gluten free

If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you’ve probably experienced sticker shock at the grocery store when trying to shop for gluten-free foods. The prices of standard grocery items become inflated once their gluten is removed, thanks to the increased processing effort and time required.

Although gluten-free foods have received a great deal of media attention lately along with a massive expansion of product availability, these items are still usually more expensive than their glutinous counterparts. However, you don’t have to shell out a fortune to feed your family right; use the following gluten-free shopping tips to help combat the higher cost of a gluten-free life.

- First, make sure you really need gluten-free foods with a simple blood test at the doctor. Gluten intolerance is today’s trendy food allergy, and many people are jumping on the bandwagon simply because they assume that “gluten-free” equates to “healthier.” It doesn’t. Be positive that you have gluten sensitivities before you go down this long and unending road.

- Don’t put the whole family on a gluten-free diet if only one person has a sensitivity. Gluten-free products are usually more expensive, so serving them to everyone is a bad budget idea.

- Shop for foods that are naturally gluten-free and make these items the focus of your diet. Many foods contain no gluten, never have and never will: fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds contain no gluten. Eat up!

- Watch for hidden fats, sugars and sodium in gluten-free products. Gluten-free items are often less healthy than normal grocery items for people with no gluten sensitivities. When the grocery manufacturers remove gluten, they often add something in its place to combat the loss of flavor and texture. Keep your eyes out for increased levels of sugar, fat and sodium in processed gluten-free foods, and limit these items to a minimum in your diet.

- Buy in bulk. Many health food stores offer bulk purchasing of gluten-free flours, such as tapioca flour, brown rice flour or almond flour. Usually less expensive than pre-packaged flours, bulk bin items are a great way to try out gluten-free groceries before you commit to a huge amount.

- Order online. If bulk bins make you squeamish, order your gluten-free flours and grocery items online. Amazon gives a discount for repeat orders (and no tax), and you can also find great deals on gluten-free foods via Bob’s Red Mill. Know the standard rates of gluten-free groceries and comparison shop for the best deals.

- Create your own all-purpose, gluten-free baking mixes. You don’t need pricey, pre-mixed baking mixes to create gluten-free desserts. Using a range of gluten-free flours, these homemade baking mixes can be used for baked goods, pancakes, biscuits and more.

- Bake from scratch whenever possible. Gluten-free baking is actually easier than standard baking, because you don’t have to wait and wait for the bread to rise. Make homemade bread and freeze the unused portion to use in the future.

- Look for coupons from BeFreeForMe.com, a website devoted to making life easier and cheaper for those with gluten sensitivities and other food allergies.

image: Andrea_Nguyen