Price Check: Controlling the Cost of a Gluten-Free Diet
I recently wrote a post about my own unofficial pricing study, comparing the prices of gluten-free and gluten-containing foods where I live. I knew gluten-free foods were more expensive, but the results shocked me. On average I pay 58% more for gluten-free versions of basic foods, with the difference going well over 300% for some foods, like soy sauce.
It made me think again about what we, as celiac shoppers, can do to reduce our food costs.
Know your prices
While most major chains prices their foods consistently, careful shoppers can sometimes find big differences between chains. Look for an equivalent product in a different store. If you know what something costs, you’ll recognize a good price and can stock up.
Remember to check ethnic markets. I have long extolled the virtues of buying rice flour and rice noodles at the local Asian market (where I pay 31% and 62% less, respectively). If your town has markets serving their Asian, Hispanic, or Southeast Asian populations, try visiting and comparing prices. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Even for the savviest shoppers, some foods may just remain out of reach. Seven dollars for 5 slices of bread, as I saw quoted for some Schär® bread online, is just ridiculous even if I understand why the price is so high. It makes sense to substitute less-expensive gluten-free options for the priciest items.
I use lettuce to make wraps. Gluten free wraps are about one dollar per wrap here, while a two-dollar head of lettuce will make wraps for many more sandwiches and stir fries. Small leaves make a crunchy base for a delicious salad. And I switched to using rice noodles from the Asian market instead of linguini or spaghetti before gluten-free pasta was widely available. With Barilla® Gluten-free spaghetti almost 80% more expensive than the flour-based equivalent, and rice noodles 5% less expensive than gluten-free spaghetti, it’s still a no-brainer.
My biggest surprise, though, was with Mexican-themed foods. Old El Paso® and Pancho Villa® tortillas cost an average about 1 dollar each in the major chains, and an organic brand costs even more in the health food store. But Pancho Villa taco shells, also gluten free, are only about 33 cents each in a pack of 12, and they do the job just as well. An easy substitution saved me almost 70%!
Make it Yourself
Cooking from scratch eliminates the preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup found in so many prepared foods. It also saves money. A slow cooker makes delicious, hearty stews and soups from beans and less expensive cuts of meat with almost no work. You can even make roast chicken in the slow cooker. It saves time too, since all you do is dump everything in, turn it on, then go off to work. When you get home, a delicious dinner is ready. I often find inspiration from Stephanie O’Dea –her recipes are gluten free.
Baking is another way to save money. With gluten-free chocolate chip cookies costing more than 3 times as much as much as their regular equivalent, baking from scratch is worth it! My Easy, Tasty, Gluten Free recipes are almost all based on rice flour from the Asian Market, which costs 30% less than the rice flour available in my regular supermarket. Baking for family and friends is also a great way to show how much you care for them.
You can pay less for your gluten-free diet
Saving money on a gluten-free diet can be a challenge. But watching prices, making a few substitutions, and learning to make some things from scratch can go a long way towards easing the pain.
If you’re watching your food budget, consider doing your own mini pricing study on the items you buy most often. You might find some easy ways to save more than you think!
If you would like to see the more details on my comparisons, email me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.