17 Ways to Cut the Cost of Gluten Free Food

With grocery prices on the rise, are you looking for some creative tips to save on the cost of gluten-free food?  I've put together a list of ideas for you.  Combine a few of these and I think you'll see a difference in your grocery bill.  

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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 products1.

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.

Why is Gluten Free So Expensive?

We all complain about the cost of gluten-free food, so I thought before we get into money saving tips we should take a minute to talk about why.  

We didn't really need a study to tell us gluten-free food is more expensive.  We live it when we go grocery shopping. But why?

  • Gluten free products are specialty items which makes them more expensive to produce. 
  • They are produced in smaller quantities which means companies don’t benefit from economies of scale. 
  • Testing and Certification is expensive. For a product to be sold as gluten-free it must undergo testing and meet the threshold for the country where it's sold.
  • 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. 
  • They have a shorter shelf life.  This often means they need to be stored in the freezer. 

All of these things make the gluten-free products more expensive to produce, and that cost gets passed on to us. 

Cheaper Ways to Eat Gluten-Free

This is the list I put together for you.  Not all of the items will be practical for everyone, but if you pick a few and combine them, I'm confident you'll see your grocery bill come down.

1. Buy Naturally Gluten-Free Whole Foods

If you shop the perimeter of the super market where the fresh whole, naturally gluten-free foods are, you pay the same price as everyone else.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole fresh cuts of meat, eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products are all gluten-free.

2. Cook and Eat at Home

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.

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

homemade pizza with green herbs

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

restaurant burger and 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

Photo by Fernando Andrades on Unsplash - fast food fries and ketchup

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

plated steak dinner

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?

3. Cook From Scratch

I have no issue with keeping a few convenience products in the pantry.  We all need a break sometimes.  But those gluten-free chicken tenders and panko shrimp are pricey and so are all the bottles of sauce and salad dressing.  Making your own is easy and much cheaper. 

4. Buy local

farmers_market.jpg

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. 

Do some digging and see if you can find a butcher who sells local meat.  We even found local farm fresh eggs and honey!


5. Stock Up When There's a Sale

It may cost a bit more on that trip if you buy two tubs of peanut butter or extra chicken breasts for the freezer when they're on sale, but you'll save in the long run.  

6. Enjoy Tonight

Many stores have a "enjoy tonight" section with deep discounts on food that's close to it's expiry.  Take advantage of those deals.

7. Buy Food That's in Season

When your part of the world is in its growing season, there is nothing better than fresh produce from a farmer’s market.  

Both in the grocery store and at local markets, food that's in season is less expensive because it's local and plentiful.  It doesn't need to be shipped in refrigerated trucks from far away. 

8.  Choose Cheaper Cuts of Meat

The tougher cuts like flank steak, pork shoulder, or rump roast can actually be the most flavorful if you know how to cook them, and they are so much cheaper.  It's the collagen fiber that makes it tough, but once it's broken down with a long slow braise you'll have a tender piece of meat with a silky sauce and more money in your bank account. 

9. Buy in Bulk

Check out your local bulk food store or the bulk section of your grocery store.  Many items like beans, rice and other gluten-free grains can be purchased in large quantities to save money.  Do watch your price per gram or price per ounce though.  Stores are onto this and it's not always cheaper. 

10. Shop the Discount Stores

It might be a bit more work.  Some of the discount stores don't have your specialty items like gluten-free breads, or goat cheeses if you have a casein intolerance.  But shopping at the discount stores for the regular items can be a huge savings.  Try switching every other week rather than making two stops. 

11. Shop the Sales

Do you check the flyers?  They might still come to your door or you can sign up to receive them online.  Stores will put on amazing deals to get you in the door.  Take advantage. 

If you don't want a bunch of store promotions jamming your inbox, consider setting up a separate email account just for that purpose. 

12. Price Match

This goes along with number 11.  Many stores will price match, you just have to ask.  Check out their policy online to see what they require.  Usually you need to bring a copy of the other store's flyer.

13. Clip Coupons

I'm terrible at this.  I cut out coupons then forget them on the kitchen counter or even in my purse.  But with the soaring cost of gluten free food, it's worth paying more attention to this cost cutting measure.  Try putting the coupons in your wallet next to the card you'll be paying with.  You can also go online to look for coupons.  Especially check out your favorite gluten-free brands to see what they are offering.  

14.  Pay With Your Card for Points

Some cards give you cash back.  Some give you travel points, or points toward buying a new car.  Check with your bank to see what they have to offer. I pay for all my groceries with my Aeroplan Visa because of the points.  I've gotten free flights, free rental cars, discount accommodations, all because I buy my groceries, and everything else, on my card.  Just be sure to pay it off every month so you don't end up paying interest.  That would defeat the purpose. 

15. Get a Membership

Especially if you have a family.  The big box membership stores like Costco and Sam's Club have great deals if you buy in large quantities.  They often have a decent selection of gluten-free stapes as well. 

16. Reduce Waste

We've all seen the meme about buying a container of mixed greens so it can sit in the fridge and be thrown out next week.  Don't do it.  I'm all for getting greens in your diet, but you need to eat them for them to do you any good.  

  • Try a weekly clean out the fridge night to use up all the leftovers before going shopping for fresh.
  • Make up a big bowl of salad for the week so you'll be more likely to eat it.
  • If you cook more than you think you can eat in a few days, freeze some for those nights you don't feel like cooking.

17. Choose Quality

This may seem counter-intuitive.  After all, isn't higher quality food more expensive?  Yes, sometimes, but it's an investment.  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. 

There's More

Did you find any of that helpful?  Do you have any tips to share?  Get in the conversation at my NGF Facebook Group.

And if you're interested, take a look at the links below for more help making budget friendly gluten free meals.  

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. M;, S. L. R. (n.d.). Gluten-free and regular foods: A cost comparison. Canadian journal of dietetic practice and research : a publication of Dietitians of Canada = Revue canadienne de la pratique et de la recherche en dietetique : une publication des Dietetistes du Canada. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18783640/

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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