Kayleigh here. When Jason first began to manifest symptoms of being intolerant to gluten, he was in his last year of college. Luckily, we were living in an on-campus apartment by then, but it was still quite the learning curve to figure out how to eat gluten free with the same level of thriftiness and ease of cooking that we needed. Since most college students rely heavily on ramen and premade burgers/burritos/pizzas, it was…daunting to say the least.
So, what can you do? First of all, read through our previous post about saving money when shopping for gluten free groceries. Second, get friendly with the staff at your dining halls. Ask what is already available and gluten free, and ask what can be special ordered or set aside for you when you need a quick meal. Maybe they’d be willing to cook you a cheeseburger without the buns, or they can get you salad ingredients from a container that has not been crossed with the crouton bowl. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there!
Instead of targeting the gluten free aisle in the grocery store, start paying attention to which normal brands have switched their ingredients over to gluten free ones. You can still get cereal for breakfast- just buy Chex or Cocoa Pebbles! Pick up rice noodles from the Asian food section and some chicken or beef bouillon from the soup section to make your own ramen. Spend some time on the weekends to make your own burritos or personal pizzas, then foil wrap and freeze them for quick lunches and dinners between classes.
Finally, if you are stuck in the dorms without access to a kitchen, look into what cooking tools you are allowed to have. Most of the time, you at least have a refrigerator and a community microwave, so you can get some extra food from the dining hall to reheat later. But many things can be made with just a microwave- baked potatoes, scrambled eggs, brownies, tuna melts, just to name a few. If you can keep a coffee maker, then that can be used for cooking noodles, oatmeal, or other instant meals that just need boiling water. With a rice cooker, you can steam vegetables and chicken on top of the cooking rice- you can even experiment with baking breads and cakes in it! Finally, if you are allowed appliances like George Foreman Grills or wafflemakers, then you have tons and tons of options available to you- pretty much anything can be cooked on a stovetop can be made in these, as long as everything is cut to the right size and in the right portions.
Jason here. As Kayleigh mentioned, I tend not to buy specialty gluten free items unless I really have a particular craving or something specific in mind that we have not yet figured out a good alternative too. Instead, when I first became gluten intolerant I really focused on what I already ate that was gluten free, or could very easily be made gluten free. I was only gluten intolerant for my last year or so of college, but my go to meals were the following.
1) Fried Rice. This is really the number one food that got me through that last year. I was lucky enough that my roommate had a nice wok I could use to make large batches of it. You can easily make a whole weeks’ worth of dinners in under 30 minutes. In addition, I found fried rice easy to customize. While my staple was rice, pepperoni, and assorted frozen veggies, I also occasionally added things like fresh mushrooms, bacon once or twice, nuts, and whatever else caught my eye that week. If I was really pressed for time, I wouldn’t even fry the rice. Not mention, fried rice is ridiculously cheap if your just buying bulk rice and frozen veggies.
2) Chili. Another food you can bulk make in one go and enjoy for the rest of the week, or month if you make batches like I do. Both Kayleigh and I have given our respective Chili recipes before. You can check out Kayleigh’s here, and mine here. Even before I became intolerant I was making chili, so this was a natural fit. It also tends to be pretty cheap.
3) Nachos. This was another quick to make recipe for me, although it doesn’t make left overs like my previous recommendations. Just pull out a baking sheet, lay down a layer of nachos, shred some cheese, and add whatever toppings you’re in the mood for. In college, I tended to make “Pizza” nachos which had pepperoni, and I dipped in marinara sauce. Since college, I’ve learned to really enjoy banana peppers, and Brussel sprouts, and chopped peppers, and other assorted items.
4) Anything in a waffle maker. So this one is sort of cheating, as I didn’t discover these recipes until after graduating. However, I feel these have to make the list. We already did a post on these which you can check out here, but let me just say Moffle Pizza’s have now mostly replaced nacho’s for me as a staple food. I enjoy them more, they have less salt which I already get enough of, and they are just as fast to make.