Eating a Gluten-Free Diet on a Budget
Managing Your Gluten-Free Food Costs
The gluten-free diet frequently presents high costs to celiac disease patients. Specialty gluten-free foods, such as cereal, bread, and pasta, are often two to three times more expensive than standard gluten-containing products. However there are many ways to save money while on a gluten-free diet; read our cost-saving suggestions and tips below.
Save Money on Groceries
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season and at farmers’ markets. Eating gluten-free is a great way to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Many Americans do not eat the recommended 5-9 servings per day.
- When you see something on sale, buy extras only if you plan to use it up within a reasonable time, avoiding spoilage.
- Call your favorite companies or visit their websites to request coupons. As the availability of gluten-free products grows, the competition for customers is also growing.
- Shop around to find less expensive products. Many supermarkets carry gluten-free items and may advertise them in their sales notices. Use the grocery store apps and websites to compare prices and find coupons.
- Check to see if your supermarket has a discount table or shelf where they put food that is nearing its sell-by-date. If you can use the product you may find some hefty savings.
- Use unit prices. This is the price for one “measure” of the item, such as the price per pound or the price per ounce. Look for the best possible deal and check to see if a larger package is cheaper per pound or ounce. The unit price is located on a sticker on the shelf or area near the item.
Save Money When Cooking
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones and they can be a cost effective way to get those 5-9 servings per day, especially when they are out of season. Try adding them to soups and stews or gluten-free pasta dishes to add nutritional value and increase the number of servings of your dish.
- Make leftovers with a purpose. Try cooking a larger volume of food than you need for that meal and plan to use the food for another meal later in the week.
- For example, if you are baking sweet potatoes for dinner tonight, bake extra to add to salads, soups or breakfast later in the week. Prepare extra rice or other grains to be used later with vegetables or other toppings (you can make your own gluten-free grain bowl).
- Try more meatless meals. Dried beans, peas and lentils are cheaper protein sources than meat.
- You do not like the gluten-free bread that you just bought? Do not throw away money. Use the bread to make bread crumbs for meatballs or meatloaf. The same also works for gluten-free cookies; just run them through a food processor to make crumbs and use as a crust for pies or cheesecake. Don’t have time to use them right away? Keep them in the freezer.
- Make your own soup or broth. Make your own chili and freeze the leftovers to top a baked potato, make a taco or taco salad. If you make it in a slow-cooker or crock pot, you can save energy, too.
More Ways to Save
- Look for online deals on labeled gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, buckwheat and brown rice. These alternative grain flours also add more nutrition to baked goods.1 Gluten-free grains and flours can be stored in the freezer to extend their life.
- Join friends or support group members on a mail order and save shipping. Small groups of people can order in quantity and divide the items to reduce shipping costs.
- Try growing your own vegetables and fruit.
Make a shopping list and meal plan for the week and stick to it. Try making a master list on your computer or phone of items that you always want to have on hand. Use the master list to check your pantry before shopping.
Do not go shopping on an empty stomach. Treats will end up in your cart faster than they normally would.
Try to shop around the perimeter of the store. This is where you find foods in its natural state, also known as whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables, eggs, and dried beans. Whole foods are more nutritious and less costly than prepared and packaged food.
Use coupons whenever possible. Many stores and food companies offer them on their websites or phone apps.
You may claim the gluten-free diet as a medical expense deduction on your US income tax form if the net amount of the reimbursements exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
You may also deduct the cost difference of a gluten-free food and that of the gluten-containing food that you have replaced. Please consult your tax preparer when calculating your deductions.
For more information about tax deductions, visit the Celiac Disease Foundation's website.
- Choose whole foods whenever possible for their nutrition and lower cost. Frozen and local in-season fruit and vegetables usually offer better savings than produce shipped from another state or country.
- Companies and stores that cater to the gluten-free customer serve as a prime cost-saving resource.
- Tips on cooking with beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas
- Gluten-free recipes using beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas
- CeliacNow Resources Page (includes gluten-free cookbooks, magazines and apps)
- Gluten-free baking guide, cooking tips and recipes
- Money-Saving Guide to Eating Gluten Free (Today’s Dietitian magazine, written by Jessica Jones, MS, RD)
- USDA suggestions for healthy eating on a budget (not specific to gluten-free diet)
- Amazon offers excellent deals on gluten-free products
- Vitacost's gluten-free shop includes supplements, personal care items and food
- Gluten-Free Mall offers a wide variety of gluten-free products and daily specials
- Schuppan D, et al. Celiac disease; epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and nutritional management. Nutrition in Clinical Care. 2005.8;2:54-69.
- Allen B, Orfila C. The availability and nutritional adequacy of gluten-free bread and pasta. Nutrients. 2018 Sep 25;10(10):1370.
Revision Date: February 24, 2022
Editors: Mary Kay Sharrett, MS, RD, LDN and Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN