How to Handle the Expense of a Gluten Free Diet

"Gluten free items are so expensive, and I'm on a budget! How do you afford to eat this way??"

This is, without a doubt, the most commonly asked question once people learn about the way I eat. And rightfully so! So many of us are on a budget these days, and "specialty" foods really add up quickly.

I don't think it would be fair for me to answer this question without some blatant honesty first.

Are you ready for it?

My grocery budget is kind of obnoxious.

But don't panic! I promise, you really can have a very normal grocery bill and still eat in a way that allows you to feel your best.

If I sit back and think about *why* my budget is this way, I can come up with several reasons. First, I kind of love to shop at our local, all-organic store. It's not a snobbiness thing, it's just... me. It's a choice I make. Even my husband has come to love our weekend trips to Huckleberry's, and the three-year-old insists that we shop at the store "up the big mountain" rather than the closer, mainstream store. Second, food is my 'medicine.' I could spend money visiting doctor's routinely for my health problems, or I could eat a healthy, balanced diet that is right for me. {I sure know which one sounds more appealing to me!}

Other factors? I bake and cook. A lot. Primarily because of this blog project, I find myself in search of ingredients I might not have considered before, or items I don't always keep on hand, so that I can try new recipes or ideas. If you aren't doing something similar, your menu rotations might not be so broad, meaning a more stream-lined pantry and budget. I also feed two very busy, hard-working boys. One of them eats a whole lot more than the other, but they both eat more than I do on any given day!

Anyway--my point is that, while I don't maintain a tight grocery budget, it's not impossible. Here are my suggestions:

1. If your diet includes meat, consider not eating meat every day. Plan a couple of meatless dinners each week, and you'll definitely see the savings! My recipe for red beans and rice is a big, big hit in our house and cost pennies to make.
2. Collect coupons. Yes, they exist! Start by following your favorite companies online. Many of my favorite brands {Udi's, Daiya, Enjoy Life...} offer printable coupons via their website or Facebook. The Earth Balance website has a community resource where you can post recipes and participate in discussions. Posting a recipe will land you a couple of coupons, and being a routine "commenter" on their Facebook page or the community will often score some freebies too. Watch for sales at your favorite stores, check for fliers or brochures posted near products {they often hide a coupon inside}, or, consider writing a sweet e-mail to the company ASKING for coupons. Sometimes they'll send 'em right along. It's also sometimes worth it to pick up those little freebie magazines in the natural section of your grocery store. They might be hiding a coupon or two.
3. Shop in the bulk bins. Beans, rice, specialty flours, gluten free pasta, Enjoy Life chocolate chips, dried fruits, snacks... these are all things I can {and do} find in my local bulk bins.
4. Shop online. For products you know and love, Amazon can be a great resource for stocking up. You'll often have to buy by the case, so make sure it's something you love first! ...and do the math. Not all "deals" are really deals at all.
5. Cook from scratch. Yes, that pretty jar of organic spaghetti sauce looks enticing. Don't buy it. Instead, buy some veggies and make your own! Use an inexpensive can of plain tomato sauce as your base for a speedier option.
6. Choose your battles. I like to buy organic products. It's important to me. Sometimes, it's just not worth it though. For example, I keep a pretty good supply of canned beans around, for a variety of things. Black beans, chick peas, kidney... and at more than $2.00 each for the organic variety, I'm better off stocking up on the $0.69 mainstream variety during a sale. That leaves me with some wiggle room for the bag of coconut flour I want to try, or to pick up a new package of xanthan gum when I'm low.
7. Remember that some of those expensive products will last a long, long time. The xanathan gum I mentioned? And my frequent baking habits? I bought a package of Bob's Red Mill brand xanthan gum when I started my endeavor in October of 2010. I just replaced it this month, February of 2012.

This is only a start, and some of these ideas might seem pretty basic, but with a little bit of planning and compromise, you can afford to eat this way. I promise.

Do you have something to add? A shopping tip I might have missed, or a question I haven't answered? Please let me know in the comments and I'll happily include your suggestions in my post!


  1. Great tips! I agree with buying in bulk. My friend and I both have Celiac's and buy things by the case we like. There are a lot of foods that are gluten free naturally to buy. Coupons are awesome and they're out there!

  2. I'm sure I could think of a lot to say on this, but the main thing is learning how many things are gluten free naturally. Of course the more food allergies you add in, the more that list is narrowed down. Whenever people make comments about eating gluten free being gross and that they'd never want to eat that way, I always want to remind them then that they better stop eating any meat, fruits, veggies, rice, potatoes, spices, eggs, etc. Other than rice pasta and gluten free flour*, I only buy specialty products if I know it's going to be a super busy week, or we will be traveling.

    *I LOVE Pamela's Amazing bread mix... it already includes xanthum gum in it and it works great to substitute cup for cup for regular flour. I can buy it locally in 25lb bags at a great bulk rate. And it doesn't have a bitter taste when uncooked so I can still lick the beaters when I'm baking :)

  3. I love the idea to buy larger quantities and split them between friends!

    And you're both right. I was so busy, in this post, considering the "replacement" products and things that I forgot to put any emphasis on the *whole* foods we can likely all eat (some exceptions, of course), like fruits, veggies, meat, etc..

    In fact that is a very large part of my day-to-day diet, with baked goods and specialty breads, etc. being special additions to lots of fruits and veggies, and some lean meat.

  4. I just realized, and figured it might be worth mentioning, that Pamela's BREAD mix is free of gluten, dairy, and soy, while Pamela's BAKING/PANCAKE mix does contain buttermilk.


Thanks for your opinion, and for keeping things friendly! I aim to answer every question that is asked here on my blog, so feel free to leave your inquiries.

Please note that comments on posts older than five days require moderation. I do this so that I don't miss out on what you have to say! Nothing personal :)