Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Living Wheat Free on a Budget Part II: Shop 'Til You Drop

Not really, but today I'm going to give you some tips for saving some money when buying wheat free foods at the grocery store.

To see tips #1 and #2, click here

Tip #3: Buy "Real" Food

What I mean by this is that if you foods that aren't processed, then you don't have to worry as much about eating wheat. Eating more fruits and veggies is not only good for you, but it can save you a lot of money. Now, at this point you are probably thinking "really??" since fresh fruits and veggies tend to be pricy which can be true if you shop for fruits and veggies at the grocery store. But even then, when you compare them to gluten free snacks, there really is no comparison. Also, if you shop at farmer's markets then you can get a ton of really fresh "real" food for cheap. We go to the farmer's market every week for our fruits and veggies and spend between $10 and $15 dollars for a weeks worth of real food (with prices like $1 for 2 broccoli crowns and $1.25/lb for grapes). We also buy frozen and canned veggies on sale (as long as you make sure not to get any frozen veggies with sauces or cream of anything) which also keeps the price down in the off seasons.

Tip #4: Read Labels

So you have your fruits and veggies for the week but those alone are not going to keep most of you happy. Now we must venture into the dreaded, wheat-filled, isles of the grocery store. 

A lot of stores are getting better at listing on the price labels which items are gluten free, but many still don't. This may lead you to believe that only the things with 'gluten free' plastered in big letters on the container are in fact gluten free. This just isn't true and so you need to be an advocate for yourself and read the labels. In my experience, it seems that as soon as a company puts gluten free on their packaging, the price basically doubles so if you are aware, you can drastically reduce your costs by knowing items that must be bought gluten free and which ones you can find cheaper alternatives for. 

For example, you are going to be hard pressed to find a cheap alternative to gluten free bread. There just isn't a cheap alternative if you want pre-made bread. So, for this, you must cough up the almost 5 dollars for a teeny tiny loaf and try to forget your abroad days when you paid 50 cents for a huge loaf of bread. But, if you love a salty snack, instead of of paying $3.50 for a small box of rice crackers you can buy Santitas corn tortilla chips at $2 for a huge bag and snack away! Nowhere on the bag do they say they are gluten free, but if you read the label, 

Whole CornVegetable Oil (Corn, Soybean, Canola and/Or Sunflower Oil), andSalt. No Preservatives. Ingredientes: Maiz Entero, Aceite Vegetal (Aceite De Maiz, Girasol, Canola, Y/O Soya), Y Sal. No Contiene Conservadores.

you will find no wheat or gluten listed. Most times they will even bold "Contains Wheat" on the label which definitely helps. If you are super sensitive, you can look online before you shop to see what products don't have gluten. Here is a list for Frito Lay's gluten free products. You can also eat things like popcorn and rice crackers which are much lower in price than the specifically gluten free products. Don't just assume though, always read the label because some seasonings can have wheat in them.

P.S. If you have a sensitivity to gluten and not just wheat, stay away from anything that has malt flavoring in it (from barley that has gluten). If you only have a sensitivity to wheat, rejoice in the fact that you can still eat Frosted Flakes!

Reading of labels transfers over into the dairy isle as well. Most dairy is fine to eat, but if you get yogurt or ice cream that has cookie mix-ins, then you are going to be kicking yourself later.

You may think that the meat isle is a pretty safe place, which it is, as long as you watch out for heavily processed meats. Some have fillers that contain gluten (can we all just agree you shouldn't be eating those anyway?). But, if you read the labels, you'll quickly find out what is safe. (Also, if you shop at meat markets instead of the grocery store you will save tons)

Tip #5: Take Advantage of the System

This is the last tip for today but one that can save you a lot of money. Since it is rare to find the most expensive gluten free products (that have no substitutes) on sale and even rarer to find a coupon for them, you have to make up that money somewhere else.

Most stores have some sort of discount card program. Since they all are slightly different, I'm just going to give you a run down of how we shop at our store. The store we go to has a discount card and fuel perks. So, before we go shopping, we make a list of things we are out of. We then go through our store's flier and make a list of what products we are going to buy. If it is a particularly good week for sales, (on items we need/use a lot... don't be tempted to buy something just because it's on sale) then we make it a 'stocking up' week and budget between $100 and $125 for groceries (which usually includes things like paper towels and dog food). If it isn't a stocking up week then we usually budget between $50 and $75 so you can imagine that buying gluten free products would really put a damper on this if we didn't plan (and remember we don't buy our vegetables at the grocery store so you have to include that in the budget)

We then head out to shop. Unless a coupon basically lands in our laps, we don't use them because we just don't have the time to devot to that latest craze. But, we know how much things should cost and don't pay more than that ($1.99/lb for chicken breast is our limit). We buy a lot of things for BOGO or half off and make sure to buy brands that have extra fuel perks.

We also have 4 credit cards (two each) that have various money back perks. Between the four, one has 3% back on groceries all the time (and 2% back on gas), and two of the others rotate 5% cash back for various things including groceries. This means that at any given time we get cash back on groceries. We only really use our credit cards for the high point categories and we always make sure that we use the card with the highest cash back at the time (and we always pay them off in full so we don't pay a ton of interest back).

For our last grocery shopping trip (which was a stocking up week) we spent $154. With our grocery card, it came down to $109 ($45 off) and so with 5% back on my credit card, the grand total was $103.55. We also got 70 cents off per gallon added to our fuel perks (yes you read that correctly) saving us another $7 when we filled up our car on the way home.

It takes a little extra time to plan everything out, but if you are willing to do it, you can more than make up for the extra costs of eating wheat free.

Tomorrow I will give you some tips on how to save on some wheat free pantry staples!

Linking To: 
Hi Sugar Plum, The Great Indoors, House of Hepworths, My Repurposed Life, Our Delightful Home, Five Days Five Ways, Serenity Now, Lovely Etc., The Rooster and the Hen, Six Sisters Stuff, Tatertots and Jello, Wayward Girls Crafts, Twigg Studio, Serendipity and Spice, Ask Anna, Home Stories A to Z, Uncommon Designs, House wives of RivertonCrafty Texas Girls

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