The gluten-free diet can be expensive, and research is showing that there are disparities in the ability of many to afford gluten-free foods. A 2007 Columbia University study found that gluten-free food costs four times as much as food that’s not labeled gluten-free. This is a major issue as the gluten-free diet is currently the only treatment for celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Without eating gluten-free, people with celiac disease can face potential infertility, anemia, certain cancers, brain damage, and more.
A loaf of gluten-free bread can cost over $7 and be much smaller than a regular loaf. Adults and children with autism or food issues like texture sensitivities or food avoidance can make the diet even more difficult.
Results of a study presented at the International Celiac Disease Symposium in 2022 found that 1/10 households with a child on the gluten-free diet consumed gluten due to limited gluten-free food options/availability. This is concerning as the gluten-free diet is an essential medical treatment. Food insecurity/not being able to afford a gluten-free diet puts patients at risk of greater health risks and higher medical care costs.
If you’re having trouble affording the diet, please review the following information. If you need additional information, please reach out to [email protected].
Tips for Affording Gluten-Free Foods
- Stick to naturally gluten-free foods, which tend to be more affordable than gluten-free alternatives
- Beans, rice, fruits, vegetables (including potatoes), and eggs are all naturally gluten-free. Canned beans are affordable, fast and easy to add to soups, stews and salads
- When seasonal produce is in large supply, it will be less expensive than other times of the year
- Extra tip: buy frozen veggies, which don’t spoil as quickly
- Watch out for sales and buy in bulk
- If you’re able, get a Costco or other wholesale club membership (often $60 a year cost but offers savings, especially if you have a large family)
- Shop at discount stores like Aldi, TJ Maxx, Walmart, and Big Lots. They often have a variety of more affordable gluten-free options.
- Amazon has a number of gluten-free products available at lower prices than many traditional grocery stores (shop Amazon through our gluten-free store, purchases made benefit Beyond Celiac and our mission to accelerate celiac disease research)
- Use coupons (see below!)
- Consider joining a clinical trial for celiac disease, many will offer payment along with travel expenses that can help supplement income
- Let your doctor know you’re having trouble affording the diet, they may be able to connect you with resources
- Casseroles (like chicken, rice, onion, and peas), soups and stews are great ways to stretch your food items! (Try this chicken stew.)
- Join your local Buy Nothing Facebook group, many are willing to help with food, especially for families!
- You may be eligible for end-of-year tax deductions
Download: The Beyond Celiac Gluten-Free on a Budget Tip Sheet
Gluten-free Food Coupons
- Many gluten-free manufacturers offer coupons on their websites. Sign up for their email lists and potentially get more sent to your inbox (check out websites of brands like Schar, Crunchmaster, Katz, Jones Dairy, Canyon Bakehouse, etc.)
- Sign up for Beyond Celiac emails, we sometimes send out coupons and food info!
- Search roundup sites, like the Krazy Coupon Lady
- Many grocery stores, like Giant or ShopRite, have coupon pages
- Some stores, like Target, have smartphone apps that give you even bigger savings
Food Banks with Gluten-Free Foods & Other Resources
- Mend Hunger, gluten-free food relief boxes
- The Rachel Way, Plymouth Meeting, PA
- Newton Food Pantry, Newton, MA
- Care and Share, Southern Colorado
- Neighborhood Care Center, Clinton and Heyworth, IL
- Family Food Connections, Boston Children’s Hospital, MA
- Fort Bragg Food Bank, Fort Bragg, CA
- WIC Nutrition Assistance, for women, infants, and children
- USA Gov Food Assistance, including SNAP food stamps
- Food Equity Initiative
Affordable Gluten-Free Meal Ideas
- Rice and beans. Long grain rice ($1.54/32-oz package at Walmart), black beans (78 cents for a 15.25-oz can at Walmart), 1 onion, chopped (about 78 cents at Walmart), garlic, and spices like cayenne pepper and salt, cook, mix together and top with a fried egg (12 eggs for about $4 at Wal-Mart). Wal-Mart also sells a frozen pepper blend for $2.40 that you can mix in. Price = $9.50 with the frozen pepper blend, and you’ll most likely have some leftover eggs.
- Chicken, broccoli, and baked potatoes. A pound of chicken breast tenderloins ($4.74/pound), 4 baking potatoes (66 cents each), frozen broccoli steam in bag (98 cents), garlic, butter salt, and pepper. Price = $8.36, not including butter/spices.
- Pork, gluten-free macaroni and cheese, and broccoli. Four boneless pork loin chops ($8.53), frozen broccoli steam in bag (98 cents), Kraft gluten-free macaroni and cheese box ($2.52). Price = $12.03, not including milk/butter for macaroni.
- Tofu Stir Fry. Tofu ($1.44 for 14 oz), steamable frozen green beans ($1.88), chili flakes, vegetable oil, gluten-free tamari soy sauce, onion (78 cents), Thai kitchen stir fry rice noodles ($3.72). Price = $7.82 not including spices, oil, or soy sauce.
- Veggie Omelettes. Eggs ($4), tomato (98 cents), onion (78 cents), black olives ($1.66). Price = $7.42.
- Gluten-free chicken nuggets, fries, and apple slices. Applegate gluten-free nuggets ($10.84 for 30 nuggets), frozen crinkle-cut french fries ($2.98 for 32 oz), and a 3-pound bag of Fiji apples ($4.98). Price = $18.80 but you will most likely have leftovers!
Prices reflect what was listed online at Walmart.com in November 2022.
Food deserts are neighborhoods, cities, or towns that have little to no access to affordable fresh, and healthy foods. These can include neighborhoods without grocery stores and are often in rural areas or regions of lower socioeconomic status. Millions of Americans currently live in food deserts.
Not having access to fresh and healthy foods can be particularly difficult for those with celiac disease. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free and a good source of vitamins and nutrients. Convenience stores and bodegas don’t always offer gluten-free options. Even if food is available, the higher costs may make it difficult for gluten-free families to afford.
For more information on food deserts and potential ways to deal with this issue, visit Food Empowerment Project.
And visit Michigan State University’s post on overcoming barriers to living in a food desert.
|Free Webinar: Gluten-Free Menu Planning: Budget-Friendly Tips|
|Book: Gluten-Free on a Budget by Chandice Probst and Tana Besendorfer|
|Guide: Tax Deductions for Gluten-Free Products|