Keeping Your Costs in Line on a Gluten-Free Diet

in Celiac, Celiac Newly Diagnosed
Published: August 22, 2017

Review food spending to contain costs.
Following a strict gluten-free diet can be costly, but here are some strategies to spare your pocketbook. 

Living with celiac disease is expensive. With the doctors’ visits, missing of work after being glutened, and buying of gluten-free foods, those of us with celiac disease shell out thousands a year on keeping ourselves healthy. Despite this, it’s not impossible to keep our personal costs down while doing what’s best for our physical and emotional well-being.

Saving on Health Costs

Highly informed doctors and dietitians play a vital role in keeping health-care costs down – since they can diagnose the disease faster and provide patients with the appropriate treatment and follow-up. Fewer visits with doctors who don’t know what to test for and less uncertainty about the disease means that you ultimately foot a smaller health-care bill.

If you suspect that you have celiac disease, or have already been diagnosed, there are steps to take to find a qualified doctor or dietitian. You can research online, seek suggestions from online celiac disease support networks and call local doctors’ offices for a recommendation.

One great way to cut down on the cost of extra doctors’ visits and build up your celiac disease knowledge is to do your own research. I never recommend self-diagnosis. However, reading science-based books and articles about celiac disease can empower you to take better control of your health.

It’s also helpful to take notes on every appointment you have. Medical professionals keep notes on your patient file, but there’s no reason you can’t keep your own. During appointments, write down what the doctor says, the suggestions put forward and which medications or tests you will need.

We all have imperfect memories. As well, the anxiety and fear that accompanies hearing a new diagnosis or treatment plan can leave you overwhelmed and unable to absorb important information.

Your List for the Specialist

On the flip side, it’s often helpful to write down any questions you have and any problems you are experiencing in advance of a doctor’s visit. Taking the list with you prevents you from forgetting to raise a concern – and needing to set up another appointment.

What about those surprise medical bills? Check in with your insurance company to find out which doctors, tests and procedures they cover. While this often involves listening to a lot of elevator music while on hold, it can save you from a shockingly expensive bill.

Alice Bast, CEO of Beyond Celiac.
If your insurance will only pay for a test done at a certain lab or for a dietitian who works for a certain company, go to that lab and company. If you need a referral from a primary care physician to have specialist visit covered, request one before setting an appointment. Insurance plan documents usually only give a high-level overview, so call a representative who can give you a definitive answer.

Paring Gluten-Free Food Costs

Outsiders often mock the major diet changes that people with celiac disease make, as if these were “lifestyle choices.” ln reality, eating gluten-free is the only treatment available. That means you can’t cheat on holiday dinners or not take this regimen 100 percent seriously. Following the gluten-free diet in a society saturated with packaged foods often means extra costs on groceries that are certified gluten-free.

Yet, costs of gluten-free food can be reduced. Check manufacturers’ websites for coupons and watch online for special deals. Stocking up when you see a deal also helps to trim food costs, at least for specific products. For larger savings, collect all your grocery bills over the course of a month, and not just those for specifically gluten-free alternatives.

At the end of the month, examine where you might over-spend and what you could do without. Are there expensive items that you could swap for the store brand? Do you tend to throw out a certain item over and over because it expires before use? Making small adjustments can grow your savings quickly.

Saving on Fresh Produce

If produce from your regular grocery store proves too expensive, try buying from produce wholesalers, warehouse stores or local farm-share programs to reduce costs. It’s best to buy produce in season. However, you can freeze your favorite treats like berries – so you can enjoy them all year long. It’s also helpful to find recipes that use inexpensive dry ingredients such as beans and naturally gluten-free grains, to which you can add your favorite vegetables.

Don’t settle for tasteless meals, however. Stock up on gluten-free spices and seasonings, or consider growing your own herbs. Living gluten-free is necessary for our community, and making adjustments can be emotionally and financially challenging. However, with the right planning and a positive attitude, we can keep our bodies, and our wallets, full and healthy.

Alice Bast is the CEO of Beyond Celiac, the national organization working on behalf of the celiac patient community. Visit Beyond Celiac to learn more.

Read more articles by Alice Bast:
Debunking 4 Big Celiac Myths
Staving Off the Gluten-Free Winter Blues
Open Up About Celiac Disease to See the Bigger Picture