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How to Save Money "Gluten-Free Style" for the Holidays

By Kathleen Reale of Be Free for Me

Thank you to Crunchmaster for making this how-to series possible! crunchmaster logo

The holiday season is full of festivities, fun and food. And although eating gluten-free can be expensive, these tips and tricks can keep your gluten-free shopping lists, cooking, entertaining and gifting on budget right through the New Year!

Save On Your Gluten-Free Shopping & Cooking

Make every crumb count
During the months leading up to the holidays, save the heels of gluten-free bread in the freezer for a gluten-free stuffing recipe.  This will prevent you from having to spend extra for that full-loaf of costly gluten-free bread. Also, save the crumbs at the bottom of cracker and cereal boxes. Combine them with some savory herbs to make a great gluten-free breading for holiday dishes like gluten-free Baked Stuffed Shrimp or Cayenne-Dusted Chicken Nuggets.

Host a gluten-free cookie exchange
Invite a handful of your gluten-free friends or relatives to a gluten-free cookie exchange or suggest your local celiac disease support group hosts one. You only need to make one type of cookie yourself, but you get a variety of cookies in exchange! 

Plan holiday meals in advance and buy in bulk
By planning ahead and deciding what recipes you’ll be making, you can buy gluten-free non-perishable ingredients, such as gluten-free flour and sugar, in bulk, ahead of time*.  Also, review grocery store circulars prior to the holidays and start stocking up on the non-perishables. Make the most of those gluten-free basics on sale!

Take two!
When cooking and baking for holiday festivities consider making extra and freezing for lunches and dinners after the holidays. It’s just as easy to make two dishes and to freeze one away. Save time and money!

Give the Gift of Gluten-Free:

Cookies in a jar
At a loss on what to give the neighbors who gets your child off the bus? Or your co-worker that just got diagnosed with celiac disease? How about gluten-free cookie mixes in a jar! These homemade gifts are thoughtful, and inexpensive!

Gluten-free food baskets
For under $20 you can put together personalized gluten-free food baskets. Often you can find great gluten-free finds at the dollar store, as well as the shrink-wrap to wrap-up the basket! Just make sure that you call the manufacturer or check the labels to ensure the items are gluten-free. Some ideas?

  • Cocoa mix, marshmallows, gluten-free cookies and two mugs;
  • Wine, gluten-free crackers, and cheese, along with two wine glasses;
  • A movie-night themed basket with popcorn, boxes of Raisinets and Swedish Fish and a Red Box gift card.

Gluten-Free Entertaining on a Dime

Ask for help… carefully!
When hosting festivities ask guests to bring something that is guaranteed to be gluten-free. What do I ask my guests to bring? Cheese & grapes, Shrimp for a shrimp cocktail (I make the cocktail sauce myself though), soda, seltzer water, or a bottle of wine! This leads me to the next tip…

If buying wine, consider buying it by the case
Most liquor stores will give a 10-20% discount on mix & match ½ cases or cases of wine. If you are planning holiday parties, giving wine as hostess gifts, or need a bottle of sparkly to ring in the New Year - consider buying a case… and save big! 

Brunch it!
Instead of hosting a dinner party, consider hosting a brunch instead, since brunches typically cost less to prepare. Some recipes to consider: Rosemary Dijon Sweet Potato Hash, Grand Marnier French Toast, Sweet & Spicy Bacon. To save even more money serve fewer items that contain meat – it’s cheaper and healthier too!

Gluten-Free Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Crostini
My gluten-free Red Pepper Jelly Crostini
with Goat Cheese & Basil

Consider appetizers & buffet them!
Want to showcase all the fabulous gluten-free finger foods you’ve discovered over the year, save some money, and have more time to mingle with your guests? Than consider having a buffet rather than a sit-down dinner. Finger foods often cost less, are easier to prepare and can be made ahead of time. Need some inspiration on what to serve? Explore Pinterest or check out these recipes: Red Pepper Jelly Crostini with Goat Cheese & Basil, Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Wings, Sesame Curry Chicken Fingers with Apricot Dipping Sauce, and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Stick with the staples!
Stick with gluten-free staples for all of your holiday entertaining to save a bundle. My favorite staples include: rice, potatoes, eggs and vegetables. They are everyone’s favorites and inexpensive too. Check out these recipes for ideas: Broccoli Cheddar Pie with a Hash Brown Crust, Baked Sweet Potato with Rosemary & Maple, Cheesy Potato Bake, Brown Rice and Spinach Casserole, Brown Rice Salad with Toasted Almonds, Grapes & Curry Lemon Zest.

Miscellaneous Ways To Save

Save on airline extra baggage fees
If you are traveling for the holidays via airplane and need to bring an extra bag packed with all of your gluten-free food, call the airlines ahead of time and find out how your extra baggage fees can be waived. Often airlines will ask for a “doctor’s note” ahead of time declaring the extra bag a medical necessity. (Note: All airlines may not waive the charges, but it is worth the call ahead of time!)

Good cheap gluten-free fun!
Many holiday traditions are “naturally” gluten-free and inexpensive too. Try making some popcorn & cranberry garland while watching Christmas movies or invite friends over and spend the day making snowmen or sledding in the yard. Afterwards, enjoy hot chocolate, hot spiced cider, tea or coffee while making gingerbread houses with gluten-free graham crackers, frosting, and candy for decorations.

- Kathleen Reale
Be Free for Me

*Cross-contamination can occur in the bulk bins at supermarkets.  Be sure to buy flours and grains that are labeled gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Giveaway

As part of our holiday how-to series, NFCA is hosting a gluten-free giveaway!  Enter here for your chance to win a gluten-free prize pack from Crunchmaster.

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