Gluten-Free Living on a Budget
One year ago I was eating oreo cookies, which is crazy to think since it’s been over 365 days since I’ve tasted one of God’s gifts to us. Yes, I’m gluten free, but no- it’s not a fad or diet that I’ve decided to join (so hold back the eyeroll). One year ago I was struggling to find something to give up for Lent, a spiritual tradition of giving up or adding something to my daily routine to glorify God. Since half of my family already was gluten-free due to diet restrictions, I thought I might take these 40 days to really dive deep into something that I knew was going to be difficult to give up to really make a difference in my spiritual relationship with my dude, Jesus. So for 40 days I didn’t touch gluten. I avoided all the hidden gluten such as whey, barley, yeast and everything else that can be hidden as something that is commonly found in wheat.
Another reason I gave up gluten was to see its effect on my anxiety. I had been searching for anything to offer me some relief from my symptoms. I had just completed my first mental health withdrawal from my college and was ready to just become a hermit and never leave my house. Which is why I knew I needed something big to bring me back to a healthy relationship with God. So I said sauranara to gluten for the lent season and for a total of 40 days I learned how to live a completely new lifestyle.
The thing I didn’t know though, was that my body had been fighting gluten for a very long time. During this season, I found out that my body had been sick and fatigued for a long time and needed a break from all the chemicals coming from the gluten found in the U.S. . This meant though that when I tried to go back on gluten after lent, my body hardcore rejected it. I was throwing up, having extreme nausea, feeling so exhausted all the time and it wasn’t till I tried to stop eating gluten again that I had finally felt better. I had gotten so sensitive that I couldn’t even handle cross-contamination and people were now having to change their gloves for my allergy that remained dormant for so long. It frustrated some people, but I was finally able to live a healthy life.
Making a Budget
Being in college it’s sometimes hard to stick to a budget, but now that I had this new lifestyle that I couldn’t change, I had to make adjustments and find what worked for me. I had to go from buying the cheap pasta to making rice based noodles that were designated GF (gluten free).
It’s an admittingly hard switch at first, but once you get into it, it becomes much easier. I like to budget in several different ways when it comes to eating GF. Mainly I break it down into categories:
- Eating Out
- Meal Prep
I like to give about 20% of my budget for groceries to eating out just because I believe that sometimes it is hard to eat GF at home and it’s nice to have one day a week to treat yourself with a meal that you actually didn’t have to cook.
While eating out while GF is hard enough as it is, I’ve found that the more research you do on the food chain, the better you are able to get something that might not look GF, into something you can actually eat.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite food chain places to eat out and what I usually order:
- Chick-fil-a -the holy grail of GF food and has one of the most options. I usually get either the grilled nuggets with fries, grilled sandwich meal, or a grilled cobb salad. All of this with changed gloves (if you are Celiac)
- Chipotle – Everything here is gluten free! Minus the burritos or anything with a tortilla. I love getting the bowl. Extra guac please!
- Taco Bell– I recently tried taco bell’s GF options and they are basically a cheaper version of chipotle. So if you wanna get a bowl for a few bucks cheaper, check this out and grab me a baja blast too.
- Blaze Pizza– I hear that alot of GF people are in love with the GF crust from here, but it’s a little too soggy for me. The amount of options to customize it make it AMAZING though.
- Dominos– If you are looking for a GF pizza, this is what I recommend. I mean the crust makes up half of the pizza right? That’s why I love their crunchy crust that doesn’t taste like dough too much. Plus you can get it delivered? Heck yes.
Picking a Staple Meal
It becomes easier to eat GF by finding something that you really like to eat. For instance, finding a interchangeable meal with a base you like can really help with coming up with new meal ideas and making a meal that is your go to. I really like rice and si weekly I’ll find a new meal to make that includes it. One week I might make GF chicken fried rice. While another I might make GF chicken n’ rice. Finding something to be your staple is easy. Just look at what you eat now and find a way to make it gluten free. It can be pasta, rice, quinoa, or anything really. There is so much variety of GF things available now that it’s easy to forget you are actually not eating gluten. Until you pass the snack aisle in Publix.
Meal prepping helps a lot when it comes to eating gluten free. By having the staple meal, we can make it into our meal prep by adding different things to it such as a protein or vegetables to add more flavor and mix it up. I also think it’s also important to have a meal prepped snack for the week. After a while you might get tired of eating GF granola bars like I did, so mix it up! I like making different types of energy balls, popcorn, or sliced up veggies. The variety helps you to not get so bored of what you’re eating aka making you want to spend money on fast food.
Overall, gluten free living is not the hardest thing in the world, you just have to have a system in place to make it easier for yourself to eat GF. It gets difficult in college because most GF things are more expensive than the more popular brands. I like going to Walmart or Lucky’s to get my GF things because they usually have the most reasonably priced items. Another great steal is trying out EBates. You’ll even get a free $10 by checking it out and buying a couple things, you already know are on your GF shopping list. I’ve literally saved so much money it’s insane!
Although more and more stores are coming out with more alternatives for either health preference or allergy when it comes to gluten. Some days, yes you are going to miss the occasional oreo or donut or basically any junk food, but there are so many copycat GF foods out there it gets easier to be okay with this new lifestyle. They might not taste the same, but they could taste even better while also being good for you. Give a gluten free cake a try, I promise you won’t regret it :).