Does It Cost More To Eat Gluten Free? 110 Family Survey


It can be so frustrating to go to the grocery store and see the differences in price between “regular” and “gluten free”. Sometimes it feels like they just slap that label on in order to increase the price. But are families really spending more to be gluten free? 110 families took our poll and we found some surprising results.

Gluten free families spent more on their grocery budget in our poll of over 100 families. Gluten free families budgeted $53 per month per family more than families without diet restrictions. However, when data about eating out was considered, gluten free families spent an average of $175 per month less overall than their gluten-eating counterparts.

I was feeling frustrated one day that I couldn’t eat out like some other people and started thinking about the cost of eating out versus eating at home. And it got me wondering if you take the cost of eating out into consideration, is it actually more expensive to eat gluten free?

Does It Cost More To Eat Gluten Free?

This is a very interesting question. When you go to the grocery store and find that anything with a gluten free label has had a price hike, it’s not hard to imagine that gluten free would cost more. How could it not?

ProductGluten Product CostGluten-Free Product Cost
Bread$2.99$4.99
Crackers$2.52$4.68
Bagels$2.18$4.98
Hamburger Buns$1.98$6.20
Granola$2.86$4.53
Flour Tortillas$1.78$4.88
All Purpose Flour$1.42$14.42
Frozen Pizza$2.98$6.48
Beer$9.98$18.89

As the above chart will attest, gluten free products are more expensive. These products are all ones where gluten free products have come out imitating products that traditionally contain wheat or other gluten ingredients.

However, our entire diet does not consist of these products. So what are families spending on groceries overall?

In our survey of 110 families, we found that on average families without restrictions were spending $158 per person on groceries while gluten free families were spending $196 per person on groceries.

That is a significant difference.

But if your family isn’t eating at home, you don’t need to spend as much on groceries. So the thought was that we need to see what the real cost of food is on average.

Families without dietary restrictions were spending $203 per person monthly while gluten free families were spending $135 per person monthly.

This means that the total food budget of our average gluten free family was $175 per month less than the families that didn’t have dietary restrictions and were eating out more often.

Suvey Questions and Methods

The survey created had only six questions:

  • How many people are in your household?
  • How many people eat gluten free at home?
  • How many people eat gluten free when eating away from home?
  • How much does your family spend on groceries every month on average?
  • How often do you eat out?
  • When you eat out, how many people are eating out?

After all of the surveys were in, the data was put into a spreadsheet, and formulas were used to calculate the further data. For the sake simplicity, a “gluten free family” is one where at least one person ate gluten free at home and when eating away from home.

Numbers were assigned to how often do you eat out. Anywhere from 1 to 25. “Once a month or less” was assigned as 1, where “daily or almost daily” was assigned as 25. These numbers correspond to how many times they ate out monthly.

Then this number was multiplied by the number of people who ate out on average to find the total number of servings were eating out during an average month. This number was then multiplied by $12.75, the average cost of a meal when eating out according to this survey. Opens in a new tab.

This total spent monthly on eating out was added to the estimated grocery budget to find the family’s total food budget for the month. To find the per person rate, it was divided by the number of people in the household.

The average size of a family in our survey was 3.5. 44 of the families were not gluten free while 63 families were gluten free.

It is important to note that not every “gluten free family” is having everyone eat gluten free at home. Some of these families have only one or more members who eat gluten free while the other family members eat regular products.

Families were chosen to participate without any promise of a reward. The survey was posted in multiple social media groups online including some gluten free groups to ensure a high enough sample of gluten free families.

Changes To Data

Three of the families had conflicting information that may have been a mistake. They marked that they ate gluten free inside the home but not out of the home or they ate gluten at home and gluten free outside the home. These 3 families were excluded from the results because they could not be defined for our purposes as either a “gluten free family” or a “not gluten free family”.

Do Gluten Free Families Spend More On Groceries?

For the purposes of this survey, families were asked “In a typical month, how much do you spend on groceries (consumable food only)? They were given $100 ranges to choose from. These were rounded up to get numbers that could be divided and used for statistics.

After the families were divided by diet (gluten free and no dietary restrictions), a very expected result was exposed: gluten free families spend significantly more. The average gluten free family spends $608 on their monthly grocery budget or $196 per person. The average family without restrictions spends about $554 per family or $154 per person.

These numbers are certainly significantly different. But this was the expected result as anyone who has compared gluten free products to regular ones can attest.

What Do Families Spend On Eating Out?

Eating out can be a treat, a last-minute dinner, or just part of the weekly routine. Most gluten free families have difficulty with this, especially if they are gluten free due to a sensitive condition such as Celiac Disease.

As frustrating as this is, it can actually help the budget. Even when spending more money at the grocery store.

The average gluten free family ate out 4.66 times per month and the average family not eating gluten free ate out 7.33 times per month.

Families without restrictions spent an average of $761 per month on eating out or $203 per person. The average gluten free family spent $532 or $135 per person eating out per month.

Only 9 out of 62 families (or 14%) of gluten free families ate out “a few times a week” or more. Only 2 (or 3%) of these said they ate out “daily, or almost daily”. The two families that ate out often were only feeding about half of their family or less when eating out.

For our families that did not eat gluten free 15 families (34%) said they ate out “a few times a week” or more often. Of these, 3 families (6%) said they ate out “daily, or almost daily”. Of this smaller group of families who eat out more often, they were feeding about two thirds of their family each time they did.

Is The Overall Food Budget Of Gluten Free Families More?

Looking back at the data, we can get the total amount of food budget monthly for families. This is important to look at because families who are eating out more will spend less on food at the grocery store. And when we are comparing what the cost is to eat gluten free it is important to look at this number.

When the amount of money spent at the grocery store and for eating out is added together, we found that gluten free families are spending less overall.

Gluten free families spend an average of $1140 per month on food between eating out and at the grocery store.

Families that no one eats gluten free spent an average of $1316 on food when grocery store spending and eating out budget is considered.

What Do These Numbers Mean?

This is the interesting part.

I did this survey on a whim because I had a thought that this might just be what the data said. I haven’t seen anyone else comparing this data and I thought it was important to put that out there.

That said, this was not a huge survey or group. 110 families are significant enough to get some good data, but in order to be scientifically significant, I would like to see at least a few thousand responses.

That said, the numbers that we are seeing are amazing. This completely reverses the general idea that gluten free is more expensive. It may still not be ideal to eat at home as much as gluten free families do, but these numbers are showing that it is saving money.

So the next time someone talks about how expensive gluten free is, point out this study to them.

Fawn

My passion is supporting those who need to be gluten free. After my family had to transition to eating gluten free I realized how difficult it is. It is more than finding a recipe. It is about how to navigate social situations, deal with isolation, and other things that come along with it. I live in Oregon with my family, cats, and chickens.

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