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Prices of Gluten-Free versus Regular Foods - What to Do?

Celiac.com 10/17/2012 - This article originally appeared in the Winter 2012 edition of Celiac.com's Journal of Gluten-Sensitivity.

It’s estimated that of the 3 million Americans with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease triggered by exposure to gluten-a protein component of wheat, barley, and rye-only 3% have been diagnosed. The good news for celiac patients who have been diagnosed is that the treatment for their condition is simple and doesn’t require the ingestion of drugs--a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, celiac patients must deal with several challenges in maintaining a diet free of gluten, specifically the expenses involved. Compared with “regular” gluten-containing foods, gluten-free alternatives are more expensive. In fact, a study has indicated that gluten-free foods cost more than double their gluten-containing counterparts.

Photo: CC--dennis and aimee jonezIn a study by the Dalhousie Medical School at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, prices were compared between food products labeled as “gluten-free” with comparable gluten-containing food products at two large-sized chain grocery stores. Unit prices of the food items in dollars per 100 grams were calculated for this purpose. According to the study, all the 56 gluten-free products were more expensive than their corresponding products. The average unit price for gluten-free products was found to be $1.71, compared with $0.61 for the gluten-containing products. This means that gluten-free products were 242% more expensive than gluten-containing items.

Fortunately, celiac patients can receive tax deductions for certain expenses related with their gluten-free diet. To receive these benefits, celiacs must provide a doctor’s note confirming their celiac diagnosis and save their receipts for all their gluten-free foods and other products they purchase. The difference between the prices of gluten-free items compared to those of regular items is tax-deductible. Products that don’t have a gluten-containing counterpart, such as xanthan gum and sorghum flour, are totally tax-deductible. Shipping costs for online orders of gluten-free items are also tax-deductible. In order to file your claim, you should fill out a 1049 schedule A for medical deductions. For more information, contact a qualified accountant.

There are other ways to avoid spending loads of money on gluten-free foods. For instance, stay away from gluten-free processed and “junk” foods such as snack foods and desserts made with refined carbohydrates and sugar and lacking nutrients. Not only will you save money, but you’ll safeguard your health. I recommend making meals comprised of nutritious, naturally gluten-free whole foods at home such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, poultry, fish, meats, nuts and seeds, and eggs. These foods are packed with vital nutrients and don’t carry any additional costs. Make sure that no gluten has been added to such foods and they are safe from cross-contamination.

Another way to save money is to make your own gluten-free mixes yourself, such as the ones I recommend on my gluten-free website. Instead of buying expensive commercial gluten-free baking mixes, you can create your own gluten-free flour mixes for a variety of foods such as pancakes, pizza, rolls, and muffins and store them conveniently in your refrigerator or freezer. I also recommend purchasing gluten-free ingredients in bulk online, as many websites offer great deals. These are just a few of the ways to save money on the gluten-free diet.

It is unfortunate that gluten-free foods are more expensive than “regular” food items, especially to such an extraordinary degree, however savvy gluten-free dieters can through tax deductions and smart shopping choices cut down on their expenses. Perhaps in the future we will see a decrease in gluten-free food pricing, but one thing is for sure-we should consider ourselves lucky that we have found an answer to our health problems. Even if the gluten-free diet is expensive, at least it’s the road to greater health and quality of life.

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13 Responses:

 
Jen
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said this on
22 Oct 2012 6:07:18 AM PST
This is helpful, but in order to get the medical deduction, medical expenses have to be a fairly large amount. Most people won't qualify.

 
Helen Vajk
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said this on
22 Oct 2012 9:41:39 AM PST
Agree with advice about just using naturally gluten-free foods. Rice and potatoes offer enough starch. I raised a gluten-free kid 35 years ago without the special foods. He is now tall and healthy, still sticks to gluten-free diet, of course loves the new additions but encourage folks on a limited budget, they are not at all necessary.

 
Alison H
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said this on
22 Oct 2012 11:45:05 AM PST
WHY are the products so expensive, when often they are using ingredients that are not specially-grown? How can we apply market pressure on the manufacturers? Why should we put up with overpricing?

 
Lucy
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said this on
22 Oct 2012 6:07:59 PM PST
I completely agree with you. I also think the FDA should get on everyone's case (products that are already out there) and make them finally label all foods that are gluten-free, label them as such! This is a serious matter and I think enough is enough! There are so many regular products that have been around and are gluten-free, it would also help us with costs and save us so much time at the grocery store... Reading labels is very time consuming and annoying!!!

 
Dee
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said this on
22 Oct 2012 6:20:17 PM PST
These products tend to be expensive because they have to be certified gluten-free and most celiacs need to know that they have been produced in a factory or on a "line" that do not have glutened products. For some celiacs even the allowable certified amount is too much. I would like to see more manufacturers realize that celiac disease is a problem in the U.S. along with the doctors.

 
Jasmine
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said this on
22 Oct 2012 6:44:04 PM PST
Because we don't have much choice. I saw a $9 tiny loaf of yeast- and gluten-free bread at the health food store. As far as snacking, I try to have one of these around to make me feel better when I'm surrounded by non-gluten-free at work or with friends: carrots, rice crackers, tortilla or veggie chips, fruit/nut bar and homemade trail mix.

 
Shaon
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said this on
22 Oct 2012 8:22:25 PM PST
Trader Joe's now has corn-based gluten-free pastas at only $1.39 pound. They also hold together much better than other corn pastas I have tried.

 
Deb
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said this on
24 Oct 2012 3:41:10 PM PST
I have tried the Trader Joe's corn based ones as well and they are good. I agree they hold together well. I have tried other corn pastas and they are not as good. Trader Joe's also has gluten-free tomato and other soups which taste very good, and their prices for cereal are good.

 
Tracy
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said this on
23 Oct 2012 4:23:38 AM PST
Agree wholeheartedly with the advice here - don't buy a lot of gluten-free foods, and/or make your own. Learning how to cook dishes that are naturally gluten-free (try Vietnamese cuisine!) is a lot of fun - I eat better, and with more variety, than most people I know.

 
Gill
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said this on
23 Oct 2012 8:03:19 AM PST
No tax deduction for the non-celiac gluten-intolerant folk like me though!

 
Katherine
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said this on
26 Oct 2012 12:34:27 PM PST
The difficulty is not in maintaining a gluten-free diet at a reasonable cost. That is not hard to do at all. What is impossible to do at a reasonable cost is continuing to eat baked goods, pasta, etc., and paying for gluten-free substitutes for all of those.

 
Erin
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said this on
03 Feb 2013 7:40:06 PM PST
This is the first blog I've come across,dealing with the financial issue of eating GF. We can"t afford it for one let alone two more, my kids. And now a grand child! What do you do, except do without! And the change is so huge. Just throw everything you've known and been taught in the trash can, and start over.

 
Bj green
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said this on
29 Oct 2013 11:32:49 AM PST
The survey mentioned in this 2012 article was done in 2008. While Gluten-free products are more expensive, as the market has expanded prices have come down, not as much as we'd prefer. GFP prices will never be the same or lower than regular manufactured groceries, but accurate data in the article would have been preferred as well.




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