Does Eating GF Have to Be Expensive?


I wrote this blog post in October of 2017, and thought it would be appropriate to repost it.

The reason I wanted to do this blog post is because I have lost track of how often I have read that eating gluten free is extremely expensive. We have been doing it for a while now, and I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t have to be expensive. Some things will cost more of course, but those items are usually convenience items, so you would pay more for those whether they were gluten free or not.

Take a look at the above photo. That’s a lot of groceries, right? All of the above items were purchased for $265.30 Canadian. That’s $218.18 US, $271.67 AUS, 164.37 in British Pounds. Does this seem expensive? Let’s look at it another way…this is 12 days worth of meals and snacks, which is a total of 36 meals (each meal is feeding 3 people), and 72 snacks (2 snacks per person, per day)! Amazing, right? Here is a run-down of what is in the photo above:

(1) 4 pack of beef minute steaks

(2) 4 packs of pork loin chops

(1) pork minute steak

(1) pack sirloin beef stir-fry strips

(2) 12 packs of breakfast sausage

(1) pound ground turkey

(2) pounds ground beef

(2) bags shredded nacho cheese blend

(1) bag pepperoni sticks

(1) pkg turkey breast lunch meat

(1) pkg black forest ham lunchmeat

(3) boxes Annie’s white cheddar mac and cheese

(2) boxes rotini pasta

(1) box spaghetti pasta

(1) carton coconut milk coffee cream

(1) block old cheddar

(3) bags crinkle cut frozen french fries

(2) 18 packs of eggs (36 eggs in total)

(1) large bag of Fancy apples (approximately 16 apples in the bag)

(1) 5 pound bag of carrots

(1) bag of yellow onions

(1) purple onion

(1) medium container of sour cream

(1) 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

(1) jar Classico pasta sauce

(1) pound unsalted butter

(1) bottle French’s Worcestershire sauce

(1) bottle Kikkoman soy sauce

(1) bottle extra virgin olive oil

(2) cartons chicken broth

(1) large container cat treats

(6) 10 ounce cans low fat cream of mushroom condensed soup

(1) 10 ounce can of beef broth

(1) can kernel corn

(14) cans of wet cat food

(1) can Habitat pea and ham soup

(4) pkgs Clubhouse gravy granules

(1) bag Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free flour (red label)

(1) bunch organic bananas (I only buy organic when the price is comparable)

(1) bunch fresh spinach

(1) large sweet potato

(1) bunch celery

(1) bunch green onions

(1) 3 pack of english cucumbers

(1) bag of Udi’s hamburger buns (4 buns in each bag)

(1) bag of Udi’s hotdog buns (6 buns in each bag)

(1) pkg Tide laundry Flings

(1) family size bag of Cheetos Cheese Puffs

(1) bag of PC ketchup chips

(1) bag of Zesty Doritos

(2) pkgs O’Doughs multigrain sandwich thins (6 buns in each bag)

(1) loaf Kinnikinnick white bread

(1) 2.5 pound bag mixed peppers

Ok, so that’s the list! Big, right? Now let’s talk about the cost again…$265.30…a very reasonable cost! And this will feed 3 people (and 2 cats), 3 meals per day, plus 2 snacks per person twice daily, for 12 days. Of course, I have things in the fridge already like hummus for veggies, ketchup for fries, spices in the cupboard, etc. Most people have these things and only need to replace them now and then. There is even some laundry detergent, cat food and treats, plus some junk food. This particular batch had a lot more convenience foods in it than normal because of the busy schedule we had that month. Keep in mind that ALL these items are gluten free based on their ingredients list.

So here is a list of my “secrets” to success in keeping on budget with your gluten free shopping!

Secret 1: Get familiar with your local grocery stores, and when they mark down their fresh meats. This is probably where I save most of my money. I have been known to troll the meat aisle daily, watching for when the meat gets marked down. This usually happens about 2 days before the “best before” date. To me, the “best before” date just means “best frozen before”. I have a large freezer in my garage, so when I see a deal, I grab it! For instance, I went by our local Safeway this morning, and they had organic, hormone free chickens on for 50% off! They are good sized chickens, and are normally $14 each, so I bought both of the chickens that were marked down, and put them right into the freezer. A $7 organic, hormone free chicken is a rare find! I also managed to grab some ground beef on for 50% off. One time I got 72 gluten free breakfast sausages for half off! Do not be afraid of those stickers…you will save tons of money, and these items can be frozen! It’s always worth checking the sales racks. At one store, I found 6 jars of organic honey on for $1 each, because they were past their “best before” dates. You and I both know, that honey doesn’t expire, so I bought ALL the jars! Most grocery stores also have cheap racks where they keep their fruits and vegetables that are about to go bad, and they have them at extremely reduced prices. I got a bag of 5 avocados one day for $1, and then used them in smoothies and guacamole! Vegetables can almost always be chopped and frozen also, so if you can find some for cheap, do it!

Secret 2: Look at grocery store flyers. Lots of the time, I will base my meal plan (more on meal plans below) on what is on sale that week. If chicken is the cheapest meat available at all the stores, that will be on my meal plan, and I will use it for as many meals as I can, without making everyone tired of chicken. Same with snack foods. If apples are on for a great deal, I will buy lots of apples and treats will include homemade goods that include apples, like apple crisp, apple pies, apple muffins, etc. Same goes for vegetables. If I can get a bag of potatoes for cheap, that will be one of our sides. If the bagged salads are on sale, we will be eating salad for a few nights.

Secret 3: Make a meal plan. I know, I know, meal plans are annoying, time consuming, and a real pain in the posterior region. I agree! However, once you start to see the money you save because of them, a lot of the inconvenience is forgotten. I usually do a meal plan for a week at a time, and I give myself a budget. It’s so important to go into your meal plan knowing what you can spend, otherwise you don’t have an incentive to find deals. My meal plan includes the day of the week, a section for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, what meal I’ll be cooking, and then which groceries I will need to purchase to make it. Then on a separate sheet, I make a list of groceries I need, how much of it I need, which store I will be buying it from, and how much it will cost. You will eventually become familiar with how much basic items will cost at each store, and you will estimate a cost. Most of the time, I over-estimate the cost, so that I have some wiggle room at the end of my trip with the budget in case I come across something that I want to buy that isn’t on the list. Print the grocery list and take it with you, making sure that the items price matches with what you have budgeted for it. If you can find the same product by a cheaper brand, choose that one, and make note that you are that much under budget. It will help you when you come to something that may be more expensive than you anticipated. By knowing how much money you have saved on other items, you will know whether you can afford to go a little over on other items.

Secret 4: Loyalty cards! I have one for Superstore, and because a lot of the things I bought on that day were on for “points”, I managed to earn enough points during the above shopping trip to bump up my card so that I had $20 in free groceries the next time I went (the below photo doesn’t show the $20 because I have since used it). I also have an Air Miles card, which we have switched to the cash option so that whenever we get 95 air miles saved up, I can use them to get $10 off in groceries. Both of those cards come in handy. Another thing we do is shop at our local Co-Op whenever we can. This is because you are rewarded with a cheque at the end of the year based on how much you have spent there throughout the year.

Secret 5: Coupons! Up here in Canada, couponing isn’t as big of a deal as it is down in the United States, but it is possible to save a little money through manufacturers coupons. What I do before I leave the house on a shopping trip, is do a quick search online for coupons that correspond to my grocery list. Sometimes you can save a few dollars on things like laundry soap, toilet paper, or plant-based milks. I also have an app called Checkout 51 that I take a look at before I leave the house, in case any of the things that I’m going to be buying are up on offer. You just need to scan your receipt when you get home, and then whatever you save is added to your “bank”. When you reach $20, you get sent a cheque!


Secret 6: Label reading. Honestly, don’t just go for the items that are marked “Certified Gluten Free”. There are so many products out there that are naturally gluten free that you don’t need to spend extra for the label. Obviously there are items like breads, or donuts and muffins that you need to steer clear from or purchase the labelled gluten free options. Most canned vegetables and fruits are gluten free. Most frozen vegetables and fruits are gluten free. Unseasoned, fresh meats are gluten free. Fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten free. There are so many options already on the shelves that you can eat! It is in your best interest to learn your countries labelling laws, and read those labels. Also, the generic products are almost always just as good, if not better, than those big brand labels! You do not need to buy name brand groceries in order to make good food.

Secret 7: Don’t deviate from your list! You will be surprised how quickly the groceries start to add up when you don’t follow your list. If you find something that you really want, wait until you have finished your shopping. Like I said in Secret 3, sometimes you will overestimate or an item will be on sale that you didn’t know about, and then you will have that little extra wiggle room to get yourself a treat.

Secret 8: Don’t be afraid to shop at more than one store! I live in a community where most of the grocery stores are within a kilometre from each other, so I will drive to the end of that kilometre, and make my way back, hitting the stores that I can get the best deals at. Yes, it’s time consuming, but eventually you will get it down to a science, and you will be in and out of those stores super quick. Some days I hit 5 stores, other days I just do 1. If I would have to hit 5 stores to save $5, I won’t do it. It’s not worth the extra time involved…but if I could save $10, I might do it! Heck, $10 gets me 5 chicken breasts!

So, does eating gluten free have to be expensive? In my opinion, the answer to that question is a resounding NO. Obviously costs of items will differ between countries, and I understand that. If you use these basic ideas in any country though, you will be able to save yourself money, no matter where you live. I hope that this information will help you navigate the gluten free world of grocery shopping!

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