Q&A: Is eating Gluten Free expensive?

Since I’ve gone Gluten Free and started sharing my experiences I get asked a lot of questions.  Which I LOVE!  If people are asking questions they’re at least sorta interested…. even if they’re being snotty, (ex. the guy who asked me if I really had a problem with wheat or if I was just one of those people who thought it was “healthy“)… if they’re asking questions there is a chance for them to learn.

There is a lot of information out there…. some in favor of the Wheat-Free life and some bashing it.  There is also fifty years of propaganda education telling people to eat Low-Fat/High Carb to overcome.  My mom grew up in that generation (Hello, Baby-Boomers!)… so did I.  I distinctly remember high school Health Class and being told that if we’d just eat Low Fat/Low Calorie/Healthy Whole Grains and exercise a little, we wouldn’t be so fat.  I WAS doing that…. it didn’t work! Look around!  Is it working?  What have you got to lose?  Except the Wheat, weight & worry (yup, depression and gluten are linked).

I understand that it is hard for people to have grown up hearing “Low Fat/Low Calorie/Healthy Whole Grains” from your teachers and doctors and the rest of the wellness community…… and now I’m telling you “Yeah, that’s all bull-shit.  Try this completely opposite lifestyle instead.”  I know that’s why you’re looking at me cross-eyed when I tell you I add coconut oil to my coffee.  I get it…. but if what you are doing isn’t working…. maybe you should try something new.  Huh?

So let’s answer some of the questions I’m asked most often.

Isn’t it expensive to eat Gluten Free?

It can be… if you’re eating “Gluten Free” foods and not foods that are gluten free.  (Now you’re looking at me cross-eyed again.) If you go to the grocery store and fill your cart with packaged Gluten Free foods…. Gluten Free bread, GF muffins, GF pasta, GF flour replacement and GF cereal…. yeah… its super freaking expensive.  But, if you skip those middle isles and shop the outside of the store (or better yet, head for the fruit stand and the butcher’s shop!) then, no… it’s actually a bit cheaper to live/eat Gluten Free.

When I first went Gluten Free I would go on rampages through Whole Foods.  I’d buy nearly anything with a Gluten Free label.  I just wanted my meals to look and taste like they always had….. loaded with carbs and oh, so comforting.  It was super expensive.

Sure, I was technically living Gluten Free, but I wasn’t really doing myself or the lifestyle any justice.  If I wanted my health (and therefore my life) to change… my eating habits had to change too.  I had to learn to look at food in a new way.  My breakfast does not need to contain cereal or toast.  My lunch doesn’t need pasta or sandwich bread…. and dinner certainly does not need bread crumbs, deep frying or a basket of rolls.  And when I realized (and implemented) that change my  health really started to improve.

So what does go into my shopping cart?  Meat.  Lots of meat… roast and bacon and hamburger, chicken and deli sliced meat.  Cheese…. oh! I do love cheeses…. Feta and sharp cheddars…. yum.  Butter.  Not that fake margarine crap…. BUTTER.  Coconut oil.  Fruits and veggies.  Nuts!  Nuts make the best snacks… I carry a little ziplock baggie of cashews with me all the time.

Yes, if you were adding this to your regular shopping cart, it would be more expensive.  But remember, we’re eliminating the cereal and crackers… the soda (blech) and the chips and candy….no more cheese poofs…. tossing the pasta and rice and cake mixes….no more frozen pizzas.   We just cut out the entire center of the grocery store!

Another big advantage to eating High Fat/Low Carb/Gluten Free…. you won’t feel as hungry.  It took me a little while to catch on to this.  We’re such creatures of habit!  For lunch, I was eating three slices of swiss cheese, each slice wrapped around a slice of turkey or roast beef deli slices…. and some nuts. One day it finally occurred to me that I didn’t really want the third wrap… I was just eating it because it was there.  So now my lunches are two slices of cheese ($2.50 for 12 slices = $0.21/slice) and two slices of deli sliced turkey or roast beef ($4.00 for 20 slices = $0.20/slice) …. and usually a hand full of pecans or cashews ($14.00 for 14 svgs = $1.00/svg).  Sooo  $1.82 for lunch?  You can’t get a frozen lunch for that!!  And best of all, my lunch is satisfying and healthy.  Sure, it did take a little bit to convince myself that my “sandwich” didn’t need bread.  I played around with lettuce for a while…. but eventually decided that I didn’t need the extra fuss… I was just as happy with the “wrap” minus the lettuce.

Gluten Free Lunch

At restaurants I  usually order off the regular menu and just ask for no bun or gravies.  I do inform my server that I’m “allergic” to wheat and ask them to check with the cook that I didn’t accidentally order anything with wheat.  (I say “allergic” because people are familiar with that term…. they understand that eating something with wheat in it could make me very sick….. which is true.  Sometimes when you say “Gluten Intolerant” people either don’t understand the term, or treat you like you’re on some kind of fad-diet and don’t respect how much they’re lack of care could hurt you.  People understand “allergic” and it gets the same result that “gluten intolerant” should get, but doesn’t always.)  I like to order fish (ask your server about sauces), steaks (ask about seasonings and rubs), hamburgers (no bun and make sure that its all beef with no fillers…. turkey burgers and veggie burgers are really bad about wheat based fillers.) and salads (no croutons).

Living Gluten Free is SO much easier and cheaper when we travel.  Yes, you have to plan ahead a bit more… pack a cooler… but we’re also not paying $10 for a nasty, unhealthy meal from Micky D’s either!  Check out my post about how we ate Gluten Free on our recent trip.

When I’m at home I’m learning to make a lot of dinners in the crockpot.   Lots of roasts and chicken with different veggies.  I LOVE using the Wildtree Grapeseed oils or a bit of wine to add some extra flavor (and learn to play with spices!).  I also try to pack the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

Now, I totally admit that sometimes I get a craving for some old, familiar “wheat” recipe… and I’ll break out the Cup4Cup flour replacement and try to replicate it….. yup. Or maybe I want a Gluten-Free pizza at a restaurant or some gluten free mac & cheese…… I admit it.  But not every meal… or even every day!  Probably not even every week….  And if you’re concerned about the financial cost, then yes, all that stuff costs a bit more.  If your worried about the health cost…. well, that’s all the high carb stuff…. and we want to cut back on that stuff as much as possible.  That’s not to say you can’t enjoy it from time to to time…. like an expensive glass of wine…. something to be enjoyed and savored, but not for every meal/every day.

And we haven’t even begun to consider the cost savings at the pharmacy!  OMG!   If you were popping aspirin for your arthritis and migraines….  sleeping pills and rash ointment…… and how about those prescriptions for acid reflux, cholesterol and diabetes?  Lose the wheat and lose the drugs!

Whew!  So that was a short and sweet answer, huh?

So what other questions do you have about Gluten Free Living?  Ask me and I’ll be happy to share my experiences!

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