Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest Post: Frugal Allergen Free Shopping

Today's guest post comes to us from a reader and dear friend of mine, Jenelle from Frugal Family Feasts.  I know this is an issue that many out there are facing, and I hope this article is encouraging to those of you who might be up against some "frugal" challenges, like shopping allergen-free on a budget.  Jenelle offers some practical money and sanity savings tips in this 2 Part article on Allergen-Free Shopping. Watch for Part 2 next week!

Shopping & Living with Allergies

Good food is one of the best parts of living. It ranks right up there with love, sleep, and peace. But what do you do when the foods you love are making you sick? What do you do with the surge in your grocery budget trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

About 9 months ago, my food world came to a crashing halt when my 6-year-old son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. Imagine trying to eat/grocery shop gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and peanut-free. Not only was it intensive label reading and researching new ways to cook and eat, it was a huge sticker shock.

In my emotional need to find food replacements for all the things he couldn’t have, I rushed out to the store and started buying everything I could find to try that would fit the bill. And it was a bill. I spent an extra $400 in one month. A lot of it was awful and my son wouldn’t eat it (and sometimes his parents too.)

Now that I’m more emotionally stable about things, I’ve tweaked our budget by about $10-15 each week to accommodate needed changes.  Here are a few of the tips I’ve figured out along the way that are beneficial for allergen-free shopping, but especially apply to anyone trying save money:

  • Don't Try to Conquer the World in One Shopping Trip.  Trying to save money (allergen-free or standard grocery shopping) is a time intensive process at first and can be overwhelming. It will take a while to figure it out. If you can have someone watch your children (spouse, friend, family, etc), do it.  It will free you up so that you can closely read labels and compare prices. It’s not a natural process at first. I cried after every shopping trip for 3 weeks. It’s hard. It’s emotional. It’s complicated. It’s completely possible. It gets better. It becomes second nature.
  • We (mostly) Quit Buying Junk.  Quick fix snacks, meal kits, junk foods, etc can add up quickly. While it may take time to pop some non microwave popcorn, bake up a batch of cookies or brownies for a snack, I know what is in them is much more substantive.  This means we eat less.  My boys could throw back a dozen packs of fruit snacks and not be satisfied. We eat less in quantity because of the value of what we are eating.  Note: We have not given up chips.
  • Eat Naturally Allergen-Free Foods.  This means a mostly “whole food” diet for us. That refers to foods that are not processed from their original form. We eat mainly fruits, veggies, and meats. Other naturally allergen-free great buys include rice, potato, carrots, in-season fruit, applesauce, tomato products, and beans.
  • We Rarely Eat Out.  This saves us lots of money that I can sink back into quality groceries. Since there aren’t many places/things my son can eat, this has become a rarity and a big treat. 
  • Use Coupons.  I first mourned the loss of mainstream coupons and rarity of ones that apply to us. However, the internet has changed the coupon business. Specialty retailers can now reach their target audience on their websites without losing a ton of money for newspaper inserts. It takes a bit of time to search the sites, but sign up for their lists (I keep a separate gmail account so promotions don’t over-run import messages) to get coupons and deals.
Thanks, Jenelle!  Stay tuned for the second part of the article next week!


  1. Great post! I've recently been diagnosed with many many food allergies and it's true. At first it takes a long time to get over the initial shock. Then you go to the grocery store and feel like crying because you can't eat anything anymore. Then you finally settle with reality and just start to be thankful for what you still can eat. I've had to get rid of more than half of what's in my pantry but if it's to make myself healthier it's all for a good cause.

  2. my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies at 8 months old. Shocking & distressing. I was still nursing him which meant that my diet had to radically change too. I went out and bought all that stuff too. Some of it is downright disgusting! I felt sad as he grew that he would never know what pizza was, lol. how silly was I?

    He is now nearly 5 and has outgrown all but one! Even that one is modified. Praise the Lord. He used to be allergic to wheat, now, we've found that he can eat freshly ground wheat! He is allergic to something in the processing of wheat.

    It has been quite a journey but God has sustained us every step of the way! thanks for your post!