Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Much Does The Gluten Free Diet Cost? One Man's Results.

I've never been accused of not being detail oriented or able to track something to the smallest degree, so I figured I'd put those skills into tracking what it actually costs to follow the Gluten Free diet.  I've never seen anyone do this sort of tracking before, so I'm curious as to how my spending habits stack up to others.  From what we know from studies, the average Gluten Free product costs nearly 250% more than it's gluten containing counterpart.  We've all paid $6 or more for a loaf of gluten free bread, right?  A case of Redbridge will set you back about $35.

Since January 1st, 2011, I've tracked EVERY purchase made by my family as it pertains to a labeled, packaged Gluten Free product.  It's not been fun nor easy, but I chalked it up to valuable research to share with you all.  See the chart below for monthly totals.  Keep in mind that I am the only member of my family required to eat Gluten Free, but that our household (2 adults and one preschooler) is entirely Gluten Free for my safety.  I don't consider myself someone who buys a ton of packaged food - we often strive to make meals from scratch with fresh ingredients.

Here are the results through June 2011 (click for bigger picture).

I will spare you the details of exactly what I have purchased, but let's just say that over the first 6 months of 2011, I've purchased 436 packaged Gluten Free items.  These only include items specifically labeled as Gluten Free and do not include things that are naturally gluten free and not labeled - like milk, fruits, veggies or meat.  This also does not include any purchases from restaurants nor sales tax (I believe it's 2% for groceries).  The average price of those 436 items was nearly $4.  Each time I put a Gluten Free product in my shopping cart - wham, another 4 bucks.  The common products that show up on my list are things like cereal, pasta and bread.

The other thing you can clearly see is that since I've gone Gluten Free, I've added nearly 42% to my grocery bill.  I've been GF since May 2008, so doing a little quick estimation based on spending $1800 every 6 months, I've spent approximately $10,800 on Gluten Free labeled products since my Celiac diagnosis.  Can any of you think of what you'd rather like to spend nearly $11,000 on?  That being said, I'm healthy so I'll try not to complain too much.

If others' spending habits are like mine, I'm led to believe that many folks would have difficulty following a Gluten Free diet strictly due to cost.  How many people can't absorb spending nearly $4,000 more per year at the grocery store after receiving a Celiac diagnosis?

For a person with Celiac Disease, the Gluten Free diet is medically required for life.  So eating Gluten Free is basically my daily medicine.  Too bad my prescription drug plan doesn't cover the cost of Gluten Free food!  It's also too bad that with all the ramp up in popularity of Gluten Free items over the last few years that manufacturers haven't lowered their prices.

I'd love to hear your input on what the Gluten Free diet is costing you financially.  Please leave a comment if you've done any kind of tracking.


Toucan Scraps said...

I know that we spend about 3 times more than our friends do on food shopping, and we rarely buy processed GF foods. We fond the base ingredients and cook/bake from scratch. However that means we have to mail order some of our produce

Jennifer said...

I haven't tracked GF foods specifically but our grocery spending has jumped about 25%. I try to curb spending by avoiding the specialty items and sticking to basic lean meats, rice/potatoes and veggies but have indulged occasionally despite sticker shock. I think a big part of the increase for us is how much more fresh produce I now buy to replace my former packaged snacks (although garden bounty is starting to help!)

chacha said...

Interesting post. We've been gluten free about the same amount of time and had removed all artificial colors, flavors, preservatives a few years prior to that. It's me and our two sons who are gf and hubby goes along for the ride.

Our grocery bills are grossly higher now but one thing I consider is that our two sons are now young men who eat triple what they used to. =D And, of course, all groceries have gone up significantly. So do we spend more being gluten free? Absolutely.

But now that we're eating healthy whole foods (80% or more made by scratch) and avoiding all of our allergens and triggers we are so much healthier. I have to make a concerted effort to remember well visits to our doctors. We figure we're saving a lot in doctor's visits and prescriptions these days.

By cooking naturally gluten free meals that don't rely on breads or pastas it's easier to keep the costs down. By getting creative and trying new cuisines you can save some cash and break up the monotony of shopping and cooking.

Menconi Family said...

My son has celiac and I cook mostly from scratch for him (including bread) so I don't buy much packaged items except for the pasta and GF ice cream cones and occasionally frozen pizza; mostly it seems I'm buying the specialty flours to make things. But I think it balances out between the increased grocery bill and the reduced meals out because it's so hard to eat out and be sure he'll be safe to eat.

Kelley said...

Our grocery spending in general has gone up about $40 over the last two years, and that is with me buying less organics and packaged GF foods. I've for the most part abandoned substituting GF packaged products (like crackers, bread) for traditional ones and have just gone the route of omission completely. When I first went GF 10 years ago there weren't substitutions, so it's not a trial to do so. My reasons for doing it this way are that GF products are a lot more expensive, and many of them just aren't that good. I'd rather do without.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have an estimate of increase in overall costs associated with living with Celiac Disease -- i.e., medical costs (both at diagnosis and for lifetime follow-up), psychological counseling when CD is an added health diagnosis, et al? My middle school son has just been diagnosed and my daughter is awaiting test results. I'm a divorced mom with no family and currently unemployed, thus I'm trying to predict what costs to expect, how to budget, and changes in child support since I am getting sole residential custody. Any input? Many thanks.

Celestialfrog said...

I know this is an older post, and you might have heard this already, but have you looked into the medical tax deduction because of your celiac diagnosis? If you do an itemized deduction, you should be able to take the amount excess over the non-GF equivalent as a deduction for the year. It requires a lot of work, but it is one way to have a little relief financially. I would check with a tax professional to be certain, but it is something!

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