The thing I love about Savings Guide is the active community of money savers that help discuss just about any topic imaginable.
Last week we discussed how to save money on groceries/food in quite a bit of detail on our Facebook page.
This resulted in an interesting find, that being that many Australian’s have to be extra savvy with their budget due to food intolerances that put a hefty strain on the weekly cost of groceries.
As someone who has no food allergies or food intolerances, I have to say I am rather naive to the whole concept. I had no idea how tricky shopping was when a few common ingredients can cause allergic reactions or debilitating side effects. I also found it amazing how the supermarkets seemingly exploit these intolerances and offer alternative products, often at a higher cost.
So with this in mind, I would like to share with you some of the tips and responses we got from people on how to save money while dealing with food intolerances (e.g. Gluten free, Lactose intolerance, etc).
Remember, I am not an expert in this area by any means, so if you have something to contribute or help other people in this situation, please comment at the end of this article with your ideas and we will be sure to post.
Responses from people with food intolerances
Below is the discussion around whether or not it is possible to do the weekly grocery shop for under $50.
Bonnie Matthews: Definitely not possible when you have food intolerances. It’s twice the cost to buy foods without ingredients! My last grocery shop for a fortnight, with 2 adults, a teenager and 10 year old was $410!!! That’s a new record, without meat or veg. We eat mostly veg & pulses, with no desserts, no snacky foods and a little fish.
Savings Guide: @Bonnie – Sounds hard! Much like it can be expensive to eat healthily in some cases, intolerance to certain food types must be tricky to navigate. I think the supermarkets definitely exploit people’s dietry requirements in that area.
Gluten free always seems to be more expensive etc. Quite frustrating really – especially considering we seem to have an all time high of people suffering intolerance to certain food types. Surely extracting gluten and lactose can’t be that hard!
Debbie Turnbull: I spend between $100 – $130 per week. No take away. All gluten free food.
Savings Guide: @Debbie Turnbull – $100-$130 isn’t bad at all! Especially considering its gluten free. Do you have any tips you could share with Bonnie Matthews?
Debbie Turnbull: I make most things from scratch. I make chicken stock then I use the stock and the vegies and chicken from the stock to make soup and use some stock for gravies & sauces.
We have other intolerances too so we can’t eat fruit or seafood and a few other things.
The only processed gluten free food we buy is pasta and Basco pasta w/ sauce + some other sauces and gluten free flour.
I make bread for us in a bread maker that is worth $400 that I got for $20 at a garage sale cause the lady who also had Coeliac Disease couldn’t work out how to get a decent loaf from it (trick is to mix it up before you put it in the maker cause gluten free bread is denser and the bread maker isn’t strong enough to mix it properly).
I make up big batches of soup, stock and sauces and freeze them and freeze the bread too. With the meat I cut it up small so it goes further and eat lots of rice and salad.
I make biscuits, muffins and cakes for us too. I have the Coeliac discount card for Coles which helps a bit sometimes depending what is on discount for the month.
It’s very time consuming with all the cooking but it keeps us healthy and not eating things that make us sick, so I have to do it. I do the grocery shopping online now most of the time and get it delivered so it saves me time and I can see exactly how much I’ve spent and can take stuff out of the online cart if it gets too expensive.
I also watch all the specials for all the supermarkets and some weeks end up shopping at all of them if the specials are worth it.
Bonnie Matthews: Wow Debbie, I thought I spent a lot of time in the kitchen but it’s nothing compared to your investment! My problem is time. I work and can’t prepare everything from scratch. I make wraps and pizza bases, but found a really great loaf at and IGA nearby- trouble is it costs $9.
Everything else is prepared from scratch, and throw in dairy & fructose intolerances, and it gets very complicated at meal times. Every spare moment is spent cooking, and I have given up baking- not enough hours in the day!
Debbie Turnbull: I work 3 days a week so cooking on other days. We have same intolerances but I am intolerant to a lot more food than what my daughter is. I work in the city so get home late – that’s why I cook enough on my days off to get us through. $9 is expensive it would want to be good. It is hard but I’m in a routine now.
Paula Rowlands: Wow Debbie, & I thought I was the only crazy one spending all day in the kitchen, heehee.
Our average shop is $120 per week and thats all gluten free too, so I think we are doing pretty well!
Tell us your quick tips and tricks for dealing with food intolerances
We would love to hear from you. Any tips and tricks on how to save money on food while dealing with food intolerances would be much appreciated!
How to be gluten free on a budget: the how to story
My doctor recently suggested I go gluten free and I confess, I nearly cried. All the best foods contain gluten! All those cakes, buns and breads… mmm. When I really did shed a tear though, is when I sat down to do the shopping list.
Wheat is Australia’s most prevalent crop and given its relatively low cost, our food producers have found a way to sneak it into seemingly everything! Oh yes, there are the obvious offenders such as biscuits, bread and cakes, but where gluten really gets you is the unsuspecting sources… soy sauce, lollies, baked beans and even cornflour. Yes, that’s right, cornflour! (I had a very difficult time explaining to my American friends that in the Land of Oz, even our cornflour is made from wheat. No wonder they think we’re upside down and back to front!).
Try replacing all of these items with the gluten free substitute and you’re going to be looking at a very hefty grocery bill indeed. “Specialty” food products like gluten free items are the largest growing area of the supermarket and for good reason; the profit margin is huge! Save on your GF groceries with two simple tricks and beat the supermarket system.
Don’t buy “gluten free”
Um, what? Isn’t buying gluten free the whole point?, I hear you ask. Well, yes we are, but buying products labelled “gluten free” is going to cost you a small fortune. Instead, read the labels and you’ll find plenty of items have no gluten but simply haven’t advertised the fact. For example, in the health food aisle a 375g box of “gluten free” corn flakes will set you back $5.31. But, use your noggin and check the regular cereals and you’ll find that a 500g box of home brand corn flakes, containing only corn, sugar and salt, will only cost you $1.90. No gluten and no exorbitant price tag.
Eat naturally gluten free
The above suggestion works very well for those of us who are merely gluten intolerant but for coeliacs, things get trickier. A single molecule of gluten can make a coeliac sick and over a long enough time, it can eventually lead to cancer. As such, coeliacs cannot risk eating an item that “may contain traces of gluten” in fact, Australian oats are off limits for most coeliacs because the very soil in which they’re grown may be contaminated with wheat!
The best way to get around this without having to shell out the big bucks, is to buy foods that naturally contain no gluten. I’m talking rice, rice noodles, meat, dairy, nuts and veggies. If you are a coeliac on a tight budget, your best bet is to buy totally natural, unprocessed ingredients and prepare them yourself.
So if you too are gluten challenged (or a “glutard” as I’m now affectionately known by my friends) embrace the array of beautiful fresh food, unprocessed and untainted by gluten. Yes, it requires a little more time to plan and prepare but when it comes to being healthy and saving money, I reckon that’s a fair exchange rate.