While it might be getting easier to fill your shopping cart with the growing assortment of gluten-free products, it’s simultaneously getting harder to hold onto the money in your wallet.
I’ve found gluten-free foods that were as much as five times more expensive than their gluten-containing equivalents. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I was experienced at saving money on groceries. Still I worried about how to afford eating gluten free. But I quickly figured out how to save big, and much to my surprise I do most of my shopping at the same place I shopped prior to my diagnosis — the grocery store.
There are lots of great ways to save at the grocery and supermarket while eating gluten free if you follow some simple tips and strategies.
Compare coupon policies
Contact your local stores to compare coupon policies. Some double coupons or offer gas rewards. Once you know the policy, you can use the information to get the most savings from your coupons. Sign up for shopper’s club or loyalty cards that offer savings only to card holders. These are great ways to help reduce your food bill each week.
Get gluten-free coupons by contacting gluten-free companies by phone, on their websites and through Facebook and Twitter. High-value coupons usually come directly from the manufacturer. You have to print some yourself and can save on ink if you print in black and white or grayscale. For example, both Rudi’s and Udi’s gluten-free companies offer $1 off coupons online. Sign up for e-clubs or e-newsletters offered by many gluten-free brands. They often email coupons to their members.
Don’t overlook the traditional Sunday newspaper coupon insert. You can find coupons for both specialty and naturally gluten-free foods. For example, Post’s Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles cereals are gluten free, and the insert often contains coupons for them.
And always look for coupons available in the store aisles as hang tags, tear pads or in automatic dispensers. Go through the coupons dispensed at the register when you check out, called CATALINAS. If you buy a brand-name product, you’ll often get a coupon offer for the same item in a different brand. Just be sure the new brand is gluten free if it’s not labeled as such.
If you buy both specialty and naturally gluten-free items at the supermarket, you can earn gas rewards on your gluten-free purchases. Savings on gas can go up to $2 per gallon if you use your shopper card at participating stores. It’s the one time when the higher cost of gluten-free foods can work in your favor by saving you more on gas down the line.
Watch sales cycles and stock up when prices are low. Each week at the supermarket, some products cycle on sale. Write down the price each week for a period of time and you will see a pattern of how products cycle and when they cost the least – 50 to 70 percent off. That’s when it’s best to buy, particularly if you “stockpile“ the product. Use coupons on the product to save even more. Some products, like cereal, cycle to the lowest price every six weeks. But some only get to their lowest price once a year, so be sure to stock up on these items when they are on sale. If you shop this way whenever possible you will see a drastic savings in your grocery budget.
More and more stores are selling their own cheaper brand of gluten-free products. However, if you have a coupon for a name-brand food, and you are watching the sales cycle, it can be cheaper to buy the brand name. For example, if you have a coupon for gluten-free Chex cereal and purchase it during the sales cycle it will be less expensive than the store brand. It really pays off to clip coupons and match them to the sales cycle.
Buy lots of naturally gluten-free foods. Vegetables, fruits, rice, beans, potatoes, eggs, lean meats and poultry and more are all gluten free and don’t have the premium price that comes with specialty gluten-free products. Buy what’s on sale or in season.
Extend the life of products that you find on sale by freezing them. You can buy larger quantities of perishable foods that are a great deal. Look for manager’s specials. Every day most departments, including produce, dairy and meat, mark down some items significantly. When you find a product that is near expiration, it’s usually a great time to save big. If the product can be frozen, you can safely buy it and use it past the expiration date as long as you follow recommended freezer storage limits.
Take these steps to save at the grocery store. Then occasionally splurge guilt free on special gluten-free items that you need or just enjoy. GF
Melissa Jennings is the author of Savvy Saving, Couponing Secrets from the Stockpiling Moms and co-founder of stockpilingmoms.com. She was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2011 and offers gluten-free money savings tips and more on the website.