Friday, August 7, 2015

Money-Saving Tip for Your Gluten-Free Diet

 Gluten-free food is too expensive.
It’s not fair that people with celiac disease should pay more when dining out.
Let’s all sue PF Changs for charging more for a gluten-free meal.
These are (sadly) common comments I hear from readers and from around the web.
That last one, though. Really? I’m guessing you’ve heard about it, and maybe even deposited your 2-cents’ worth on some Facebook page or Twitter feed. If you’ve been in the dark, here’s the skinny from Nation’s Restaurant News:
“A California woman is suing P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc., claiming the chain’s gluten-free menu pricing violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
The suit was filed December 9, 2014, so it’s not “new” news; however it does seem to be resurging now. Perhaps we were all too caught up in the holidays and New Year to pay attention. Oh, and there’s that part about it now being a class action suit. Oy!
Here’s an update from Legal Newsline with a few more details of where the case is today and a quote from Celiac Disease Foundation CEO, Marilyn Geller. The CDF doesn’t appear to endorse the lawsuit shenanigans.
Personally, I feel the lawsuit is foolish and a tragic waste of time, resources and money. I don’t let it ruffle me, though, like some I’ve seen on the social media channels. What is going on with a person that they become so enraged over a topic as to threaten “fighting” over it on Twitter? I will never understand this.
In any case, the suit is happening and it’s happening because one individual (and now, more joining her in a class action suit) feels P.F. Chang’s is discriminating against individuals with celiac disease because they charge $1 more per menu item that is prepared gluten-free.
UPDATE 28 July, 2015: A judge tentatively dismissed this suit because celiac disease does not constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A case management conference is set for 14 August, 2015 and a final ruling will be issued by the court sometime later.
I have celiac disease. I have never been to P.F. Chang’s. I have been to restaurants where I paid more for gluten-free menu items. I am not offended. (You’re welcome to tell me how you feel in the comments below, but just know if you use profanity or can’t play nice, your comment will not be published. This isn’t about bashing, it’s about sharing so that we can see others’ views on topics that affect our gluten-free community.)
What I wonder is this: Does it really get down to a few dollars here and there? Or is there more to this lawsuit? Maybe a 15-minutes-of-fame desire bubbling to the surface? We’ll never know the real story behind it, but since we’re on the topic of dollars and dishes, let’s address those other (more commonly heard) comments about the cost of gluten-free food I mentioned in the beginning.
It is a fact that pre-packaged gluten-free “replacement” foods cost more than their non-gluten-free counterparts. In fact, some folks set out to study just how much more and found that what I like to call “gluten-free box foods” cost a whopping 242% more! And I’ve read the stories of how (when gluten-free box foods weren’t as readily available as they are now) newly diagnosed celiac patients had to travel far and wide, order online and (gasp!) even order products from Canada, just to have the foods their “condition necessitated”.  I’m sorry friends, you lost me there.
While celiac disease does require a strict 100% gluten-free diet for life, it absolutely, positively does not necessitate eating pre-packaged bread, cookies, cakes, pasta or any other refashioned product.

The Ultimate Money-Saving Tip for Your Gluten-Free Diet

And that leads to my point about the expense of a gluten-free diet. It is what you make it. The truth is, a naturally gluten-free diet is the one that our bodies prefer and the one that will lead to more rapid healing of the damaged small intestine (and all the other fallout damage we are prone to suffer prior to diagnosis). It’s also the one that will restore our health and help us maintain our health.
And guess what? The bananas (and any other “regular” naturally gluten-free food) that I buy cost the same as those purchased by the non-celiac population. So there you have it. If you’re complaining over the high price of gluten-free goods, simply stop purchasing (the ultimate tip for saving money on your gluten-free diet!), or limit those costly pre-pacakaged products.

Try these tips for saving money at the checkout:

  • Instead of buying pre-packaged mixes and flour blends, make your own. It will literally save you thousands of dollars over time. Stop relying on processed gluten-free foods to make up your daily meals.
  • Eat in-season fresh produce, scour the frozen and canned foods aisles for sales (make sure those products are 100% gluten-free, of course!).
  • Turn to lean meats, fish, poultry and eggs for protein (or plant-based proteins if you are vegan). Use those specialty items to complement meals or as a special, occasional treat. You will soon see your grocery bill dwindle down.
And for goodness’ sake, if you do buy those higher priced gluten-free foods, consider what is involved before you attack companies for charging more. The fact is, when companies (or restaurants) get into the intricacies of creating safe gluten-free products for those who need or want them, the cost of the end product increases. And rightly so.
Consider just a few of the things that go into creating gluten-free foods that can drive up the cost:
  • A dedicated facility (or a “secure” facility where gluten-free foods can be manufactured)
  • Specialty ingredients (like gluten-free flours and other items)
  • Employee training above and beyond the norm
  • Facility inspection
  • Product testing
  • Product certification
In a restaurant, there are similar points to consider, and I, for one, am grateful to any restaurant that sincerely puts forth the effort to source ingredients, train employees, dedicate a prep area and prevent cross-contamination of my food. I’ll also happily pay $1 (or whatever) more for that peace of mind.
I do not feel discriminated against because I am not disabled. I have a disease that I am thrilled to say can be controlled with nothing more than the foods I choose to put into my body. After a 25+ year struggle to figure out what was making me so sick, depleting my nutrients and literally took me to the brink of death, I have little about which I can complain.

- Gluten Free Gigi