Q:: Along with my father-in-law, I’m getting to know more and more people who have Celiacs disease. The one struggle they are experiencing is with the cost of being gluten free and how expensive it is.
I was hoping you could offer some direction and advice on how one could be gluten free without burning a hole in their wallet.
Randy, thank you so much for asking this question! A complaint that many GF folks have is the cost of gluten-free products and, to be honest, the cost does rise when you have Celiac as more stringent measures must be taken by the food producers to insure a safe and uncontaminated product. My friend and gluten-free food producer Elizabeth Stein of Purely Elizabeth touches on many of these issues in a free master class hosted here at Gluten Free School.
But here’s the part of your question that’s assumed by everyone asking this… if you breakdown all the food that you’re buying, separating the whole, unprocessed foods like fruits & veggies from food products such as cereal, pasta & breads, where is the expense really high? It’s my bet that what’s upping the grocery bill are the gluten-free products.
Most people think that so long as the product contains a gluten-free label, then the product must be healthy and good to eat. That’s not necessarily true. Gluten-free isn’t necessarily synonymous with healthy. Add to this that people are seeking the convenience factor of not having to cook… well, that’s going to cost you.
Gluten-free food products are more expensive because:
1) They have to be produced on dedicated GF-lines which costs more to manufacture
2) They have to source ingredients which were not contaminated, which may cost more
3) You are paying the company to do the work (or prepping and cooking) that you don’t want to do
These 3 reasons alone should clarify why GF products are costly (and if you want more, then check out the link above to listen to Elizabeth’s explanation).
Thus for people going gluten-free, I recommend they stick with buying fresh food which is more ‘whole’ (ie. fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, GF grains, legumes, meats, etc) and actually cook.
But hey, you want to know how to move forward now that you’re ‘in the know’ about the cost of eating gluten-free, right? Ok, so…
1) Learn to like leftovers, so read my tips on becoming a savvier gluten-free cook and actually put them to work for you.
2) Make friends with your freezer… here’s my free guide on learning how to maximize the chilly space you’ve got above or next to your fridge (think beyond just ice cream)
3) Focus on buying wholer food options rather than the food products. Produce stands are great for this or even buying a CSA share so that you have everything that you’ll need. (And committing to having a garden or even just growing some of your own herbs from the plants you can buy at Home Despot saves money too.)
Even simple things like salsa and guacamole which can cost an arm and a leg if you buy them pre-made cost a fraction of the price if you buy (or grow some of) the ingredients and make them yourself. Delicious salsa can take minutes to whip together and the same goes for guacamole.
4) Buy your gluten-free products in bulk. If you find something that you really love (say a particular pasta brand), spend the money up-front and buy a case. Amazon is a great place to look for deals on these types of items. You can check out a listing of some cool products that I approve of right here.
Now that you have resources to move forward, what steps will you take to make your gluten-free life easier & less expensive?
And if you’ve got a tip that I’ve missed, share it with us here!