The gluten-free diet is imperative for your health if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, and many people without "official" diagnoses also have found it has tremendous health benefits for them, as well.
But there's no doubt it's expensive. Just consider this one example: a box of gluten-free spaghetti in my local grocery store costs $4.49, compared to $1.39 for the regular gluten-filled variety. That's a 323% markup, just for gluten-free spaghetti, which in my pre-gluten-free days was a pretty cheap meal! Other gluten-free food items (think: cookies, mixes, bread and frozen foods) are similarly budget-busting.
So what can you do if you're wondering how to eat gluten-free on a budget? Frugal gluten-free living is definitely possible, and involves most of the same strategies as frugal living in general — you can shop sales, find alternative sources for foods, and locate coupons, all of which will help you get your food costs down.
Don't kid yourself: this will take more of your time than just running into your local Whole Foods and loading up your cart with gluten-free baked goods. But your wallet will thank you ... and you'll probably follow a healthier diet in the long run, too.
I've listed the steps below from the easiest (use mainstream foods that happen to be gluten-free) to the most difficult (make your own gluten-free ingredients). You can implement one strategy or all of them, but the cost savings tend to be greater on the strategies that take the most effort (isn't that almost always the case?).
One note before we get to the specifics of how to eat gluten-free on a budget: I've seen numerous recommendations (including some from doctors and nutritionists) that you not take the whole family gluten-free when one member needs to follow the gluten-free diet, since the diet is so costly to follow.
It's absolutely true that you can save some money by continuing to feed some family members gluten-containing foods, while one eats gluten-free. However, this only works if everyone in the house is very careful; otherwise, your gluten-free family member might pay for it in continuing symptoms and worse health due to gluten cross-contamination, which is far more likely in a shared kitchen.
Not everyone can share a kitchen successfully (see my article Is A Shared Kitchen For You? for more information). It's also a lot more work (and some added worry and stress about potential cross-contamination) to fix two different meals at once. You may be better off using these tips to cut costs enough so that everyone can eat gluten-free, at least at home ... you may even find that some undiagnosed family members feel healthier, too!
Ready to save money? Click "Next" below to head to the first category.