Living Gluten Free on a Budget

Jessalyn Odonnell Thrifty Foods Juggling

Registered Dietitian Jessalyn O’Donnell at Thrifty Foods

Transitioning to a gluten-free diet can be overwhelming! Food is expensive and it can be challenging to navigate life with a new, gluten-free compass. Never fear, celiacs in Victoria, British Columbia are happy to share their strategies on saving – and coping!

Get Educated! Registered  Dietitians in the Out Patient Department at Victoria General Hospital have been specially trained to counsel those who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease or are working towards a resolution to their symptoms. Your general practitioner can make a referral to the Nutrition Services’ Outpatient Department. The cost is covered through the Medical Services Plan of BC.

Canadian Celiac Association – Accurate information from medical experts with a Canadian perspective.


Learn to Cook through the Greater Victoria Public Library – Save a bundle on books and choose from a huge selection of recipes. recipes that will help you save on cost and can choose from a huge selection.  A search of the GVPL website turns up almost 200 volumes on gluten free.  Books published in the past 5 years or less tend to use more nutritious flours in place of the traditional high-starch ingredients. Be sure to reserve Gluten-Free for Dummies by Dana Korn for a clear, step by step approach to learning to live gluten free.

Eat from the Ground Up! – It is important to think about eating farther down on the food chain to keep costs down. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs are naturally gluten free and will be cheaper and healthier than their processed counterparts. Pre-made meat patties,  meat balls and pizzas are more expensive to purchase than making them yourself from scratch. Basics like gluten-free oats, rice and quinoa are nutritious for breakfasts.

Cereals, Cookies and Baking Mixes – Not only are these products costly, just like their gluten counterparts, they are primarily sugar and high in fat. Gluten-free baking is often also organic, which means that they have no added vitamins or minerals to fortify their nutrient content.  A homemade fruit crisp with gluten-free oats is a delicious dessert and far healthier than store-bought cookies and treats.

The Price of Pasta! – Gluten-free versions of pasta ie Catelli, Barelli, Tinkyada, Rizopia are widely available but will cost more. By using separate gluten-free pots, colanders, spoons and bowls to prevent cross contamination, the gluten-free person in the family can enjoy their own pasta while everyone else eats more economical ‘regular’ pasta. Choose gluten-free pasta that is shaped differently from the regular pasta being served. ie  gluten-free spaghetti vs wheat macaroni.

Some Prices Do Compare – Some gluten-free options are hitting store shelves at the same price as regular options. For example, Chex fortified cereals cost the same across the board. Make a note of the price of gluten-free staples like cereal, bread, pasta as a gluten-free reference point so that you can recognize sales and deals when they happen!

Victoria Retailers with Gluten-Free Options:
• see Top Gluten-Free Shopping on The Celiac Scene
• tune into social media for daily discounts at
• Superstore in Langford has  a gluten-free section and some of the best prices on Kinnikinnick Bread and Baking and Rizopia Pasta, both Canadian brands.
• Forbe’s Pharmacy in Millstream has basic gluten-free food, often on sale.
• Forbe’s Pharmacy at 1775 Fort (at Richmond) in Victoria has gluten-free food at great prices.
• Ageless Living Market at 851 Johnson (at Quadra) in Victoria has gluten-free food cheaper than usual (closed Sunday and early closes).
• Walmart at Uptown Mall has a small gluten-free section and like Superstore offers good prices on mainstream gluten-free products like Chex.
• The Victoria Mustard Seed Food Bank has gluten-free options for those who register their dietary requirements at intake. Residents outside of Victoria can inquire with their local food bank.
• McGavin’s  on Blanshard and Bay sometimes carry ‘about to expire’ lots of Silver Hill’s gluten-free breads, first come, first serve.  Freeze immediately and thaw as needed.
• Income assistance recipients with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are eligible for a gluten-free dietary allowance of $40 per month.  See

Gluten-Free Living Classes A crash course about transitioning to a gluten-free diet. The class is provided at no cost for new members of the Canadian Celiac Association along with family members or a friend. Join the Canadian Celiac Association at the class or at for $65 – no diagnosis required. The two hour class covers what to eat and what not to, where to shop, where to dine and generally how to live your new gluten-free life. The class orients and assures new members that they are not alone in making this huge adjustment. Led by knowledgeable Chapter volunteers who have been through the same experience and will help you survive this transition. Receive a host of helpful information and a Celiac Scene ‘Gluten-Free Goodie Bag to Go!’

Feel the Pulse – Social Media!  Unique to Victoria if not all of North America, is, a  wonderful resource for living gluten in Victoria, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.  Get the gluten-free scoop on where to eat and shop, what to buy and even what to do from this celiac-operated resource. Follow the Scene on Facebook for retailer sales, stay tuned to food recalls on Twitter or dine out en masse with Gluten-Free Foodies  and gain some friends in the bargain! If you are up for an occasional splurge, treat yourself to fast food but be sure to Ask Gluten-Free Questions to assure your safety!
gluten free support

Dining options in your area:
Victoria • BlanshardCook-FairfieldDouglas StreetFernwoodFort StreetGovernment StreetHillsideInner HarbourJames BayOak BayQuadraRoyal Oak – BroadmeadUVic Or NEARBY in • Brentwood BayColwoodEsquimaltLangfordMetchosinSidneyView Royal On VANCOUVER ISLAND • Campbell RiverChemainusCobble HillComoxCoombsCourtenayCowichan BayDuncanLadysmithLake CowichanMill BayNanaimoNanoose BayParksvilleQualicum BeachPort RenfrewShawnigan LakeSookeTofinoUcluelet On the GULF ISLANDS • Cortes IslandGabriola IslandHornby IslandSalt Spring Island