Gluten Free and Hating it!

Yeah, it’s rough. Our whole family has had a an intolerance to wheat, now known as the gluten element.

What is gluten free? Wikipedia explains it in a nutshell: Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture.

So, gluten free diets are free of that stuff!

Our first brush with the ravages of gluten…

When Joe was a baby, 28 years ago, he was plagued with ear infections, and lived on antibiotics for about 7 months. He was scheduled for tubes in his ears. As a last ditch resort, I took him to an alternative medicine doctor who basically took away his wheat cracker, and gave him a rice cake.

Three days later… What??? No ear infections?!?!?!? He’s happy. He’s smiling! There’s my boy!

The sweet church nursery ladies felt sorry for him that he had to eat rice cakes, and wanted him to be able to eat saltines like the other babies. I said, “Go ahead. Give him some. But just for fun, watch his nose start to run.”  They were flabber-gasted! They switched all the kids to rice cakes, and saved a boatload on Kleenex!

Now, my youngest, Christian at age 21, has all kinds of problems with gluten, but let’s talk about me! I retain water, get achy joints, big time sinus trouble…. and the list goes on. My husband Greg is gluten intolerant too, but he prefers to live in denial, and hasn’t crossed over to the dark side… yet!

Why do I HATE it??? A gluten free diet can be so expensive, you’ll need a second job to pay for it. But wait! I’ve made some observations, and starting to break it down…

What is gluten free? And how can you save?

Gluten Free is expensive when:

  • You try to eat Italian food, AKA pasta or pizza, substitutions for yummy carbs that are not naturally gluten free. We’re used to paying 25-50 cents for a box of pasta on sale with coupons, or even free!  Never four bucks! I may as well take on new car payment! Sheesh!
  • You just want a sandwich or a burger! I’ve learned that gluten free flour is actually gold dust, and Fort Knox now has loaves of gluten free bread in place of gold bars. I’ve even made it in my bread machine, but the stupid gluten free flour is outrageous! And WHAT is that crumbly mess that was supposed to be bread?

Alright, forgive me for the rant…

I HAVE uncovered some solutions …

Gluten free is affordable and even cheap when:

  • Most of your gluten free foods are unadulterated as God intended (not substitutions or copies of glutenous foods)
  • Your carbs are mostly potatoes and brown rice, which are naturally gluten free and super cheap!
  • You buy mainstream groceries that are already gluten free, but not necessarily labeled as such, because they can’t guarantee that nothing accidently got in there. Here, it depends on how intolerant you are. So far, we’re fine with some mainstream granola bars, corn tortillas, or Fritos, for example. Read the labels and find one that works. Then use a coupon when it’s on sale and stock up!
  • You know where to find the substitutes at the best price! This is where it pays off to do some scouting around, as inventory and prices vary from place to place.

Sprouts has a huge inventory of gluten free. Hop into any department, and gluten free items have their own great big shelf tags, “Gluten Free” and lots of it, but still mostly very expensive. Of course, I stocked up on some $1.89 salad dressings and a few other pantry items on sale. I also fell for some over-priced pasta.

There’s a maze of info on the web on gluten free. Sprouts gives away a great little purse size booklet, sort of the cliff notes on gluten free living. Ask for it at checkout.

Back to my Vons, a Safeway supermarket… Their inventory on gluten free is about 1% of what Sprouts has. But wait, there’s more… I found two brands of gluten free pasta for $2.99 a box, as cheap or cheaper than Sprouts!

I AM finding money saving delicious solutions for those of us surviving and thriving as gluten free, and I promise to share it.

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