People who suffer from conditions such as celiac disease, lactose intolerance, food allergies, diabetes and other gastrointestinal disorders are often required to be on a restrictive diet. While special diets are effective in treating these conditions, they also can be quite expensive to maintain over a long period of time. That’s because gluten-free products and other special foods typically cost more than conventional items.

But being on a special food plan needn’t break the bank: in fact, with a little bit of planning, you can prepare at home many thrifty alternatives to the expensive special foods using the raw ingredients allowed in your meal plan. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Take time to read food labels, which are required by law to cite any of the eight foods or ingredients known to cause problems in some people. These items are wheat, eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fin fish and soybeans.
  • Rather than shopping exclusively at specialty food stores, look for gluten-free items at your local grocery store; more and more supermarkets across the country are now offering these items.
  • Whenever practical, buy special foods in bulk and divide them into portion sizes at home instead of purchasing individual-sized packages.
  • Substitute ingredients; for example, people with celiac disease can substitute quinoa or rice flour for wheat or rye flour, while the lactose intolerant can try goat, soy or rice milk instead of cow’s milk.