If you, or someone in your household, are celiac or gluten intolerant, you realize very quickly that gluten-free products often come with a much larger price tag. All you have to do is compare a bag of regular white flour to a bag of gluten-free flour at the grocery store. The gluten-free flour comes in a smaller bag and yet it costs more. It seems so wrong when going gluten-free is the only way you can stay healthy.
Fortunately, there are some governments that recognize this. Canada is one such country. It offers people with celiac disease the chance to claim the extra costs, associated with buying gluten-free products, as a medical expense. Here, in the United States, there is no specific reference on the IRS website about being able to claim the extra costs of having celiac disease as a medical expense. However, it does appear that if your medical and dental expenses are more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, that you can include these extra costs as a medical claim with a letter from your doctor. I’m not an accountant, nor do I play one on TV, 😉 so it’s best to speak to your accountant and/or local celiac group to find out more.
Fortunately, there are ways to be gluten-free and be frugal at the same time when it comes to grocery shopping. Following are just a few tips to help you save at the grocery store.
1. Use foods that are naturally gluten-free
Fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, seeds and nuts in natural form are good examples of foods that are naturally gluten-free.They are healthier and better for you than processed foods anyway. Even frozen fruits and vegetables without sauces are naturally gluten-free, you just need to check labels to see if they’ve been processed in a facility that processes foods with wheat, rye or barley. If so then they could be cross-contaminated and no longer gluten-free.
2. Look for deals
Just because you are unable to consume gluten, doesn’t mean that you cannot continue to use coupons, or look for sales and discounts on foods that are naturally gluten-free. Many grocery stores put their meat on sale at 30% discounts when the best-before date approaches. Even some grocery stores will put vegetables such as spinach or bags of coleslaw on sale.
Sign up online for all kinds of coupons from gluten-free ones to household products, anything that can lower your overall grocery bills.
3. Substitute snacks when possible
Gluten-free snack foods such as crackers, cookies and pretzels can be expensive. However, there are many snack foods found at the local grocery store, such as grapes, apples, cheese sticks, certain flavored rice cakes, that do not contain gluten and are priced better. Even potato chips can be a good choice in moderation. Just watch the flavored ones some contain wheat flour. Also, Pringles potato crisps are not gluten-free. When determining which snack foods to substitute with, you can call the various manufacturers and find out if their products contain gluten, but that’s not always helpful, because sometimes the person on the other end of the line, has no idea.
4. Buy in bulk
Join a membership club like Sam’s Club or Cosco. They have a lot more gluten-free offerings than they used to, in larger quantities, and memberships can be as low as $45.00 for a regular yearly membership at Sam’s. And, a membership can also save some money for your wallet, by buying gas at the membership too. Right now, I’m paying $2.62 a gallon at Sam’s Club, while everywhere else around is charging anywhere from $2.75 to $2.99 a gallon.
5. Create things from scratch
Unfortunately, this requires more use of your time, but it can save you a lot of money. This is especially important if you like baked goods. Therefore, it can be a good idea to buy gluten-free grains in bulk, and then use them to make the flour for your baked goods. But be sure that you are not buying in bulk at the bulk bins, as the food in there could be cross contaminated.
A note of caution: There is an exception to #4. If you only bake occasionally, it may actually be less expensive to buy the occasional gluten-free mix. This is because gluten-free baking takes some practice, patience, and trial and error, so you very well could end up making more costly mistakes when baking from scratch, if you do not do it very often.
If you liked this post on gluten-free on a budget, here are a few more that I’ve written on the subject. You can find them here: