Friday, August 12, 2011

Eating gluten-free: more or less expensive?

Does it cost more to eat gluten-free?  That's today's burning question.

And I don't have a definitive answer for you.

Personally, I don't keep track of how much I spend on food.  I spend what I spend to get what I need.  I watch sales closely and stock up when prices drop.  Some things get ordered from Amazon because we use them a lot and it costs less to have them shipped than buy local.  If something is just way too expensive, we either substitute or do without.

But as far as hard numbers, I don't have any.  Sorry...

I can tell you that since going gluten-free, we have almost completely stopped eating out.  The risk is just too great, and frankly, I'm a really good cook and it's rare that a restaurant does a better job than I can.  Not trying to brag here, but just calling it like it is.  So the amount of money we spent on restaurants has gone down significantly.

As far as groceries are concerned, yes, gluten-free food substitutes can be expensive.  Six dollars for a loaf of bread?  Um, no, thank you.  Four dollars for a bag of pasta?  Seriously?

Before going grain free, we baked some bread, but not a lot, because we live in Florida and who wants to heat up the kitchen with the oven during the 9 months of summer?  Occasionally I would pick up a loaf of Udi's or Rudi's bread for my hubby, because he likes it.  But we're talking 3 or 4 times a year, if that.  We found cheaper sources of gluten-free pasta, and got creative with substituting rice.  We found cheap rice flour and I made all of our sweet baked treats.  No way was I paying a small fortune just to eat a gluten-free cookie!

So yes, we had a few indulgences.  And most of those are gone now, too, because we're grain and sugar free.

Another thing that helped our grocery bills was that with all my other food intolerances, I can't eat most junk food.  That means no potato chips, candies, and most processed foods, even if they are gluten-free.  Even with sales and coupons, junk food is still junk, and is simply extra money being spent.

Really, since going gluten-free, the major increase in our food budget has been for higher quality products.  We eat a lot more organic, local, fresh produce and higher quality meats.  That's because we know so much more about food now, we have to invest in healthier options.

Our household has been gluten-free for several years now, so I don't even have the data to compare how much we spent before.  But if I had to guess, I would say that we pay right around the same amount as we used to for food (if you include all those restaurant meals we used to eat).  The difference is we eat so much better now, which is an investment in our health and well-being.  And when I look at our annual blood work results from the last few years, I can tell you that our investment is paying off.

A lot of what goes into a food budget is discretionary spending.  If you find that your gluten-free spending is higher that you'd like, it might be time to examine where the money is actually going, and decide if that's really how you want to spend your hard earned dollars.

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