The Rising Cost of Gluten-Free Food

Devil emoji with

We all complain about the cost of gluten-free food, so...did you feel a little evil twinge of self-satisfaction when you learned that the price of wheat is going up?  

C’mon, admit it.  You did, didn’t you?

Was it something like “Ha, now the rest of you get to feel the pain of a $7 loaf of bread”?

Or was it more like “Well this isn’t great for the world, but it won’t affect me”?  Kind of like having a vaccination against a nasty virus.

I can admit it, I did.  But then I picked up the newspaper.  Well, not really, I picked up my tablet, and learned a bit more about what’s going on and what we might expect.  

Then I realized that the solution to this for those of us with celiac disease is the same solution, or solutions, I’ve been advocating all along.  Eat whole naturally gluten-free foods, eat local as much as possible and cook.

 Here’s why.

Why Are Gluten-Free Food Costs Going Up?

It's Not Just Wheat

We’re at the tail end of a global pandemic that has caused interrupted supply chains and seen governments print billions of dollars, pounds, and euros to shield people from the affects of lockdowns.  That can only mean one thing, inflation.

Add to that a war between Russia and Ukraine who are both important producers of wheat, oil, and potash among other things1.

Oil is used to transport, well everything we transport but perhaps most importantly our food.

Wheat is the worlds second most important cereal grain next to corn and as the price of wheat goes up, people will turn to alternatives, driving those prices up too.  I’m not suggesting the non-celiac world will turn to gluten-free bread.  I can’t imagine them getting that desperate, but the pressure will spill over to other crops.  So we can expect some increase in gluten free bread prices too. 

Potash is used in fertilizer.  If the cost of fertilizer goes up, pretty much all our food goes up.

So this is kind of a perfect storm that will affect not only the cost of gluten-free food, but of all food. 

Why is Gluten Free So Expensive?

Gluten free products are specialty items.  They are produced in smaller quantities which means companies don’t benefit from economies of scale.  Also, the formulations of gluten free products are more complicated.  You know this if you bake.  It’s not just milling one grain (wheat) into flour and using that.  It’s developing formulations of several grains and starches to make up for the lack of gluten.  These things make the product more expensive to produce, and that gets passed on to us. 


How To Protect Yourself From Rising Cost of Gluten-Free Food

Cook

The best thing you can do to ease the cost of your gluten free diet is to cook.  If you can get comfortable in the kitchen and learn to make delicious, satisfying gluten free meals from scratch, you’ll be doing yourself and your family a huge favor in so many ways. 

When you cook you control the ingredients.  If you have any special dietary needs like low sodium, or sugar or other food intolerances, you can adjust for those.  You can substitute for any likes or dislikes.  And, most relevant to this discussion, you can take some pressure off your bank account.

Is It More Expensive to be Gluten-Free?

Yes gluten-free is expensive if you buy processed gluten-free products.  A 2019 study showed that gluten free products cost 83% more than comparable gluten products.

Gluten-free bread costs more than wheat bread.  Gluten-free flour costs more than wheat flour.  BUT, if you focus your diet on whole, fresh naturally gluten-free foods, you pay the same price as everyone else.

That is the best way to control the cost of gluten-free food especially in these uncertain times.

Comparison of Gluten-Free Takeout and Gluten-Free Home Cooking

Here are examples of some common takeout and restaurant meals and how much you’ would save if you made the same thing at home2.

Pizza

gluten free pizza

A 9” gluten-free Pepperoni Lover’s Pizza from Pizza Hut costs $15.99

A 12” gluten-free pizza made at home costs about $5.75

Burgers

gluten free burger with fries

This gluten-free restaurant burger without the fries cost $12.95

The same gluten-free burger made at home would cost about $3.75

Fries

A large order of fries at McDonalds costs $3.29

The same amount of potato at the grocery store is about $0.15

Steak Dinner

steak dinner with colourful veggies on the side.

A 6oz top sirloin dinner at the Keg is $29.00

The same steak at home with a baked potato and green veg is about $5.00

Are you shocked?  You knew that eating out was costing you more but did you realize how much more you're spending for the convenience of grabbing dinner on the way home?

More Tips for Saving Money on Your Gluten-Free Diet

fresh vegetables on a farmer's market table

Buy local

As much as possible, try to buy from local producers.  When we do this we avoid the cost and the environmental impacts of shipping food across the continent and around the world.  Of course, for those of us who live in climates that can’t produce food year round this is difficult, but every little bit helps, our pocket books and the planet. 

When your part of the world is in its growing season, there is nothing better than fresh produce from a farmer’s market.  Do some digging and see if you can find a butcher who sells local meat.  We even found local farm fresh eggs and honey!

Choose Quality

When you choose good quality, whole, fresh foods you’ll feel better, you’ll be healthier, and you’ll likely eat less.  The reason for this is that you’ll be getting the nutrients your body requires so your cravings won’t be sending you back to the cupboard for more. 

Stock Up

Stock up when items are in season and on sale.

When canned beans, tomatoes and chickpeas are on sale, stock up.  

Make use of your freezer and stock up on meat.  Check with your local butcher, they often give discounts on freezer orders. 

Are you convinced?

If so, here’s some more info you’ll find helpful.

Tips to make gluten free meals easy, and lots of suggestions.

Gluten Free Cooking basics and how to protect yourself from cross contamination.

Lots of Gluten-Free Recipes so you’ll have lots of ideas and lots of variety.

Sources:

1. Bundale, B. (2022, March 8). Russian invasion of Ukraine making food inflation worse as wheat prices surge | CBC News. CBCnews. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/wheat-prices-ukraine-1.6377239

2. Grocery prices from PC App March 11, 2022.  Restaurant prices from websites of the restaurants mentioned as of March 11, 2022.


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