Tag Archives: Groceries

The cost of eating gluten free

Thanks to a nifty new app on my iPhone that I got called Mint I can now budget and track my spending online and on my phone.

Seeing how much money I spend on food on a weekly and monthly basis has gotten me thinking more about the cost of a gluten free diet. According to the USDA, the average single woman aged 19-50 should spend around $159/month on a “Thrifty Plan” and $316/month on a “Liberal Plan” for groceries.

I set a budget of $400/month to spend on groceries (not including eating out). So I guess I’m on the “Extra Liberal Gluten Free Plan”. Even if I spent on the top end of that amount, I probably spend at least $80-$100 more on groceries a month than the average gal. So, that’s about $960 – $1,200 more a year.

I’m fortunate enough to have enough disposable income to not worry too much about what I’m spending on food. And since finding things to eat on a gluten free diet can be difficult enough on its own, without having to take cost into consideration, I’m grateful that I can afford to spend what I do.

That said, there are a few things that I do to keep my grocery costs down:

1. I don’t eat meat
While I do eat seafood about twice/week, keeping my diet mostly vegetarian helps remove some of the big ticket items from my list like steak, lunch meat, etc.And plant proteins are far less expensive.

2. I buy store brand or mainstream where I can
For staples like sugar, canned goods, and spices, I go to normal grocery stores or Target and get the cheap stuff. If I’m making a ton of cookies for work, for example, I’m not going to use a $8 jar of peanut butter, I’ll use a $1.99 jar from Safeway. When it doesn’t affect the quality of what I’m making, I’ll get it as cheap as I can.

3. I try to avoid gimmicks
There are a ton of new gluten free products coming out on a seemingly daily basis. Some of them look great, or are something that I’ve been looking for. Some don’t look that great, but I’ve bought them before because of that pretty “gluten free” label slapped on the packaging. Then I’ve gotten them home, tried them, and cursed myself for spending $7 on a box of cookies that aren’t even close to as good as the ones I can make at home. I’ve tried to become better at telling myself that I don’t have to try every new product that comes out.

And a few things that drive my expenses up:

1. Specialty products I can’t live without
That’s an exaggeration, but there are some gluten free products that I love that are just expensive. I love Glutino pretzels, but they’re $7 a bag. So, I only buy them occasionally. I also love Bakery on Main’s granola, but again, I think it’s $7.99 a bag. Usually I try to resist buying them unless they’re on sale.

2. Keeping up the variety and nutrients
I’ve found it to be really easy to get into an eating rut on a gluten free diet. For example, I love Pacific Foods tomato soup. So, for about two months straight I ate it. Every. Day. Now I try to load my basket with different fruits, veggies, and kinds of whole grains/proteins (quinoa, lentils, beans, tempeh, tofu) to keep me interested. Trying new recipes and flavors helps me feel more content and less frustrated with having to eat gluten free.

That said, all of that variety comes with a cost. Quinoa is $6 a box, spices are expensive, and rare fruits/veggies can add up. Not to mention all of the nuts and nut butters I eat. I can easily spend $30 on nuts alone at the store.

3. Laziness
I try, I really try to make things myself. But making bread with Pamela’s bread mix is so easy that I always buy the mix instead of getting ingredients and figuring it out myself. While I’ve gotten used to paying $9 for a loaf of bread, sometimes when I see a delicious gluten-filled artisan loaf on the shelf for $4, I get jealous.

The same goes for bars. I could easily make my own granola bars, or Kind Bar-type bars (which I do sometimes), but when I’m out and need something quickly I can end up spending $2.50 on a snack.

In conclusion, eating gluten free is a strain on the wallet for a number of reasons. It took me years to figure out a balance between splurging and saving on different grocery items, but I feel like I’m at a pretty livable place right now.

Any tips on saving money while grocery shopping gluten free? Or anything that you spare no expense on?

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Yes! Organic Market

I’m already a fan of the Yes! Organic Market by my apartment in Cleveland Park. It’s small, but has reasonable prices and is great for picking up things that I can’t get at Whole Foods (things that will melt or are too heavy to carry).

After all the hype about the hurricane, and a long lazy Saturday, I needed to get out of my apartment in a bad way. So I ran. Then I went to yoga. Then I walked about six miles. So when I saw the Yes! Organic Market on 14th Street I figured I would stop in for a potential snack and to see if it was different from the Cleveland Park location.

It’s not only different, it’s about 300% better. Give or take.

It’s bigger, has a full wine section (with a sample table), and way more produce. The best part though? The gluten free baked goods.

I was particularly intrigued by Merry’s Miracle Tarts (they had chocolate-mint, and a lemon one as well).

And these chunky chocolate brownies from Frankly Natural Bakers.

Then I noticed that they had a whole shelf full of Katz’s products, including chocolate cupcakes, cookies, apricot tarts, and these vanilla and chocolate rugelech.

They also had a full freezer section with baguettes, breads, and this Against the Grain Gourmet pizza with nut-free pesto that I haven’t seen before.

So what did I buy? Nothing.

I panicked from the amount of choices, grabbed some Jojoba oil, and called it a day. I’ll have to go back when I actually need something, because that place has it all.

Have you tried any of these products? Let me know what you think!

Shopping Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Style

Trader Joe’s has to be one of my favorite places.  Not even favorite grocery store, just a favorite place of all places.  I love the distinct smell of TJ’s (kind of like sawdust?), the friendly staff, the unique products, and how gluten-free friendly they are.  They even provide a list of all of the gluten free products they have for easy shopping.  Oh yeah, and it’s five pages long.

The store itself can be a bit overwhelming…the one in Manhattan on 14th Street is basically like a small underground bunker, filled with food, and stuffed with hundreds of people trying to loot it and get out as fast as possible. (See below)

So I decided to document what a typical trip to Trader Joe’s looks like for me, which is usually grabbing a few specialty gf items, things that are cheaper there than anywhere else, things that are unique to TJ’s, and then getting the heck outta there.

1.  Wasabi Mayonnaise – great on sandwiches and in tuna salad

2. Onion and Chive Corn Crackers – amazing with cheese, or just plain out of the box.  They’re kind of like really fancy fritos, and everyone who tries them loves them.


Speaking of cheese…

3.  Sharp cheddar and rosemary asiago cheese – Forget whatever grocery store cheese you buy, TJ’s cheddar is way better and comparably priced.  And the rosemary asiago is my secret cheese BFF.  I love him.

4.  Almond butter and Better n’ Peanut Butter – Yes, that is almond butter for $4.99.  I refuse to buy it anywhere else (plus it seems like Whole Foods prices are going up for almond butter? Might just be my imagination…).  And Better n’ Peanut Butter is perfect for those of us who like to eat peanut butter out of the jar, but feel regret after consuming a full meal’s worth of calories on nut butter alone.

5.  Granola – I can’t choose which one I like more between the Cranberry maple, loaded fruit and nut, or tropical. This oat-less granola is a perfect out-of-the-cupboard snack, and is chock full of toppings.

6.  Ginger snaps – these are great for making crusts for desserts (like in Pretzel Strawberry Jello , I’ve also used it as a crust to a pumpkin pie) or just right out of the bag.  They’re crunchy and very gingery, but are also good when they’re a little stale and chewy (is that gross? oh well.)

6. Frozen pancakes – these are a staple at my dad’s house in Michigan and they make for a super simple breakfast.  Just pop them in the toaster, spread on a topping (bananas and Better n’ Peanut Butter for me).  They’re not as good as homemade gf pancakes, but they’re very convenient.

7.  Bob’s Red Mill Flaxseed Meal – this is absurdly cheap at TJ’s.  $3.69 is a crazy price for flax meal – I put a tablespoon in my oatmeal and cereal.

And something I don’t buy, but I figured I’d include, are Udi’s products (usually on the bottom shelf in the bread section).  I don’t typically buy gf bread, but helpful and cheap to buy at TJ’s if that’s your thing.

So, that’s my must have list.  There are so many great gf products at Trader Joe’s (including those not pictured here like their brownie mix, chocolate-covered cherries, ice cream, Think Thin bars, etc.) and they keep expanding their line. For more groceries, check out my grocery cart.

Do you have any other favorite gluten free products that can be found at Trader Joe’s?  Or anything that’s just dirt cheap?

Oh snap! (and crackle and pop)…Rice Krispies go gluten free

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.  Rice Krispies have finally eliminated the malt barley from their recipe and gone gluten free! Check out the Rice Krispies website for more info on the cereal, which they’re branding as “a gluten-free option with the same beloved sound”.

Can’t wait to go on a scavenger hunt to find these around DC.  I’ll update when I find them!

Grand Opening Field Trip: G-Free NYC

I managed to make it up to the Upper West Side today for the Grand Opening of G-Free NYC!  I needed some gluten free oats, plus I wanted to check out if they had any new loot that I couldn’t find at Whole Foods or the other natural stores I usually go to.

The store itself is pretty small, with a window seat, three freezers, a full wall of pantry shelves, and a table in the middle to house the baked goods imported in from Tulu’s.

The first freezer had desserts, including break-and-bake cookie dough, “Ring Tings”, cheesecakes, ice cream sandwiches, tiramisu, and ice cream.  The break-and-bakes and ice cream sandwiches were new to me, but with so many fresh desserts I chose to focus my energy elsewhere.

The second freezer had breads, including hamburger buns, bagels, and Italian bread.

The third had more bread, with frozen baguettes, buns, and English muffins.  The frozen baguettes are not something I’ve seen before, but at $7 and some change I decided to wait until a special occasion.

The pantry shelves held a couple more gems, including one of my purchases: individual packets of tamari soy sauce!  Usually I lug around my La Choy in my purse, but this will be much more convenient.  I’ve considered ordering these online before, but they only come in multi-packs, and who really needs 10 boxes of these?

I found another item that I considered purchasing online before in the pantry as well…Skinny Crisps!  They also had all four flavors on the counter as free samples, and all of them were wonderful.  Onion and cheese for savory-lovers and chocolate and cinnamon/sugar for the sweet-lovers.

Speaking of free samples… cinnamon rolls were out for the taking!

I picked up a carrot cake from Tulu’s for the train home, and an apple pie from Pi!  This things smells amazing and looks buttery and flakey, can’t wait to try it!  They also had potato knishes made by Pi, and some vegan cupcakes (which didn’t look that great to me – especially compared to the frosting perfection on Tulu’s).

I love that this store exists, that I could walk around and not be afraid to taste things, and not have to check labels.  I only wish that it was closer to my work or apartment!

My haul = Skinny Crisps ($7), Tulu’s carrot cake loaf ($3.95), Pi apple pie ($4.50), and 20 pack of tamari soy sauce ($4.95).

For a full list of the products sold at G-Free, check out their website.

I hope more people go to G-Free to support local business and the gf community!

G-Free NYC

77 West 85th Street (1,2, A, C, E)

g-freenyc.com

Staple: gluten free veggie burgers

So, I’m not even going to attempt to do a thorough review of all of the gluten free veggie burgers out there (because there are only about three, and I only buy one).  But I wanted to introduce a staple of my diet, as it’s probably going to be included in many of my recipes/reviews.

You can find a great full review here though!

Book of Yum GF Veggie Burger Review

The problem with most vegetarian “meat” products is that they are loaded with wheat gluten.  The titans Boca Burger and Gardenburger don’t have a single lousy product that I can eat (so long vegetarian “bacon” and “sausage”).  Mostly the wheat gluten is used as a filler so the companies don’t have to put in as much expensive soy protein isolate.

That said, I still need my protein, and I don’t want to eat fish every day.  So I eat a LOT of these veggie burgers from Franklin Farms:

I use these burgers in…oh…pretty much everything.  They have 90 calories and 14 grams of protein! For any veggie protein source, that is a lot of bang for your buck.  (More nutrition facts)  Do I sound like a spokeswoman yet?  No?  Ok, how about this?  These are all the things you can do with these magical discs:

  • Crumble them up and put them: in chili, on top of pizza, in soup, on top of a salad, stuffed in a pepper, mixed with rice or quinoa, in spaghetti sauce, in tacos, or anywhere you might use ground beef.
  • Eat them whole with mustard and cheese melted on top.
  • Or mush them into balls, fry em up in a pan, and make meatballs!

Franklin Farms also has two other varieties, but I wouldn’t recommend them (but to each her own, try if you’d like).  You can find these in the refrigerated (not frozen) section of your grocery store.

Order them online here:  Food Service Direct

*only has the portabella and original burgers, but I’ll keep searching for somewhere to order the chili bean online