Searching for Gluten-free Bargains

Gluten-free finds at the Ethnic Market

Gluten-free Bargains from the Ethnic Market

One of the adjustments to switching to a special diet can be sticker shock.  Unfortunately, there is a certain amount of specialty shopping that goes along with the transition to a gluten-free or allergy-friendly diet.  These specifically designed items can come with a hefty price tag.

What are some tips to keep your food budget within your household budget?

For one, you can focus on whole foods that are in season.  By purchasing strawberries when strawberries are in season, you will pay a better price for a better product.  They will be sweet and juicy and affordable.  Buying out-of-season produce comes with the double whammy of a higher price for a less tasty product.

Another thing you can do is grind your own flour from whole grains with an inexpensive spice or nut grinder.  Gluten-free oats, quinoa and amaranth are a lot cheaper than flour.  I wrote about my spice grinder here.

Another money-saving option is to shop at ethnic markets or larger markets that have significant ethnic sections.  I have saved a lot of money by shopping in Asian markets or recently at a large market that serves a multicultural population.  You can find some real treasures in Indian, Chinese or Korean markets.  Rice or tapioca noodles, rice flour, amaranth flour, dried beans, and spices are all available at a cost far below specialty prices.

If you’re looking for an idea of what to do with those rice noodles that you picked up for a song, how about this preparation?

Rice Pasta with Roasted Tomato and Spinach

Herb Roasted Tomato and Spinach with Gluten-free Pasta

Rice Noodles with Herb Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach

Serves 2


  • Rice Noodles cooked according to package directions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or to taste
  • sprinkling of sea salt
  • Approximately 4 cups of spinach washed and stems removed


1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Cut tomatoes in quarters and then cut each quarter in half.
3. Toss tomatoes in half the olive oil.
4. Spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle herbs over the tomatoes.
5. Bake for 20 minutes.
6. In a small skillet, heat remaining olive oil.  Saute spinach until wilted, stirring constantly.
7. To serve, top prepared noodles with half the spinach and the tomatoes.  Mix it together so the juice from the tomatoes coats the pasta.

Kim Lutz is a vegan mom to two boys, and lives with her rocker husband, dog and cat. She is the author of Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen and Gluten-free Vegan Recipes and the gluten-free, allergen-free, vegan website, Kim is the co-author with Megan Hart, MS, RD, LD, of two other cookbooks.


10 Responses to Searching for Gluten-free Bargains

  • Sandy says:

    Other than the rice flour, what are the items in the picture? How do you know what you are buying? Fluent in foreign languages? How do you know they are gluten free?


    Kim Reply:

    @Sandy, The other items are rice noodles and psyllium husks. The items I buy are all labeled in English with nutrition info provided.


  • Kathy says:

    Awesome looking dish, no doubt about it, but I have the same concerns as Sandy, how do we really know these items are gluten-free? Are these other countires preparing these foods in gluten free facilities? I appreciate this information because I am so strapped for cash but if I eat gluten foods the cost will be greater than any savings. I have celiac even the tiniest traces of gluten cause big trouble. Thank you for sharing this info, just very unsure if these items are safe? Thanks.


    Mrs G Reply:

    We have the same problem. For some products we go to the ethnic markets, for others not.
    Here what we do:
    - flours: we never buy flours from ethnic markets. For flours the risk of cross contamination or the product being different than labelled is very real. For whole grains/pulses, the risk is lower (e.g. you see if it’s only rice or there is some other stuff in it).
    - spices: spice mixes no, sometimes wheat starch is added to make the whole thing cheaper (for them). Single spices are ok, of course better whole than ground.
    - vegetables/fruit: no problem with those you need to peel (as the peel is a sort of barrier) like young coconuts or platains. We avoid herbs and vegetables meant to be eaten raw.
    - we avoid ready made products. Even when gluten is not meant to be part of the original recipe, there is a risk of cross contamination.
    Hope this helps.


  • Colette Bell says:

    If anyone of you live in an area that has an Ocean State Job Lot – you can get amazing gluten-free (certified) deals there, especially on all the flours listed above, (Bob’s Red Mill) brand. Great post!! Shop the outside aisles for fresh fruits, veggies, meats, etc. & only go inside aisles for staples that are necessary. Also if you have Trader Joe’s near you – another great resource for gf pastas, etc.


    Kim Reply:

    @Colette Bell, Thank you for the great suggestions, Colette. We are fortunate to live close to a Trader Joe’s and are grateful for their ever-increasing options for special diets.


    Kim @ Welcoming Kitchen Reply:

    @Colette Bell, I agree, Colette, about Trader Joe’s. I am so grateful that I live 2 blocks from one! They keep adding more and more special-diet-friendly items that seem to be more reasonably priced than elsewhere. I forgot to mention that you can also find good deals online sometimes.


  • Kim says:

    I understand the concerns stated by Sandy and Kathy. I think there are real concerns here. These items are not certified gluten-free, though, some of the products have clearer labels than others. There are many reasons why people follow special diets — allergy, intolerance, preference, and celiac, among others. We shop for our food-allergic son according to guidelines that we have discussed with our doctors. I think that each consumer should follow both their experiences and their medical advice to know what is safe for them. Not all of the suggestions will work for all consumers, and you should always buy and prepare foods that you feel confident are safe for you and your family.


  • Kim, I love roasted tomatoes in any dish! This sounds like a good combination. I’ll try it with Tinkayada brown rice spaghetti-style pasta.


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