There are so many things that can contribute to feeling overwhelmed when starting a gluten free diet. Blowing your food budget doesn’t have to be one of them!
Start with common inexpensive foods such as rice, beans, and potatoes to replace the carbohydrates in your diet when starting a gluten free diet. This will reduce your grocery budget. It isn’t important to replace items in your diet that you are used to. Gluten free products are 87% more expensive than their wheat counterparts according to a 2019 US survey.
Check out this podcast if you’d like to listen. We talk all things saving money when you’re gluten free!
1. You Don’t Have To Replace Foods You Can No Longer Have
This is a trap that most people get caught up in when starting a gluten free diet.
They hear from their medical team that they need to eat gluten free (or make the decision on their own). And now what?
When you look in your cupboards at everything you can’t have now, it can be overwhelming. How are you supposed to replace goldfish crackers? What about bread?
The dirty little secret of the multi-billion dollar gluten free industry is that you don’t need to buy their products. This industry makes so much money off making everything that you are used to eating, just gluten free.
But the thing is, you don’t need to replace processed wheat products with processed gluten free products. There are plenty of naturally gluten free products already available.
2. Start With Whole Foods
Wheat, rye, barley, and oats are the products to keep away from. This is a very small list, and oats are sometimes on this list, sometimes not depending on your doctor.
This leaves so many other foods.
Unfortunately, wheat, barley, and rye are very inexpensive to produce they, therefore, make their way into products as fillers, sweeteners, anti-caking agents, malt, natural flavorings, and more.
The easiest way to start taking gluten and wheat from your diet is to ditch the processed foods. If you keep your grocery shopping to ingredients rather than products, you will find that eating gluten free is easy.
Because wheat is so cheap to make and store, processed foods with wheat can be very inexpensive. This is a problem for society in general and not just the gluten free community.
Although these products are cheap, they are not healthy.
If you stick to finding whole foods, you will find that gluten free isn’t so hard. Just about everything in the produce section, meat section, and dairy section of the store will be safe. Just stay away from anything that has been prepared such as salad dressing, added seasoning to meat, and anything more than the most basic dairy. At least until you can become familiar with reading labels.
3. Shop Seasonally
As I write this, it is summer. Especially in this season, it only makes sense to shop what is seasonally appropriate for your area.
If you can, get out to the farms or stop by a farm stand. Not only does this help local families and the local economy, but it will also get you the freshest produce possible. Oftentimes you will find it is the most affordable as well.
Once I was driving the backroads back home and found a little farm stand I stopped at. They only wanted less than half the market price for tomatoes. It was just outside someone’s house and he came out as I looked. It ended up that he had a bunch of tomato plants he wouldn’t have time to process.
That year I got all my tomato needs for the year met in one stop. I went home and made enough salsa, stewed tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and marinara sauce for over a year.
Even if you don’t find something as amazing as that, your local farms will have the freshest in-season produce. And the prices are usually the best.
If you purchase in the stores, the seasonality of your ingredients will influence the prices as well.
So take a few minutes and figure out what is in season around you before you shop.
4. Find Inexpensive Naturally Gluten Free Products
Naturally gluten free products are everywhere and in some places, you may not expect.
A few of the most pleasantly surprising places I found naturally gluten free products were with corn. Things like corn tortillas or tortilla chips tend to be naturally gluten free. Look at the package to be sure, but they usually have little else besides corn, water, salt, and oil.
There are even many kinds of cereal that are naturally gluten free.
5. Shop The Perimeter Of The Store
Products that aren’t processed tend to have less chance of containing gluten.
They are also on the sides of the store.
Typically, stores will keep canned, boxed, or otherwise processed food on the isles that take up the majority of the store. But if you keep to the outside areas you will find it easy to grab gluten free items.
Watch out for anything in a package such as salad dressing, salad kits, prepared mashed potatoes, or the like. Even in the produce, dairy, and meat sections you are bound to find things that aren’t safe.
6. Decide If Everyone In The Household Needs To Eat Gluten Free
This one can save you so much money.
If only one or two people in the household need to eat gluten free, it can make it so much less expensive if they continue to eat gluten.
You need to talk within your family and decide if your entire family needs to go gluten free, or if only some will.
The Dangers Of Cross Contamination
One of the biggest reasons that entire families eat gluten free at home is that cross-contamination can be very serious. This depends on why you are eating gluten free and how sensitive you are.
If cross-contamination isn’t an issue, having some in your family eat gluten can save money on expensive gluten free products.
However, the majority of those who are gluten free need to be very cautious of cross-contamination.
Those who are gluten free due to autoimmune disease may not show outward signs of being exposed, but it will still be hurting them internally.
This is why so many families go totally gluten free at home, even for family members who don’t need to eat gluten free.
I surveyed 110 households and found that 29.1% of families had at least 2 people who ate gluten free at home. However, only 14.6% of families had at least 2 people who ate gluten free when they ate out.
What this means is that people who do not need to eat gluten free are doing so at home in order to keep their family members safe. You will need to decide how important that is for you.
7. Try Your Dry Goods Section
One of the few exceptions to shopping the inside isles of a grocery store is dry goods.
What I mean by dry goods are the whole foods you can find that keep for a long time. An example of this is dry beans and rice.
These are perfect items to get that will keep for a long time. The other great thing about them is they tend to save a lot of money over buying the prepared items, plus you don’t need to worry as much about gluten contents or contamination!
8. Buy In Bulk (And Never From Bulk Bins)
These dry goods are the perfect items to buy in bulk.
A quick word of warning: avoid bulk bins.
Bulk bins are open containers and can have cross-contamination. The scoops used, even the bins could have been used for gluten items. In general, it is best to be safe and avoid bulk bins.
Aside from bulk bins, you can find dry, gluten free goods in large bags. It is common to find dry beans and rice in as large as 50 lb bags. If your local grocery store doesn’t have them try an Asian or Mexican market local to you. You can also look into restaurant supply store, some of them do not require you to own a business to shop there.
9. Gluten Free People Save Money By Not Eating Out
When you have to eat gluten free, restaurant options dwindle. When you are very sensitive to gluten, they dwindle even more.
But let’s look at the upside: we save money on food!
When looking at strategies to save money on food, the topic of eating out is bound to come up. The experts will tell you to not eat out in order to save money.
Well, BONUS! Being gluten free forces that on you so if you’re already gluten free, you’re ahead of the game.
In the survey of 110 households, 56.3% of households eat out at least once a week, over half of those said either a few times a week or daily.
Think about how much money you save by eating at home and not out.
The cost of being gluten free is going down by the second!
10. Cost Comparison: What Does It Cost To Eat Gluten Free?
For the foods that we choose to buy gluten free, what is the actual difference in cost?
I put together a chart of 10 different items to look at this. Keep in mind these are products that are gluten free vs those with gluten. The gluten free numbers are for products that have had to be developed to mimic those that have gluten. If you choose to stick with only naturally gluten free foods, the difference in costs is going to drop dramatically.
|Product||Gluten Product Cost||Gluten-Free Product Cost|
|All Purpose Flour||$1.42||$14.42|