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Gluten free on a budget — affordable everyday meal ideas from CNZ member Bonnie Halverson

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When you first shop for gluten free foods you will likely be shocked at how much more expensive gluten free substitutes are. Take bread for instance, you won’t get much change from $10 whereas you could buy 4 loaves of normal bread for the same price!

Don’t despair, once you have stocked up on your the pantry essentials and got more familiar with the gluten free options at your supermarket, you’ll find that you can definitely get by on a Coeliac-safe gluten free diet without blowing your weekly food budget.


Here are my top tips to help get you started with tasty gluten free meals that are easy to prepare and won’t break the bank.

1. Reinvent the traditional breakfast

Get adventurous and break away from cereal and toast.

I personally found breakfast the hardest meal to convert to gluten free. As many breakfast meals contain gluten, breakfast is one meal where you may need to spend a little more to get Coeliac safe gluten free products. Depending on how much time you have in the morning, you could cook eggs and vegetables for a filling and nutritious start. You could also prepare a smoothie to have with gluten free cereal or toast. I’ve even used leftover roast vege salad to make into easy smashed vege fritters.

Below are a few breakfast ideas you could try:

  • Weetbix (Sanitarium gluten free weetbix can be stretched further by breaking up the bix and mixing in some fruit and yogurt)
  • English muffins (Quality Bakers muffin splits are so good you can even eat them without toasting)
  • Toast and jams/spreads (Venerdi gluten freedom sells gluten free bread online from 3.99)
  • Cornflakes or rice bubbles mixed with dried fruit and nuts (Healtheries & Kelloggs gluten free cereals are great)
  • Yogurt and granola (I use Healtheries gluten free granola and make my own Easiyo yogurt)
  • Yogurt and chia seeds with some frozen berries (these double as a great snack anytime)
  • Frittata
  • Bacon and egg quiche
  • Buckwheat porridge


2. Make work (or school) lunches work for you

Lunch doesn’t always have to include a sandwich!

Like breakfast, gluten free lunches can be tricky to adjust to at first. Especially when your lunch often involves something between two slices of bread! Many gluten free breads just taste better toasted which isn’t always practical when you’re outside your own home and don’t want to risk a communal workplace toaster. Never fear, there are great lunch alternatives that don’t cost too much more than a non gluten free lunch.

Here are a few of my favourites that you could mix and match:

  • Yogurt and fruit salad (Making your own Easiyo yogurt is often cheaper than buying pre-packaged)
  • Gluten free pizza bread or scrolls (Using the Countdown free from gluten packet mix)
  • Rice crackers, vege sticks and hummus or dip
  • Potato salad with peas and mint and chopped up sausages
  • Rice cups and Sealord tuna pouches with spinach or lettuce


3. Go back to basics with dinners

Start with naturally gluten free essentials

You don’t need to spend extra on gluten free products if you make sure that most of your meals are prepared with naturally gluten free ingredients. Fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood and dairy products in their most natural forms will help provide great variety in your diet. I recommend buying what is in season as this will not only be fresh and tasty but it should be more affordable than buying products that have been imported or specially grown.

FInd affordable substitutes or replace with something different

Gluten free pasta is now more readily available in New Zealand supermarkets and the increased variety means we now have more affordable choices. I recommend trying a few brands and varieties as the pasta brands and ingredients can vary a lot. Gluten free breads are expensive but if you shop around you may find these on special (always check the expiry date) or you can buy bread online. I freeze my bread and take out only what I need each day as this saves wasting bread that has gone rock hard or mouldy in a couple of days. You could replace sandwiches with rice crackers or corn things to help stretch the loof a little further.


4. Spend a little more time now to save time and money later

Learn to love your leftovers! Leftovers will become your gluten free go-tos as they not only save time, they will help save you a lot of money on lunches and takeaways when you are caught short. Most importantly, you know that your leftovers are safe to eat and you can enjoy them without fear of cross-contamination. Consider spending a little more time in the kitchen next time you have a free evening or rainy weekend and preparing bulk meals that can be frozen down for easy lunches, dinners and even breakfasts.

My favourite meals for leftover goodness include:

  • Soups (especially hearty ones like chicken and corn)
  • Curries (these always taste better the next day)
  • Roast vegetable salads (you can make these go further by adding in some feta, olives or sundried tomatoes, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and spinach)
  • Bolognese (throw in some vegetables to make the mince go much further)
  • Mexican chilli (great for nachos or with rice)

5. Other ideas that involve a bit of cost up-front but will save you money in time

 Consider growing your own herbs and vegetables

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a garden or somewhere to put some pots, growing lettuce and herbs can be both rewarding and therapeutic. You can buy basic pots at your garden centre, Kmart or the Warehouse and packets of seeds for less than $5. I’m growing lettuce from seeds for the first time this year and have had such a bounty I have been able to enjoy it for weeks and share lettuce with my friends and family.

Invest in some good recipe books

What you spend on quality recipe books, you’ll save in ingredient costs! While there are hundreds of gluten free recipes online, you may find the hard way that not all of these are tried and tested. Wasting gluten free flours and ingredients can be an expensive, time-consuming and frustrating exercise. Once I got onto some good recipe books, my enjoyment of baking returned and so did my kitchen confidence. My favourite recipe books include:

  • 4 ingredients gluten free (lots of budget friendly meals) by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham
  • Goodbye Gluten (you can buy this through Coeliac NZ) by Sally Holland
  • The Savory Gluten-Free Baker: 60 Delicious Recipes for the Gluten Intolerant by Hannah Miles


Check out the recipes on the Coeliac NZ website

Have fun cooking and baking the tasty recipes shared by Coeliac NZ and CNZ members. Make sure to share your own too so others can enjoy them!

Article written by Bonnie Halverson

Allergy Free and Healthy Living Show 2019
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