Specialized Gluten-Free Foods: Expensive or Important

I’ve just spent about an hour reading comments from people about the price and quality of specialized gluten-free foods. Oh yes, they are indeed far more expensive than their non-GF brethren! And, especially when you first go gluten-free, nowhere as tasty as the foods they are mimicking.

Yet, we, the gluten-free community, keep trying to make GF foods that taste just as good as “real” foods. I am of two minds on this point. One, of course, is that sometimes I really do want a grilled cheese sandwich. This means reaching into my frozen stash of Udi’s Whole Grain GF bread.

But mostly, I don’t think too much about what I can’t have — as it turns out, during the years before I went gluten-free, I gravitated almost instinctively toward “safe” foods. Not always successfully, but I found my cravings were for those foods that left me feeling good after a meal.

On the other hand (or, rather, on the other mind), I think a robust, diverse marketplace for gluten-free eaters is essential. It’s lovely to have an evening of cheese and crackers, with excellent cheese and crackers that are pretty darn good. Pretty darn good is just fine with me…especially since I’ve forgotten how the originals tasted.

I believe the growth and popularity of the specialized GF foods have had a wonderful side effect: they’ve encouraged producers of mainstream foods to take a look at their products, ingredients, and production practices. They’re seeing the benefits of labeling foods gluten-free.

This allows us to make better decisions when shopping. Sure, I giggled a bit when I noted the hard cider I was drinking was labeled “gluten-free” (because how could it not be?), but I was also appreciative of the manufacturer’s taking the time to make sure I, the gluten-free consumer, was assured this product was safe.

My approach to the specialized gluten-free food market can be summed as selective. I’ll buy crackers, I’ll buy the occasional loaf of bread, I’ll splurge on sauces that I miss from my pre-GF days.

But I won’t spend a lot of money on these foods — mostly because there are so many other options available to me.
I want to encourage the growth of this market, but I also need to be smart about my food budget. How do you approach the specialized gluten-free market?

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