Gluten-free products are much more expensive than their regular counterparts making it tough on people to stick to their grocery budgets. Simply put, buying gluten-free products might not be an option and where it is not optional, discretion is the key in deciding where to spend those coveted grocery dollars. When you are diagnosed as a celiac or gluten intolerant, you don’t have a choice.

The gluten-free market is burgeoning and companies are tapping into the swell of consumers demanding budget-wise gluten-free products to make mealtime and lunch making a little easier on them. Of course companies will go out of their way to give us what we ask for but the fact remains, gluten-free ingredients are specialty ingredients making them difficult to produce inexpensively.

So now what? You have to eat, right? True, but you don’t have to break your budget to eat gluten-free. There are 2 categories that are responsible for making your gluten-free foods so expensive; pre-packaged ready-to-eat foods and baked goods.

Don’t mock me but I think this is great news! You can keep shopping the way you did for virtually everything before you adopted a gluten-free diet, except for grain and products containing grain, which usually means all of the baked yummy goods. Concentrate on what you can eat, not what you can’t. Remember that the most nutritious foods are naturally gluten-free so you don’t need more money to buy them. Continue to buy all the fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, chicken, pulses, rice, potatoes and drinks as you did before. These cost the same whether you have gluten intolerance or not. Just make sure that there are no additives or cross contamination in any process, wash everything well and cook with fresh herbs, garlic, onions, and gf spices which are now readily available in the market.

All that’s missing for gluten-free eaters that is not on budget is the bread, pasta and baked goods. It may not be a lot cheaper to make than to buy, so choose wisely. Buy pasta on sale and choose a bread that you love and you consider a treat once in a while. Make some desserts on your own, with or without the help of some mixes and stretch them as far as you can.

There are days I can’t be bothered to cook and clean but I know that if I give in too often to the fast and easy thing only two things can come from it: 1. My kids will be consuming a lot of unhealthy crap or 2. It’s going to cost me a small fortune to purchase a prepared homemade meal from my local shop or grocer. Neither of these is ideal.

Prepared foods are a great convenience. For those who can afford, it is a life-saver and a break well appreciated. But unless it is at the cost of a fast food meal, it won’t fit the budget. To be honest, while some may secretly wish for a GF fast food place, I know it will only be unhealthy; food made with crappy preservatives and fillers altering our real food and making it carcinogenic. A reminder to be careful what you wish for.

So cook up a storm at home. Prepare your daily meals rather than shopping for them pre-packaged. Cook in bulk and freeze. This saves me tons of money and I love knowing what ingredients are in there and that it’s always on hand and ready-to-eat.

Bottom line: The best way to be GF and stay on budget is to make mostly healthier choices by not buying everything off the shelf that carries a GF label, by selecting your baked goods wisely and choosing naturally gluten free foods instead.