How to Live Gluten-Free on a Budget: 10 Tips + 2 Recipes

Potatoes are gluten free
Farmers' market potatoes. Gluten-free and budget friendly.

How to live gluten-free on a budget? It's a legitimate concern. I feel your pain. $7.95 for a gluten-free baking mix? Ouch.

There's a lot of chit chat lately about food budgets, food prices, and stretching a dollar. Budget talk is in the air. Eating in and cooking from scratch is a trend now. And for those of us living gluten-free, a  trend unlikely to burn out soon. 

So if- like me- you are struggling to balance your cranky budget, here are ten tips and tricks to stretch the green and keep it tasty.

10 Gluten-Free Living on a Budget Tips

1. This, you know already. Buy pantry items on sale. Beans. Rice. Canned tomatoes. Canned pumpkin. Quinoa. Gluten-free pasta. Stock up when you can. And buy GF pasta and flours in bulk at Amazon

2. Eat more vegetarian and vegan meals. Cut down on meat and browse my Vegetarian and Vegan Index for some budget-friendly inspiration. My Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas are super popular- and muy delicioso. Not to mention my Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie and the all-time classic comfort food Baked Mac + Cheese (I even have a vegan version: The Best Vegan Mac + Cheese, my personal favorite). Vegetarian can also be sexy- try my Vegetarian Putanesca on for size. Shop at the Farmers' market for seasonal inspiration and budget friendly prices.

3. Make your own snacks instead of buying pre-packaged. You can make twice as much hummus for less than half the price. Try my Jalapeno Lime Hummus recipe, or classic Hummus Tahini. Make your own snack chips out of stale corn tortillas and brown rice tortillas- here's how to make your own chips. Easy. Make your own pesto, too. And if basil is outrageously expensive- try cilantro, parsley and mint. It makes a wonderful pesto with pecans (cheaper than pine nuts).

4. Use more potatoes. They're amazingly versatile. You can make a soul warming- and filling- soup Potato Leek Soup for very little investment. You can make a baked Idaho potato- or a sweet potato- the center of a meal rather than a side dish. Top it with a scoop of leftover Santa Fe Chicken Chili, or veggies like my Balsamic Roasted Veggie Smothered Potato. Top a baked sweet potato with my Melted Peppers and Dags. Easy and cheap. Buy them at your local Farmers Market.

5. Eat breakfast for dinner (this was my old too-tired-to-cook trick when the kids were little). Make an 1-2-3 omelette with eggs and left over blue corn chips and call it a Blue Chip Fritatta. Make pancakes. Or Pumpkin Waffles. Or a simple Fried Egg and Pesto on Toast. Bake up a spaghetti quiche-pie with leftover pasta and veggies and call it an Autumn Pasta Fritatta. Find more brunch, quiche and egg recipes here.

6. Pasta is goddess sent. Even though gluten-free pasta runs a tad more expensive than regular old grocery store spaghetti, you can often buy in bulk and save. Ask your grocer for a case discount. My favorite family style pasta recipes are my Italian Meatballs and Spaghetti, and easy Italian Ragu, my almost retro Tuna and Artichoke Pasta, my Jazzed Up Turkey Tetrazzini- with, you guessed it, leftover turkey. My Penne Arrabiata is so easy- with diced tomatoes and green chiles.

8. Make soup. I'm tellin' ya, a pot of soup can save you. And if you make it a slow cooker, you save energy costs (I read somewhere that using a slow cooker to make a meal uses the same amount of energy as a light bulb). I have lots of soups, stews and chili recipes in my archives because they're a personal favorite. We're big on soup. Mulligatawny is good enough for company (and it won't break the budget). My Big Easy Chili is just that. Easy, And pretty cheap- if you buy the beans on sale. Use leftover chicken and make my Roasted Corn Chowder with Chicken and Cilantro. Hardly a sacrifice. Browse more soup recipes here.

9. Make your own broth- don't bother buying expensive gluten-free broths. Make your own with water. Fill a pot. Toss in some old celery sticks that have been hanging around, a couple of bendy carrots, a piece of onion, some garlic and a shake of herbs. Sea salt. Cover. Simmer. Strain. Boom. Broth. And you know what's in it.

10. Remix leftovers. Don't just reheat  leftovers in the microwave. Get creative with leftover rice, quinoa, stews and chili. Combine leftover veggies and chicken for soup. Throw in leftover salad greens. Toss in some carrots. Add a scoop of rice. Save leftover chili (like my Two Artists Chili) and bake it with rice the next day for a fabulous Baked Chili Casserole (pictured above). Make a fabulous Brown Sugar Meatloaf and smashed potatoes and the next day turn leftovers into a tasty pie (see below for recipes). Make a potato soup into a fish chowder the next day by adding a can of wild salmon and some frozen corn. Use leftover rice and chicken and add some garlic and frozen spinach to make my Chicken Spinach Rice Bake. And of course- the obvious favorite around here- make Mexican. Use leftover chicken, beef or turkey to make enchiladas.

Got a few more tips?

Share them in comments. We'd love to here more. And if you've blogged about your own Cooking within a Budget Tips- feel free to leave a link in the comments.

Two Gluten-Free Budget Friendly Recipes:

Gluten-free turkey meatloaf recipe with a brown sugar glaze.

Karina's Brown Sugar Glazed Turkey Meatloaf Recipe

Recipe posted March 2009.

Meatloaf gets a bad rap. I'm not sure why (it's one of the most popular entrees at the trendy Ivy restaurant in Santa Monica). And every time I make a meatloaf it is devoured with gusto. Or maybe my family is simply crazy for old fashioned comfort food. My latest variation for gluten-free meatloaf is to use cornbread to make gluten-free breadcrumbs. This makes for an amazingly flavorful and moist meatloaf that cozies up rather well to my favorite Brown Sugar Glaze.


1 3/4 lbs. ground turkey
1 small sweet or red onion, peeled
1 medium to large carrot, peeled, trimmed
3 cloves fresh peeled garlic
1/2 cup good tasting tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 organic free-range egg (or omit for egg-free and use 1 more tablespoon molasses)
3/4 cup gluten-free cornbread crumbs
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon thyme
Sea salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Put the ground turkey into a large bowl and using a fork or spoon, break it apart it a bit.

Roughly chop the onion and carrot into same sized chunks and place them into a food processor; add the garlic; pulse until the veggies are uniformly diced- fine- not too chunky; add them to the turkey. Toss lightly with a spoon or fork to quickly distribute the veggies. Add the ketchup, molasses, egg (if using), cornbread crumbs, spices and thyme. Mix it all up using a light touch; try not to over-mix it into mush (over-mixing makes for a dense loaf).

If the mixture is too dry at this point, add a little more ketchup. If it feels too wet, add more cornbread crumbs. You want a nice stick-together balance.

Spoon the meatloaf mixture into a standard size loaf pan and firmly press into place, smoothing and rounding the top of the loaf so that the sides are lower than the edge of the loaf pan (you don't want the glaze spilling over the sides later on).

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, make your brown sugar glaze.

Brown Sugar Meatloaf Glaze

This quick to stir together glaze is truly, honestly, super good.


Stir to combine:

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
2-3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
1-2 teaspoons GF honey mustard or horseradish mustard
A small pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon

At the 45 minute mark, remove the loaf from the oven.

Spoon the glaze mixture on top of the loaf.

Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F. Allow the cooked loaf to cool for ten minutes or so before slicing and serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Use leftovers for pie.

Recipe Source:

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Leftover meatloaf make fabulous Shepherd's Pie.

Easy Meatloaf Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Recipe posted March 2009.

How much meatloaf you have left over determines the amount of vegetables you add to the filling in order to stretch it to serve four. Here's a basic template.


For the filling you'll need:

Leftover meatloaf, crumbled
1/2 to 3/4 cup corn kernels
1/2 to 3/4 cup baby peas
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
A pinch of dried thyme, nutmeg and cinnamon, to taste

For the topping:

About two cups of cooked potatoes or non-mayo potato salad
Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Dill or parsley for the top


Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Place the leftover meatloaf in a bowl. Add the corn, baby peas, carrots, diced tomatoes and balsamic vinegar; mix to combine. Season with thyme, nutmeg and cinnamon, to taste. Mix and spoon into a single casserole dish or individual gratin dishes.

Top with cooked leftover mashed potatoes, or vinegar potato salad. Sprinkle with dill, sea salt and pepper.

Bake until heated through and bubbling- about 30 to 35 minutes or so (depending upon how cold the leftovers were when you assembled your pie).

Serves 4.

Recipe Source:

All images & content are copyright protected, all rights reserved. Please do not use our images or content without prior permission. Thank you. 


katrina said...

What a great post - I'm bookmarking this! And it helps to remember I'm not the only one facing higher bills on less and less income. Whew. And I'm adapting your motto to "live delicious" - with all those lovely soups, hummus, chilis, and tasty ideas and recipes. Thanks!

Nina said...

Don't get me wrong, I am not happy we're in a recession, but I find that in tough times we return to what's important. I strongly believe that cooking regularly and dining together as a family is vital. I like to think we, as a people, are doing more of this when money is tight. I am going to try some of these tips this weekend. Thanks!

Rach said...

This is a fantastic blog post - really great budget-saving tips. Thank you for it.

Gina said...

Great tips! My personal crux is simply the dining out thing - I dine out too often, and I have a weakness for going to Happy Hour with friends. Right now I'm trying to reduce the money I spend on lunch. I bring leftovers in to work when I can, and I find good deals on food when I go out. Restaurants are catering to tight budgets now too! The trick is to find restaurants that are both cheap and GF Friendly. That's what the internet is for - more ideas.

Lauren said...

Great budget saving tips! I never knew how much money you could save on Amazon. Your posts are always so timely and helpful, Karina!

I have eat on a tight budget most of the time having no income attending a private unversity. Costco saves me! Their giant bags of frozen 100% Wild Alaskan Salmon patties and Angus burgers are a great deal. Buy fatty meat (grassfed beef, nitrate-free bacon) and save the grease for cooking your veggies later. Eat a lot of cottage cheese and eggs. The most money saving tip for me is not eating anything from a package. Prepared food is so pricey!

~M said...

Thanks for the tips, Karina. Other ones that I can think of include:

- bring leftovers for lunches. We keep extra soup in single-serving mason jars in the freezer for days when there are no leftovers from the previous night. And looking at my co-workers lunches, mine are much healthier and tastier too!

- I don't prepare beans from scratch as often as I should, but they are really easy to do in the crockpot, overnight. And can be frozen in 2 cup portions (the amount in a can).

- I almost never buy from bulk bins due to cross-contamination concerns, but I am very conscious of getting the amount I need of something. In the produce section, I have the grocery store employees cut down larger items - cabbage, melons, celery - to size so I don't buy too much and then have to throw it out. At Costco, I split huge containers of food with other family members. Costco's prices for orange juice and organic eggs are especially good.

- I buy store brands of many items, especially at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Costco (Kirkland).

- Use too ripe to eat fruit - or vegetables - in smoothies! Or puree them for baked goods.

- Meal plan, if that suits your personality. I usually try to get inspired by the weekly sale flyer at the grocery store. Then I make my shopping list. My husband loves knowing what we are having for dinner that week and helps by going grocery shopping or even chopping items for the crockpot in the mornings. I typically schedule a leftovers night into my meal plan, but if none are left, we have breakfast for dinner too - usually eggs and refried beans, pancakes, or a bean stew.

- Keep a grocery sheet spreadsheet, if you live in an area with multiple stores. I have columns for Amazon (divided down to the unit price for item), Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Albertsons, Costco, and maybe some others. Now I know where to buy what item at a glance. I used to record the prices manually, but now I sometimes use my iphone to take a photo of the unit price. I also record the sale price, if/when available.

- I don't buy everything organic; for the 10-12 cleanest items, I'm cool with conventional.

- Unless there is an extenuating circumstance such as picky guests or a holiday, I almost never buy packaged "junk" food when it's not on sale. That means chips, chocolate, etc. And I don't stock up when they do go on sale; my sweet potato tortilla chips are an occasional treat.

- The last tip I can think of now: whenever I serve something with meat or fish, I have a huge portion of vegetables or salad to balance the cost and health-factor.

Keep the great tips coming, Karina! And I would love to hear about your dairy-free canned salmon chowder. Canned salmon is great nutritional bang for your buck!

Austen said...

I'm so glad you posted this. At the moment the boy and I are living with one income while I attempt to gather my life together enough to make money freelancing. This means we have been living off of lots of soups and delicious long-term concoctions.
I'm so excited about my meal tonight that I can't hold it in! My newest incarnation of my spaghetti sauce was such a success ... and it will last us for nearly a week! It uses jalapenos ... you would love it!

Now to edit photos and get some sort of post up soon ...

Thank you for all of the inspiration. You are inspiring both though your food and your paintings.

Nova said...

Great post! The only thing I have to add is to cook a batch of beans in the crockpot once a week. Dried beans are so much cheaper than canned and if you make a pound at a time you are more likely to eat them. They are so good for you too. I soak mine for a full 24 hours and then add sea salt, quartered onions I remove after cooking and minced garlic. I pull them out of the fridge for quick chili or tacos.

lolo said...

Hi there, Karina. Love your blog. I eat in most of the time now and have developed ways to save money and eat whole foods. I'm so proud of myself when I do this! I love all the comments and I have a couple more. I know many of you cannot have milk--but I can when it is cultured (good bugs!) So, I make my own yogurt. It is extremely easy, I drip it before using and add organic vanilla and raw honey for sweetener. I'm also turning over my square foot gardens for planting of greens. Lately, I've been buying whole red leaf lettuce instead of pre-washed, boxed and breaking it up and using a lettuce spinner to dry it. It is so fresh and crispy! Keep the tips coming--it's a wonderful thing. Thank you!

Carrie said...

YOU are just SO daggone creative Karina.. and I am always on a budget, and I love meatloaf... win win win!! ;-) (oh yeah, and i love brown sugar) lol

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Your meatloaf sounds delicious. Using leftover cornbread as bread crumbs would definitely add moisture and richness to the turkey. I'm bookmarking!

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks, Everyone for your feedback and wonderful budget stretching tips. I hope the conversation continues.

Be sure and check out the two links in the post- for Twitter and Food Blogs- they'll take you to more tips and ideas.

Be well!


toolprincess said...

I tried this meatloaf recipe tonight. It was delicious. I love the brown sugar glaze.


Guest said...

I may be a bit behind with my advice... but I only just read the column.

I save kitchen scraps to make broth. Basically when ever I peel a carrot, potato, onion, etc. I throw the scraps in a freezer bag that I keep adding to. About everything works, but don't include anything that moldy or going off.

For general baking I tend to use whatever gluten free flour is the cheapest. In my neighborhood that's sorghum flour.

I've only just become gluten free (6 months and counting!) and I turn to your blog for most of my baking needs. Thanks for having such delicious and reliable recipes.


Recent undefined:=-

Marisa said...

I would say instead of buying those gluten free mixes on Amazon for "cheap", I go to my local Asian and Middle Eastern stores and get a pound of tapioca starch or potato starch for only 69 cents! Rice flour, millet flour, sorghum, beans, split peas, lentils, and Turkish chickpeas (the best for hummus) are all a steal. Make your own flour mixes. The pre-packaged ones are usually just starch anyway, not that great for you.

Anonymous said...

Just made this meatloaf tonight and it saved us from our menu boredom!! It was delicious although my GF hubby and I thought the sauce was a bit sweet for us. Maybe add some chili powder. Also, my family of five likes leftovers so I added a pound of turkey sausage and adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. My hubby made a GF sandwich out of this that looked fit for a blog post! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Great list! I would add this one: Rice, its the thing to eat when you want 2000 of something. Brown rice, long-grain rice, sushi rice, basmati rice, black rice, risotto. Even expensive fancy heirloom rice goes a long way.


Shauna said...

One tip I didn't see mentioned was starting an herb garden. They take very little effort, almost no money to start if one buys seeds initially, but can really add something to a meal. And growing them ourselves, we know for certain that they are not CC with gluten.

Trish said...

I made a turkey meatloaf a few weeks ago that was AMAZING! It actually was gluten-free, and there were no breadcrumbs. It used about 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa. I would have never thought to use quinoa in place of a bread crumb, but it works. I found the recipe from (you can just do a search for Quinoa Turkey Meatloaf I believe). I can't have beef per my AB blood type diet, but you can't even tell that you're eating turkey really. It also had a brown sugar glaze. I just used a bit of molasses and xylitol to keep it healthier and mostly sugar-free. I love your idea of recycling the meatloaf into a shepherd's pie. How innovative. :-)


Rachel said...

I love this Brown Sugar Turkey Meatloaf, I literally want to make a new recipe from your blog everynight! I LOVE them. (I'm averaging about one every 2-3 days:) )

Sue B. said...

I have a friend who always says "making do is nothing new". Being budget-minded when cooking does not preclude a delicious outcome. Thanks so much for the tips!

vanc said...

One tip re beans - pressure cookers are great! and fast. for rice too.
If you need to eat grass-fed beef etc (and the farm-raised stuff is scary bad) then find someone you know in farm country and arrange to buy a cow with other like-minded individuals
In season/on sale vegetables can be the inspiration for a meal. I like the idea of shopping from a list, but I actually find I spend less if I go to the store with an open mind and see what's cheap and build a meal from there.
Don't buy produce you don't know what you're going to use it for - often times this ends up as expensive compost.
Freeze fruit that's going bad if you're not going to get to it in time - makes for good smoothies.
Make two dinners when you're making one - saves time, saves you from those nights when you don't want to cook and go out instead, saves drudgery -and always make enough for left-overs.
Eat less.
Drink water not juice.
Pick your own.
Grow your own.
Can/preserve/freeze when things are cheap/in season.

Anonymous said...

I started gluten-free eating only 4 days ago and wanted to say thank-you for this tremendously helpful website. It is rare to have the web-master (in this case, mistress) actually answer questions in a timely and most helpful manner. Another thing I appreciate is the printer-friendly version of recipes and lists. I especially thank you for being so aware of the expense involved in the new ingredients and/or mixes and products that have to be bought to live this new lifestyle. My digestive issues have not been definitively diagnosed so this is a trial run for me to get to the bottom of what has been going on for 6 years or so. After reading Dr. Ken Fine's entire website, I feel that going gluten-free may be an answer for me. I am so grateful for sources such as yours in helping to make the change.

Claire said...

Just stumbled around on your blog today and I'm SO glad to have found you!

I'm a recent GF-eater (and have always had a dairy intolerance and severe peanut allergies, so I'm all kinds of fun), and I'm getting a little bored with my simple GF staples. I miss cooking! This blog is fabulous and super helpful. Keep up the yummy dishes!


jodi said...

Thank you for this post! I am diabetic and celiac and these recipes work for both!

I second eating more potatoes - they are quick to boil up and throw together with some mustard seed dressing, olives, an egg, type of protein and assorted veggies on hand for an impromptu nicoise salad!

Heather Brandt said...

Can you suggest a source for safe, gluten-free dried beans? I think of them as a frugal staple for my pantry but have had trouble easily finding any.

Gluten-Free Goddess eBook on iTunes