by Chef Lori Grein
It's hard enough making a food budget stretch when times get tough, but when you need to eat gluten-free, options and solutions are even harder. And the basics more costly to begin with.
So, welcome to a three-part series on gluten-free recipes that can save you money. In Part 1 we look at main meals. In Part 2 breads & baking. In Part 3 we deal with appetizers, dressings & canning.
There are ways to stretch those dollars though. Chef Lori Grein went through our 700+ online recipes (that should keep you busy) to find the best gluten-free budget recipes. Good value because they use year-round basic ingredients which can be subbed with seasonal fare when it's at it's best and cheapest. Nothing fancy is needed, just basic pantry staples like flour, Pancake Mix and everyday condiments. Then there's an added bit of easy flare like Panko Crumbs to add crunch and flavour to an otherwise potentially bland dish. Adding herbs and spices is also a fantastic way to thrill any dish with layers of fragrance and flavour at very little cost.
Chef Lori chose these dishes also because they can be made in bulk and frozen, saving on the shopping bill, utilities and time, which is also money. When meals are always on hand for emergencies you won't get caught out making expensive last-minute purchases.
Most importantly the best way to save money is to make everything safe and scrumptious. The tastier and more varied your meal plan, the less gets thrown away.
Follow these guidelines and you can save a little at each step, which will add up to a lot.
How to save money cooking gluten-free meals
- Use less expensive meat cuts like chicken thighs & legs instead of breast. Get pork chops slightly thinner or smaller. You'll still savour the flavour without needing as much. Minced meat instead of ribeye.
- Don't dump the fat. Animal fats are full of calories, flavour and nutrition. A whole food.
- Learn how to perfect cooking each food to maximize flavour so it doesn't go to waste.
- Fish needs ten minutes max on the BBQ or when fried...after that, it goes rubbery. Consider searing filets a minute each side in a frying pan, then add water & soy sauce to poach with the lid on for total ten min. max.
- Steam veggies for maximum flavour and nutritional value. Root veg takes ten minutes to steam and only three for greens like broccoli and asparagus. You can tell if the colour changes from bright green when it's ready to eat, to dull dark green, when it's overcooked. Longer than that, you've got mush.
- Roasting root veg with herbs is great way to fill tummies with healthy calories.
- Slow-cook tougher or very lean cuts of meat for hours on a low heat to tenderize them.
- Use left-over meat to create a new dish tomorrow night. Add some rice, even an egg and oriental-style sauce for a quick and easy stir-fry. Left-overs are great thrown into casseroles, or soups. Even unusual toppings on pizza.
- Sausages as long as the fillers are gluten-free, are a cheaper form of meat. Especially when bought in bulk.
- Substitute fresh vegetables for frozen veggies if they're on sale.
- Substitute cheese for a cheaper version. Usually the more aged the cheese the pricier it is.
- Substitute any vegetables in a recipe for what's available locally and in season. Cheaper, less traveled and more nutritious.
- Casseroles can be turned into a meal in a heart-beat. Keep on hand for emergencies or as an extra add-on.
- Keep a variety of soups and stews for emergency meals.
- Don't waste anything. Keep the old veggies in the fridge until you've enough to boil them for hours and drain into a veggie stock for soup.
- Same goes for meat bones. Ham, chicken and turkey work well for natural flavouring if you add them to stews and casseroles. Or bring to the boil and simmer for hours, remove bones to make a good stock. Add herbs and spices for more flavour.
- Eat naturally gluten-free foods. Rice, vegetables, proteins, beans can be bought for a lot less than ready-to-eat foods.
- Grow your own food. Not only is it cheaper, it brings you back in touch with the cycle of nature. If that's too much for you, barter with a neighbour to share some of their overflow harvest.
Along those lines, here are Chef Lori's favourite meals to make on low budgets, in bulk, to be frozen.
Be sure to read more in this series.
How to cook gluten-free & save money Part 2 Bread & Baking
How to cook gluten-free & save money Part 3 Appetizers & Dressing
Let us know if you have any tips, tricks or hacks for saving in the kitchen. Write to us.