It is a fact that eating gluten-free is expensive. So how do you keep costs low and and your spirits high? The key is to focus your budget on inexpensive food that does the best job of satisfying your family’s hunger and your dietary needs.
The food industry has people hooked on eating cheap, easily accessible, throw-away products. Ever witness how fast a bag of Oreo’s cookies disappears from the pantry? You might not know it yet, but the gluten-free equivalent of Oreo’s costs almost double (did you hear your wallet scream?).
You don’t have money to waste. So why spend it on sugary gluten-free food that provides little to no nutritional value?
Why is Gluten-Free Food More Expensive?
Before going gluten-free you were probably used to buying bread and cookies at reasonably low prices. But now that you are on a new diet, gluten-free equivalents are produced in smaller batches. And the ingredients to make those equivalents – like gluten-free flour — are more expensive.
Additionally, some gluten-free food manufacturers use special tests to certify that they comply with gluten-free requirements — an expense that ultimately gets passed on to you. It’s simple economics that higher production costs result in higher food prices. Hopefully, as more people eat gluten-free, more gluten-free food will be produced and the cost will come down.
What Gluten-Free Food is the Most Expensive?
The most expensive gluten-free foods are those that use specialty gluten-free ingredients. For example, a small bag half-pound bag of gluten-free brown rice flour, which is a common ingredient in baked goods, costs about the same as a two pound bag of wheat flour.
What does that tell you? If that bag of brown rice flour is expensive for you, it is expensive for the manufacturer too.
It makes sense then, that the most expensive gluten-free foods are baked goods that use expensive ingredients. Foods like cookies, cakes, cupcakes, breads, muffins, and nutrition bars are the most expensive.
You might say, “Well, it’s baked in a dedicated gluten-free facility. And that’s supposed to be a good thing.” Well, yes it is. But you’re paying extra for that manufacturing safety. There are healthy gluten-free food items that cost the same no matter what diet you’re on. So you need to find the ones that are healthy and less expensive.
What Gluten-Free Food is Less Expensive?
- Produce. Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free and they satisfy hunger and nutritional needs.
- Meat, as long as it’s not pre-seasoned, pre-marinated, or full of flavor enhancers.
- Many plain dairy products.
- Many chips and crackers are gluten-free
None of these require special ingredients or handling to make sure they are gluten-free. They naturally come that way.
You may be thinking you will never get your family to eat fruits and vegetables. And that you can’t live without sandwiches and buns (remember the gluten-free alternatives I mentioned previously).
It is a challenge to keep everyone happy at mealtime. But you only have so much money to spend on food. So what can you serve on a tight budget?
How to Keep Costs Down
If you’re on a tight budget the number one priority should be feeding your family healthy, nutritional food.
- Fruits (great for breakfast or a snack), vegetables, nuts and meat provide the highest protein and nutritional value.
- Salad makes a great meal by itself, or as a side for any meal.
- Dairy is second in cost efficiency: Eggs and cheese are as important as milk (you can always buy dry milk, and it’s less expensive than fresh).
- Next in importance is cereal (again, several General Mills Chex cereals are gluten-free. They’re the most cost-effective and nutritional since they’re fortified with vitamins and minerals).
- Gluten-free pasta and bread. Avoid buying gluten-free buns as they can be pricey. It won’t take your family long to get used to eating hot dogs and hamburgers without them, which can save you a ton of money every year.
- You can buy large inexpensive bags of gluten-free potato or corn chips.
- Nuts can be expensive, but they fill you up fast so you need to consume less.
- You can buy big boxes of gluten-free Crunchmaster Multi-Grain Crackers at places like Costco or Sam’s Club.
If your family likes sweet beverages, opt for frozen concentrates instead of sodas or bottled juice.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned cookies, muffins or ice cream. If you have money left over for such treats, that’s great. But if you’re working with a tight budget, focus on the food that will sustain you and your pocketbook!
- Gluten-free food is more expensive because it costs more to make.
- Gluten-free bread, cupcakes, cakes, muffins, and cookies are the most expensive.
- Produce, meat, plain dairy products and chips are less expensive.
- Buying protein-rich and nutritional food will keep your family well-fed and your budget in check.
Eating gluten-free is a balancing act between enjoyable yet affordable food. Things like cookies, cakes and muffins are so yummy that it can seem like a sacrifice to give them up.
But you have to keep your family healthy, so focus your budget on protein-rich, high nutrient gluten-free food such as meat, fruits and vegetables.