Once a month, I plan to share a blog just for people with food allergies. If you don’t have food allergies in your home, stop right now for a moment of gratitude. Be thankful! And then, consider sharing this with any friends or family you know that deal with allergies or intolerances.
If you deal with food allergies, I don’t need to tell you that we have special things to deal with that others don’t. Of course, food safety is at the top of our minds! We don’t want to eat anything that will make us sick. But we also want to eat stuff that tastes good, socialize in food environments, and actually be able to *afford* safe food.
How to afford food you need
That’s what I want to talk about today – how to afford the food you need to eat. I want to share my TOP TIP with you for how we eat an allergy-free diet for $1 per plate.
When my son was diagnosed with food allergies, I delved full force into the allergy-free world. I made ALL…THE….THINGS we were used to eating, except in the allergen-free form. Our food budget BLEW UP and I found myself in the kitchen all the time. We lived like that for a long time.
When we decided to take our finances seriously, and I was studying our food budget, I realized our food allergies were a HUGE expense. Eating allergic food was not an option, so I had to find another way.
I decided to experiment with skipping all the things labeled “allergy-free” and instead focus on things that were naturally free from our allergens and see if that made a difference to our bottom line. It did! When I made that single switch, I SLASHED our bill overnight. And….in an unexpected twist, I also SLASHED the amount of time I was spending in the kitchen.
And now – whenever anyone with food allergies in their home asks me how to lower their bill, I always share this with them…
My #1 tip for allergen-free peeps to save time and money on food is to focus on serving food that is naturally allergen-free!
Maybe you’re super smart and have already figured this out. But this one took me a looooong time and was at the center of our expensive and complicated food life. When you are allergic to dairy, wheat, egg, corn, soy, peanut, pineapple, yeast, beef, and barley, it is not cheap, easy, or tasty to re-create all our favorite foods.
Spoiler alert…if you have those allergies and you try to make an allergen-free lasagna, it isn’t going to taste very good!!!! And it’s probably going to cost you $25. Alternatively, if you decide to cook a grilled chicken breast with rice pilaf and grilled veggies, you can easily and inexpensively make that allergen-free without losing any of the taste.
I have come to realize that most of the allergen substitutions are:
1. Budget busters – There is no getting around the fact that substitute products are blazingly expensive! Flour subs, snack subs, milk subs, bread subs – they’re all budget busters. Even when you buy them on sale, they’re still expensive.
2. Not as healthy – This is personal but remember that I define healthy foods as whole foods. Subs are not whole foods. They’re highly processed foods. So, we choose not to have them as a part of our daily food life.
3. Not as tasty – This is also personal, but I feel like a lot of subs leave me wanting. I have yet to find a GF, DF, EF lasagna that I truly love. Though, I have found many that I tolerate. I do, however, love spaghetti squash with a meat marinara, which is naturally free of the Top 8.
4. Time killers – Not always true, but man, it really can be. Anytime I hear the phrase almond flour, I pretty much know it’s going to take at least an hour. Can I get a witness?
5. More difficult to source – The good allergen substitutes might require that I go to a specialty store. You will remember that, to save time and money, I try to reduce the number of grocery trips that I make. Every time I step into a store, my odds of increasing my grocery budget go up. So, I do my best to stack the odds in my favor by avoiding any extra stops. Specialty health food stores are especially tempting to me, personally, so I reduce these trips as much as possible.
For our day-to-day cooking, the only substitutions we use are butter and milk. This is it. Really. Most of the time, if you saw my cart at the store, you wouldn’t even know that we have food allergies.
Avoiding subs on our everyday food saves us time, money, energy, and gives us naturally better-tasting food. When I came to this realization, it literally changed our lives. And our budget. I’m not sure why it took me years.
Does this mean that I never make substitutions?
Absolutely not!!! I make subs for all major holidays, for every birthday, and probably about twice a month for special treats. They just aren’t a part of our regular, daily food plan. Check out my blog here on our Gluten-free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Pizza Night. And then, be on the lookout for my blog posts to come on my favorite allergen-free special treats. We have found some great ones over the years!