Gluten Free Food-Does it Have to be Expensive?

Yesterday I was in the supermarket with my Mom, and I was pointing out the section they had devoted to gluten free food. She said-”It’s so expensive!” We were looking at the baking mixes, and gluten free pasta. And I agree-a box of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Chip cookie mix was $4.99. The glutinous regular mix was $1.99. Big difference, without a doubt. I explained to her that buying specialty items like the cookie mix was a rarity though, and for the most part I eat naturally gluten free foods, which don’t cost any more than regular groceries.

Let’s take a look at 2 sample menus. The first menu is composed of foods that are primarily naturally gluten free, and the second composed more of food that is engineered to be gluten free. These are of course approximate, as actual costs may vary dependent on location.

Sample grocery list 1-just an example

  • Bobs Red Mill Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal 24 oz package = 16 servings$4.49
  • Shop Rite brand frozen unsweetened blueberries 12 oz = 2.5 servings $1.99
  • Shop Rite Walnuts Chopped 6 oz = 6 servings $2.00
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast= about 3 servings $3.99/lb
  • Sweet potato = depends but about 3 servings $1.99/lb
  • Shop Rite 16 oz frozen broccoli = 5 servings $1.99
  • Chicken of the Sea Albacore Tuna 5 oz can = 1 serving $1.59
  • Baby Mixed Salad Greens 5 oz = 2 servings $2.99
  • Minute Rice Instant Brown Rice= 14 oz = 9 servings$2.49
  • Chobani Greek Yogurt Non Fat Blueberry 1 container @ 6 oz $1.25

    Grand Total: Total Servings:
    $25.27 (49)

    Sample grocery list 2-(again just an example, I’m not going to pretend to know how many these will feed-depends so much on the people in the family!)

  • Van’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Waffles 9 oz (this is 6 waffles=3 servings) $2.79
  • Pamela’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies 7.25 oz 9 cookies=9 servings (in a perfect world) $4.49
  • Ener-G foods Light Brown Rice Bread 12 slices = 6 servings = $4.99
  • Deli turkey slices approximately 4-5 servings =$5.99/lb
  • Baby Mixed Salad Greens 5 oz = 2 servings $2.99
  • Glutino Gluten Free personal pizza 1 serving $4.99

    Grand Total: Total Servings:
    $26.24 (25)

    I will be the first to admit that this is far from scientific. The serving amounts I used are based on the product packaging, or in the case of chicken breast/sweet potato=stuff without packaging, I just used common serving sizes. To get the total servings I simply added them all, so it is not necessarily representative of a specific meal plan. What I hope it illustrates is that by choosing more foods that a naturally gluten free, you get more bang for your buck. And not just from a financial perspective, either. As a general rule, you will receive more nutrition for the calorie as well-so nutritional bang for your caloric buck as I am fond of saying. You also will be getting some key nutrients that we may be deficient in, as I talked about in my “common nutrient absorption issues” article.

    My friend Kim posts her weekly menu plan over at Gluten Free is Life, and I think she does a great job of incorporating mostly naturally gluten free foods with a few other fun items thrown in. She cooks for her kids, and her menus are very kid friendly, but still very health aware. Check them out for some good ideas. Also, my article on “cooking healthfully and flavorfully gluten free” may give some inspiration too.

    As this year progresses, I will be continuing my “not really a recipe” cooking article series. I’ve gotten some feedback that cooking with methods instead of complicated recipes may be a helpful and less intimidating way for people to feel more comfortable cooking-so that’s what we shall do! (And since that’s how I cook anyway-works out well all around!)

    The updated free nutrition guide is now available, and you also receive the free audio companion-essentially an audiobook of the guide in MP3 form. You can sign up to receive that right below this post.

    So what do you think? How do you handle the financial impact of living gluten free?

  • Filed Under: celiac diseaseGluten Freenutrition

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    1. Kathy says:

      This is so true. I think we all get kind of wrapped up in
      replacing what we are used to eating. The naturally gluten
      free foods are the best as well as the cheapest. For our
      health and our budget. Sometimes we forget that many meals
      we enjoy are naturally gluten free anyway, we just need to
      focus more on those.

    2. Erin says:

      Hi Kathy!
      Yes, absolutely. Sometimes we look so much for the “gluten free” label we may forget what doesn’t have a label, but is gluten free!

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