The gluten-free diet is not cheap! Read below for 10 money saving tips for living gluten-free on a budget!
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The hardest part about going gluten-free is the sticker shock. One day you're buying a loaf of bread for $0.99 and the next you're paying over $4! It is a hard pill to swallow! It doesn't stop there, expect crazy prices on everything... cookies, crackers, cake mixes, pasta, and the list goes on! One study found that gluten-free substitutes on average are 242% more expensive than their regular counterpart when considering the cost per gram of each product!
That is insane. So the question is, how does anyone afford a gluten-free lifestyle, especially when it's not a choice for those of us with Celiac Disease? Truth is, it's not always easy but I do have 10 money-saving tips for living gluten-free on a budget!
1. Avoid the gluten-free aisle when possible!
This sounds crazy, right? But it's true, whenever possible, I avoid the "gluten-free" aisle! You don't have to buy everything specifically labeled gluten-free, especially if you do a little homework! There are many regular products out there that are still safe to eat!
Take spices for example: I buy regular McCormick Taco seasoning... not the packet labeled "gluten-free". Why? Well because after doing some research, I was comfortable with buying it. Click here to read about McCormick's labeling practices. In a nutshell, they will declare any allergen on the label and do not hide allergens in their ingredient lists. They also take care in avoiding cross-contact in their manufacturing facilities. Here is their statement on that:
Our McCormick facilities have allergen, sanitation, and hygiene programs in place. Our employees follow good manufacturing practices and are trained in the importance of correct labeling and the necessity of performing thorough equipment clean-up and change over procedures to minimize cross-contact of ingredients.McCormick
For this reason, I am comfortable with saving the money here and buying the regular product. This, of course, is a personal decision!
It doesn't stop there. Many 'regular' chips, cereals, salad dressings, sauces, and much more are gluten-free and safe to eat without the added markup! Some may even say 'gluten-free' in tiny print on the back. The average consumer may not even notice that, but you will! Read the ingredients and allergen statement and make a judgement call from there.
2. Utilize coupons!
Take advantage of manufacturers' coupons! I have found that gluten-free brands freely give out coupons. Some will save you a dollar or two and sometimes you'll be lucky enough to get a full-size product for free! Take advantage of these offers by signing up for manufacturer emails and by visiting their websites and social media pages.
✅ Gluten-free on a Budget Pro Tip: Find a local gluten-free expo and you will score big on coupons!
Another great resource for coupons is your local grocery store's app! My local grocer is Kroger. I downloaded the app and added my loyalty card to it. Now, the Kroger app offers personalized, 'best customer' coupons based on what I most frequently buy. I have even started to see some gluten-free items pop into my personalized coupons! There are many coupons to choose from and load to your card. No paper needed!
✅ Gluten-free on a Budget Pro Tip: You can get the most out of your coupons by combining sale prices, manufacturer's coupons, and/or in-app coupons whenever possible!
3. Become a meal planner.
Do you meal plan? I do! Once a week I check all the sale ads for my local grocery stores. Then I plan meals for the week based around what is on sale. This helps save money not just on gluten-free items but regular items as well. If chuck roast is on sale, I make Italian Beef. If ground beef is on sale, I make Sloppy Joe's. Sales are also a good time to...
4. Stock up!
When something is a deal that's too good to pass up... stock up! If I come across a super deal, I buy multiple of the item, especially if I know I will use it before it expires. For example, I once found Gluten-free Barilla Pasta on sale at Kroger with their buy 5 save $5 sale. The final cost of each box of pasta was $1.39. You better believe I stocked up!
✅ Gluten-free on a Budget Pro tip: Be careful not to overstock! If you never end up using an item because it expires or goes bad, this is not saving you money! Which leads me to say...
5. Get a gluten-free(zer).
Did you know the best way to store some gluten-free items, especially flours and starches, is in the freezer? Yep! They will have a much longer shelf-life and are less likely to go rancid in the freezer!
Gluten-free bread, bagels, and buns may come already frozen or freeze really well. For this, I have a separate deep freezer that I call the Gluten-Free(zer). It is full of freezable items I stock up on like breads, flours, nuts, fruits, vegetables, frozen pizza for a quick dinner when I'm too tired to cook, and those ALDI Gluten-free Special Buy's during the month of May! (Hello GF Donuts!!)
6. Make the most of your gluten-free purchases.
Don't let extra food spoil! If ever there was a time not to waste food, it's now! For me this is mainly a problem with breads. Once open, most gluten-free breads are only good for 2-3 more days.
Therefore, when I open a package I make sure to freeze the remaining right away. Breads and buns will last for quite some time in the freezer when tightly wrapped. Then I pull out what I need as I need it.
You can even apply this to frozen pizza! If you can't eat a whole frozen pizza by yourself, cut the pizza in half or even thirds with a big knife before you cook it! Cook one half and wrap the other half tightly with foil and put it back in the freezer. This will net you at least two meals for the price of one frozen pizza!
7. Learn to love shopping online.
Scout out deals online! My favorite sources for great prices online are Amazon, Walmart, or Thrive Market. Thrive market has great sales and free product offers, so keep an eye out and sign up for their emails!
When I place an order, I will stock up on enough items to reach the free shipping threshold. I would rather stock up on food I know I will use, than spend money on shipping.
My favorite flour, Pamela's artisan blend gluten-free flour, tends to be the best price on Thrive Market, so I tend to get it from there. They also have good prices on two of my other favorites, Schar gluten-free honeygrams and schar gluten-free ciabatta rolls. I also find great prices on gluten-free flours from Walmart. They are upping their gluten-free game lately.
✅ Gluten-free on a Budget Pro Tip: Thrive Market also has an excellent program called Thrive Gives. For every paid membership they provide one for free to someone in need. Low-income families and current students, teachers, veterans, and first responders are encouraged to apply for a free Thrive Gives membership!
8. Buy in 'bulk' when you can.
I tend to buy in bulk when possible if it saves money in the long run.
Let's look at this bag of Namaste Foods Gluten-Free Flour Blend:
- On Amazon the 5 lb bag is (currently) $20.99 that's $4.20/pound
- The same flour at Walmart is (currently) $63.56 for six - 3lb bags, which is $3.53/lb.
That's quite a savings! In this instance I would buy in bulk and store the extra bags in my gluten-free(zer)!
9. It's ok to share the kitchen.
My kitchen is not 100% gluten-free. I have taken many precautions and some areas are 100% gluten-free, but I do allow gluten items in my kitchen. Here are a few ways I make it work:
- No gluten flours allowed. If my family wants cookies, pancakes, or anything from scratch that requires flour, they get gluten-free versions. I don't want flour dust flying around.
- I have my own gluten-free toaster. They have their own toaster for regular bread and such. I make sure the crumbs cleaned up.
- I have my own gluten-free butter, peanut butter, and condiments. Or I buy the squeeze bottles. I label my jars so that everyone knows which jar is gluten-free.
- I am the main person cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. Having control is the main reason I am comfortable sharing the kitchen with some gluten items. I am well aware of cross-contact so I keep the counters and everything else in the kitchen very clean to avoid issues.
It can be a pain washing my hands every time I make my kids a piece of toast or hand them a cracker. Also, kind of annoying boiling two separate pots of pasta. But for me it's worth the money I save, especially with 3 hungry kids and a husband in the house!
10. Realize you're probably saving money in other ways.
For me, I'm not eating out nearly as much as I did before I went gluten-free, which means that the money I used to spend in the drive-thru is repurposed to my grocery budget! That $5 Starbucks is now a loaf of bread. That $8 breakfast out, is now a bag of gluten-free pancake mix. Even though a gluten-free pizza mix is expensive, it's still cheaper than carry-out.
Believe it or not, the sticker shock of this diet will fade over time. While that doesn't mean there's more money to go around, it does relieve some of the anxiety. The more you get to know brands, the items you like, and your local and online stores, the better you'll be able to spot a good deal! With a little research and planning ahead, living gluten-free on a budget can be done.
Have I missed anything? What is your favorite money-saving tip? Tell me down below!