Struggling with how to find budget-friendly foods that fit within your dietary needs? While it can be more of a challenge to shop for food allergy friendly foods when you are on a budget, it’s doable!
How to Deal With Food Allergies on a Budget
About 6 years ago I was feeling awful. I could barely keep any food down and I seemed to have reactions from everything. I was already cooking from scratch so what else did I need to do?
After a visit with an allergist and several types of testing, I was diagnosed with food allergies and I began a new lifestyle of eating foods I could still enjoy. (After a very long cry of course!)
Not long after this, we welcomed our first son into our home. He was diagnosed with multiple food allergies at just a few months old. Now, we have at least one food allergy with each person living in our home. If you’ve ever wondered why I don’t post certain recipes….like anything with nuts…it’s because there is a major allergy for it in our home.
When you have food allergies or someone in your household does, it can seem overwhelming. And very frustrating when it comes to being on a budget. But there are plenty of ways that you can ease this burden on your family and still enjoy the simple, and healthful foods that you love (and can eat!).
If you prefer the detailed and in-depth version of this article, keep reading! Otherwise, you can also watch this video I put together below.
1. Stop looking at the things you can’t have.
Just like looking at and wanting material possessions that we can’t have. Looking at foods that we can no longer have does not create a peacefulness when it comes to grocery shopping. If you can’t have dairy, don’t walk past the dairy aisle if you can help it. If you can’t have wheat, stop drooling over the bagels. If you are continuously sad about the foods that you can’t eat, you won’t be able to enjoy the foods you CAN eat.
This can be tougher than it originally sounds. For example, I tend to suffer from a lot of “mom-guilt” as I’m sure most other mothers do. On occasion, I will walk past the ice cream treats and think….”Oh if only I was able to give those to my kids…” Because of my past experience with enjoying ice cream treats, I believe that they are missing out, however, they have no idea that this is something they are “missing out” on since I have one that has never been able to eat dairy. My feelings of guilt are for nothing. I know what my son enjoys eating and it’s no loss to him if I can’t buy the ice cream treats.
However, it can be hard when society tells you that you need to eat these things or feed your kids this or that. You feel like you aren’t doing enough. But when you are listening to your body and their bodies, you ARE doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing for your family.
2. Skip the “labels”.
When you learn that you have celiac disease (raises hand) and you can only eat gluten-free. You might be tempted to look at all of the pre-packaged boxes that are labeled “gluten-free” and wonder, “How am I ever going to be able to afford that?” Anything with a special label will tend to be more expensive than can reasonably fit into a budget. A tiny box of cookies for $5? No, thank you!
Instead, choose items that naturally fit into the diet you need. A good rule of thumb is to stick with whole fruits, vegetables, and meats. Frozen or fresh can usually fit into any budget as long as you follow some basic rules (buy in-season, stock up on bulk produce and preserve when you can, etc).
–Need more tips on how to save at the store? Here are 12 Ways to Save More on Groceries
3. Save time and prep.
If you just learned that you have food allergies, your instant pot or your slow cooker is about to become your new best friend. Since many allergies will require that you cook more from scratch because your body can’t tolerate the ingredients in pre-packaged products, ease of preparation will become more important.
I’ve always loved my slow cooker but I’ve grown to love it even more so over the last few years. On the days when I know that we will be busy and have very little time for food preparation, I like to toss something into the slow cooker in the morning for a quick and easy supper. This not only saves time but saves me from the temptation of picking up a pre-packaged “allergy-free” food that will cost double or triple what my homemade meal would cost.
4. Make your own.
If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you will see that I’m a little crazy about the make-your-own recipes. One of the most fun and best ways to save money on allergy-friendly foods is to make your own versions of store-bought items. Here’s my big page of Homemade Mixes. Most of them I’ve made gluten-free and other ingredients can easily be substituted with your allergy-friendly substitutions if needed.
–Here are some easy Simple and Healthy Snack Ideas Under $1
5. MEAL PLAN
Yes, I put that in capital letters for a reason! Meal planning is SO important for any food budget, with or without allergies. Without a meal plan, you are stuck trying to figure out what you are having each meal for each day. Flying by the seat of your pants!
With a meal plan, you can plan everything from just suppers to every single meal (and snack) of the day. This way you will know exactly what you need to buy each week and what you are able to make with what you have on hand.
–Here’s a sample meal plan from a few years ago that featured (my) allergy-friendly meals.
6. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
When my doctor put me on an even stricter diet a year and a half ago to help with some of my gut issues. My thought was, “I’m creative but there is no way that I can make meals out of this!” It turned out I was so wrong!
As I began experimenting with more foods, new (to me) foods, and a variety of herbs and spices, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the variety of meals that I can make. (P.S. Herbs and spices can add SO much to a meal if you feel that you are lacking variety in your meal planning!) Not only that, my tastes have begun to change and I find myself enjoying things that I didn’t like before (such as olives, to the amazement of my husband!).
Have fun experimenting with the foods that are available to you, even though you may not have used them much before. You never know what new recipes you might come up with!
I hope that this article inspires you with your budget-friendly, allergy-friendly cooking. I know it can be a difficult path to walk but with a few simple rules, it can be easy to buy the foods that you need while sticking within your grocery budget.
And if you can’t stay perfectly within the budget that you might have set previously, remind yourself that it’s ok to make some adjustments. Budgets aren’t set in stone and need to be adjusted when the circumstances require. You are doing the best you can with what you have and that’s all you need to do.
What tips do you have for others that need to stick to a budget while buying allergy-free foods?