I know my checkbook couldn’t handle it, which is why we have both gluten and gluten-free products in the house. But if you ever doubted the high cost of gluten-free specialty foods, a relatively new study out of Canada slaps us all in the face with the incredible cost of those foods. I added the word specialty in the last sentence because I feel like that’s a key word that skyrockets the price. I’ll explain why I think that later…

The research was done at Dalhousie Medical School, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The research summary says, “Prices were compared for all food products labeled “gluten-free” and comparable gluten-containing food items in the same group available at two large-chain general grocery stores. The unit cost of each food, calculated as the price in dollars per 100 grams of each product.” It turns out of the 56 gluten-free products checked into; all were more expensive than regular products. That’s not as much of a shock to us as the average difference in price is: “On average, gluten-free products were 242% more expensive than regular products.” Yikes!

Sending Gluten-Free Price Sky High!

So what is it about gluten-free products that causes these products to be more expensive? In some cases companies are using ingredients that are better for you, and not as widely used thus, more expensive.

What if it is something else? I just bought a 12-ounce box of Rice Chex made by General Mills — which went gluten-free last spring – for $1.67. It contains BHT – an artificial preservative — as well as sugar. Compare that to Health Valley Rice Crunch ‘Ems. It does not contain sugar, but rather evaporated cane juice as a sweetener, plus a natural preservative. In some cases a slightly bigger Rice Crunch ‘Ems box can run as high as nearly 3 times more expensive than the Rice Chex I bought last night.

Rice Chex, is made by a mainstream company, is still on the mainstream shelves – with mainstream prices, but now its gluten-free – so just labeling something gluten-free can’t be the only reason to jack up prices. So I pose this question….Is it possible that once your company is “boxed” into a specialty foods category at the store, the price seems to automatically go up – and not just because the product is gluten-free.

Clearly Rice Crunch ‘Ems is healthier for you than the Chex cereal, but for many these days it may not be about the healthy ingredients as it is about the bottom line. Right now, people all over the US are looking for ways to cut corners. We’re digging for deals on gluten-free products, so hopefully we’re not spending nearly as much as this study suggests we could be. In some cases, but not always, that may mean taking an extra look at the mainstream sections of the stores to see what *else you can find that’s gluten-free and keep your food costs down.

*Just be careful and make sure you’re comfortable with each company’s manufacturing process. Mainstream companies will list if a product is processed on the same “line” or “belt” as something with wheat. However companies should be cleaning equipment between the productions of different foods.

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3 Responses to “Can you afford cooking gluten free for your whole family?”

  1. It is only myself in our household that happens to be gluten free … and even with that, I’m grateful that I can buy non-GF items for my “other half,” otherwise we’d go broke! However, I will say that over the years, I’ve tried to whittle away as many pre-prepared foods as I possibly can … making as much from scratch (or nearly) as I can.

    Yep, I do have a small selection of purely GF foods that I just cannot lie without (Corn Thins come to mind), and certain GF flours I like to work with. But this way I’m able to stick to mainstream ingredients (tomato sauce being a good example) and thus mainstream prices.

    Truth be told, I also try very hard (and it is easier on the pocketbook in our small household) whenever possible to buy vegetables, dairy, meats, etc., that are not exposed to pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, etc. Whoa — if I tried to do THAT and buy purely “GF” foods, we’d have to live in a box down the alley. 🙂

  2. We’re trying very hard to afford it. When my son and I discovered we were gluten intolerant, we tried the mixed kitchen route for a couple of weeks, but it stressed me out completely trying to keep foods uncontaminated – especially at mixed meals where 3 kids and Dad were doing things like handling buns and passing the ketchup.

    I do buy regular cereal for the gluten-eaters, but that’s about it. So far we also manage by keeping the specialty items to a minimum, and to some extent, just eating differently. Sandwiches aren’t a big part of our life any more. Rice is a bigger one. Things just sort of shift around.

    One thing’s for sure – we get a lot less “out food.” All the places we feel safe are too pricey for a family of six, so we just don’t do it much any more. (Especially since they close the Pei Wei restaurants in St.Anthony and Maplewood!)

  3. My 7 year old daughter gets mad sometimes when I don’t share my gluten free food with her. She always wants my staple – Foods by George English muffins, but at $5.49 for four, I can only occasionally share them with her. She has her own gluten cereals and some snack packs and granola bars. I wonder if the gluten free foods are so expensive because many of them are made by small companies. Is the cost of the gluten free ingredients higher too?


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