Help Wanted: Eating GF more wisely, cheaply and saving time. Got tips?

I bet you think I’ve fallen into a large hole around here and have lost internet access, huh?

Well, I have, kind of.

School started.  Just last year I had 135 students a day (5 classes/high school) and this year?  Oh no… this year I see 171 students (same five classes) and it’s A LOT.  Add that to the fact that the baby youngest toddler is a moving, shaking, running, jumping, climbing and the eldest is well…. keeping up and you can see why I’m dead tired by dinner time.

We’re back on the treadmill people.  Up at 5:15, home by 5:00, dinner, play, baths, and bedtime…then school work.  Bedtime comes around 11:40 or later.  Seriously…this is going to be a long winter!

Top that with the fact that our house, just like yours I bet, has been hit by our lovely economic woes.  Thankfully, we are both employed.  However the loss of pay in the form of pay cuts (8% between the two of us) and double to out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance (EEK!) and we are in re-set mode.

We are intentional about the food choices we make.  More than ever now as well.  We have to stretch that dollar farther and we are still choosing to maintain a completely gluten free home.  But as all of you know, that means some serious creativity.

Couple all of that with the fact that time to cook dinner is LIMITED.  Kids (and parents alike) are wickedly hungry come 5:30.  Providing snacks before dinner doesn’t seem like a positive solution at all.  We worry that then we are just giving them outs from dinner – and we want to eat all together as a family.  THAT is important to us.

So.. I guess this post is a conversation starter.  One that I hope will get you all commenting and helping with tips and pointers for ALL of us busy, working gluten-free families.  What are YOU doing to save your brain, your money and your family (health and time together)?

 Home-made GF Quesadillas – add eggs or avocado, etc too

See recipe below signature

Quesadilla

I have limited tricks for getting dinner on the table quickly.  This has a lot to do with my brain.  I am NOT the one in my family who can open the cupboard, see what we have on hand and then whip out dinner.  Nope.  Especially not when there are two kids practically pulling my pants off as they try to get my attention after we rush in after work/daycare at 5PM.  And,  I don’t do mania very well at all.  (Can you believe I do mania REALLY well in the classroom – but just not at home?  I don’t get it either – but it is true.)

Sometimes I am organized enough on the weekend to layout a dinner menu for the week.  I get organized after we pick up our box of veggies at the Farmer’s Market on Sundays and start planning.  Each meal we have to include things that are accessible to the kids – as I’m not a short-order cook and we’re going to all eat together.  Sometimes we make miso soup for them (they LOVE tofu) in addition to whatever we are having, but they usually just eat right along with us.  Once I see what we have for the week, I can easily lay out dinner menus on the calendar at home (or the google calendar we share so I can see it on my phone or at work, if needed).  I love those weeks.  I know what I need to do, when, etc.  It’s so helpful when work things pop up last-minute or unplanned after-daycare doctor visits (my pediatrician should have a frequent-flyer coupon card for free coffee after 10 visits or something… I”m just saying…).

Sometimes I’m not so fabulously organized.  And these are the weeks that are (1) most common and (2) the MOST stressful for me.

Like this week.  Unplanned, but at least there is food in the fridge.  These are the days that my husband finds to be the easiest.  Seriously, in 3 minutes flat he can make a meal plan and get it started.  Me?  OMGosh – I have to know what’s in the fridge for the WHOLE day before I can even begin to figure something out.

Take today, for example.  I know there is ground turkey at home.  I can make lettuce wraps or tacos or chili (oh wait… I don’t have any beans on hand) … k then… I could make meatballs with rice (no pasta either), or.  Dang it.  I don’t know.  When my feet hit the kitchen, I will decide then.

More than just meal planning, however, is saving money.  Cheap Gluten Free Eats!  (Yes, they do exist.)

Here’s the list I’ve been working with this last month.  You can see I’m in need of some change-ups, people. One can only eat so many apples with peanut butter before you just don’t want to even look at them again.  So please.  Let’s work together on this.

BREAKFAST

LUNCH

SNACK

DINNER

Cinnamon Chex

peanut butter/apples or celery sticks

nuts

lettuce wraps

fresh fruit

leftovers

hard-boiled egg

soup/chili

Yogurt

cheese & pears

cheese cubes

veggies

GF Granola

hard-boiled egg

Trio bar (my spendy snack)

Lundberg risotto + protein and veggies mixed in

Hard cheese & GF tortilla chips

rice noodle soup (so much cheaper!)

Fresh fruit

Cantonese-style family chicken & mushrooms

eggs

miso + tofu soup

small salad

fajitas

yogurt smoothie

meat/cheese or avocado roll

meat/cheese or avocado roll

Chinese Chicken & Corn Chowder

homemade GF torillas with eggs/cheese

nori wraps

nori wrap

Tortilla soup

Chilaquiles

homemade tortillas/quesadillas

edamame

grilled meats/fish and veggies/frui

What are your favorite cheap and convenient GF foods/meals?

Let’s get talking, people!

~Kate

PS.  Making your own gluten free corn tortillas is SUPER easy (and much tastier, by the way).  Use equal parts corn flour (masa harina or masa harina para tortillas) and warm water.  You can also add a bit of olive oil or spices to your dough, if you’d like. (I added paprika and chili powder in the ones in the photo.)  Mix the corn flour with the warm water slowly until it forms a soft pliable ball.  Pinch off pieces and flatten in your hand to make tortillas (or thicker ones for sopes).  Cook on a hot, non-stick skillet.

47 comments on “Help Wanted: Eating GF more wisely, cheaply and saving time. Got tips?
  1. Theresa says:

    Wow, you sound busy! I really hope things settle down for you soon, I don’t know if I could handle being that busy for a long period of time!
    Whenever we are streached for time we use the slow cooker. Pork collars are really cheap, like $4 for a large one here – and there is quite a bit of meat on them. We like cooking them up with some beans, potato and tomato.

  2. I use the slow cooker, too. Whatever kind of meat I’ve cooked goes on gf sandwich rolls (from the freezer, defrosted in the microwave), salad and/or cut up fruit and/or oven fries on the side finishes up the meal

    Also, whenever I cook a meal, I make at least a double batch and freeze a meal for another time. The frozen meal can be moved into the fridge the night before it will be eaten so that it reheats quickly.

    I can’t imagine how you are managing with the hours you are working! It makes me tired just reading about it.

  3. Elese says:

    Hi Kate, here’s a sanity saver for me since I’m not much of a morning person, and can barely get lunches made in time on school mornings, let alone breakfasts…and this can double as lunch box fillers too: I’ve been making egg cups, just a bit of diced onion, diced peppers, diced cooked bacon (or whatever leftover veggies and/or breakfast meat-type stuff you have on hand) in the bottom of each muffin cup. Then beat together 10 eggs and fill up the 12 muffin cups in a muffin tin. Bake around 350, for about 15 or 20 minutes? Until done. I usually check internal temp with a food thermometer. A little shredded cheese on top (optional) for those who can tolerate dairy. When they are cool I put them in the fridge and re-heat in the morning, or they can go into the lunchbox too if there a way to heat them at school. Got this idea (though not the specific recipe, that’s just my own take on it) from two cookbooks: “Everyday Paleo” by Sarah Fragoso, and a new book “Paleo Comfort Foods”. Luv the paleo cookbooks since I’m GF and also dairy free, so paleo recipes always work for me. Sorry that’s not much help for dinner, but quite cost effective, so it may be helpful there.

    Some great, quick, easy dinner solutions for me lie in crock pot cookbooks…I do crock chicken thigh recipes all the time in a dutch oven instead of the crock (don’t much like the texture of chicken in the crock, personally). Most, I’ve found can be done in the oven at 350 for about 50-60 minutes. (Again, check with thermometer, I use Pampered Chef deep covered baker, or le creuset dutch oven) Yes, it’s a bit of cook time, but the prep is quick, and then you probably need to toss a salad, get changed, etc. anyway. It goes fast. An awesome book I’m loving lately, that’s chock full of crock recipes, and ALL of them are GF! is “Make it Fast, Cook it Slow:” by Stephanie O’Dea. Plus, if you do a dozen chicken thighs you get ‘em in your lunchbox the next day…mmmmm! :) Hope that is helpful. Looking forward to everyone else’s ideas. Thanks for bringing it up!

  4. Anna says:

    Hi there,

    Here are some of my favorite tricks.

    1. I buy steel cut oats and rinse them THOROUGHLY before cooking. That seems to solve the problem of cross-contamination. Bring 1 cup steel cut oats to a boil in 3 cups of water. Turn off heat. Let sit a day or overnight. Store in fridge and a serving at a time with milk in your microwave. That usually lasts me (1 person) a week. Make a double batch and freeze half.

    2. Lunches: Get a tetra pack of Trader Joe’s or Pacific gf tomato soup. Get 5 1 soup serving sizes of plastic containers like Ziploc or Glad. Line up all five and layer with a bit of rice, (I often use TJ’s frozen rice), frozen corn and frozen spinach or your veggies of choice. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste as any seasonings in the soup will be a bit diluted. Add chopped up chicken, beef, tofu or big spoonful of beans. Pour the soup over all, evenly divided among the five containers. Cover and freeze. When you leave for work in the morning, throw one into your lunch bag. It will stay frozen until lunch time w/o refrigeration. Microwave for about 4 minutes. Or- place in fridge the night before in order to cut down on microwave time in the work lunchroom.

    3. Make a big stew on the weekend. Heat as needed during the week. Or freeze extra in smaller containers.

    4. Always have your favorite sandwich fixings on hand, along w/ corn tortillas.

    5. Always have your favorite salad fixings on hand. Mine are Romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, dried cranberries, walnuts, and I often add slices of roasted chicken or beef. Maybe some crumbled goat cheese, too.

    6. Snacks: rice cakes with almond butter. Or (like a candybar but not as bad) a rice cake with Nutella and sliced bananas. Freshly popped popcorn. I love my ice cream, and I’m not fat. A mix of raw almonds, dried apricots and Dove chocolate. (I prefer milk chocolate even though dark is more fashionable.)

    Good luck!

  5. Pam says:

    A few things I do to help us survive our week. First, I have more than one crockpot… so if I roast a chicken in a crockpot, I always roast 2. For dinner that night we’ll have “roast chicken” and usually a potato baked in the microwave and some frozen veggies. Then, I pick off all the remaining meat and put it in 2 cup portions in the freezer. Those two cup portions come in really handy for chicken chili, chicken tacos, chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken pasta… you get my drift. Additionally, if I make chili, or bean soup, or any soup in the crockpot, I make enough for two crockpots… and I freeze the remainder in containers that are about the size for our family to have a meal and a night of leftovers. I actually only cook one day a week. And I cook two to three meals that day in bulk, and we eat them through the week. Last week it was Quinoa with sun dried tomatos, basil, garlic and goat cheese. I doubled the recipe and we had the meal for 2 nights, and a few days of lunches. Additionally I took some of those chicken pieces and made chicken enchiladas, although I didn’t bake them until the night we ate them. Last, cause fall is here, I was craving black bean soup, so I put everything in the crockpot and let it go. While it means a couple of hours of work to cook all of these meals, it also only meals one major kitchen cleanup. My husband is super helpful in doing whatever needs done so that I can do the meal prep, which of course is so incredibly necessary when you’re making that big of a mess.

    Similarly to the chicken, if I brown ground beef or turkey or sausage for a recipe, I also brown enough to put some in recipe sized portions into the freezer for later. Sometimes I make my own spagetti sauce, but other times we buy a jar, and for some reason, jar sauce isn’t the same to me without some ground beef and sausage in it. So I’ll brown some with an onion, and put some in the sauce, and some in the freezer. The freezer portion can turn into sloppy joes, tacos, taco soup etc.

    Last… Once a week I pull out the food processor and chop carrots, celery, cucumber etc, and put it in the fridge. Then I have a salad bar ready to go, and again, only have to clean the processor once a week.

    Hope this helps! Curious to see what others do!

  6. Elese says:

    Pam, you are so organized, you’ve got me inspired. Using the food processor to chop salad veggies for the week, why did I not think of that? Mine sits unused most of the time and I chop stuff by hand every day. Thanks for the reminder too, to cook meat in bulk…once again, my pots and skillets have to come out of the cupboard, get dirty, get cleaned and go back in the cupboard every day! Smart to cook once and eat many times. Super. I’m doing that this week.

  7. Carrie says:

    My biggest suggestion for working fulltime and feeding a family is to reverse your weekday meal. We used to do breakfast for supper all the time. My kids are in there mid twenties now and they still talk about loving pancakes for supper. Or eggs, bacon, fresh hot muffins and jam, cinnamon buns and hot chocolate. As long as they get a healthy supply of food it does not matter if you reverse time. Also on weekends prepare some slow cooked meals, and also remember that making homemade beans is a thrifty way for a protein and is gluten free. Hope that helps!

  8. Taximom5 says:

    Oh, man, I’m tired just reading what you have to do!

    I use my crockpot, too, and rely mostly on Stephanie O’Dea’s crockpot recipes.

    I keep frozen chicken tenders on hand (buy them at Costco)–they defrost enough to cook after about a minute in the microwave. I cook them in a skillet, in butter/olive oil/garlic, and add wine, lemon juice, and just a pinch of sugar and salt after they’ve browned, and serve with rice and broccoli. Or frozen mixed veggies, with a bit of butter and sprinkle of seasoned salt.

    I keep frozen raw ground beef/turkey, too–but before I freeze them, I take them out of the original packaging and divide them up in ziploc gallon freezer bags, about a pound to a ound-an-a-half per bag. And here’s the important part–I FLATTEN THEM OUT. That way, they not only take up very little freezer space and stack easily, but they thaw in a couple of minutes under warm running water. (See http://lunchinabox.net/2008/04/11/speed-tip-make-individual-portions-in-freezer-bags/ for a good explanation.)

    Fish is tougher to plan. We really like fish, but we don’t like it so much when it’s frozen, so we have to plan it. On the other hand, we do like salmon croquettes made with canned salmon, or “tuna” noodle casserole (which we make with brown rice pasta and salmon, as it’s lower in mercury than tuna). For fresh salmon, we usually get a BIG slab at Costco and stick it in the over (9 minutes at 500 degrees) with ginger miso glaze, or if I’m really rushed, i just dump a bottle of La Choy Teriyaki sauce on it (it’s actually pretty good, especially if you mix some orange marmalade with it).

    Our Japanese rice cooker is our best friend!

  9. Barb says:

    I can so relate! I taught for 25 years and it was language arts. That is the one subject that has so much paper work and reading stories, reports, etc. At that point I hadn’t been diagnosed although I was sick a lot. I’m retired now but I still cook enough of any dinner for another night. We still do breakfast for dinner. Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures has a recipe for an oven omelet that even reheats well. For 4 servings it’s 8 eggs, one half cup of milk, shredded cheese and ham. Pour it in a pan and bake it at 375 degrees until done, usually 30-35 minutes. I’ve also put cooked veggies in it. I put pepperoni and Italian spices in it sometimes too. Use your crock pot/buy one! Make extra rice and freeze it. Any way that you can do something in bulk and freeze it helps a lot.

  10. My biggest tip is to USE YOUR CROCKPOT! In caps because I am that passionate about the thing.

    I know many foodies snub their nose at such a suggestion but honestly that is just being snooty and dumb. Crockpots are things of genius. You stick veggies, meat and a little liquid in before you run out the door in the morning and dinner is ready when you get home. Because you cook things slow and low, you can use inexpensive cuts of meat and they will still turn out sooo tender.

    http://howtobakeacrocodile.blogspot.com

  11. Gretchen says:

    I love savory oats for breakfast. I put the Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats in the crockpot before I go to bed and set a timer to start at 3 am. The oats soak in the water so long they more than double in volume and you don’t have to cook as much. Then, when I get up they’re ready for me to add a dash od sea salt, some fresh ground pepper, a little evoo, and a little bit of aged cheddar. It’s to die for.

    • Juanita says:

      Wow! Will definitely try this one. I am a vegetarian (mostly) so the use of a crockpot is not that relevant. But I have always liked the ‘real’ deal oats but their cooking time was a setback, so I love this idea. And the use of cheddar instead of the sweet version is creative!

  12. Tara says:

    For afternoon snacks, I often give my toddlers vegetables. I figure that if they eat a little less dinner is it OK, the vegetables were probably healthier (no salt or oil). They’ve never eaten enough to skip dinner. In addition to fresh vegetables, my kids both like frozen peas, corn, and pea & carrot mix straight from the freezer. It makes it easy on Mommy. :)

    Popcorn isn’t great for little ones, but for older people it is a whole grain snack option. Alton Brown even recommended it for breakfast like cereal. I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet. There are lots of ideas out there for seasoning popcorn and it can be taken in a lunch.

    I agree with everyone who mentioned crock pots and freezers. I freeze a lot of cooked meats and casseroles so I only have to add sides the night of. I grill large batches or marinated chicken breasts, freeze them, and then use them for salads, fajitas, etc. Mashed potatoes freeze really well. I would also suggest cooking a big batch of brown rice and freezing it so you get the whole grains, but don’t have to spend as much time each night. Baked potatoes are easy/cheap. If you start them in the microwave they don’t take as long, but they still might be better for a weekend. You can top them with leftovers.

    Good luck this school year. It is a challenge to manage quick, healthy, cost effective, and gluten free eating. :) I really enjoy the recipes you post on the blog. The food is good and a little different that what I have found elsewhere. Thanks for all your hard work.

  13. evy says:

    Frugal and Fast Gluten Free Ideas….feel free to contact me at delanos5 at yahoo dot com if you have any questions on these ideas…..

    Always cook MORE, MORE, MORE than you need for one meal, and as long as your family doesn’t have issues with leftovers you are good to go for both cheap and quick meals :) I always have ingredients ready to put meals together from in the fridge. I usually cook a pot of rice, a pot of millet and lentils each week. I have plenty of baked potatoes on hand, and at least several meals worth of ground beef/other meat cooking on Sunday or Monday. Those simple ingredients can make a good variety of meals, when you add in some vegis, salads and desserts.

    Check Costco or restaurant supply stores for foods that can be purchased in number 10 cans (beans/peas/tomato sauce/pineapple-though most of these large quantity items are not organic or non gmo)…use whatever you need out of the can you open, then put the rest in ziplock bags and put left over in freezers in portions that are good for your family use).
    Evy’s Easy Corndogs-your fav gluten free cornbread batter poured over hotdogs that are lined up with space in between each of them in a greased cake pan

    Evy’s Easy Polenta Pizza-make polenta (glorified cornmeal mush, with 2 parts cornbread and 1 part water), spread into the bottom of a greased cake pan, spread spaghetti sauce/tomato sauce with pizza seasonings over polenta, sprinkle with cooked meat of your choice, and cheese (if that works for your diet), bake in oven long enough to heat the whole thing and melt the cheese

    Evy’s Frugal Pesto-make your fav pesto recipe and substitute toasted sunflower seeds for the pine nuts)

    Evy’s Baked Potato Pizzas-cut baked potatoes in half, top with pizza sauce, meat of your choice and/or cheese

    Evy’s Easy Gluten Free Pancake Roll Ups-your fav gluten free pancake recipe-spread pb and jelly (or other nut butter) onto pancake, roll up and wrap in saran wrap

    Homemade Mac and Cheese-rice noodles (check the local restaurant supple or Asian food store for the cheapest prices on these), follow directions for a recipe you like and substitute milk with non sweetened rice/soy/etc. milk for those types of allergies

    Easy/Cheap Rice Pudding-find a good recipe for rice pudding-wow, what a yummy, cheap and easy things to have, and it will last well in your fridge for a good part of week, allowing for snacks/desserts (substitute milk with non dairy if needed, and works WELL with significantly less sugar than recipes call for and a little stevia!

    Any kind of meat/meal in the crockpot
    Chili
    Split pea soup
    Stews
    Soups with dumplings
    Lentil stews
    Herbed potatoes-use left over baked potatoes, chop, add oil and rosemary and seasonings
    Hash browns-grated left over baked potatoes
    Hummus (homemade with chickpeas-YUM!)
    Carrot salad-grate carrots finely, add some pineapple, unsweetened chipped coconut and a little bit of vanilla yogurt (or soy? depending on what your diet allows) and a bit of stevia
    Fruit salad
    Cabbage salad-chopped cabbage, sesame oil, sesame seeds, chopped onion
    Cobblers with any kind of fruit
    Gluten free biscuits with any sort of meat sauce
    Baked Oatmeal-lots of recipes available online, reheats great, top with applesauce or other fruit/dried fruit, can be eaten for breakfast or desserts!
    Millet-cheapest of cheap food!!!!!!!!!! Makes a great side dish, or cheap “rice” type substitute
    Raw sunflower seeds-cheapest nut around, great nut substitute for nuts in any recipes, toast if you prefer a non-raw taste
    Lentil burgers
    Rice burgers
    Fruit smoothies
    Cornbread
    Evy’s Easy Upside Down Cake-Any kind of yellow cake batter (homemade gluten free) poured over fruit (apples, canned fruit, pineapple, etc.) in a greased cake pan-serve out of pan, don’t turn upside down :)
    Hard boiled eggs (for those who can have eggs :)
    Puddings
    Muffin bread-make your fav gluten free muffin recipe, but bake it in a flat cookie sheet that has a 1/2 inch raised edge, or in a sheet cake pan, but pour the batter only thinly, reducing baking time as well as the effort of the muffin tins
    Evy’s Meal In A Muffin- (or muffin bread as above)-make your fav cornbread or non-sweet muffin recipe ad then add either cooked ground beef and italian seasonings or grated cheese
    PB and Jelly spread-dip corn chips into it (substitute almond, cashew, sunflower or almond butter if needed)
    Cream cheese and jam spread-dip corn chips or cut muffin in half and put in the middle
    Evy’s PB and Jelly Fake (Cake) Sandwiches-make your fav muffin batter, pour into greased jelly roll pan as thinly as possible, just covering the bottom of the pan, bake (will take less time than the recipe calls for due to the thinness of it), cool, cut into uniform pieces, spread one piece with mixed PB and jelly, sandwich a second piece of muffin bread on top
    Corn cakes (fried polenta)

  14. Betty says:

    Isn’t cheap GF convenience food an oxymoron? LOL
    I’m not GF but both my kids are, my daughter is in grad school so we’re always brainstorming ideas. The make 2 is always a good idea. We made and froze zuchinni lasagna. I made Samosa’s using this pastry recipe:
    http://glutenfreehomemaker.com/2010/03/multi-purpose-pastry-dough/
    and the filling was this:
    http://allrecipes.com/recipe/beef-samosas/detail.aspx
    but you could make anything you like to fill. I spent lots of time rolling and my son did the frying. Ok, they’re fried so not the best for you but great warmed up, cold and fresh.
    I make a wicked ginger steak salad using this:
    http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/03/ginger-steak-salad/
    and a Korean beef over rice, from a Pampered Chef 29 min till dinner (all using GF soy sauce, La Choy I think)
    I ALWAYS make my own spaghetti sauce, I can’t stomach the canned stuff and making your own isn’t hard at all. Make extra, freeze.
    I always grill or cook up a bunch of chicken breasts and cut them up and freeze. I can take out to make quesadillas or BBQ chicken pizza using this crust recipe. I always make extra crusts and freeze those for fast meals:
    http://www.food.com/recipe/gluten-free-pizza-crust-44487
    I have made a baked chicken breast meal making a faux boursin
    http://cheese.food.com/recipe/boursin-homemade-60795
    I just spread that on top and put crumbled bacon on top close to the end. That’s great, very rich but good.
    Tacos are a quick meal, nachos too.

    A really quick one is a shepherds pie or tator tot hot dish, Tator tots are GF.

    Yes, we do a lot of beef, my men have taken the “Beef it’s whats for dinner” campaign seriously.

    Rachael Ray has a show on where you make your meals for the week in one day. Not everything is GF but there are some that are or could be. Even if you only make a couple it helps.

  15. Betty says:

    Oh, I thought of one more thing, we made up a bunch of GF chicken strips, breaded with an almond flour and froze them. I did bake them but they just didn’t crisp up right so we fried a few min to crisp them up. They were SO good. I actually crave them, much better than regular bought ones.

  16. Chelle says:

    I sympathize. I am in a similar situation, except I have two part-time teaching positions, and therefore fewer students.
    I always keep a large batch of yogurt on hand, along with chopped nuts and fruit that has been frozen into 1/4C batches. This lets me throw together a yogurt lunch that will keep cold until lunch. I also tend to make a “heavy” breakfast of cooked oatmeal, and then add honey and a large spoonful of peanut butter.
    For dinner I usually just pick one or two nights a week to make a large batch of spagetti sauce, taco meat, grilled chicken, or some other braised chicken dish. I always keep a large amount of rice, beans, and corn tortillas around too. 1.5 C white beans can be pureed with 4 eggs, 1/2 C buckwheat, 1/2C other flour, 1/2 C nut flour, some honey, and 1tsp baking powder to make a high protein waffle that is good for those kids who refuse to eat eggs at a breakfast-dinner.
    I second Betty’s craving of “breaded” chicken strips, but that is too time intensive for me most nights,

  17. Morri says:

    Hello, I’m a huge fan of your blog and I’d like to share some tips with you.

    Now I don’t know what your weekly food budget is, but I have been able to feed a family of four grownups for around/under/a bit over 200 dollars. I think it would be cheaper but my dad loves ice cream and pudding, and my boyfriend is a sandwich fiend. And here I am, the only gluten free person in the house, who is able to survive on 25 dollars a week. But I like the basic foods…

    I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to find time to make food on the fly with your workload (I’m just a senior college student). But I’ve noticed that types of planning and shopping at multiple stores really help stretch the dollar.

    Every Sunday my mom and I plan out the week’s menu, write out a list of foods to get based on the menu and what we are out of, and shop at our international food market (for the produce and delicious oddities) and then to Trader Joe’s (for everything else.)

    As far as prepping is concerned, I recommend doing Rachel Ray’s “Week in a day” strategy. Simply freeze/refrigerate the partially finished or finished meal and then reheat it for dinner time.

  18. Naelle says:

    Two words: dinner pies! You can make them during the weekend when there’s more time, and freeze them for use later in the week. You can do salmon pie, chicken pot pie, beef pot pie and quiche. They’re easy to make and not that expensive.

    Also, on a busy weeknight, meatloaf is always one of my favorites. Just use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs and voila. It makes great leftovers.

  19. Michelle says:

    While I am technically a SAHM I have six kids that we homeschool. My husband is in education so I can certainly relate to the overload. Being a single income family is tough! Between football practices, gym classes, co-ops, and board meetings it leaves little time/room for cooking. I am a big fan of the crockpot! Lately I have been making a lot of congee in it. I throw everything in the morning and it is ready for dinner. I then cut up some fruit and we are good to go. So many soups and stews can be made in the crockpot and it is so nice to just come home and have one pot to clean up! You can even assemble everything in the crock the night before and then pop it into the oven.

    There is a blog about a year of slow cooking (or something like that and she is gluten free!)

    With slow cooking less expensive cuts of meat can be used and it is so easy to add vegetables.

    I am also a big fan of OAMC cooking. It is sometimes hard to find gluten free options but when I do I will spend one day a month cooking and then freeze dinners to pop in the oven when we come home. The website food.com has some great recipes and you can even search gluten free OAMC.

    One last suggestion is to cook more in the beginning of the week. On monday I may roast two chickens and make a big pot of rice. Then we have meat for gluten free wraps, or chicken fried rice or a chicken casserole later in the week.

    I know that snacking can be a really hard thing overcome when you have hungry little ones. Whole Foods beans are really inexpensive and I will puree them up to make our own hummus or black bean dip. We flavor it with lots of different seasonings so no one gets bored. A big plate of veggies and hummus before dinner and we can all have a snack together and then I don’t worry as much about them eating enough vegetables at dinner. Seems that they are much more apt to each veggies this way. Even lightly steamed veggies put in the fridge are good dipped in a hummus or a tahini lime sauce.

  20. Carolyn says:

    A GIANT pot of chili (I have a great vegetarian version on my blog) can last nearly all week and can be served as-is, or over salad with all the Mexican fixings for a taco salad, or even poured over nachos topped with cheese, We do lots of soups as well which can be lunch or dinner or even snacks. We do grind our own rice flours (the grinder was a big investment, but we feel it’s paid for itself by now, since we can buy organic brown rice in bulk inexpensively and it goes a long, long way for grinding. Indian dishes are healthy and inexpensive (Lentil Dal over rice is one of our favorites). We also buy in large quantities when items are on sale, and always have at least one “backup” of our often used items…it’s easier to cook on the fly if you always have your go-to ingredients on hand and it’s less expensive AND less time consuming to have it on hand than to have to make an extra trip to the store! Breakfast for dinner is also a hit around here…you can get those refrigerated shredded hash browns to make it easier to get dinner on the table fast, too. Of course, keeping a garden during the summer helps keep costs down as well. We end up freezing and canning TONS of tomatoes to use in chili and soups all winter. When we do make rice or rice pasta for meals, we make extra and the kids will eat it for snacks or lunch in the following days (re-steaming with a bit of water in the microwave brings back it’s moisture). We grill chicken breasts for fajitas or tacos and always make extra for the kids to use during the week in wraps or quesadillas. We cut salad lettuce up for a few days worth at a time, too. Just be sure to dry it thoroughly in a spinner OR line your bowl or bag for storage with paper towels and then top with an additional paper towel to absorb moisture…this keeps the lettuce fresher.

  21. Wendy Hahn says:

    Another hint, since mornings are probably the most busy time. I put everything together in the crockpot the night before and refridgerate it. Then it just goes in the heater and get plugged in for the day.

  22. All of these ideas are great ideas! As for the quesedillas (we call them cheesedillas at our house) – one of my easy favorites is a corn tortilla, some spaghetti sauce, mozzerella cheese, turkey pepperoni then another corn tortilla. A few minutes on each side until GBD (golden brown delicisiousness) and you’re in for a good, quick, tasty meal.

    Another easy, quick standby in our house is taco salad. Super quick to take some frozen premade hamburger patties (thank you Costco). 5 minutes in the skillet with some taco seasoning and a quick meal.

    You’re doing great, Kate. Love seeing you back online (and I owe you an email back about the tea!).

    xoxo

  23. Jo says:

    We’re a dual career family with both myself and the 2 year old on a gluten-free diet, which means husband is too. We’re also both working on our Ph.D.s…. Last winter, I finally in desperation realized that if I did the regular week on a rotational menu plan and baked/froze things for it one weekend a month or so (and bought groceries on sale to match the menu plan), that I could cook variety on the weekends. We made Monday night pancake/breakfast for dinner night, Tuesday night was gluten-free tacos/quesadillas, Wednesday night was homemade g.f. ravioli out of the freezer, Thursday night was grilled cheese tomato soup night, and Friday night was pizza night. I froze quantities that worked for us and then we microwaved or heated in the oven, etc. Worked great and my husband could even help get dinner on. I tend to eat the same thing for lunch no matter what. Right now it is spinach salad with chickpeas, salsa, and wholly guacamole single serve packs from Sam’s Club. Breakfast for me is eggs and broccoli. I take fruit for snacks. I shop meat sales and other sales as best I can. It helps to have a chest freezer. I do have a crockpot, but my quesadilla maker gets more use during the week!

  24. Kristin W. says:

    I know you said it but I cannot emphasis enough how meal planning reduced the amount of stress in my life. Even though I am the only one GF, I cook entirely GF meals and baked goods. I HATE paying full price so start paying attention to sales and watch your food waste. I plan by month but if a great sale for something comes up I will drop something out of the menu plan and add what is on sale. I do a monthly meal plan so I only have to sit down and do it once a month. I relate to your situation…up at 6:30 not home until 5:30, 2 kids under 7, both husband and I work full time. I second what everyone is saying….cook more than you need, use your crockpot and cook something that can be made into 2 or 3 meals…..

    1st night: Grilled or Crock Pot cooked chicken with a veggie from your veggie box, 2nd night: Loaded Baked potato: Put foil wrapped potatoes in a DRY crock pot and turn on for about 6 hours, they can sit on warm the rest of the day. When you get home put BBQ sauce on the leftover chicken warm it up and put the chicken over the potato with a little salt, pepper, cheese, sour cream and bacon if you dare You can also turn this into a 3rd night meal: Put the leftover BBQ chicken on a GF tortilla with some cheese, cilantro and tomato(opt)and grill it until melted or in a non stick pan but grilling gives it great flavor.

    Make your own refried beans in your crock pot and freeze into family size servings. They are a great side to a meal, are a great add on to taco’s and taco salads to make the meal stretch farther and you control what goes in them.
    Make a double batch of soup and freeze one. White Chicken Chili is one of our favorites (omit jalapeno’s for kids and puree one can of beans to make the soup thicker). http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Cha-Chas-White-Chicken-Chili/Detail.aspx

    Make your own GF pizza crust (I use Silvana Nardone’s recipe in Cooking for Isaiah cookbook), my husband says it is the best crust he has ever had and he can eat gluten. Press dough into one big pizza, par bake for 8 minutes, let cool, cut into four equal parts and freeze. You now have your own pizza crust that only need to be baked for 8-10 minutes once you put your toppings on.

    Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal (Bob’s Red mill brand of oats) is a complete lifesaver for me. You can make it the night before and just reheat in the morning. Currently this pumpkin baked oatmeal is my favorite. http://www.emilybites.com/2011/09/pumpkin-cranberry-apple-baked-oatmeal.html. I top with whatever nut is on sale or they can be left off. Egg muffins like others have said, they reheat great and can be a breakfast or lunch and use up veggies from your veggie box. Make extra pancakes/waffles to reheat in the morning.

    Snack: No-Bake Energy Balls
    1/2 cup nut butter(almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower seed butter or any other nut or seed butter)
    1/3 cup honey (I use a scant 1/3 cup)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    pinch of salt if using unsalted nut butter
    1 cup GF oats
    1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
    1-2 tsp your favorite spices or spice combinations(optional-I haven’t done this)
    1/2 C other add-ins(whole or roughly chopped nuts or seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc.)( I used roasted shelled pumpkin seeds and mini choc chops)
    In a medium bowl, stir together nut butter, honey, vanilla, and salt (if using). Stir in oats, coconut, and add-ins.
    Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes. To make the balls, scoop out about a tablespoon of dough, press to compact, then roll into a ball. Repeat with remaining dough.
    Store in the fridge.

    I hope this helps.

  25. Kristin W. says:

    Oh I forgot one more breakfast idea. Bob’s Red Mill Mightly Tasety hot cereal. You can make a big batch and each morning just add some water to get it to the consistency you want, warm up and top with dried fruit and/or nuts.

  26. GF18Months & Loving It says:

    I am Loving all the suggestions I have been reading! I wish I too was more capable of winging it for dinner plans. I am getting better at both stocking the fridge with ingredients for our “go to” meals and planning ahead based on the grocery sales. We keep a gluten free home and limited budget. Like many of you we LOVE our crock pot. The trick is that I am currently working full time and go to school full time so Mon – Fri am out of the house from 530am – 7pm leaving much of the dinner cooking to my husband, who hates to cook anything that is not on the grill. We do a lot of weekend cooking and freezing reheat meals, almost always have some form of cooked chicken in the fridge, usually cook one or two over the weekend and de-bone and leave in the fridge for any number of quick meals.

    Our favorite side dish right now is all sorts of variations on a carrot salad. Our grocery has started carrying frozen de-shelled edamame which has been fantastic. Chopping up a carrot or two with some corn a handful of edamame and maybe a bit of onion (the kids love the garden fresh red onions). Then all of it is steamed in the microwave for 1-3 minutes top with a dash of sesame oil, salt substitute (we are also a low sodium household), pinch of white pepper and a spice of choice that matches the meal. Viola. I feel confident our side dish which everyone LOVES has enough protein and nutrients to make up for the picky eater of the day. We have added everything from peanuts, to green beans, to apple bits.
    The salad also makes for a great pack lunch add some bits of lunch meat or crackers with cheese, packs well and is filling.

    Keep up the great hints and tips all I love the blog and all the comments help so much! Thanks!!!

  27. Michelle says:

    Hi Kate,

    One of my quick and easy go to meals is rice and sesame chicken. And to add a veg I shred some carrot and zucchini, chop a pepper and onion and mix in in with my rice and cook it up like a pilaf. Cooked millet is also something that use in place of rice just because I eat a lot of it!

    Anbother tip, if you can find the time, which I know is very precious right now, but we have Freezer Friday. Basically, we make a casserole type dish, something with a lot of leftovers that can be divided up and frozen. Lasagna, chicken pot pie (with a biscuit top to make it quick and easy), chili to name a few.

    Enchilada/tortilla pie (instead of rolling everything individually, just layer it in a casserole dish/slow cooker and bake that way). We also have a big pot of soup/stew going for the week during fall and winter. That way if there is one day that neither one of us is up to cooking, we just have some soup. Whatever’s left at the end of the week gets divided up into containers to be frozen, although this is rare.

    Just last night we bought a whole bunch of meat at Costco (not my first choice, but it was worth it and was already divided up)to stash in the freezer too. I’m alot like you, I have a hard time finding the time for everything and there are weeks, such as this past one, where dinner is not all that great. I think that burgers were a staple because i’ve used up my stash of frozen foods these past 6 weeks. I just can’t get on top of things. Goodluck!!! And please let us know how it goes…when you have a moment.

  28. dianne says:

    Hi Kate, I haven’t really got any ideas that might help you, although I did see someone suggest doubling the quantities for some meals and pop half in the freezer for another day. I used to do that a lot when I had small children, not quite as organised as I used to be when I had three of them running around at my heels. Take care

  29. Alex says:

    One of my favorite go-to’s is some variation on a cold grain and veggie salad. I mix wide rice noodles, quinoa, or brown rice with cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, green onions, greens, beans, or whatever else I have on hand, and dress it with sesame oil or almond butter or tahini. Endless variation, and good for a couple of days.

    I want to second the person to said breakfast for dinner. So good, and so fast.

  30. Sue says:

    - marinate pork tenderloin in large ziploc overnight or during the day. Broil 10 minutes, slice thin (the ones at Costco are perfect size)
    - beef stew in crockpot
    - pulled pork in crockpot (make GF BBQ sauce)
    - whole chicken in crockpot with lots of carrots & potatoes (use leftovers for chicken salad or tacos the next day)
    - fish tacos w tilapia (defrost in fridge during the day, heat up pan with olive oil, pop in fish, brown both sides, add 1/2 c water, cover & turn heat down)
    - burgers (beef, turkey and/or salmon) on a George Foreman grill
    - poach salmon (make night before and eat it chilled)
    - polenta lasagne (Trader Joe’s sells tubes of it; takes 40 minutes to bake, however)

    If one parent gets home 15-25 minutes earlier and can pop something in the over, that opens up another set of ideas.

  31. Jem says:

    So many great ideas! We are a working family as well and all gluten free and other allergies as well. Here are some of our favourites.

    We eat a lot of Indian food lately. You can make cheap sauces that freeze well. We sometimes make Shahi paneer on the weekend and are thankful for a cheap Indian grocer around the corner! Whole spices are so much cheaper and easy to grind in a coffee grinder. Butter chicken is a favourite with my Indian chickpeas and gf roti.

    The crockpot is a must and in fact, I have three. We do a lot of soups, curries, and chili on the weekend and freeze. For us, there is very little time or energy to cook during the week.

    We are pasta freaks! But, we can’t stand the rice pastas in the store. It’s a slimy thing for me and they don’t reheat very well. I have my own recipe that works so well. We make up a double batch and keep it in the fridge or freezer uncooked. I found an electric pasta extruder at a thrift store for $5! The benefit is that it cooks up super quick and this pasta even freezes well cooked and reheated. With a quick blender marinara sauce, we’re flying! What a boost the freezer meals are to lunches for us! The pasta makes mac and cheese that stays firm like mac and cheese should.

    Once a month we make perogies and stick them in the freezer. With some sausage and a pot of water boiling for the perogies, supper isn’t far away. The perogie dough is great rolled out and sliced into spaetzle as well with a quick creamy sauce. It’s good with some loose sausage meat thrown in.

    We are fans of Swedish pancakes and eggs for supper. Traditionally, we serve a pea or bean type of soup first (from the weekend) and the pancakes come after that. You can do away with the extra eggs if the pea soup has some ham in it to be extra hearty. We also change this out sometimes with my chickpea blueberry pancakes which are very filling and the leftovers freeze very well for a quick toaster snack.

    We make quinoa/sorghum waffles that freeze really well and are great for breakfasts, snacks with peanut butter and jam or nutella, or as a supper with eggs and bacon.

    I agree with the doubling method. It always works for us either as an extra meal or put down in small ziploc squares for lunches.

    I could go on but basically anything that can get shoved into a corn tortilla, dosa, roti or wrap, generally will, and does!

    Best wishes!

    • Jenny says:

      I love the idea of making and freezing Indian sauces! Why am I not doing that??? $5/jar is pricey and I don’t always want to make a sauce from scratch each meal. I’m half Ukrainian (from Calgary) and cannot have GF perogies in the home or it’s all. I. eat. Every single meal, literally, until they are gone and I am 10 lbs heavier ; ) And neither point there is any kind of exaggeration. I need like Perogies Anonymous or something.

      • Jem says:

        So funny Jenny! It’s not that often that I make gf perogies for exactly that reason. I do it to please my crew here though. At least they eat most of them for me. :)

  32. Trista says:

    This was a really great topic to post! We’re in the same boat at our house. Dollars need to stretch and we meal plan. I find that it helps me to keep my sanity. Like you, I am not one of those people that can walk into the kitchen, open the fridge or pantry and just throw something together. There are times I totally dread meal planning, but it really helps me out so it saves me in the long run. Plus, no aimless wandering at the store cause I know exactly what I’m getting.
    I really like the McCormick spice packs. They come will all the spices you need to make a meal and all you need to provide the meat and veggies and there’s a recipe included with the card and it’s pretty quick to make.

  33. Jenny says:

    Life definitely can get very busy at times! One of my favourite things to do is to always cook addition serves of my dinner meals, that I can just reheat for one or two lunches over the next couple of days. This definitely saves me a lot of time and effort.

  34. Wow! Your life sounds so much like mine. We are constantly searching for ways to save on a gluten-free diet. I can’t believe that Morri only spends $200 on groceries. That is amazing. I need some lessons too. Please!!!! We just moved, had a new baby, and a house that won’t sell. I feel your pain. Making extra and freezing is a great idea. I love my Crockpot too! Sometimes soups work, but my boys hate soup. Bummer! We do sometimes do breakfast for dinner, especially when my husband has to work late. Sam’s also has a great allergy friendly chicken that is only $4.99 and it feeds my family of 6. I know it’s not much, but maybe it will help. Just know you aren’t alone.
    Blessings,
    Nicki

  35. Faythe says:

    Once upon a time, for several years I was very strictly gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and “free” of a 9 page list of foods in an effort to help me overcome some health issues. It didn’t work like we’d hoped, so I added those foods back in. Since I have a lot of friends and family who have food allergies and intolerances to the same foods I lived without, I still cook and bake “free” for them, often. Because I do handle wheat in my home, I sterilize everything before starting – all surfaces, utensils, bowls and containers twice with bleach, hot water and soap. And vaccum. Just to be sure. I make sure to only prepare foods for my friends and loved ones, and they all know I take every precaution for them that I can so they don’t get sick or experience discomfort. One was so happy to have gluten-free cake for her birthday. It didn’t make her sick.

    One of the most difficult things for me all those years while living gluten-free was to figure, was what to have for breakfast. I made sure to bake a lot of gluten-free breads for sandwiches, burgers, bagels for options I was used too having like french toast, and breakfast sandwiches. I’d make large batches of gluten-free pancakes or waffles, muffins and freeze them for warming in the toaster. Gluten-free granolas, oatmeals and cereals made rotations, too. And pie. I love pie.

    The freezer is your friend.

    Lots of beef, chicken, fish. Rice, veggies, potatoes. We never felt deprived.

  36. Jenny says:

    Honestly just having the light bulb moment where I realized that I don’t have to shove GF bread products into every meal was my start, haha! I have spent so much time and money on a myriad of grains, flours, sprouting my own grains, etc…… and just dropping it and eating whole foods has 1) saved my sanity, 2) DRAMATICALLY improved my health, 3) helped me lose 10 lbs and 4) saved my wallet! I really didn’t realize how much money I’d been spending on certified GF teff, etc. So like your meal plan above, mine is mostly whole foods (meat, veggies, etc) with a rice dish here and a special treat like pancakes there. GF eating used to be very hard for me as I was always trying to turn everything into a GF concoction when, hello, most real food is GF because it’s a steak or a carrot. I only wish I’d figured it out sooner. So now when I have a cookie or bread or something, it’s also this huge treat for me and has turned something that used to be a lot of work into a happy moment of bready goodness. I second the motion above “the freezer is your friend”, I’ve been roasting chickens for supper then using the carcasses and frozen veggie trash I hoard (carrot peels, onion ends, etc) to make stock. Totally free and yummy and readily available! I haven’t thrown feet in yet but that’s my next goal.

  37. Sandy says:

    Stir fry! Whatever meat or vegie is in the freezer or fridge can quickly be made into dinner. I use frozen vegies if I don’t have fresh ones which even saves some time not having to slice and/or dice. If I buy something specific for stir fry I cut it up into appropriate sizes as soon as I get home from the store, freeze right away. You can take out just what you need for the meal, depending on how many are home for supper that night. If you like rice with it, cook up a bunch at a time and then just reheat it for the meal.

  38. marie says:

    Add Gluten-free energy balls to your assault box. Made with raw honey, steel cut oats, and more. Quick and easy! http://www.chrisbyrnes.com/2011/11/13/no-bake-energy-bites/

  39. Terrierboy says:

    Cooking ahead is the key. Our butcher always has some sort of ground meat on special (poultry, beef, lamb, pork, veal, etc.). We make a big batch of Greek meatballs (keftedes) on weekends or even at night. They take minutes to whip up, especially if you chop the onions in a food processor, and bake for about 20-30 minutes. We also make huge batches of Shepherd’s Pie packed with great veggies (ours has a distinctly Asian vibe) with those same ground meats in the winter. We have a food sensitivity cook book coming out next spring, so I can’t give too many details. We also roast lots of veggies ahead of time, to be reheated for individual meals. Keep an eye on which veggies are on sale that week. Fish, when affordable, can also be pan roasted for seven minutes, then finished in the oven for another 7 minutes. I like to cook batches of wild rice, lentils and other beans in stock to be used as a reheated side dish throughout the week. Pot roast also can be done in a crockpot, etc.

  40. Where does everyone get their magical expanding freezer? My roommate and I are always having things fall out because it is so full!

  41. Stacey says:

    My new secret weapon is our breadmaker. It helps keep our costs down and everyone likes my homemade GF bread better than storebought. To make things easy, I pre-measure 12 sets of the dry ingredients assembly-line style and store them in the pantry. Now when we’re out of bread it takes me less than 5 minutes to make another loaf (just need to add water, yeast, oil and an egg – although I’m thinking about buying some powdered eggs to add to my dry ingredients).

    I do the same thing for GF pancakes – the dry ingredients fit very nicely in a 1 quart plastic container and leaves enough room to add the coconut milk, egg, and oil. That way I only have 1 thing to wash in the morning.

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