The Cost of a GFCF Diet

We’ve been on our diet for 2 months now and we’re getting more of a comfort zone about it. We don’t go out to eat anymore, ever. Because it’s just too hard to make sure things are gluten-free and because we’re trying to limit our expenditures. All of our bills have gone up, but our income is the same. We have been able to save money in times past. But these days we’re using every dollar just to make ends meet. I know we’re not doing everything we can to reduce our costs, so I’m trying to do more every day, or every week, to use less cash.

The first month of giving up gluten and casein I spent too much on groceries. It’s easy to do when making the transition from one way of eating to another. We’re finding new favorites and adapting some old favorites to the new diet. I made a list of shopping techniques that are helping me keep the food budget under control. One day I hope to write an entire article (or several of them) on these things. For now though, writing these out reminded me of each of them and it’s helping me follow them more faithfully. Every little bit helps.

  1. Analyze the market. Compare prices. Shop the ads.
  2. Shop carefully. Always carry a list. Resist supermarket tricks and impulse buys.
  3. Compile a record of the least expensive staples. Build meals around these staples. 
  4. Avoid convenience foods. Cook from scratch. 
  5. Give up food prejudices and status foods. Adjust our comfort-zones. 
  6. Substitute cheap ingredients for expensive ones. 
  7. Buy in bulk when it saves money but avoid waste like the plague. 
  8. Communicate with the family about what they want to eat.
  9. Develop new favorites; keep them in a recipe binder.
  10. Plan menus and shopping lists ahead of time.

I’ve written extensively on similar ideas in the past, but I feel like the GFCF diet has really propelled me to a level of carefulness that I haven’t always had in the past.

Numbers 5 and 6 above have been major players in my weekly planning. There are several status foods I used to buy every now and then–Frozen Chicken Nuggets for the Kids, Brie Cheese for me–and all of these are out of the picture now. This is probably for the best, but giving up old favorites is hard because at first there’s just an empty vacuum that sits like a gaping hole. Eventually new favorites rise to fill the hole, but new stuff can’t fill it, until the old stuff is chucked out. Then the transition time of waiting and being empty is uncomfortable.

I’ve been substituting cheap things for expensive ones too. This is especially true with gluten-free starches and baking. I’ve learned that Rice can be used instead of spaghetti under Tomato Sauce. Cooked rice can replace cooked pasta in casseroles. Brown Rice is 60 Cents a pound (at it’s cheapest, bulk price) and GF pasta is $3 to $4 a pound. Holy Buckets! For that much savings I gladly take 45 minutes to cook brown rice. ACtually I’ve found that if I cook up 3-cups of dry brown rice, in 6-cups of water (making 9-cups of cooked rice), at the beginning of the week, then we have rice to use as a base for quicky meals all week long. I’ve only done that one week, but it worked so good I will try to do it every week.

I’ve worked really hard on developing some gluten-free bread recipes that the family likes and that don’t cost too much either. I’ve tried to avoid using Xanthan in as many of our homemade breads as I can, and so far the results are good. Xanthan costs $10 to $12 for 8-ounces. Usually recipes just use 1 or 2 teaspoons and it really does make GF breads mimic wheat breads more closely, especially yeast breads. For many quick breads though, Xanthan isn’t necessary in the least.

I’m particularly proud of my Xanthan-Free Bread Collection [Click here]. I hope to develop some more of them in the future. Some Garlic Bread Sticks would be especially yummy. I’m working on a recipe for Xanthan-Free Pizza Crust that uses Rice Flour and Cornstarch as the only flours. The recipe still needs a little tweaking and I don’t want to share it until I get it perfect.




Filed under Budget, GFCF, GFCF Recipes, Grocery Shopping, Low Cost Foods, Recession

15 responses to “The Cost of a GFCF Diet

  1. Comparison shopping is soooo important. I’ve found rice pastas that are almost $5 in the natural section of our grocer… the same pasta is $2.99 at Whole Foods. We do A LOT of whole foods; meats, fruits, veggies, beans, rice, etc… and try to avoid all the pre-packaged stuff. However, for lunches and school snacks for K3 I do buy snack bars, pretzels and the like. I am also working on some recipes for these kind of items to avoid buying them! I can’t go GF myself until after my biopsy on the 29th… can’t wait to see if it helps me feel better. My bloodwork was “probable” but we decided to go for the full diagnosis. My kids do LOVE chicken nuggets. I rarely buy the pre-packaged kind, they run $5 to $6 for 12 ounces! Yikes. I have started making my own. I chop up frozen chicken breasts (we buy them in the bag at Costco), and create a coating out of cornmeal and stone ground cornmeal mixed with rice flour, add salt and pepper to season. Then I make a wet mix with rice milk and an egg white, dip the chicken pieces in the milk mixture, coat in dry mix… bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees (or until reaches 160 degree internally). I allow to cool and then freeze them in zippie bags for later use! Just reheat and eat. Yum.

    I love all your lists and how honest you are about cost and how to save money!

  2. Hey Jamie. that’s a great idea for Chicken Nuggets. I tried my favorite nugget recipe with cornmeal and the kids didn’t love it. Fred and I thought it was out of this world, but the boys could take it or leave it. So I’m going to try again and eventually when I hit on a recipe that even makes the kids happy, then I’ll share. I’ve never thought of freezing my own nuggets, that’s a good idea. Do they dry out when you reheat them? Good luck with your blookwork. 🙂

  3. Great job Maggie! This is a nice post! We are all feeling the pinch, especially those on a GF CF diet!! I can’t wait to see your breadstick recipe when you come up with it!! Our family has definitely had to go back to our VERY frugal lifestyle. It’s amazing how we drifted from that when our salaries changed and we felt like we had more to spend. I wish we had been insistent on living below our means when we had more, it would have been very helpful now! SO we’re definitely working on our budget and grocery bills too along with everything else! nicely written post!

  4. Have to say I do the same thing with rice, cook in bulk then use it all week. With just the two of us it makes more sense to do it that way. I too have discovered the uses of rice under tomato sauces! Jambalaya! And lots more. Love rice! But then I love pasta too.
    One of the things I’m doing too is getting a veggie garden going in my backyard. We have tomato plants, cucumbers, beans, corn, radish, carrots and much more. This morning I bought more seeds, and plants.
    Keep up the great work!

  5. Pingback: The Cost of a GFCF Diet | Internet Diet Plans

  6. tuimeltje

    Very nice post! I was just wondering if you had any ethnic supermarkets near you. These places are great for finding new and unusual foods, and around here at least, they’re often pretty cheap (with some expections). I’ve also found rice noodles there for very little money.

  7. Hi Maggie,

    Glad you are doing well. And i agree with the bulk cooking thing so much, definitely the way to go. I see it as making yourself a “palette” to work from…always having already cooked up rice, beans etc there to use. It really makes a difference.

    Peaceful Week to you : ) Wendy

  8. I’m glad to have found your blog : ) I’ve been mostly gluten free for 4 or 5 years now. We don’t eat out much either because it’s just to difficult….I honestly don’t like to eat out anymore. I have found being a part of a food co-op has helped with GF eating. I haven’t yet figured out how to make GF bread that I like but I haven’t worked very hard at it either: ) I have found bread from Deland Bakery that is GF and when I buy it through the co-op it’s only a few dollars a loaf. I’m pleased to see more and more stores ,even Walmart carrying alot more gluten free items that were hard to find 4 or 5 years ago.

  9. We watched our costs skyrocket during our first months on the diet, too. Do you have a Trader Joe’s near you? I have found that they are by far the cheapest provider of brown rice pasta. Rice itself is indeed cheaper, but we find TJ’s carries rice spagetti noodles for $1.09-$1.19 per pound. That’s pretty much the same as I was paying for wheat!

    My other substitute has been opting for guar gum instead of xanthan gum. It’s about 1/3 less, I think. Maybe even 1/2. I agree with you, though, about just skipping it for quick breads! We often joke that we have learned to love flat bread. 🙂

    I look forward to your articles on cutting costs. We are trying to work hard on cutting where we can, and any ideas I can glean from you will be appreciated!

  10. Hey ,
    I live just a couple miles from a trader joes , which sells GF pasta for 1.99 a bag which makes it much more affordable too. Just a thought

  11. Caron Smith

    I just discovered your sight from Dollar Stretcher. I’m always looking for ways to save money. So, I was surprised to see your articles on GFCF money woes. I went GF about 18 months ago. I had my son on GFCF diet about that time, too. If you went on the diet because of autism spectrum disorder, I found something to make life easier. My son can now take and enzyme called GlutenEase that breaks down the gluten and caseins for him. It’s a bit pricey at about $30 in the health food store, and around $22 plus shipping through However, the website also periodically e-mails me a coupon and offers free shipping orders over a certain amount, so if I do it wisely, it’s like getting an extra bottle for free. Anyway, the enzyme works … to a certain extent. My son can have a few slices of regular pizza (complete with real cheese), but not the whole pizza. It can overwhelm the enzyme, and then he gets “aspy” again. Because it is a bit pricey, I ration it out to three capsules per day, so he can have a GFCF breakfast of puffed rice and soy milk, and then later that evening he can enjoy a bowl of real ice cream before bed. It also didn’t work at Easter, because he was sneaking the choclolates without taking the enzyme, so now we make his own GFCF Easter candy. Not very hard to do.
    I’m still doing GF, because the enzyme won’t work for what I have. I have never set foot in a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods store, since they’re too expensive for me. Around here we have a number of Asian stores. They sell “rice sticks,” which are actually rice noodles. They’re only a fraction of the cost of “Gluten Free” pastas. They’re rice flours, chick pea flours, mung bean flours, potato starch, tapioca starch, etc., are also much less expensive. And they’re more finely ground, too.
    Hope this advice helps you!

  12. joylynnski

    What is gluten and casein free?

  13. Paisley Kate

    I buy Asian Rice Noodles, and use them instead of Tinkyrada Pasta. Have you been to the Namaste website?
    I noticed things were cheaper there than in my hfs. I appreciate the info about zanthan gum, I’m not going to spend $11.50 on it.
    Great Reading, Love Your Site! PK

  14. My daughter is high functioning autistic and I’ve been going casien free since she was 3 (she’s 6 now). We do let her have some aged cheeses beause it is safer. She went from non-speaking to speaking in sentences within a month of being dairy free.

    I have always enjoyed your site(s) and when I re-found you here, I was so happy to find your GFCF recipes, menu, and shopping list. It mkes it so much easier to transition, especially fo those of us on a very strict budget.

    A few weeks ago I linked to your menus and shopping list from my blog to share with other parents/caregivers of children in the spectrum. I hope you don’t mind.

  15. Kirsten

    Being a city girl living in the country, I am so jealous I cant run out to WF and TJ! Some things I do to cut costs is to buy in bulk on the things I use every week, so the food comes to me and i don’t use a lot of gas to drive in the city, or try and read labels at the store with a 2 and 3 year old. Also check out They have a new allergy free food package with breaded meats (5 lb)and dry mixes (4.5 lb) for $35 with no peanuts,soybeans,milk,eggs,fish,crustacea,tree nuts, or gluten(wheat rye, and barley) I plan on trying it soon!

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