars, Canyon Bakehouse is a staple in our house. 
The problem? The bread cost almost two dollars more at our closest store than at the Sprouts we enjoyed in California. So, we signed up for Canyon Bakehouse's newsletter...and when we were emailed a 30% off coupon, we ordered a three-month stash of bread. 

Every gluten free company you love (including many on my favorites list) probably has a newsletter you can sign up for on their site. Besides getting coupons and deals, you'll also get recipes using those products. Talk about a win/win. Some of the newsletters I've signed up for include those of BFree Foods, Pamela's Products, Canyon Bakehouse and Aloha.

4. Develop a budget - and stick to it!

You've probably heard the saying, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." When it comes to eating gluten free for cheap (or even just finding cheap ways to eat healthy), this mantra is very true. Personally, I budget $50 at most per week for groceries. Because I often sneak by at $35, this gives me some wiggle room for stocking up on my gluten free staples (like a big order of granola ingredients from Nuts.com) or eating out. 
If you're trying to determine a budget, this website may help. It charts out the average grocery budget for individuals and families of various ages, sizes and spending habits. Your income and hobbies will obviously also impact your budget. Personally, food is one of my biggest hobbies, so I don't mind splurging a little more on that. If you also collect rare books, though, you'd probably need to be a little more strict on your grocery budget. 

When it comes to sticking to a budget, making a grocery list and buying seasonally helps. I typically always buy the same staples - like zucchini, squash, avocados, strawberries, yogurt, beans, etc. However, I will alter my list based on the season and what's on sale. For instance, if zucchini is .99 a pound and squash is $1.29, I'll buy eight zucchini and four squash instead of six each. Having a grocery list can also keep you from impulse buying every delicious gluten free product you see...even though you already have four flavors of cookies in your pantry!

5. Don't forget to treat yourself...in small amounts!

One important part of enjoying cheap gluten free food - or just eating healthy and cheap - is knowing when to splurge. I have a hard time treating myself. I can encourage others to buy the darn cookies since they're only five bucks...but convincing myself is often more difficult
However, if you don't reward yourself for sticking to your list and budget from time to time, you may end up ditching your budget altogether because you feel deprived. What are some good indicators that something is worth splurging on? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Is this a specialty item you won't be able to get easily another time? (Like going to a gluten free bakery in another city or a monthly promotional product). 
  • How long could you enjoy it? (I'd rather buy a big bag of popcorn than a small tart because I can stretch the popcorn out for longerr!)
  • How long would you have to work to pay for this? (If I earn $10 an hour and I can buy a case of trail mix for $20, two hours of work is worth it to me. Frame your buying in a similar hours-cost formula.) 
Ultimately, everyone has different definitions of "splurging" and different values that guide their purchases. Determining your splurge parameters, though, can make balancing a budget and a love of food much easier! 

The truth is, eating gluten free ain't easy - in terms of reading ingredient labels or feeding yourself on a budget. Yet, with a few tricks up your sleeve and coupons in your pocket, you can eat gluten free - and happily - without going broke.

How I Eat a Healthy Gluten Free Diet for Only $35 a Week
And, yes, chocolate can be included!



Who knows? Maybe you'll be able to consistently beat my $35 weekly grocery record! 

What are some of your tricks to eating healthy (or gluten free) on a budget? I'm always trying to learn more tricks! 

Comments

  1. It's amazing how little you can actually spend on quality food! These are great ideas for going gluten free on a budget. It's easier than people think it is!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Mindy. I totally agree!

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  2. Wow! Only $35 a week to eat healthy?! Count me in! I always have trouble with eating healthy and not spending too much doing so! Thanks so much for sharing this!

    xx, Taylor (thesprinkle.tayloramead.com)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Taylor. Hope these tips help! <3

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  3. Loved that you didn't skip out on the treat at the end ;)

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  4. This is awesome! Everyone thinks eating gluten free is so expensive, but this is a great break down of how to eat healthy on a budget :)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Kate. I totally agree!

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  5. This is encouraging- I am trying to cook more gluten free for my family and sometimes get a little overwhelmed with the higher price tags. Thanks for these tips!

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    1. Glad to hear that this is helpful! Sending lots of budgeting love your way ;)

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  6. Great tips here now only for gluten-free people but for anyone in general that needs to stick to a specific diet. Creating a budget is key. We all get trapped at the grocery store with unplanned purchases and that can get out of hand. And you need to treat yourself too. Love it.

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    1. Exactly! These tips can apply to any diet!

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  7. I love these ideas and am always looking for more GF brands! Thanks

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  8. I tried a GF diet once and it was too hard to stick with. But in your case you have to so it is nice to keep it within a budget!

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    1. For sure! Eating well without breaking the bank! ;)

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  9. I really want to try this! I've never eaten healthy in my entire life, and everyone says a gluten-free diet is hard so I never even bothered. Maybe this summer I can try! Thanks for the post! I'll favorite it for future reference if I actually try haha

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    1. I definitely don't promote going gluten free if you don't need to for medical reasons. However, these tips can definitely apply to just eating a healthier diet overall :)

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  10. We're not on a gluten free diet, but are on a heart healthy diet. I have also found that Sprouts carries a lot of heart healthy items at an affordable price. I often see a lot of gluten free products as I shop there. It's nice that more companies are coming up with options for you.

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    1. It's nice that companies are creating more products for a variety of diets, whether it's gluten free or heart healthy! <3

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  11. Fantastic tips! Done wrong going gluten free can cost $500 a month per person! Sticking mostly to naturally gluten free, unprocessed foods is definitely the best way to go.

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    1. For sure! Thanks for the kind words, marian!

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  12. I completely agree that you need to reward yourself! I think that goes for any type of diet!

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  13. I love that you were able to keep to your budget like this. I get sidetracked with so many temptations in the grocery store.

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  14. We budget $320 for the two of us for the month. That includes toilet paper, paper towel and often shampoo/ beauty care purchases. So it looks like we keep pretty close in line with you!

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  15. impressed by your savvy budgeting - gluten free is NOT cheap :)

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  16. Some fantastic tips and tricks here. Will definitely use some of these.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Claire. Glad they help!

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  17. These are some great tips! I was so surprised when I looked down the gluten free aisle by the prices of everything! It's so helpful to know you can eat well and to a budget!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Annie. Eating affordably while gluten free is definitely possible!

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  18. LOVE this girl! Great tips here. Sprouts is of course my go-to market for gluten-free groceries, however there are a few others [one called Grocery Outlet] that I like to shop at once a month to pick up random things. GF stuff is pricey but like you said, sticking to WHOLE foods and also making your own treats and such at home is a great way to stay on budget!

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    1. Glad you agree, Kat! And Sprouts is definitely bae ;)

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  19. I love the idea of using sweet potato chips as a bread for a sandwich! I'm not celiac, but these are great tips that I can apply to eating low carb.

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  20. Great tips! I honestly love a lot of gluten free products. Great read :)

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  21. Wow! That's an impressively small amount of money. I'm going to save this and refer to it when I'm shopping for groceries and see how I can use some of your ideas in my own 'meal planning' (using the term loosely)!

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  22. I am now trying to post again, and this time from my PC and not my IPad. Let's see if this will work. Just wanted to say that I am impressed with your recipes, blog and the budget for your food. You rock lady.

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    1. Thanks for all your work to comment <3 YOU ROCK!

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  23. You should be focusing your efforts on eating three balanced meals a day, and making those meals as nutritious as possible with healthy unprocessed food, local volunteer

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