5 More Tips for a Frugal Gluten Free Diet

This is the third part in a series “Gluten Free Grocery Shopping on a Budget” in which Heather shares how she feeds a family of 6 a gluten free diet  for $350 – $400 a month. (And she says she could do with less if she really tried!)

6) Buy less expensive cuts of meat and less expensive produce. You can have huge savings in this category.  Steaks are the most expensive meat we buy, and we don’t pay more than $2.29/lb when they’re on sale.  No, we’re not getting the fancy cuts of beef or filet mignon, but it’s not worth the extra money to us.  For chicken that we’re just planning on eating plain or barbequed, we buy chicken leg quarters and take off the skin.  We do buy boneless skinless for casseroles and such, but for years we didn’t.  Pork sausage rolls are bought on sale for $1.50 or less per lb.  Etc.

For vegetables, we buy bags of carrots, cabbage (eaten raw and cooked), and frozen vegetables when on sale for $1/lb.  We do treat ourselves to baby carrots, usually bought on sale or in bulk for less than $1.50/lb.  For fruit, we usually have 100% juice, bought in frozen concentrate, because we don’t go to the store every week.  It’s about $1 for 6 servings.  When we buy fresh fruit at the grocery store, it’s bananas, or occasionally oranges when on sale.  In the fall, from a local orchard, we buy apples for $12 a half bushel (21 lb) and peaches for $16 a half bushel (25 lb).  Before we had a local orchard, we rarely had those fruits.  Now, we can enjoy them fresh, and freeze some for pies later in the year.

7) Selectively have “normal foods,” when cheaper, for the rest of the family. I don’t want to make everything with a “mine” and “theirs” version, but some things are relatively easy to do.  When we have pasta with spaghetti sauce, I make their pot of whole wheat pasta, and mine of brown rice pasta, and then I serve the sauce separately.  If I have a busy week and want easy lunches, I buy the cheapest 100% whole wheat bread for sandwiches for the rest of the family.  It’s much easier to feed one person for lunch on leftovers and hodge-podge than it is to feed two adults and four children in the same way!

8) Grow a Garden. We’re not doing this as extensively as in previous years. We have 4 3×20 beds of strawberries that this summer will yield over
60 quarts of strawberries.  There was an initial investment, and no crop the first year, but every year after that, we’ve been able to expect approximately 50 quarts, or more in a good year.  That means that for several weeks we don’t have to buy any fruit, and we’re able to freeze some for strawberry pancake syrup and other uses during the year.  This year we also planted 3 cherry tomato bushes, a half dozen summer squash and zucchini plants, 24 cabbage plants, and 120 sweet corn plants.  Selective gardening could help the food budget of many people, without too much work or too much space.  A tomato plant is agood example of something that meets that criteria.

9) Make your own convenience foods to have for busy days. If you havea couple homemade casseroles, a pre-baked pizza crust, and a few dozenmuffins in the freezer (or a few of your ownjust-add-egg-oil-and-water mixes), you’re less likely to resort to expensive pre-made items.  Even if I use dried fruit, I can make a gluten-free muffin mix that makes a dozen muffins for $2.50 or less.

10) Eat leftovers. It’s amazing how many people get rid of leftovers because they don’t like to eat them, or because they get lost in the depths of the fridge.  We tend to eat leftovers for lunch, or have a leftover dinner night once a week.

We don’t use coupons: One thing that you may have expected to find on this list, but didn’t, is coupons.  I don’t use coupons.  One reason is that I don’t make food from scratch only to save money, but also for health benefits. Many of the items that have coupons (breakfast cereals, meals in a
box, freezer meals, cookies, etc) are not of interest to me.  We don’t buy a local paper, and I don’t have any interest in keeping track of large numbers of coupons to use.

More Tips: Other money-saving things we used to do, but don’t any longer, are to eat non-meat meals 3 nights a week.  These can be beans, breakfast at
supper (with eggs), spaghetti (without meat).  We have meatless meals 1-2 nights a week on average now.  Also, we used to eat much smaller servings of meat, but we’re a bit more generous with ourselves in recent years.

Occasional Splurges:
And there are things we splurge on for health or taste reasons.  We buy real maple syrup and brown rice pasta for the health benefits.  Of course, there are taste benefits as well!  I used to not buy flour
tortillas, but made my own.  I used to not buy something like a giant box of unseasoned potato flakes.  We used to have smaller servings of meat.  But when we were married, my husband was a graduate student making $20,000 a year, and his income is substantially higher now.  We could shave $50-$100 off of our budget a month if we wanted to or needed to.  But, we’ve chosen to cut down on the number of grocery trips to maximize family time, and we’ve chosen to treat ourselves a bit compared to our strictness of previous years.

It’s not a contest to see who can spend the least on groceries, but about what’s important to your family.  If your family has debt, would like more
money to spend on other things, want to be able to save more, etc, then it’s probably worth considering ways to slash your grocery budget.  But, if you’re comfortable, then you certainly don’t have to.


  1. Thank you Heather and Mary Frances for the interesting posts. I always find other people’s grocery budgets and buys fascinating! We spend approximately $240 per week including toiletries, wipes, and household items but it can go as high as $285. Geographic location and diet play a big part in how low you can go. I live in the NE in a relatively expensive area of upstate NY. If I lived in Western NY my bill would be at least $30 lower per week for the same exact purchases. We are a family of 4 with a celiac (me), treenut allergic son and soy allergic son & thus I make everything from scratch. Everyone eats gluten free and nut free since I do all of the cooking. I work full time as well so I don’t have the time to bake and cook 4 different things. I cook for 8 people and we bring our leftovers for lunch the next day. We do not dine out or get lunches or snacks out during the week. Our grocery bill covers everything we consume. I am also a lacto-ovo vegetarian and my family eats almost exclusively vegetarian as well. We love fruits and veggies and I spend more than $100 per week in fresh fruits and veggies. We eat 2 pounds of grapes per day alone and I buy at least 6 red peppers per week to supplement the less tasty and nutritious green ones which of course are much cheaper! Yes I do spend $1.79 per lb. for zucchini because a week without it is sad. In the summer we have 8 raised bed organic vegetable gardens and 4 beds of raspberry and blackberry bushes. We eat everything we grow-there is never anything left to freeze! We also buy from our farmers market twice per week in the Fall and summer for items we do not grow. I probably could get my bill lower if I did not buy all the fruits and veggies that I do but my health would suffer and my taste buds would cry. Frozen just does not cut it. I do save approximately $20-$25 per week in coupons mostly for organic cereals, dairy products, eggs, toiletries and cleaning products which helps. I always make my menu plan out first and go to multiple stores to save money on the items we buy. By far our grocery bill is our largest household expense but man do we enjoy our food!

  2. A few thoughts on saving on fruits and vegetables.
    First, on the purchase: if you have a really good local produce place around, check out their seconds. We just moved near my favorite produce place in the world–beautiful stuff at a reasonable price. But we’re still on a major budget crunch, so I check out their $.99 rack! I bought a $.99 bag with 3 small heads of butter lettuce, a tray of “tasty tom” tomatoes that had fallen off their vines but were otherwise perfect, and about 7 cubanelle & green bell peppers that each had one small soft spot. Their seconds are at least the quality of the local supermarket.
    Second, gardening: I had great luck with tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant and hot peppers in a relatively small bed (10×4?). We also planted cucumbers nearby, but they seem to be good only every-other year. This garden was a fabulous money-saver, especially when combined with a CSA. The eggplants and tomatoes, with a little cheese & oniions & collards from the CSA, made several eggplant parms. Hot peppers keep the animals out, and some garlic cloves (if you plant them the fall before, you’re supposed to actually get a bulb by the end of the year..I haven’t managed yet).

  3. Very interesting blog. Thank you Heather and Mary Francis. I tend to spend 140-160 dollars per week on groceries for a family of 5; $40 of that is a local CSA that I love. We also spend at least $10 per week on apples, $5 on a big jar of natural peanut butter, and about $20 per week on milk. We make our own yogurt, tortillas, etc and I thought I was doing pretty good on making all of our stuff (I even froze away alot of tomato sauce in the summer that we are still using). However a closer perusal of our grocery bill has reveled a couple of boxes of cereal each week, a bottle of V8 for the kids each week, and usually either chips or crackers (which I have yet to be able to sucessfully make at home). Thanks for the incentive to try to get our grocery bill down some more. It isn’t easy, but I would really like to achieve that! BTW Stephanie, I have gotten the garlic bulbs easily but for some reason the peppers and tomatoes will not grow in my garden. Argh!

  4. Stephanie says:

    Michelle, thanks for the positive vibes on the garlic! We’re at a new house, have to find a new garden spot, so it’ll have to wait ’til next year…but I’ll plant in the fall and pull them up to see.