My very first non-recipe post. I have had this blog for almost a full year. Woohoo! It's only been gluten free since June, 2019, though. So going gluten free very suddenly and very thoroughly (as in no cheat days allowed over here), is still very fresh in my head space and in my home. This is my guide from someone who is currently experiencing this life change for how to go gluten free easily and on a budget. And trust me, it's not as scary or difficult as it sounds!
Pin and save for later!
Why to go Gluten Free
So let me preface this by saying, I am not a doctor. At all. I don't even have any aspirations to be a doctor. I am, however, a mom to a 4 year old little girl who started having severe stomach pains, hours of burping, constipation, visible bloating, and nausea just to name a few symptoms around Christmas of 2018 (this time last year).
She got x-rays, blood work, a physical, and of course a test for just about every food intolerance. BINGO! There it was - severely intolerant to gluten and very sensitive to casein (a protein found in dairy). I started a food journal and everything for her just to figure all of this out. Every time this poor girl would eat a single bite of toast all of the sudden she was groaning about stomach pain, she couldn't stop burping, her stomach was visibly distended, and I was trying to comfort her while not imagining the worst.
What does this all mean? Well, we went gluten free the very day the test was done and we got the results. I think you should always talk to a doctor before starting a drastic diet like this one. But if you are having any of these symptoms, start a food journal. Bring it with you to the doctor and explain, with evidence, why you think you need to go on a diet like this one or at least get some tests done.
We don't know if my daughter has full on celiacs yet. We are still on this journey. But what I have found is that going gluten free does not always equal healthy living. You have to be careful, read labels, and not just assume the label "gluten free" equates to "healthy." That would be like assuming "fruit snack" are as healthy as fresh fruit. Just nope. But otherwise, it's a fairly simple change that we think has changed our diets and lives for the better, because it does lead you towards foods that are naturally healthier.
What foods to avoid when Gluten Free
There are foods to always avoid when you are gluten free because, well, they contain gluten. Let's break them down:
- Wheat, Barley, Rye, and Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
- Oats can be up for debate- They are naturally gluten free but most of the time are processed in a facility with gluten. We tend to play it safe and get the Aldi's Live G Free brand of certified gluten free rolled oats.
- Different names for wheat to watch out for:
- Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Kamut, Spelt
It may all seem like a lot to remember, but trust me, I don't remember all of these things every time I go shopping. When I look at a label I scan it for the allergens in bold at the bottom. (you learn to see the "gluten free" label really fast) If it says "contains" or even "may contain" wheat then definitely skip out on it. If it doesn't say that, then look through the ingredient list or ding ding ding!! you have the world in your pocket. Look up that product quick and ask google if it contains gluten.
These days it's actually become fairly easy to go gluten free because most things have a gluten free label somewhere on them, even the things that don't need it. Eggs are naturally gluten free (face palm). Be careful not to pay extra for things that obviously won't have gluten in them.
That being said, be careful with things like - breading, seasonings, things with vinegar (ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce, pickles... etc.), and sauces. These all can contain gluten where you wouldn't expect it.
Best Place to Buy Gluten Free
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click and buy, I may make a commission at no cost to you. See my policy for more information.
The easiest way to go gluten free without any extra effort and while staying super cost efficient is by doing it with Thrive Market. This membership is super affordable and honestly made every stress I had about how to go gluten free melt away. With thrive market you can shop for everything you need right under "gluten free diet." All your gluten free shopping in one easy place.
Is Thrive Market worth the Membership?
The best part about a Thrive Market membership is the savings. Like MAJOR savings. Get up to $20 in shopping credit when you purchase a Thrive Market Membership! (1 month, 3 month, and 1 year memberships available). The membership itself is super affordable and Thrive guarantees that you will make your membership cost back in savings. Most people make it back within two orders. The cool part? They will reimburse you the difference of whatever you don't make back. That's how great they are. So not only do they have the option to shop only gluten free foods (such a time saver and stress relief), they make it extremely affordable. Everything they sell is sold at wholesale prices. This is major in the gluten free world especially where everything tends to be a little more pricey.
Needless to say, we order a lot from Thrive Market every month. Things like ketchup, pickles, mustard, and even vitamins (yep, even vitamins and supplements can be hiding gluten in the fillers). Thrive makes it easy by showing you gluten free without you having to hunt it down.
What foods you CAN eat when gluten free
This is the part that really makes the difference. If you have plenty of gluten free foods you like stocked up in your kitchen, you honestly won't notice that you've even gone gluten free.
Foods to stock up on and eat when you are going gluten free:
- Protein like meats, fish, or tofu.
- Things made with potatoes, corn, or corn flour have become a norm for us (ex: plain corn tortilla chips, plain potato chips, things like veggie straws or chickpea cheeto puffs, pop corn... etc.)
If you want to be healthy while figuring out how to go gluten free, remember that simply avoiding gluten doesn't always make the diet healthy. Most of the gluten free processed and pre-made foods out there still have unhealthy fillers and ingredients. The same living healthy and balanced rules apply. Eat lots of fruits, veggies, and protein, and when going for dessert (which IS a part of a healthy diet so don't stop treating yourself) think of things like ice cream or sorbet.
Once again, Thrive Market wins and has tons of gluten free groceries and options. One of our favorite finds- their sugar free (gluten free) Ketchup. Did you know that ketchup has more sugar in it than a chocolate chip cookie? Yeah it shocked me too, but they sneak it in. Well Thrive's Primal Ketchup doesn't and it tastes incredible. That's just one example!
How to actually go Gluten Free easily
Alright, so finally, now that the technicals are out of the way and we are all on the same page, let's talk about how to actually do this whole process.
My simple advice- donate or give away everything in your pantry with gluten first. If it's there, you'll either cave and eat it because you are used to it, or you won't have space for what you need in your new diet and things can get confusing.
Get rid of it all. Once you have purged, you can go shopping for your new gluten free diet. Break it down by meals and don't forget snacks. Make sure it's all stuff you love to eat anyways. You will soon get used to buying specific brands that you trust, looking for the right ingredients in the blink of an eye... etc. Honestly, to make this jump you need to trust yourself to be creative and make it work. Shop from places like Thrive Market and make it easier and less complicated.
If you have kiddos and are going gluten free with/for them, the best tip I have is to always have a gluten free snack they like on hand especially when you are going out. It can be really hard for them to see other kids eating snack they can't have anymore. So a good way to make sure they never feel left out or upset about it (at least not too much), is to make sure you have something similar for them that is gluten free.
Another amazing resource for getting gluten free foods to keep your life happy and sane is Three Bakers Gluten Free Bakery. If you just need those breads, pizza doughs, buns, etc. you have to try out Three Bakers stuff. Not only are they a great resource for gluten free baked goods, they have articles on healthy eating and even more resources for gluten free life on their blog.
How to keep it on a budget
Last but not least, gluten free can be expensive right? I've already mentioned how much money (and sanity) Thrive Market can save. Beyond that to help you save even more, this is my super simple and straightforward advice on this point: don't replace, remove. Don't replace bread with super expensive gluten free bread. Trust me, we used to eat sandwiches every day for lunch almost so I know this may seem daunting. Now, instead we eat tasty chicken salads, lettuce wraps, soups, and honestly a lot of leftovers. But not sandwiches. Our gluten free breads have become treats we buy rarely. So instead of thinking about how much more expensive gluten free versions are, don't replace- remove.
Try some of our favorite gluten free recipes so you can see how painless and actually tasty this process is- no weird, unheard of ingredients:
- 3 Ingredient Brownies
- Gluten Free Cornbread Muffins
- Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust
- Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chocolate Coconut Bread
- Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi
If you want this broken down into a full shopping list, we have our Gluten Free Shopping List of ideas broken down meal by meal including snacks and desserts and which stores they can be found at. Check it out!