Food Allergies and Budgets

Is it possible to stick to a strict budget or be frugal and have food allergies?

The simple answer is “yes.”

Do you or someone you love have food allergies and have a strict budget?  When faced with the reality of food allergies, it seems impossible to live on a budget.  Actually, budgeting for food allergies does not have to be much different from budgeting for normal groceries.  There are a few easy ways you can live without fear of mounting debt (or starvation) and produce good, healthy food.

Before employing any of these methods to lower your grocery budget (and you’ve heard me touch on them here and there), for food allergy families in particular, you cannot compare yourself to someone else’s grocery budget who does not have food allergies.  There will be a discrepancy and that’s just the way it is.  But you have to take every opportunity available to you as a food allergy shopper to save a buck.  You know the old saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

Now, for that list…

1.   Shop the Grocery Ads
As soon as the week’s ads come out, take 15 minutes to find the best deals.  Circle each item or write it down and indicate if you have a coupon for it.  Try to minimize buying non-sale items.

2.   Use Coupons
Coupons for allergy-friendly foods are few, but they aren’t completely non-existent.  When there is an allergy coupon, ask friends and family for their extra.  I do not purchase a Sunday paper because I don’t like buying it when I may barely break even.  A neighbor gives me her coupons or I check the recycling center.  Another resource is the online coupon sites.  Also, coupons for toiletry and household products can help reduce the budget.  Every dollar saved helps and it adds up!

3.  Shop “Manager Specials”
Many grocery stores have set times for selling their marked down products that are nearing expiration, dented, or being discontinued.  Buy expiring meat and produce (like bell peppers or onions) and freeze or cook immediately .  Sometimes, you may find allergy-friendly products being cleared off the shelf (I scored Gluten-Free Bisquick for $1.99, regularly $5.39.  My husband was thrilled…for the whole 16 ounces!).   A coupon for a “Manager Special,” may make it free!

4.  Make Homemade Gluten-Free Flour
Pre-packaged gluten-free flours are pricey.  A coffee bean grinder and whole grains/nuts can be a wonderful way to save money and enjoy various “flour” dishes.  I have mentioned this before when I discussed my essential kitchen tools and more is to follow on the specifics of homemade flour in an upcoming post.

5.  Shop Around
Do not be product or store loyal, if possible.  Shop at many stores in order to get the best deals (Asian grocers, Aldi, Costco, etc).

6.  Avoid Restaurants
In our home, the possibility of cross-contamination carries too much of a risk just for the convenience.  Plus, I can fix dinner for my family of 5 for about the same price as 1 Happy Meal.

7.  Prepare Food from Scratch
Avoid pre-packaged or processed foods, even allergy-friendly foods.  They are pricey and generally not the healthiest for you, especially when avoiding multiple allergens.  Stick with fresh meat and produce, dry beans, bulk rice, and oats, for example.

One final note, don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen, especially when you’re getting used to cooking allergy-free on a budget.  Try to avoid getting into a dinner rut (Look through cookbooks and online recipe sites for some ideas.  The recipe might not be allergy-specific, but don’t be afraid to make substitutions.).  Do your best, and take the good with the bad.

These are the methods that we use in our food allergy home, but we’re not perfect.  You might just find a Happy Meal toy (or two) floating around our house.

What methods do you employ in your home to lower your grocery bill, allergy-family or not?

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19 Responses to Food Allergies and Budgets

  1. calina says:

    Found you here from Money Saving Mom. Glad to know there’s others in the same boat as us. Maybe we’re not as crazy as I was beginning to think. LOL! I save money buying our allergy foods several ways.

    First off, I LOVE the subscribe and save option from amazon. Our allergy free staples are delivered once a month, or whatever option you choose.

    Secondly, Meijers and Krogers are carrying many allergy free foods at a cheaper price than Whole foods. Well, sometimes for us cheaper doesn’t matter, it’s availability.

    And lastly, I just found out about this one. If you buy a case of anything at Whole Foods, you get a 10% discount on that case. If you buy 5 cases (mix or match) you get a 20% discount on all those cases!

    • Cook says:

      Thanks for joining us from MSM. I hope you’ll come back often.

      And thank you for you great tips. I keep my eye on the Amazon deals but haven’t bought any yet (food, that is).

      I didn’t know about the case deal at Whole Foods…I’ll have to look into that.

      I buy a couple of allergy-free foods at Kroger, but I mainly stick to the naturally allergy-free foods (meat, veggies, fruit, beans, etc). I have found that Kroger’s prices on them are far better than Meijer, but perhaps Meijer is getting better. I’ll have to check it out again. Meijer does have a nice selection of their own brand (Meijer Organic and Meijer Natural) that I buy quite often. I actually have a post on Meijer shopping next Tuesday, so check back in.

      Again, thanks so much for visiting The Willing Cook. Let me know if there is anything you would ever like to read on here.

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  4. Brandi @ Must Love Coupons.com says:

    I also found you through MSM also! I am a deal blogger and I actually have a child with food allergies! I look forward to reading more of your posts!! 🙂

    • Cook says:

      Brandi,

      Thanks for stopping in! I hope you will come back often. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions, make a request for certain topics to be covered or recipe you’d like to try.

      Michelle

  5. Pingback: Frugal Food Allergy Living: Shop Grocery Ads

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  15. Brianna says:

    We’re the odd bunch in food allergies — my brood isn’t allergic to the “normal” allergens, except a couple (like walnuts and mustard), but things like chicken, pork, bananas (BANANAS???), a couple spices, annatto, and legumes (every bean on the planet, yup). This makes finding cheap ways to feed all of us, especially without cooking separate meals for everyone, very difficult. We’re relegated to turkey, beef, shrimp, fish, and eggs for protein. With the exception of Thanksgiving time, turkey isn’t very cheap or plentiful in choices. Eggs are a high fat food we try not to eat excessively, likewise beef in its lower-fat varieties isn’t cheap either. Fish and shrimp are extremely healthy but also (I feel like a broken record) expensive. The three most economical forms of protein in America (chicken, pork, and beans) are off the table for us and we’re struggling. Any ideas for a stressed-out mom? I try to shop sales and make from scratch, but is there anything else I can do? Advise on bulk-buying, produce-farming on a small footprint, ANYTHING is welcome!

    • Cook says:

      Brianna, I am so sorry to hear that you’re struggling! I’ll try to be as concise in my response as possible. Feel free to ask any other questions, etc.

      1. I’m assuming peanuts are off the list since they are a legume? What about other treenuts? If other treenuts are allowed, try buying them in bulk (check locally and online for the best price) and make homemade treenut butters. You can do the same with sunflower seeds.

      2. I googled “bean free hummus” and found a lot of recipes. That would be a great snack food that is traditionally a bean dip.

      3. Avocados: They are sooo good for you and inexpensive this time of year. Although I’ve not tried it, I’ve heard that you can freeze mashed avocado. You can make guacamole out of it or add it to smoothies. I’ve even used avocadoes in salad dressings and “cream salads” like chicken or tuna salad.

      4. Speaking of tuna salad, stock up on less expensive fish varieties like canned tuna, salmon, sardines, etc. They still contain the wonderful nutrients you get from the more expensive cuts of fish. I would look online stores would have the best price if you want to buy a certain type of canned fish (like the packaging, etc.).

      5. There are less expensive cuts of fish as well that are still very healthy for you, like white fish.

      6. You may already know this, but make your meat a “condiment” instead of the main course. Serve a small portion of meat (especially the more expensive cuts) and fill in the gap with larger portions of vegetables, fruits, & starches. Consider this same idea with eggs. There is an amazing recipe for Fried Rice circulating the internet right now (six sisters stuff, I think is the blog name). Sub out the soy sauce for balsamic vinegar, if you’re allowed to have that. It changes the flavor somewhat from the traditional taste, but it still tastes good.

      7. Search for great vegetarian dishes (you can find many that are legume-free) and give them a greater presence on your dinner table. I’ve been trying to do this more in my own home as well.

      8. Have you looked into “buying a cow”? Search locally for any farms that sell grass-fed beef. The more you buy, the better the price. See if you can find other people to split the quantity/cost with you. Another option is to see if you can find a farmer who barters for his beef. Perhaps you can provide an in-kind trade for his beef.

      Does that give you some ideas to get started? I hope so. I will continue to think on your struggle and offer more ideas if I come up with some. Please let me know if I can be of any further help to you. I really appreciate you asking me for help!

      One last thing, I always like to tell people to focus on the things they can have and not on the things they can’t have. You can do this! You can do this despite the allergies and despite a tight budget!

      Michelle

      • Brianna says:

        Wow, quick reply! LOL You’ve given me some food for thought, and I thank you greatly for that.

        We live in cow country, so I’m going to look around to see what the options are for buying bulk in that arena. I’m so far from squeamish it isn’t funny so maybe I can do part of the butchering myself and save some on the price that way. I can cut down the steaks and roast pieces myself if they give it to me in workable chunks.

        I do vegetarian as much as I’m able, or vegetarian for the girls and add a side of no-no-to-them meat onto mine and my partner’s plates so we’re not making a completely different meal for everyone. It works for the most part.

        We do buy sunflower seed butter and it’s very well received by everyone here. I don’t currently have the apparatus (or money to buy the apparatus) to make my own, but this solution works for now. My allergy to peanuts isn’t life-threatening unless I ingest it so I try to feed PB to the girls when possible as it’s cheaper.

        Hummus and avacados are universally disliked in our household, sadly. As are a lot of fish that most people seem to like. Tuna and salmon are no-go for everyone but me, who can tolerate a properly-cooked tuna steak from time to time but otherwise nada. Sardines can stay in my Worcestershire sauce and Caesar dressing. LOL White fish is well-liked here, though, especially cut into strips and breaded for little fingers, if you get me.

        If you think of anything else, I’d appreciate the input. 🙂

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