The Student’s Guide To Coeliac Supermarkets

The Student’s Guide To Coeliac Supermarkets

After my last post, which was mostly a negative approach to the coeliac life, I figured I’d take a moment to talk about it in a positive way and let you know which gluten-free brands I personally like best. It may seem a slightly new direction for this blog, but with Miriam Joy Reads to fulfil my book-blogging needs (I’m trying my best to post reviews there regularly) and not having done much in the way of writing recently, talking about my life seems like the way to go.

Obviously, this isn’t particularly interesting to those who aren’t gluten-free, unless you’re wondering where to go to buy me food, in which case, stick around, I like you.

Today I’m going to compare different supermarkets in terms of what they offer and how much it costs. Not only should this give those of you who aren’t gluten free an idea of what we’re dealing with, hopefully it’ll give some of you information that you might want. In my next post, I plan to examine brands (e.g. Genius, Glutafin etc) and talk about that instead.

Of course, if you’re finding these posts super boring, do let me know and I’ll go back to blogging about fictional characters or whatever.

The supermarket comparison

One of the problems I have in Cambridge is that there aren’t any full-sized supermarkets within walking/cycling distance of me, so I often have to order food online. The Sainsbury’s in the centre of town is pretty small, more like a Sainsbury’s Local than a full-sized shop, and as a result I find myself going to different shops to get food. It can be a bit of a pain, but it means I’m becoming very familiar with the various offerings.

Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s isn’t particularly great on stocking gluten-free food, especially our tiny city centre one. However, their Free From Margarita Pizza is great. At £3 for a pizza that’s only really one portion, the size of a normal-sized plate, it’s a little pricey. The size isn’t a disadvantage, though, because when you’re cooking for one it’s easier than having leftovers. It’s got a good texture, and while it’s a shame not to have the variety of normal pizzas, it’s worth it.

Sainsbury’s frozen gluten-free sausages are better than the Tesco equivalent, but I have to say, the chicken nuggets lose out — after a highly scientific taste test I’m awarding that one to Tesco. More to the point, my local Sainsbury’s has made their frozen Free From section even smaller (it’s now only one shelf) and doesn’t stock the sausages, so that’s a pain.

Marks & Spencer

In the past I thought of M&S as a place where rich people buy groceries, and certainly it’s a bit pricey for day-to-day shopping. They don’t have a lot of gluten-free options, but the ones they have are super tasty, and they’re rapidly becoming my favourites. Their chocolate loaf cake is not overly expensive (for a cake) at £2.50; for the same price you can get a pack of six scotch pancakes which, while not cheap, is worth it when you taste them. I had low expectations but they far surpassed them.

Best of all, M&S have gone over to having all their sausages gluten free (using rice flour and the like instead of wheat flour), even their 75p chipolatas. In Sainsbury’s I found I could only get the very fancy Taste The Difference sausages if I wanted gluten-free, but in M&S I can go for the cheapest of them. Which is great for my budget as a student, but also, I just prefer cheap food? I like things not to have too much flavour. I’m weird like that.

Bravo, M&S.

The Co-operative Food

I mostly only go to the Co-op in emergencies — there’s a tiny one around the corner from college, so I pop in there when I’ve run out of milk or whatever. There’s a larger one about ten minutes’ cycle ride away, though, and I go there sometimes to get bread. On the whole, the Co-op’s main appeal is the brands they stock, including Newburn Bakehouse and Schar (more on that in my next post), but they also have some decent own-brand stuff, including a raspberry granola that is delicious… until it goes stale, which happens all-too-quickly.

One failure of the Co-op is that their baking powder and cake decorations often contain wheat flour; Sainsbury’s often uses rice flower for the same things. Watch out for that!

TESCO

Tesco have a pretty wide selection, but unfortunately there isn’t one near me. Even at home, Tesco is a bit further away, so I don’t shop there much. In Cambridge, it’s Tesco I shop from online. Their gluten-free pizza is larger and cheaper than the Sainsbury’s offering, but although it might suit those who like a thicker base, I’m going to have to go for the Sainsbury’s. They offer plenty of brands, as well as a large variety of own-brand foods. I don’t like their own-brand bread, though, I have to say.

As I already mentioned, their gluten-free chicken nuggets are great. It’s like buying them from a chip shop, which is something I miss. I wasn’t as keen on their frozen sausages, though, as I found them a bit lacking in the texture department, a bit too chewy in places. That may be just my cooking. Prices are fairly similar to Sainsbury’s, but the full range is quite a bit larger.

Plus, they do some gluten-free jam tarts that don’t contain almonds, unlike their competitors who always seem to include them. Since I can’t eat almonds either, this is great. They’re not as good as normal jam tarts, but hey, better than nothing, right?

Morrison’s

There is no Morrison’s in Cambridge and until recently they didn’t deliver there either, which is a huge shame. I love Morrison’s gluten-free biscuits — their double chocolate chip cookies are my favourite, and while £1.30 for eight cookies isn’t all that cheap, it’s far from the priciest biscuits you’ll find. They stuck a fair number of my favourite brands but I have to admit I haven’t sampled much in the way of their frozen range — I’ve stuck with the bakery (bread, cake, etc). That’s mostly because I would pop into Morrison’s for some treats, while not doing all my shopping there.

They also sell Haribo way more cheaply than other supermarkets, which is … bad for my teeth. Very bad. I can’t resist Haribo at all.

Prices are reasonable and they often have special offers — definitely an advantage.

Asda

I haven’t shopped a whole lot at Asda, for similar reasons to above. Their double-chocolate chip cookies are on a similar level to the Morrison’s ones, and on the whole their prices are about the same. Again, I haven’t sampled much of their wider range. I think I’ve had their pizza, which was okay, but didn’t knock Sainsbury’s off the top spot.

I hope that’s been of some use to someone out there! Any supermarket experiences to contradict these? I’ll be back soon with more coeliac blogging. (And more normal blogging. Probably.)

Quick announcements: you can now add me as a friend on Goodreads without having to know who Grantaire is because I removed the challenge question; I created a ‘review archives‘ page on my book blog so that you can quickly navigate the site. I think that’s everything. See you soon.

2 thoughts on “The Student’s Guide To Coeliac Supermarkets

  1. I really like these posts about coeliac. Keep it up. :) Also, it’s fascinating to see here the differences between the supermarkets. I was actually surprised by how good M&S is for quality v price. On the other hand, there are three small Co-ops and a Tesco express within happy walking distance of where I live, so I’m pretty limited on my side of Reading,

    1. I’m glad they’re interesting; I feared they weren’t. And yeah, it surprised me too. I think because all gluten free food is expensive, you sort of adjust your expectations. Because M&S are generally a bit posher, they tend not to pad their food out with flour the way a lot of places do, so more of their stuff is gluten-free without having to be specially made that way.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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