This article was last updated August 2022
If you’re following a gluten-free diet and trying to budget, you know gluten-free food is more expensive, but it may not be apparent what the total cost of your grocery budget should be.
A 2-person household following a gluten-free diet can spend around $199.29 per week or $863.72 a month on groceries following a moderate-cost spending plan. The total cost of your budget will be affected by where you live, what stores you shop at, and how many gluten-free products you buy.
No matter the size of your family, what type of spender you are, or what state you live in, you can determine what a reasonable gluten-free grocery budget is for you.
Factors That Impact Your Total Grocery Budget
These are some of the key factors to consider when determining what your grocery budget should be:
- Total number of household members
- Number of households members who eat gluten-free
- Age of household members
- Type of budget (More on this below)
- Relative cost of the stores you shop at
- How many processed gluten-free foods you buy
- How often you eat out
We’ll walk through some great resources that identify how some of the factors listed above specifically impact your budget, then we’ll discuss the different budget types, and finally we’ll discuss how to determine the cost of a gluten-free budget with this information.
The USDA publishes monthly reports that list national averages for grocery costs by type of budget and age of household members. The monthly reports also list the average cost for individuals and for some multi-member households.
Mint’s Grocery Budget Calculator, like the USDA reports, allows you to determine a target grocery budget based on type of budget and age and number of household members. However, Mint’s budget calculator will give you more options to choose from for multi-member households. It also allows you to factor in how often you eat out and whether or not you’re gluten-free or meat-free.
The USDA’s national averages of grocery cost are based on buying specific quantities of specific foods to meet what the USDA considers a nutritious diet. Because of this, the averages shown in the USDA reports are different than the averages shown in Mint’s calculator. Mint is not limiting its grocery averages to foods that are part of the USDA nutritious diet.
The 4 budget types:
The 4 different budget types include Thrifty, Low-Cost or Cost-Conscious, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal or Generous, with thrifty being the cheapest budget type and liberal being the most expensive budget type. The table below comes from the USDA June 2022 report and shows what the monthly national average grocery budget is for a 2-person family for 3 of the budget types. (Table below is not reflective of the cost a gluten-free budget, we’re going there in the next section)
|Budget Type||19-50 years of age||51-70 years of age|
As shown in the table, maintaining a low-cost budget type can save you almost $300 a month when compared to a liberal cost plan. It goes without saying that it is possible to spend less money per month than indicated by the cheapest budget type. We’re just talking about averages.
How Much Does Gluten-Free Food Cost?
A 2019 study found that gluten-free products on average cost 183% more than their wheat-containing counterparts. The cost has declined since 2006, during which gluten-free products cost 240% more. Additional studies show that an individual following a gluten free diet will spend 17-30% more on groceries than those without dietary restrictions.
This 2019 study also shows that the cost difference between gluten-free products and their wheat-containing counterparts varies based on the type of product. Gluten-free crackers had the largest price difference between their wheat-containing counterparts, being 270% more expensive. Gluten-Free bread wasn’t far behind at 229% more expensive than wheat bread.
This study also found that the shopping location (ex: grocery store, health food store, online) also impacted the price of gluten-free products, with online being the most expensive place to shop for gluten-free products.
What does all this mean for determining the cost of a grocery budget when you’re gluten-free?
While individual gluten-free food items can cost up to 270% more, the majority of your groceries should consist of food that is naturally gluten-free (meat, fruits and vegetables, etc). This means that on average those following a gluten-free diet spend 17-30% more total on food. The amount of gluten-free alternatives (bread, crackers) you’re buying will impact how much more you spend on food than the average.
Cost of Groceries In All 50 States
We can determine an average cost of groceries in each state from the national average cost by using the cost of living index. The cost of living index for groceries shows how the cost of groceries in each state compares to the national average cost of groceries.
In the table below, the cost of living index for groceries is shown as a percent variance from the national average cost of groceries. For example, in the table you can see that the cost of living index shows that average cost of groceries in Texas is 10.6% less than national average. The cost of living index used in the table is from Quarter 1 of 2022.
The gluten-free monthly grocery cost shown in the table is based on the national monthly average from the June 2022 USDA report. The average was increased by 30% to represent the increased cost that those on a gluten-free diet pay, and then the average was multiplied by the cost of living index variance for each state to determine the average grocery cost per state.
|State||% Variance From National Average Grocery Cost||Gluten-Free Grocery Monthly Cost – 2 People|
|District of Columbia||11.0%||$958.73|
If you want to learn more about budgeting specifics for your household, I suggest you check out the USDA’s monthly reports and Mint’s Budget Calculator, and then come back here to this post determine how your state varies from the national average.
I would recommend the Mint app (and website) to anybody looking to start budgeting. Mint is free to use, and has a lot of great capabilities. I find that Mint makes it easy to categorize spending and create and track budget goals.
Here’s the rest of the sources referenced in this post:
- Modifying Food Texture, Volume 2. – http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-78242-334-8.00010-9