One of my dear friends is deep in the throes of learning how to manage a family with food allergies. Her son has struggled with eczema since birth, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that he was officially diagnosed with an allergy to dairy.
Like many families in similar situations, my friend was already struggling with affording healthy foods. Throwing a food allergy into the mix meant more work, more time, and more money.
My family has been fortunate to not have food allergies, so watching her go through this, as well as other dear friends like Kelly, has really opened my eyes to the struggles that many families go through.
Since I know many of you here may be dealing with food allergies and intolerances too, I’ve been collecting helpful tips and ideas from my friend, so that I can share them with you all. I hope these six simple, yet practical tips for managing food allergies and intolerances on a budget will help you to save money, and stay on track with feeding your family nourishing real foods.
6 Tips for Managing Food Allergies & Intolerances on a Budget
1. Focus on what you CAN eat.
When we find out there’s something we can’t have, it’s in our nature to suddenly focus ONLY on the restricted food(s). Doing this will leave you feeling defeated. Instead, focus on the many delicious and nutritious foods that you can eat. Take some time to learn how to use seasonings and tasty ingredient combinations to keep your meals satisfying and your diet varied. By doing so, you’ll find that you actually miss those restricted foods a lot less!
2. Keep it simple.
Skip fancy ingredients and complicated recipes for awhile, and instead, focus on keeping meals simple. This will not only allow you to more easily adjust to your new diet without becoming overwhelmed, but will also enable you to learn to manage your new dietary lifestyle within your budget. That’s because simple meals cost less and are also less stressful to put together.
A simple meal formula is protein + carb + produce. For example, chicken + sweet potato + mixed greens salad. So if you need to eat simple meals like this for a few weeks so you get a handle on your budget and new diet, then do it! It’s a short term solution that will give you time to adjust. Remember, meals are meant to nourish, not to cause stress.
3. Cook from scratch, when it counts.
Feeding a family while trying to manage food allergies generally means spending more time in the kitchen. And while it’s usually healthier to cook from scratch, your time is precious and there’s only so much of it to go around.
So carefully consider what you want to spend your time cooking from scratch and really make it count! For example, there’s no point in making homemade non-dairy yogurt if your family doesn’t eat much yogurt. Alternatively, you might want to consider taking the time to make grain-free bread if you regularly enjoy having toast for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch.
4. Be picky about allergy-free substitutions.
There are tons of substitutions available for all sorts of allergies, but it’s important to discern between what substitutions are healthy and worth your money, and which are not. For example, many commercial egg replacers are expensive and are nothing more than empty calories. A better option would be to research homemade egg substitutions and find some that are tried-and-true for your needs. Flaxseed and chia seeds are both great substitutions, and are affordable when you buy them in bulk.
Tip: Download a free guide to affordable gluten-free foods at Costco HERE.
5. Buy specialty items in bulk.
Once you’ve figured out how to balance simple meals with cooking new favorite allergy-free fare, take the time to find a quality source for your allergy-free ingredients and know what’s a good price to pay. Then, when prices are at their absolute lowest, stock up. Whether it’s gluten-free and grain-free flours, or non-dairy milk, stocking up on allergy-friendly ingredients that you use frequently – when prices are rock bottom – will help you to save money.
Remember, “buying in bulk” doesn’t mean having to buy from bulk bins in grocery stores, where cross-contamination may be an issue. Instead, many companies offer bulk-size packages of their allergy-free products, which will help you save money without risking accidental exposure to allergens. In addition, many health food stores and markets offer discounts for buying foods by the case. So taking advantage of these types of discounts can really add up to big savings over time.
P.S. Keeping a price book is a great way to track prices and sources. If you’ve never created one before, here’s a simple method for creating a price book.
6. Get a better handle on budgeting.
If your new dietary lifestyle is making it a challenge to stay within budget, take some time to learn more methods for saving money. Strategies like creating a weekly meal plan, buying in bulk (as mentioned above), shopping farmers markets for locally grown produce, and limiting organic produce to just the dirty dozen, are just a few ways you can work to further stay within budget.
Feeding a family with food allergies and food intolerances doesn’t have to break your budget. With a bit of creativity, a few practical tips and a little extra effort, eating healthy, allergy-free foods on a budget is within your reach!
How do you keep your grocery bill down while addressing food allergies and food intolerances?