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Seven Ways We Lowered Our Gluten-Free Grocery Bill

glutenfreegrocerybill

Guest post from Jen of Working At Homeschool

Our grocery budget was unprepared when my oldest daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease three years ago.

At the time, I was caught off-guard – I didn’t know anyone who had Celiac disease who could give us advice, and the grocery stores were filled with brightly colored gluten-free packaged foods that seemed like necessities (they weren’t).

My first shopping trip post-diagnosis was a total failure. I spent my entire monthly budget for food on one week of groceries! How could a family who had heavily relied on pastas, breads, and tortillas survive financially when the gluten-free counterparts were triple the cost?

We didn’t plan well and overspent immediately after her diagnosis; however, we have finally figured it out, and now our grocery budget (and our family) is healthier than ever!

Here are the 7 main ways we have lowered our grocery bill while eating gluten-free:

1. We use naturally gluten-free foods.

We plan our meals and snacks around foods that are naturally gluten-free like meats, eggs, dairy, vegetables, rice, quinoa, fruit, and nuts. We used to buy Goldfish crackers and granola bars, but my kids are just as happy with cheese sticks, almonds, and sliced veggies – which are a fraction of the cost!

2. We don’t buy pre-packaged gluten-free “replacement” foods.

Instead of pricey packages of gluten-free substitutes for pasta, tortillas, bread, and desserts, we substitute spaghetti squash, regular corn tortillas, and the kids’ favorite ice cream.

3. We buy in bulk.

We buy gluten-free flour in bulk when we find it at a decent price.

Most gluten-free foods are full of ingredients that aren’t very good for you, and gluten-free flours are no exception. But my daughter has cravings for yummy, homemade bread (and I don’t blame her!) so we stock up on gluten-free flour and make it as a special treat from time to time.

4. We don’t waste!

When we do make gluten-free bread, we use the heel ends or leftovers to make croutons or crackers.

5. We avoid more expensive “natural” stores.

If we do need to buy gluten-free, we make sure to buy online or at the local grocery store.

We’ve compared prices multiple times over the years and discovered that the staples can be found at Kroger or Trader Joe’s for a far better price than a specialty store known for gluten-free foods.

6. We buy regular cereals instead of specialty cereal.

My kids love cereal, and while we used to have to buy a separate box for my daughter because it was so expensive, now many cereals that have coupons available are going gluten-free. We can buy Chex, Cheerios, and several others without breaking the bank.

7. We research specially labeled “gluten-free” products before we buy them.

Some products (pure vanilla extract, for one) are naturally gluten-free – but some are marketed as a gluten-free product unnecessarily. A quick Google search revealed that most, if not all, pure vanilla extracts are completely gluten-free and there is no reason for me to spend an extra $4 on a specially-marked bottle.

These are just 7 ways we’ve saved money as a gluten-free family.

Have you cut out gluten? How do you save money?

Jen is a work-at-home homeschooling mom who works part-time on her website, workingathomeschool.com, part-time for a non-profit ministry, and full-time wrangling her 5 young kids. Jen writes passionately about Bible-based homeschooling, organization, healthy gluten-free food, and meal planning. While acknowledging that meal planning is an incredibly boring hobby to have, she is thankful that it works to the benefit of her readers as she provides monthly free printable healthy menus, meal plans, and shopping lists.

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14 Comments

  • JP says:

    Thank you very much. I needed this. Our budget can sky rocket with buying the processed gluten free foods. I’m revamping our budget for the summer and will only buy naturally gluten free foods. I’m working on the budget and am trying to cut out about $20-30. Thanks for this article.

  • Jen says:

    Please be careful of Cheerios, they are making a lot of celiac disease sufferers sick.

    • Heather says:

      I was going to say this, too! I haven’t had a problem with gf Chex (ooh now I want some lol!) but I won’t buy the Cheerios. Too many people are getting SO sick from them!!

  • Amy says:

    Aldi has some wonderful gluten-free items that are just about as cheap as buying the regular non-gluten-free name brand items at a regular grocery store. For convenience, we get the pretzels, crackers, and a few of their frozen items (we don’t recommend the frozen chicken nuggets.). But, basically, we just eat regular food, and avoid stuff with gluten. Meat, veggies, fruit. When we avoid the specialty items as a whole, it isn’t as bad to occasionally splurge on some when we have coupons, or a gf cake mix for a birthday etc.

    • Carrie says:

      My family loves ALDI’s gluten-free line. In fact the bread is my husband’s favorite, and it’s $2 a loaf cheaper than any other GF bread.

      These are great tips! I mention several of these in my book Gluten-Free and Family Friendly. Not attempting to replace grains in the diet with GF counterparts is wise because we all need to be eating less of those things anyway, and a lot of the GF flours spike the blood sugar, leading to weight gain and other issues.

  • Beth says:

    These are good tips for any major allergy issue. My son was recently diagnosed with a soy allergy. Soy is in almost everything processed, like gluten is. Even store bought breads! We have been living in a country that doesn’t have much processed food so the adjustment wasn’t as major, but we’re moving back to the States at the end of the month and I’m nervous. One thing I’ve been doing is looking at companies online. A lot of food companies have a list of foods that don’t have the major allergens. Although, as celiac sufferers know, you have to make sure the company knows what they are talking about. Just because an ingredient doesn’t sound like soy or gluten it doesn’t mean it’s not derived from soy or gluten. I have found Frito-Lay to be pretty transparent. I’m making a list that I can take shopping with me of possible “normal” items. That way I’m not overwhelmed at the store trying to read every label or trying to avoid everything that comes in a package. I’ll know, “these items should be fine, I’ll just double check the label when I shop. I’ll skip all the other brands.”

  • Vicki shyne says:

    I agree with all your suggestions except the vanilla. My son is super gluten intolerent, and vanilla extract has alcohol in it, and most alchol is distilled from wheat. Just be careful if you are really sensitive.

  • Joanne Peterson says:

    Mixing your own gluten flour blend is cheaper than the ready made. Using psyllium husks instead of xanthan gum, or guar gum is cheaper, it’s unflavored metamucil basically. It’s healthier because I used less of the starch than the prepackaged mix. Gluten free girl and the chef have very good blends, recipes, and good percentages of whole grains to starch, and so does Allergy Free Alaska.

    Aldi’s pasta is very good, and very reasonably priced. The pasta are whole grain brown rice, corn, quinoa, and the texture and flavor is very good.

  • Jen says:

    Be careful of General Mills… I don’t eat Chex anymore… and I would never trust Cherios after so many Celiacs go sick.
    I’d be hesitant to buy the “regular” aisle cereals that claim to be gluten free. Usually they are made in the same facility as wheat products, they clean their oats (not from a dedicated gluten free wheat field), and often don’t test at the FDA standard for gluten free. I know a lot of people who have gotten sick from Chex (me included).
    It might seem ridiculous, but eating a little bit of gluten has the potential to do serious damage to a Celiac’s body!

    The comment about Aldi that Amy made is great. I’ve never had issues with their G free brand… a lot of the G free brand seems like it is similar to Enjoy Life. But avoid Sam Mills brand which they sometimes used to sell at Aldi because Sam Mills brand had barley in it even though it was marked gluten free.

    • Jen says:

      My daughter has Celiac disease, is super-sensitive, and has been able to eat all GF cereals with no problem.

      • Jen says:

        I’m super sensitive too and I have had issues with Chex. Be careful- just because your daughter doesn’t show symptoms doesn’t mean her body isn’t being damaged.

  • Margery says:

    It would be helpful if you could expand more upon buying gluten-free flour in bulk. My son was diagnosed as being gluten (and dairy!) intolerant less than a year ago.

    I generally think of buying in bulk as scooping a product out of a bin at a place like Sprouts or Whole Foods. Buying from bulk bins isn’t good for people with gluten allergies because of cross-contamination with the flour bins and other wheat-containing bins.

    The other manner in which people buy in bulk is to order a 20-lb to 50-lb bag of something, which usually ends up being cheaper per pound in the long run. If you do this, could you please share your sources. I have bought rice and popcorn in large bags, but I do not have a source for flour.

    Ditto on the comment about Aldi’s gluten free line. Additionally, Aldi does a fabulous job of labeling their regular products which are gluten-free. I’ve found bacon, hot dogs, lunch ham, roast beef, chicken broth, hot sauce, pepperoni, and many other products which would be questionable if they were not labeled. OK, these are not the healthiest foods, but we do use them once in a while! It’s nice to have options.

    One other tip, if you have a grain mill, you can mill your own rice flours and corn flours. Popcorn makes wonderful corn flour! This saves an enormous amount of money on flour.

    • Tracit says:

      Margery, I’m not sure where you are located, but we’ve saved a lot of money ordering in bulk from Azure Standard. They’re based in Oregon, but they have food drops all over much of the country. I do grind my own, and then am able to make different flour blends based on what I’m making. My oldest is severely allergic to dairy, egg, all nuts, and sesame, and 4 years ago we eliminated gluten as well. It’s hard, but it does get easier!

  • Jen says:

    My daughter is a very sensitive Celiac disease sufferer and she can eat all GF General Mills cereals with no problem.

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