The gluten-free food market has exploded in the past 5 five years and, in the process, has become a mainstay on more and more shelves at local grocery stores everywhere. The popularity of gluten-free food is expected to continue growing in the coming years too. Hopefully, the increased market competition will result in more affordable gluten-free products being readily available. Until then, we have to deal with the reality that eating gluten-free isn’t cheap. Actually, whenever you get into food products that cater to any specialty/niche diet (like gluten-free), you are generally going to pay more for less. It sucks, but that’s just how the gluten-free cookie crumbles. Rather than dive into whether the added cost is justified, we are going to focus on tips for living gluten-free on a budget that will offset the extra expense.
A 2019 study published in the Journal Nutrients found that gluten-free products were overall 183% more expensive than normal gluten-containing products and were 139% more expensive from mass-market producers than the wheat-based version of the same product.
Living gluten-free on a budget is very similar to the regular strategies of living on a budget but it requires a little more effort. On the bright side, it will most likely result in you eating healthier. On the not-so-bright side, it is going to take you a bit more time. Once you accept that, these tips are going to be easy-peasy.
7 Tips for Living Gluten-Free on a Budget
1. Only those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, need to eat gluten-free.
We realize it’s much easier cooking one meal for everyone, but that is a luxury that most of us can’t afford when going gluten-free. It is much more economical to purchase as many mainstream staples (read wheat-based) like bread, pasta, and flour with gluten whenever possible. Keep the gluten-free products for those that require them only.
A HUGE concern with cooking both gluten and gluten-free food in the same environment is cross-contamination. Every person who enters the kitchen must be aware of the health hazards of not keeping all foods separate and the importance of cleaning cooking areas and not sharing any cooking utensils without thorough washing.
2. Sales, coupons, samples and apps.
- Sales: Before going shopping, always research sales online and check your local flyers for sales at your neighbourhood stores. It is more and more common for sales to feature “specialty” diet items like gluten-free so make it a point of knowing what’s on sale as those items should be incorporated in your menu planning. Oh and stock up on them.
- Coupons: Many brands make coupons available to encourage new customers to buy their products (or solidify loyalty from those that are already fans). There are a number of sites that provide coupons for gluten-free products that are valid in your area. A simple Google search for “gluten-free coupons” will help you find them.
- Samples: Along with researching online for gluten-free product reviews, samples are a great way to avoid wasting money on a new product you may not like. Samples also often come with a coupon to encourage you to buy the product. There are many sample sites you can find with a simple Google search for “gluten-free samples”. Or you can contact the company direct and ask if they offer samples. Keep an eye out for gluten-free food shows and expos too. They generally showcase the latest product (with samples) and at discounted prices.
- Apps: Checkout 51 is a great app to check for rebates and coupons for gluten-free products. Flipp will help you find sales for specific items you are looking for. These are just a couple of examples but there are many others.
3. Plan your meals.
When you leave deciding what to cook to the last minute, you are more often than not, going to spend more money on ingredients. Menu planning allows you to consider how you can incorporate the most natural, gluten-free foods, what’s in season, what’s on sale, and what you have on hand to create delicious (and economical) meals.
- Always create a list that considers your planned meals. Never go shopping in-person or online without first creating a list based on your meal plans. This will save you from adding things to your physical or virtual shopping carts that you may not need. Or over-paying for convenience items because you can’t think of what you might need to cook with.
- Buy whole foods that are naturally gluten-free, as they will most likely be cheaper and will have better nutritional value. Whole grains like brown rice, wild rice (yes, I know it’s technically a grass), and quinoa are readily available at most stores. Potatoes are also a reliable go-to (providing you are not nightshade free).
- Buy fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables at peak season when they are at their cheapest and most delicious. Stop by your local farmer’s market to buy the best of what is locally grown. There are generally deals to be had especially if you buy in bulk.
- Buy bulk when you find a product you like on sale.
- Minimize prepared gluten-free specialty/snack foods like crackers, cakes, cookies, and cereals as they are costly. You don’t have to avoid them completely – just decide which ones and how many you are going to purchase prior to shopping.
- Make recipes that use the food:
- you have on hand;
- that is seasonally abundant (and economical);
- that is on sale that week; and/or
- that is naturally gluten-free and readily available. For example, recipes that include rice or potatoes or quinoa.
- Cook in batches. Recipes for soups and stews made with seasonal vegetables, potatoes, beans, and rice are economical, and easy to cook in larger batches. They can be frozen for fast, heat and serve meals when you need them.
- Check out our gluten-free recipe index to help get you started. We try to keep recipes simple but delicious using common everyday pantry items.
6. Limit the times you eat out at restaurants or pick up take-away.
Just as gluten-free products are more expensive in grocery stores, they are also more expensive in restaurants. I mean, check out the pricing at your local pizza shop. If they offer gluten-free, you are generally going to pay the same price for a small/medium gluten-free round pizza as you would for an extra large one made with wheat.
7. Build a network.
Join Gluten-Free social media groups – or build your own networks with other gluten-free foodees you know – where you can share shopping tips (including current deals and coupons), recipes and other helpful gluten-free living tips and info.
Don’t feel like you have to adapt all of these tips for living gluten-free on a budget. Having said that, the more you can do, the greater the cost-savings to you.
Which gluten-free, cost-saving tips do you use? Do you have additional tips, sites or apps to share? We love hearing from our readers. Your feedback makes us better. Plus, I am always interested in learning new ways to save money because, you know, girls just wanna have funds 🙂
Peace to you all my friends.