Gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye and some other carbohydrates, isn’t necessarily bad for you. However, more and more people are now discovering that they have some form of gluten intolerance, ranging from a mild sensitivity to celiac disease. Symptoms range from mild abdominal pain and bloating to headaches, vomiting and joint pain. If you have one or more of these symptoms, don’t automatically assume you’re gluten intolerant. Since the symptoms are so varied, if you suspect you have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, you should talk to your doctor before making any major dietary changes.
Once you have determined that you need to eliminate or reduce gluten from your diet, what next? Aren’t gluten-free products really expensive? Well, yes and no.
While it’s convenient that more and more large grocery store chains are now carrying gluten-free foods (frequently in a special gluten-free section of the store), these foods often come with a hefty price tag. After we discovered my husband was gluten intolerant and I went grocery shopping for the first time, I nearly had a heart attack. $5.65 for a box of pasta? $6.00 for a box of cereal? $8.00 for a bag of pizza crust mix? No thank you!
However, never fear! There are ways to save on gluten-free products! True, you probably won’t often find them for as cheap as their gluten-filled counterparts (and if you do find them that cheap, stock up!), but with the right approach, you don’t have to bust your budget either. So if you are shopping for a gluten-free family member, here are some tips to help you save at the store.
- Always read labels. Gluten is in a wide variety of foods, some of which will surprise you! It answers to a variety of names, including barley, germ, malt, rye, wheat. Other ingredients such as oats, coloring, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be okay, but you need to proceed with caution. A complete list of ingredients to avoid can be found at Celiac.com. It’s pretty extensive, so it may be helpful to print it out and keep it in your binder. Once you know what to avoid, you don’t have to be afraid to shop in the “regular” area of the store.
- Check to see if your favorite brand has a gluten-free version. As gluten-free diets are becoming more popular, major brands are starting to offer gluten-free options. Progresso, Chex, Hamburger Helper, Bisquick, Betty Crocker, and Nature Valley are just a few of the manufacturers who produce gluten-free products (which are labeled “Gluten Free” right on the front of the box). You can find these in the aisle right alongside their regular counterparts. And, as a bonus, your coupons will most often work on the gluten-free version just as well as the regular version.
- Try specialty stores. While stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s tend to be pricier overall, since their specialty is…well, specialties, they are more apt to run sales or promotions on gluten- free products than Target or Kroger. They also have a wider variety of products from which to choose, and Whole Foods also has store coupons that can be stacked with manufacturer coupons!
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