Gluten Free Without Breaking the Bank

Here’s a fun fact anybody who follows a gluten free diet is well aware of: living gluten free is expensive. It just is. No matter which way you slice it, a life free of beloved wheat, rye and barley is not only more difficult but it absolutely kills your wallet.

Since most of us gluten free folks try to minimize our meals out as to avoid cross-contamination and accidental “glutening”, we find ourselves frantically searching the aisles of our local grocery store for gluten free ingredients to prepare our own meals at home. And as the cashier rings us up at the check-out line, we sigh and take out our debit cards, nostalgic for the days of buy-one get-one-free loaves of bread and crackers that cost less than $5 per box.

So what can we do about it? What can we eat that keeps us healthy and doesn’t break the bank?

First, start with the basics: meat, fruits and veggies. All three of these things are naturally gluten free, and staples of a healthy diet anyway! Sure, it may cost a little more to purchase fruit than a box of Oreos, but in the long run your body will thank you and you won’t find yourself getting sick anymore. Meat is a staple of gluten free living in our household. We always have chicken, ground beef and shrimp in the freezer, ready at a moment’s notice for a night of grilling or homemade tacos! (With corn tortillas, of course!)

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You know what else is naturally gluten free? Nuts, eggs and cheese. Looking for a quick snack but not willing to splurge on a $6 box of gluten free crackers? No problem; buy yourself a bag of nuts. Grab yourself some fresh cheese and pop a few cubes whenever you need a snack. Cook up some scrambled eggs in the morning for a quick and delicious gluten free breakfast.

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For those times when you are really craving some delicious carbs, don’t shy away from using coupons! The sting of a $5 bag of bread or $6 box of muffins (4 per pack) won’t hurt quite as much when you can save a buck or two by simply using a coupon. Sign up for emails and promotions from some of the best gluten free companies out there like Rudis, Udi, and Glutino all offer coupons for email subscribers!

Grab a big bag of gluten free flour and prep your favorite snacks from scratch! There are some awesome gluten free flours out there, but many have a price tag to match. (Cup 4 Cup, I’m talking about you) I’ve had some of my best luck with brands like Pamela’s and Bob’s Red Mill. These can easily be substituted for regular flour in almost any recipe and don’t carry the hefty price tag that others do. Not sure what to whip up? Check out Pinterest for some fantastic gluten free recipe inspiration or start following a few gluten free blogs online.
When you really want some delicious processed gluten free food (and let’s face it, we all crave it from time to time), try shopping online. Vitacost.com regularly offers some amazing deals on gluten free products and every order over $50 ships for free. Do yourself a favor and get yourself an Amazon Prime account and enjoy the benefits of free 2-day shipping every time you order some gluten free goodies.

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I won’t sugar coat it for you: you absolutely will spend more money living a gluten free lifestyle. Your friend’s hamburger will almost inevitably cost lot less than the salad you ordered because nothing else on the menu was gluten free. So cook at home as much as you can, saving you the frustration of pricey gluten free menus or places where you might get accidently glutened. And try some of these money saving tricks next time you hit up your local grocery store!

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These are a few of my favorite things

When I first went gluten free, like most gf newbies, I had a hard time navigating the gluten free world. I never knew which items to choose at the grocery store. Would those crackers be good or would they taste like cardboard? Honestly, for years I just avoided most gluten free substitutes altogether and gave up things like bread, pasta, bagels and crackers. It wasn’t until I moved in with my husband and started cooking for two of us that I realized he wouldn’t stand for that way of living. And once he was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance in March (aren’t we just made for each other?!), I really stepped up my game.

This is a list of a few of my favorite gluten free products. This list is in no way endorsed by any of these companies. And I am sure there are TONS of products out there that I still have yet to try. I’m sure this list will evolve over time, but for now, here are some of my faves:

Favorite Gluten Free Bread & Bread Mixes

Chebe Bread Mix – Chebe might be the one gluten free product I absolutely could not live without. From all purpose bread mix, to cheese bread to pizza crust and cinnamon rolls – all of their mixes are incredibly delicious and simple to make. Best of all, your non gluten free guests or family members will love everything you make just as much as you do! Just as my husband, who was addicted to my Buffalo Chicken Calzone with Chebe Cheese Bread LONG before he went gluten free himself. Chebe is hard to find in Mississippi, so I always order it online from Amazon or Vitacost.

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Schar Ciabatta Rolls – These are fantastic because you can keep them in your freezer and just pull a couple out at a time whenever you want to add dinner rolls to your meal! It saves you from having to make an entire mix (perfect for a household with only 2 people like ours) and saves prep time on busy evenings. Like Chebe, Schar is hard for me to find in Mississippi, so I always order it online.

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Udi’s Sandwich Bread – What can I say about Udi’s other than it is just delicious. Of all the gluten free breads I have tried, Udi’s is my absolute favorite when it comes to sandwiches. It holds up as you toast it, or add heaps of meat and cheese to it, and it tastes the most like gluten-filled bread (in my opinion). Udi’s has always been easy for me to find at my local grocery store.

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Favorite Gluten Free Flour

Cup4Cup – This flour is the rockstar of gluten free flours, in my opinion. It could not be easier to substitute gluten free flour for regular flour in any recipe whenever you use Cup4Cup. That being said, this awesomeness does come with a price tag. (Usually about $20/bag). I buy mine at Williams Sonoma.

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Bob’s Red Mill – When you’re not feeling the hefty price tag on Cup4Cup, Bob’s Red Mill is an awesome gluten free flour mix as well. And it’s usually pretty easy to find. I buy mine at Fresh Market.

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Favorite Gluten Free Pancake Mix

Ad-Hoc – I am obsessed with this pancake mix, as evident by this post from earlier this year. But, just like Cup4Cup flour, Ad-Hoc gluten free pancake mix comes at a price. So we usually save this mix just for special ocassions. I first discovered this mix at Williams Sonoma.

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Pamela’s Pancake Mix – When I am still craving delicious gluten free pancakes, but not loving the price tag on Ad-Hoc, check out Pamela’s. My husband is the ultimate pancake critic, and while he swears by Ad-Hoc, he really likes Pamela’s as well. Pamela’s is pretty easy to locate – you should be able to find it in your local grocery store or Fresh Market.

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Favorite Gluten Free Cookies

Tate’s Chocolate Chip – I hadn’t tried these cookies until recently, but boy am I glad that I did. These cookies are crunchy, which I normally don’t like in a cookie, but the flavor is INCREDIBLE. I found mine at Fresh Market.

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Glutino Chocolate Creme – This is my favorite gluten free “Oreo” substitute. As soon as a package of these makes it into our house, it is usually gone within a couple of days. They are just so hard to resist! I’ve always had an easy time finding these at the grocery store or Fresh Market.

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Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – Making gluten free cookies usually takes time. Trust me, it’s usually worth it because they’re so fluffy and delicious when they come out of the oven, but there are times when I am just craving one or two cookies and don’t feel like making a whole batch. With Pillsbury’s new cookie dough, you can have freshly baked cookies anytime you’re craving them – in small or large batches! It makes life so so much easier! And it definitely doesn’t hurt that they taste so good. Plus, you can find it in your local grocery store!

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Try combining the Pillsbury Cookie Dough with the Glutino Chocolate Creme cookies… You end up with a heavenly combination that looks a little bit like this:

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Favorite Gluten Free Breakfast Items

Glutino Bagels – Oh my goodness, these bagels are heavenly. They are so good I could eat them every single day! My one pet peeve about these bagels is that they are not pre-cut. And since I keep mine in the freezer, I usually have to defrost one a little then, try to cut it before I can even toast it. When you’re running out the door on the way to work in the morning, that extra step for cutting can be super frustrating.

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Udi’s Blueberry Muffins – I think my husband is starting a fan club about these muffins. There’s really not much to say other than just try them. You won’t be disappointed. I haven’t tried the chocolate or lemon flavored muffins, but I am sure they are delicious as well! Udi’s products are typically pretty fantastic.

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Favorite Gluten Free Snacks

Goldfish Puffs – I am so grateful to Pepperidge Farm for this incredible gift to the gluten free world! Goldfish Puffs are SO delicious, you wouldn’t even know they were gluten free. In fact, if it weren’t for the tiny GLUTEN FREE label by the nutrition facts on the back of the package, you might not have known anyway. I’ve always been surprised that Goldfish doesn’t market this product better to the gluten free community.

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Snyder’s Gluten Free Pretzels – That’s right, your favorite pretzel brand is now available in a gluten free version! And did I mention it is delicious?! We can’t find these pretzels in stores around here so I order them from Vitacost online.

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Glutino Bagel Chips – These little jokers are sneaky delicious. I mean it, I guarantee you can’t eat just one. Or twenty. It’s crazy how fast a bowl of these will disappear!

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Favorite Gluten Free Beers

Bard’s – I first tried this in Austin and I’ve been wishing I could get my hands on more of it ever since. Unfortunately, there’s no place in MS to get my hands on a bottle of this delicious goodness. But I keep an eye out for it whenever I travel!

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Redbridge – Super easy to find, even in Mississippi, I’ve grown to love Redbridge. I usually purchase it at Fresh Market, but in bigger cities I’m sure you could find it all over the place.

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Omission – To be clear, Omission is a Gluten-Reduced Beer. Not Gluten Free. So if you have Celiac, I don’t recommend this beer for you. But I’ve tried it (and loved it!) and been fortunate enough to not have any reaction to it. Unfortunately, Omission is like Bard’s. Tough to find in Mississippi. But I’ve got my eyes open for it every time I hit the road!

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What do you love? Are any of these gluten free favorites on YOUR list?

Eating Gluten Free in Jackson, MS

I get a lot of requests from friends, co-workers, customers, random people at the grocery store… All of them sound a little bit like this, “My friend is coming to town and she is gluten free. What restaurants do you recommend I take her to?” or “My cousin’s son just got diagnosed with a gluten allergy. Where are some good places in Jackson that he can eat at?”

The bottom line is people who are gluten free still love to go out to eat. They just don’t usually know the best places to go. Or they’re nervous about trying the food on new gluten free menus. Will it be any good? Will it even be worth the money or should they just stick with a salad?

I’ve been living in Jackson for almost four years now. In that time, I’ve eaten countless dinners out and I have watched restaurants add gluten free items to their menus – and others add completely gluten free menus! Since I travel so much for work, I know that Jackson is by no means a “Gluten Free Friendly” city. There are still not THAT MANY places to eat at. However, we do have some FANTASTIC restaurants in town that are definitely worth checking out.

So I wanted to put together a list of my favorite places. Keep in mind, all opinions below are completely my own. If your sister-in-law’s mother’s neighbor had a terrible experience at one of these restaurants that I love, I’m so sorry for her. If you or someone you know had a wonderful experience somewhere that I don’t particularly love, that’s okay too! Tell me about it! I love hearing about any great gluten free experience at a restaurant in Jackson.

Here are some of my favorites in the area:

Top 3 Gluten Free Pizzas in Jackson

Biaggis – The gluten free pizza is not only delicious here, but it is big enough that you can easily share with someone else or bring home leftovers for lunch the next day! And the crust won’t get all soggy and weird on day 2. It reheats extremely well.

Mellow Mushroom – I love that Mellow Mushroom lets you customize your pizza with any toppings you want. The downside here is the ONLY gluten free thing on the menu is the pizza. Try not to be jealous of the people at the table next to you munching on their delicious “gluteny” hot pretzel appetizer.

– Dominos – I actually LOVE Gluten Free pizza from Dominos. If you are super sensitive to gluten, do not order from here though. They make no guarantees that there won’t be cross-contamination during the preparation process. But if you’re not as sensitive, be sure to order one sometime! I know people how actually prefer it to the regular crust!
*Note – Since this was originally posted in July, I had my first bad Domino’s experience. You can read about it here if you’re interested. My husband still risks it once in awhile when I am out of town, but I haven’t been back since*

Skip the Trip: Pie Works in Madison – I actually just visited Pie Works in Madison last week for the first time in years, after hearing that they added gluten free pizza crust to their menu! However, I was extremely disappointed when my pizza was served undercooked – and with a whopping $18 price tag. For that much, it better be one heck of a pizza!

Top 3 Gluten Free Pasta Dishes in Jackson

Bravo! – This is hands down my favorite restaurant in town to get a gluten free pasta dish! It might be because I’m pretty much obsessed with their Gluten Free Bruschetta appetizer. (Not pasta, I know, but oh boy is it delicious!)

Biaggis – What a fantastic gluten free pasta menu here! Order penne or spaghetti noodles and choose from a variety of sauces. They will even make gluten free mac and cheese! (It’s delicious I might add)

– Homemade – There may be another restaurant in Jackson with Gluten Free pasta, but if there is, I have not heard about it (or tried it) yet! When we want really good pasta, we make it at home. We recently discovered that we prefer corn-based noodles to rice-based noodles. Why? They’re not as sticky, they don’t leave that really weird white gooey residue on all of your pots and pans, and they taste more like the real thing! (Again, personal preference!)

Top 3 Gluten Free Desserts in Jackson

– Bravo! – I know, Bravo! tops the list again, but this place really is incredible. Their peanut butter pie with pecan crust is INSANE. I mean it will leave you desperate to come back for more. (Not that you could probably finish your first piece, it’s so rich and delicious!)

Bonefish Grill – Their gluten free chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream is ridiculously delicious. I cannot eat here without ordering this dessert – no matter how full I am after dinner. It’s worth every calorie.

Local 463 – Their menu features a flourless chocolate cake that tastes just like the real thing. I mean it – this is a GREAT cake.

Bonus: Campbell’s Bakery in Fondren offers Gluten Free items every day of the week! One of the best (if not the VERY best) bakery in the state of Mississippi, they don’t mess around when it comes to gluten free. They’ve featured everything from cookies and brownies to cupcakes!

Best Place to get a Gluten Free Sandwich

Jason’s Deli – Hands down, Jason’s Deli tops the list as my favorite place to get a gluten free sandwich. Made with Udi’s gluten free bread, you choose what you want in your sandwich and they deliver it to your table in its own individual wrapper with a “Gluten Free” sticker. The entire process not only makes you feel good about what you’re eating, but there’s free ice cream at the end of every meal! What a great bonus!

Sweet Peppers – I was pleasantly surprised with Sweet Peppers recently added a Gluten Free bread to their sandwich selection. Made with Udi’s as well, the sandwiches are definitely delicious. Just know that Sweet Peppers employees don’t seem to have as great of an understanding of “Gluten Free” as those at Jason’s Deli. Though I’m sure they will learn quickly!

Place I desperately wish would go Gluten Free: Newk’s. I still love Newk’s, as they have some of the best salads around, in my opinion. Plus their to-go cups are the bomb dot com! However, with so many delicious pizzas and sandwiches on the menu, it sure would be awesome if they could cater to the gluten free community a little more.

Jason’s Deli is the bomb dot com

For those of you who are gluten-free and love to eat out like I do, you will probably agree that lunch is the most difficult meal of the day. Let’s face it, you can only eat so many salads without croutons before you contemplate taking that salad fork to your eye and stabbing yourself. Okay, that may have been a little dramatic, but you get my point. I mean, don’t you sometimes just eye your co-workers deli sandwich or pizza in envy and think about cheating, just a little bit? But then you remember the days of sickness that will likely plague you from that gluten-filled misstep and think better of it… Then carry on eating your salad or bun-less hamburger.

This is why I have to thank the heavens for Jason’s Deli.

Oh my goodness how I love Jason’s Deli! And their wonderfully delicious sandwiches made with Udi’s Gluten Free bread! Sure, I could bring a loaf of bread to work myself and make my own deli sandwiches. But I know that it wouldn’t be as delicious as the incredible sandwich I had yesterday at Jason’s Deli.

Take a look at this masterpiece:

Piles of Turkey and Cheese - and that DELICIOUS Gluten-Free Bread!  Yum!

Piles of Turkey and Cheese – and that DELICIOUS Gluten-Free Bread! Yum!

Now THAT is a sandwich! And even better, their gluten-free sandwiches come wrapped up and labeled with a cute sticker explaining their preparation. I love this place. Tell the manager that I am thinking of moving in.

Other restaurants take note: Jason’s Deli has it going on. Can’t wait to go back again!

A Little Remodel

Have you ever felt like you just need a little change? Just something to spruce things up a bit?

I’ve been feeling that way lately so I decided to do a little office remodel. Nothing major. Just some spring cleaning and some minor redecorating. I wanted things to feel a little more “homey”. I wanted it to be the kind of office you WANT to have a meeting in. Know what I mean?

So I started with our busted up Keurig. Yes, we had two Keurigs at the house (weddings will do that for you). I brought the older version of the two into the office. You know, the one that makes the most noice and sometimes needs to be unplugged and plugged back in for it to work properly. I’m sure you’ve all had a Keurig like this at one point in it’s lifetime. I knew the Keurig needed a cute little table. So I found one at HomeGoods. Goodness, that place is amazing.

But once I was in HomeGoods, I couldn’t go back! I found two chairs that were just too perfect and too comfortable to leave behind! The BELONGED in my office! They were calling out to me! Before I knew it, I was calling one of my co-workers to meet me at HomeGoods with our company van (my car was too small for these chairs) so we could move these beautiful chairs into my office. Seriously, how great are my co-workers?!

Then I knew my office needed some color. Luckily, one of my beautiful bridesmaids had made pillows for the couches at our wedding reception in March. So I brought two of those from home to top things off.

It's just so cozy!!!

It’s just so cozy!!!

Everything is perfect! I have this cozy little nook in my office to hang out in. And so this morning, we did just that. I started my day with a cup of coffee from the Keurig with a co-worker (and wonderful friend) and a delicious Gluten Free blueberry muffin. (Seriously, if you haven’t tried Udi’s gluten free muffins, you haven’t lived! They are glorious!)

Sometimes you just need a little remodel to make things feel perfect.