Samantha Stein is the gluten-free reviewer for Can I Eat It? and the author of Gluten-free Baking at Christmas
By Gluten-free Sam
A gluten-free diet may seem to some like the latest food fad for those with more money than sense, but for the people living with coeliac disease in the UK (and the many more with gluten intolerance), it is necessary to live a healthy and disease-free life.
Although the market has exploded in recent years, and there is far more choice in the “Free From” sector than ever before, the price and quality of gluten-free products still leave much to be desired.
You can buy a value pack of 12 regular white rolls from the supermarket for around 40p, whereas a pack of 4 gluten-free rolls will set you back around £2, which makes gluten-free bread around 15 times more expensive than regular bread. Furthermore, anyone who has ever bought a loaf of gluten-free bread knows that sinking feeling you get when it falls apart in your hands. Or when it goes stale a day after it was opened.
Having to go on a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity – not a choice – for many, and coeliac disease can affect anyone, regardless of income. Therefore it’s vital to learn how to save money in the long run if you or someone in your family has to go gluten-free.
5 top tips for saving money on a gluten-free diet
1. Invest in a bread machine
Gluten-free flour may still be more expensive than regular flour, but you can usually pick up a 1kg bag of gluten-free flour for less than £2.00. Once you get the hang of it you can have fresh bread on demand at a fraction of the price of pre-made brands. With prices at around £3 for a sliced loaf of gluten-free bread, it won’t be long until the bread machine pays for itself.
2. If you do buy bread, store it in the freezer
Gluten-free bread has a nasty habit of going stale very quickly, so by storing it in the freezer and only taking out what you need, you will avoid having to throw it away. If you do find it going stale, you can toast it to make croutons, blend it to make breadcrumbs, or make French toast or a bread pudding.
3. Teach yourself to bake
Baking simple cakes and biscuits is not difficult and you can make higher quality products at home for less. As long as you bake with a gluten-free flour blend that does not contain extra sugar, fat or raising agents, you can substitute it in normal recipes. Gluten-free products contain a lot of stabilisers and preservatives, but if you make them yourself, you can avoid these.
4. Plan your meals
It’s a sad fact that gluten-eaters can fill their baskets with whatever they fancy, or grab something from the local shop at the last minute, but those of us in the gluten-free club have to plan carefully to avoid blowing the budget. Making up a weekly meal plan on a spreadsheet helps you stay on track financially and also avoids the 6pm “What’s for dinner?” stress.
5. Minimise the amount of “Free From” products you buy
Sure, it’s nice to have a little section in the supermarket where you can eat everything, but these products are costly. Meat, vegetables, legumes, potatoes and rice are all naturally gluten-free and can make a huge variety of dishes. By considering alternatives to bread and cereal (the worst value Free From products in my opinion) you will save yourself a lot of money in the long run.
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Sukrin Gluten Free Cake Mix
Despite containing a lot of odd sounding ingredients, this makes a great cake. You’d never guess it was gluten-free, let alone sugar-free! Tasted by Gluten-free Sam.
Not forgetting barcode: 7090017540609
Sukrin Free From Bread Mix
Despite some unfamiliar ingredients, this bakes up wonderfully and is a must for those on a low-carb diet. Has an actual flavour, unlike some bland gluten-free loaves. It even comes with a little tray to bake it in. Tasted by Gluten-free Sam.