That, my friends, was my lunch today. And it was perfect! Over the last several months, I have truly begun to enjoy things with corn tortillas again. And NOT just any corn tortilla. We found these high-fiber, whole grain tortillas made by La Tortilla Factory. They are called “Smart & Delicious Fiber and Flax”. We have only been able to find them at Safeway – so now I make a pilgrimage there whenever the craving hits. Honestly, even my girls and husband prefer these over any other store-bought tortilla.
Although it’s still nice to hear that they love the homemade ones, I honestly don’t spend the time making tortillas when I’m going to use them for enchiladas or tortilla-stack casserole, etc. I used to make homemade ones (or even pick a dozen up from our local Mexican market that are made fresh daily and sell for $1.35/dozen!) when we eat them with wraps, etc.
I started the New Year without resolutions on paper, but just in my mind. I really want – and we REALLY need – to tighten our budget. Targeting our grocery bill and eating out is my top priority. It struck me that so many people just don’t get it. The “expense” of eating gluten free is truly the eating more healthy too.
No, I’m not knocking anyone other than myself with that statement.
And NO. I’m NOT claiming that the Gluten Free Diet is the “miracle” health diet. THAT complete depends on WHAT you are eating on your regimen. Do you know what I mean?
Before my diagnosis, I shopped for groceries and ate decently. However, I also had a ton of “staples” in my house that weren’t so healthy. I didn’t read ingredient labels. Heck! I am fairly certain that the list of unpronounceable ingredients were way over my head. And guess what? I didn’t care. I didn’t even pause to think about it.
My staples included macaroni and cheese, soups, flour/sugar, etc Nothing extravagant. But it WAS cheaper.
Cheaper than shopping for gluten free products…. cheaper than shopping than all fresh foods – and a heck of a lot more convenient.
One day more than a year ago while shopping at my local GF market (GF Joe’s *rocks*, by the way – even better, if you live in the area, “like” them on Facebook for a chance to win a gift certificate to shop in the store!) and Kaylee mentioned to me that a customer had come in with a GF specialty cookbook under his arm. He wanted to make one of the recipes within. And the ingredients – NOT ALL of them, mind you – just the specialty GF ingredients cost him $35.00.
Umm. Hello? $35.00?
Is it just me who wants to say “What the HELL, people?”
I’m no cookbook author. But seriously, if the book is merely there to help people eat gluten free there is NO WAY it need cost SO much for a single recipe.
I haven’t been able to shake that conversation. And I have ben bouncing around in my head just what in the world this person was making too.
As I have been asked questions about what I eat, etc, people often comment that it must be “gourmet” (read: homemade/fresh), “expensive” (read: not in a box), and “so hard” (read: inconvenient).
And you know what, some days I totally agree with them. LOL
Especially when I think of that poor guy venturing off into his first GF cooking experience thinking how screwed he is financially now thanks to his recent diagnosis.
Everyone could use some money-saving tips on the gluten free path. And beyond ditching that spendy-recipe book and letting that author have a piece of your mind about the REAL world of GF people, here are my 4 Creative Tips for Saving some of that hard-earned cash:
1. Don’t buy premixed flours UNLESS you plan to use just a little bit and are NOT a baker by nature.
Premixed flours are spendy. In fact, one bag at our grocer (not the specialty market) of Pamela’s GF mix is priced at $9.00 a bag! Good Lord! So figure that is one ingredient in your recipe of cookies, pancakes, muffins, etc – and you are spending a pretty penny.
NOW – *if* you really only bake once in a blue moon – or you are hosting some who needs to eat GF once in a while, then it makes sense.
However, if you are a baker? Forget about it. Figure out which 3 flours are your keys to success, and buy those. You can use them interchangeably in 90% of the recipe you find on the internet/recipe books. Figure out the starch:whole grain ratio in your recipe and the total flour/starches called for, and go for it. Mix your own. (By the way, my favorite three are: millet, tapioca starch and brown rice flour for baking) Yes, you might need to invest in xanthan or guar gum. But that investment lasts FOREVER. Get an airtight container for your gum of choice and it WILL last indefinitely. So there is no need to worry about it going bad.
2. Shop the OUTside of the grocery store and avoid the “specialty” items in the center of the regular supermarket.
I’ve written about this before. Shop the outside of the store (skip the bakery, obviously). You will find the fresh ingredients you need to make a filling and very satisfying meal for yourself or any GF loved one. Really.
Don’t throw a salad at someone because it is “gluten free”. Really. Round out the meal with a great veggie, some protein, some quinoa-tabbouleh (skip the bulgur wheat, thank you, and use some quinoa!), etc. Make it a balanced plate and offer some wickedly awesome sorbet and fresh fruit with a little fresh lime juice on top. They will appreciate your efforts and if you are cooking for yourself? Your tummy will thank you too.
3. Pick your battles and then go for the WIN at your local GF Specialty Market or online.
So you have a pasta-loving tummy? Bread? Figure out which is your “have-to-have” and then price it out. I figured out that I much prefer homemade GF bread to any we can buy in the store. But pasta? Wow. I love GOOD pasta. In fact, I’m now a brand-loyal pasta baby.
I can make pasta. I have and I do. But during the week, we were are trying to save both money – and what remains of our sanity – pre-made/boxed, dried pasta from GF Joe’s is what I need. And yes, GF pasta costs QUITE a bit more than wheat/whatever pastas. However, if it is what makes you feel “normal” or whatever, then target that.
And then get it at your local specialty market or online if you don’t have a Joe near you. (Just don’t email my Joe and ask him to move, please. LOL)
Avoid buying the other pre-packaged GF meals etc. It’s expensive and you can probably make better at home on your own! You absolutely will have a much easier time living and eating GF when you choose naturally GF foods. Then your budget can support the purchase of your GF treat of choice.
(PS. My pasta addiction: Schar’s. In fact, it is the only spaghetti my girls will eat too. LOL)
4. Shop at your local ethnic markets.
Yes, it can be hard to learn your way around, but you will be so glad once you can navigate the aisle like an expert!
So you want to try out some Chinese or Mexican recipes? There are plenty that are naturally gluten free. (Yes, avoid the wheat-based soy sauce.) But you know what? We buy a huge gallon of organic, wheat-free tamari (soy sauce) at a Korean market nearby SO MUCH more cheaply than the bottle of San-J.
The trick about ethnic markets is this: you kind of feel like a dork the first time through. I mean this: when you grocery shop, you know what you are looking for. You have the lay of the land in your head and your blood. You’ve shopped in markets like your grocery store since before you can even remember. And that ethnic market? YOu may not even be able to read the packaging.
THAT is intimidating.
You don’t know what it says. You don’t know what it is. You have to feel it, pick it up, read it, ask, etc to figure it out. You wonder what it is used for. You wonder how common it is. You wonder if you look like a dork holding what might just be a bottle of everyday ingredient. You wonder if you look like an alien checking out a bottle of orange juice.
Come one. I know you feel it. :D
The reality is: yes, you have to do this with most of the ingredients (and maybe even the produce!) you come across. And then you have to remember them, take pictures, ask questions, and figure out what they are, can you eat it, how is it prepared, etc.
But once you invest some time in checking out the store shelves, you will find a BONANZA of savings! Truly! Like our giant bottle of organic wheat-free tamari, we save money every month by buying some produce (taro, green onions, ginger, garlic, tofu (sometimes even freshly made!), flours (rice, corn, tapioca, etc), and everyday things like rice noodles, rice crackers, homemade tamales/tortillas, etc.
Yes. Our local ethnic market saves us big time.
And yes. I still feel a little like a dork when the packaging changes. But now I’ve smartened up. I started taking pictures of the packaging for the foods we like (labels, etc). Then, when I can’t find it, I whip out my cell pone and ask the guy stocking the shelves to help me. Usually there is some kind of language barrier somewhere – maybe between that person and myself, or sometimes even between that person and the stock (like the Mexican guy who doesn’t speak English nor Korean but stocks the shelves at the Korean Market (????). I’m always trying to figure out how he knows what to put where and then thinking how quickly I’d be fired if I were he.). The photos on my phone? Totally eliminate that. :D
I’m sure you all use some of these ideas. But which ones are most common?
Please don leave a comment with your money-saving tips! We could all use the ideas!
Happy GF Shopping all!