Easy, Frugal, Gluten-Free Meal Planning Ideas
How To Eat Gluten Free - Easily
Eating gluen-free is easier now than ever before. A decade ago, most people had never heard of gluten, let alone the gluten-free diet. Now, thanks to famous food bloggers like the Gluten Free Girl and paleo food writers like Nom Nom Paleo, gluten-free has gone mainstream. Food options for gluten-free families have also improved, with a vast selection of gluten free breads, cookies, pastas, granola bars, and more - and these GF foods actually taste great!
One thing that hasn't changed all too much is the price of gluten-free foods. GF substitutes are often twice as expensive as their wheat containing counterparts. As a result, meal planning is essential if you need or want to eat gluten free, but have to keep an eye on your budget. Meal planning is used to save money, waste less food, and take the stress out of making dinner each night.
The good news is, gluten free meal planning is only really a challenge at first. Once you have a handle on the gluten-free diet and have a repertoire of a few standard gluten-free meals under your belt, gluten-free meal planning is no more difficult than regular meal planning.
If planning for an entire week is intimidating for you, try a smaller chunk of the week, like two or three days. Once you get a handle on smaller chunks, try different strategies and see what works best for your family!
Gluten-Free Breakfast Ideas
Breakfast is a grab-and-go in many households. Kids grab cereal, adults grab coffee and a slice of toast. Gluten-free breakfasts are just the same, and there are a range of options from sugary cereal to a hearty plate of eggs and bacon.
Simple breakfast ideas include:
- A piece of fruit with nut butter and raisins.
- A cup of yogurt or kefir
- Muffins made with almond flour
- A hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper. If you boil 6 or 8 eggs at a time, you can keep them in the fridge for about a week. If you take your egg to work, you don't even have to wrap it - just toss it (gently) in your bag
- Pre-packaged items like Justin Butter packets and granola bars
Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas
A gluten-free lunch is just as easy as a gluten-free breakfast. Easy lunches might include:
- Chicken breast or rotisserie chicken, cut into chunks.
- Salad, with chicken or a hard-boiled egg, diced cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce/spinach, green peppers, red peppers... whatever is on hand.
- Apple slices and peanut butter, or almond butter.
- Gluten-free granola bars or trail mix.
- Leftovers. Any kind of leftovers are delicious for lunch. Just make a little too much for dinner, and toss the rest into a transportable container. Stir fry, chili, lasagna, etc.
- Deli meats and cheeses, rolled.
- Hummus with veggies and rice crackers.
- A sandwich on gluten-free bread or a bagel
- An assortment of salami, cheese and olives
Inspiration from around the web:
Pack Your Lunch in a Bento!
Bentos are equally fun for kids and adults. The traditional Japanese art of lunch making is starting to catch on in America. Parents and kids love the adorable bento boxes and accessories, and it's proven that kids actually eat more if their food is presented in a pleasing way. If you don't have a bento box, any shallow container with a lid will do.
Bento packing is a great way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet! If you have to fill a one-inch spot in your bento, stuffing it with a few cucumbers slices or a couple cherry tomatoes is the perfect solution. Bentos are also an excellent way to pack leftovers for lunch.
Simple Gluten-Free Dinners
The great thing about gluten-free dinners is they are usually indistinguishable from regular dinners. If you make a meal that is "naturally" gluten free (meaning there are no subsitutions, like gluten-free pasta for regular pasta), nobody will even comment. Chili topped with cheese, avocados, green onions and diced tomato, for example is a perfectly healthy, budget-friendly, and gluten-free meal. You can easily make cornbread to go with it that is gluten-free, either from a mix or from scratch.
Naturally gluten-free meals:
- Kebabs on the grill
- Quesedillas with corn tortillas
- Big salads with optional meat or eggs (Cobb salad, for example)
- Pot roast with carrots, potatoes and onions
- Any type of meat or fish paired with a veggie side dish or two
Substituting gluten-free products into meals is a very easy way to cook gluten-free. Gluten-free pasta, lasagne noodles, Asian rice noodles, bread, breadcrumbs, and more are easily available in every grocery store. Just keep in mind that gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthy: A huge bowl of gluten-free pasta is just as full of processed carbohydrates, and perhaps more full of them, as a bowl of wheat pasta. Wheat products contain a lot of fiber and protein, which gluten-free substitues often lack. Your tummy may thank you for a gluten-free meal, but you need to be extra conscious about the nutrition of gluten-free products.
Gluten-free meals with substitutions:
- Spaghetti and meatballs
- Pasta with pesto and veggies
- Grilled cheese and tomato soup
- Tacos or taco bowls
- Cheeseburgers,veggie burgers, hot dogs or sausages with gluten-free buns
- Asian stir-fry
- Homemade chicken nuggets with gluten-free bread crumbs (or flour)
- Fish sticks made the same way, or Fish 'n Chips
How easy is it to eat gluten free?
Jump Right In!
If you are nervous about cooking gluten-free, I hope this Hub has inspired you to go out there and do it! You may end up eating fewer baked treats and bread, but that is probably a good thing. If you're a good baker already, the challenge of gluten-free baking should appeal to you. If you have great recipes, time-saving strategies or more budget-friendly ideas, please post in the comments!