January 13, 2009 - This is the second part in a series “Gluten Free Grocery Shopping on a Budget” in which Heather shares how she feeds a family of 6 a gluten free diet for $350 – $400 a month. (And she says she could do with less if she really tried!)
Heather: Here’s an expansion of my bullet points, sharing how I’m spending approximately $350-400 a month to feed my family of 2 adults and 4 children under 7. Almost all food that we eat being gluten-free, except for the occasional loaf of WW bread for the rest of the family, and buying WW pasta for them (and brown rice pasta for me).
1) Stock up on items when on a good sale. Buy enough to last you to the next time it’ll go on sale at that price. Buy frozen vegetables when they’re on sale for $1/lb. When canned beans are on sale for $.40 a can, buy enough to last you a few months until the next sale.
We have a second freezer, so we can do this with meats as well. At our Super Walmart, 3 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts are priced just under $8, or over $2.50/lb. But, at least once every 3 months, they are on sale for under $2/lb at one of the two other local grocery stores that we shop at. We stock up then, and it’s the same with ground beef or any other meat.
If you have a Kroger near you, they have cheese on sale for a good price at least once a month. Cheese lasts in the fridge for several months. You can also freeze shredded cheese without a noticeable loss in texture; chunk cheese, however, will be crumbly.
2) Make foods from scratch. It’s not only cheaper, but usually healthier. My convenience foods are things like taco sauce, tortillas, cans of unseasoned diced tomatoes, and a huge box of unseasoned mashed potato flakes. Most people don’t even think of the first three as convenience foods! I make all of our bread products from scratch, including muffins, pancakes, etc. One big reason I don’t have a huge budget with eating gluten-free is that pretty much the only “gluten-free” items I buy are the flours, xanthan gum, and brown rice pasta. None of the convenience items that are so expensive, like pancake mixes, breads, etc.
I don’t buy snack foods like crackers or chips; we have popcorn or fruit instead. We do have the one occasional exception of tortilla chips being used with beans and such for dinner. I buy dried beans instead of canned. I don’t buy instant rice. No frozen foods or meal packets or anything like that. Etc.
Want an example of how big a difference making things from scratch can
make? At our Walmart, it is $1.66 for 2 lb of dried pinto beans, which has 26 servings, or $0.063 per serving. For store-brand canned pinto beans, it was $.52 for 3 1/2 servings, or $.1485 a serving. Even when bought on sale for $.40 (the cheapest sale I see around here), canned beans are still $.114 a serving. So canned beans are twice as expensive. And it’s not that hard to soak beans the night before or use the quick-soak method on the package, if you plan ahead.
3) Buy generic brands when possible. There are only a few items that
we think taste substantially better when a name-brand is bought; other than that, we don’t buy name-brand. One potential exception is a store like Sam’s Club where you can buy name-brands in a large quantity, that may make them cheaper than a smaller amount of a generic brand. But, still the biggest savings often comes buying a generic brand when a grocery store has it on sale, sometimes even as good as buy one, get one free.
4) Buy in bulk. We have a Sam’s Club membership. For example, we don’t buy small bottles of K.C. Masterpiece, but buy a 2-pack of larger bottles at Sam’s. Many stores, such as Walmart, include the price of an item per ounce or some other common denominator, which makes it easy to compare prices of different-sized containers and different brands.
5) Know the cheapest place to get expensive items. With gluten-free
food, buying flours at an Asian Food store can be a real blessing! I was amazed at how cheap tapioca starch and sweet rice flour were there! Tapioca starch is $.99 for 14 oz, instead of $2.29 for 12 oz at the health food store. We use real maple syrup instead of pancake syrup, and it is far cheaper at Sam’s Club than anywhere else we’ve found, and the same with nuts. We live in the country in the Midwest. In the fall, a man near us sells 50 lb of potatoes for $8, instead of 10 lb for $2.97 at Super Walmart. So in the fall, we buy 50-100 lb of potatoes from him.
Be sure to check back for the rest of the series. In the next post Heather will continue discuss her remaining 5 tips for grocery shopping. And in later posts, she’ll answer some of my questions and share what is in her pantry. If you want to make sure that you get all of these posts, you can subscribe to free email updates using the box at the top of the sidebar.