Groceries | Why a gluten-free diet is so expensive

Those groceries have become ridiculously expensive lately anyway, but if you have a child on a gluten-free diet, you can have a blast. Regularly after posting my weekly shopping stories I get questions and comments about our expenses. I then decided to take a closer look at why a gluten-free diet is so expensive. Read along!

Our grocery budget

Every Tuesday you can see them passing by in my stories on Instagram: the groceries of that week, the costs and our weekly menu. I have also written about it regularly on the blog our grocery budget. However, there is one thing that I do not mention every time, but that we do take into account every week in our shopping expenses. Our eldest daughter has had celiac disease since she was two, which means she follows a strict gluten-free diet. That has been the case for four years this summer and luckily this is going very well: it has been automatic for years and we are happy that this is the solution that makes her feel good and healthy. However, there is one thing I cannot get used to and that is that gluten-free products are more expensive than comparable ‘gluten-rich’ products. Why the gluten-free diet is so expensive and what amounts you should think about, I write about that in this blog. Not to be pathetic, but for a bit of awareness. In our daughter’s case, eating gluten-free is not a choice, but a choice must. And that comes with a hefty price tag!

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Gluten-free products more expensive

Why is the gluten-free diet so expensive? First we enter the supermarket, where meters long shelves are full of products. Fortunately, many foods are naturally gluten-free, such as vegetables, fruit and many dairy products. But when we talk about bread, biscuits and pastas, for example, people who (have to) eat gluten-free often cannot manage with the ‘regular’ variant. We have to purchase a replacement product without gluten and there is relatively less demand for that. As a result, the supply is lower (just look at the gluten-free shelf in the supermarket; in some cases really only a few shelves) and the price is higher. In addition, the raw materials are often more expensive and a gluten-free product must not come into contact with gluten-containing ingredients. To prevent cross-contamination, the product must therefore be made in a separate room, which logically also entails costs. In addition, the checks and tests in combination with a gluten-free quality mark also cost time and money and you understand that the bottom line of a pack of gluten-free gingerbread cookies is €2.29 (125 grams) compared to €1.49 (600 grams) if you buy the regular bakers. gingerbread in your shopping cart. But it will not have escaped your notice that groceries for everyone have become considerably more expensive in recent months. In December 2022 let RTL News know that you normally pay an average of 60% more for a gluten-free product than for a comparable ‘gluten-rich’ product. In addition, inflation was already hitting hard for gluten-free products: with an average of 11 percent compared to the 8 percent, which should not be underestimated, for non-gluten-free products at the time of publication of their news item. And that is quite expensive…

Higher spending gluten free diet

But, as mentioned, the gluten-free diet is not a choice. And although we really notice the higher expenditure for the gluten-free diet in our shopping budget, it is still for us to cough up. It is very annoying that gluten-free products have become more expensive, but there are simply not that many alternatives. I sometimes read saving tips such as ‘eat a salad instead of bread’, but that certainly doesn’t make our six-year-old happy. And of course she also wants to join in with her sisters, friends and classmates, so I like to think in terms of solutions instead of problems. When I mention the gluten-free diet in my stories or on the blog, the following questions often come back. I answer them in this blog because it is often linked to why the gluten-free diet is so expensive:

  • Do you eat gluten-free with the whole family?
    No, we do not eat gluten-free with the whole family. The four of us don’t have to do this because we don’t have celiac disease and it would really get out of hand because gluten-free products are more expensive and we would have to spend even more on them. Only our eldest daughter eats completely gluten-free, but we do take this into account with the evening meals most days of the week. Then there is usually an AVG on the menu and sometimes a gluten-free pasta. Our girls are not fans of the rice dishes, pastas and casseroles that Erik and I like to eat, so sometimes I cook twice. That is of course a choice, but we sometimes have those weeks that I feel like we are constantly checking off the same weekly menu and that comes off every now and then. Then we let the children eat potatoes, meat and vegetables for two days while we go wild on pasta pointed pepper or combine a TV night with nachos. It’s also a choice, of course, but I’m guessing that as the children get older, they will naturally start to like and try more. And then we will also prepare more of these kinds of world dishes in a gluten-free way!
  • Do you bake gluten-free bread yourself or do you buy it ready-made?
    Soon after the diagnosis I got the tip to order bread from Bakker Leo. Our daughter immediately liked this and we have been ordering it ever since. They sometimes say never change a winning team and although these are small sandwiches (10-12 slices for € 4.09 each), I don’t feel like baking them myself. Apart from the fact that this takes time and you still have to purchase separate ingredients or a bread mix, finding a perfect bread recipe that works well on several fronts (our daughter’s taste, shelf life, no clogging problems, etc.) is also something that takes a lot of time. stiches. No, we stick to Bakker Leo and occasionally bake for the fun. You really notice that gluten-free products are more expensive with bread: for €1.29 I get a nice wholemeal bread for the other two kids, just for comparison…
  • How do you do that with lunch boxes / snacks and so on?
    In addition to a piece of fruit, the fruit box also contains a slice of gluten-free gingerbread. In addition to the sandwiches, the bread bin sometimes contains cucumber and the other time a Babybell cheese. The girls also receive a drinking bottle with water to go with the fruit and a pack of Optimel (house brand variant of Aldi) to take with lunch. At school, each student eats at their own table with a tea towel underneath. Our daughter washes her hands thoroughly before meals and this actually always goes well. School is well informed, there may be a treat box in the classroom and on special occasions they always arrange an alternative for her, really great! Because our children are still small, they mainly eat basic food and our eldest daughter just participates in that. As for cookies: they all get gluten-free. This often happens during play or after school and if a non-gluten-free biscuit would then be given, I would first have to grab the vacuum cleaner, clean the table and brush all hands again before continuing to play due to the risk of cross-contamination. I don’t feel like it, so everyone a gluten-free cookie!
  • Did you know that you can receive a reimbursement from the tax authorities?
    Yes, we were informed of this immediately after the diagnosis. But this is really only for the really low incomes: it has to do with a threshold amount and you will not reach that very quickly. The dietary costs are deductible, so you will not receive any compensation. The actual refund depends on your income and household.
  • What about the price differences?
    I have listed a few examples. You see that the price is not only higher, but that in many cases you also buy less product for a higher amount:

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Prevent cross-contamination

Not only are the products ‘smaller’ packed and more expensive, we also buy multiple packs of certain products to prevent cross-contamination. These are not necessarily gluten-free products, but products that are only used by our eldest daughter, while we use a different packaging. Think of your own butter tub, spreads such as peanut butter and jam and your own pot of applesauce or Yofresh. We don’t want someone with a bread knife that has just been used to spread a non-gluten-free sandwich, to get into the butter tub where she still has to spread her gluten-free sandwich. That would make her sick. This also means extra shopping on the list and higher expenditure on the gluten-free diet. The fact that gluten-free products are more expensive is one thing, but the ‘extra’ products that we have to get for this reason also ensure that we find a higher amount on the receipt at the bottom of the line than if this had not been necessary. And occasionally we have a moment of happiness, for example when we discover tasty chocolates or custard on the ‘regular’ shelf that are gluten-free, score chicken fillet tenderloins at the Aldi (pricey, but the variety is so nice!) or when the pancake mix is ​​substantial discounted! I hope this blog has given you some insight into why the gluten-free diet is so expensive and why I can still do my best to save on groceriesbut sometimes it just isn’t.

Did you know why the gluten-free diet is so expensive? I’d love to read your response in the comments or on Facebook or Instagram!

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