Life with Food Allergies: Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is either a labor of love or you just down right hate it.  Your opinion of the necessary task can often depend on how many kids you have in tow and what your budget is.  Personally, I understand both.  I almost always have at least one child with me when doing my grocery shopping, and I try to stick to a very strict (and frugal) budget.  When you throw in another very BIG variable, like food allergies, we’re talking a whole new ball game.  It can certainly be laborious, challenging, frustrating, hate, and every other emotion.  Regardless, it has to be done.

Taking from where we left off last week with What I Wish I Knew about Food Allergy Cooking Preparation, the next step is the grocery shopping.  It is best to be as prepared as possible before you hit the store.  It will cut down on the foggy brain that happens the minute you walk in the store and any impulse buying.

Taking your list from last week of the 2-3 meals and the ingredients with which you’ll start allergy cooking.

  1. Look through your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to mark off any ingredients that you already have on hand.
  2. Try to organize your list by section of the store.  It helps to have it a little organized so you’re not scouring your list and retracing your tracks.
  3. Look through the grocery ads.  Most stores publish them on their website, if you don’t get them delivered to your home.  Circle any good deals that you will purchase.
  4. Compile any coupons you may have.  For allergy-cooking, there won’t be many coupons, but you can often compile a few. *
  5. Now that you’re organized, it’s time to head off to the store.  Which store is the best?  That is going to be an individual decision.  It depends on your options.  I’m blessed to have wonderful options in my city, but that isn’t the case for everyone. You do not have to shop at overpriced specialty shops to find allergy-friendly food, particularly if you focus on food that is naturally allergy-free (i.e., fruit, vegetables, meat, beans, rice, etc.).  You can read a previous post I wrote on “Where to Shop“.
  6. Now you’re at the store.  What do you do now with the rows and rows of food staring at you? I highly recommend the first time you go to the store to do food allergy shopping that you take the time to familiarize yourself with the layout, the products, and so on.  Otherwise, you will spend hours reading the back of every box and package on the shelf.
  7. Start shopping.  Be sure you read all labels every time.  Companies change their ingredients without warning, so it’s important that you do not assume that a food is safe.  Look at both the name brand and store brand of products.  You can often find an allergy-friendly version of the same product in a different brand.  Watch for cross-contamination in labeling.  Decide if you need to avoid products that “may contain” allergens.  Don’t rely on the “contains” wording typically at the end of the ingredient list.  Carefully read through the entire list of ingredients.  If in doubt about an ingredient, write it down and research it when you get home.  Allergy-friendly products that are made to mimic “normal” food are often very expensive and not that healthy.  Think about excluding it from your diet altogether or making a homemade version.
  8. Purchase all your food and get excited!  You’re about to create a masterpiece!

* At this point, since you’re just trying to survive with 2-3 meals at the beginning of your journey, you can forgo the weekly store ad or coupons.  If it is just too much to handle at this stage of the game, sanity should win out.  You can add this step down the road when you have a handle on the cooking and shopping part.

And that’s it!  You’ve just completed your first food allergy shopping trip.  Now, it’s time to get home and cook up all those great meals (of course, only starting with a few) that are safe and delicious!

What have you experienced when grocery shopping for food allergies? I’d love to add any additional tips!

Next Week: What I Wish I knew about cooking allergy-free food that is delicious, timely, frugal, and ultimately, safe.

Shared at Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Allergy-Free Wednesdays, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Whole Foods Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesdays at Beyond the Peel, and Homestead Barn Hop.

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