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Ask the Readers: Frugality with food allergies?

Your readers seem to be some very creative, frugal and inventive people
and I am really hoping they might be able to help me. I am having
trouble keeping my grocery budget under control, while also considering
my three year old's food allergies and introducing a variety of meals.

I have to completely avoid eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. But what is
more difficult is limiting wheat. My son can have wheat, dairy, soy,
corn, peas, bananas, and watermelon in moderation and on a revolving
schedule, but he's intolerant of the foods and too much puts his GI
system in turmoil. 

If there are any moms out there who have figured
out how to incorporate allergy-free foods into a modest grocery bill,
I'd love to hear them! –Summer

Do you struggle with food allergies at your house? If so, have you found ways to keep your grocery budget under control while still following a stricter diet? I'd love to have you share any ideas or suggestions you have for Summer.

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  • says:

    It is hard to be frugal when you have food allergies. I signed up for Be Free For Me’s coupons and samples. Check it out at :

    I have lots of food allergy friendly recipes on my site as well:

  • Julie says:

    I am so glad that I’m not alone. My children have wheat, oat, egg, soy, dairy, peanut & tree nut allergies, (and possibly bean), and I can’t help but laugh when I read of people feeding their families on $50/week.

    You must cut out all offending foods, no matter how slight the reactions. Reactions will get worse with time, and it is not worth the risks. I had pretty well adapted to dairy/nut/egg free life; we use Rice Dream, various egg substitutes, and Natural Balance buttery spread. I give my son a dairy-free calcium supplement.

    Wheat, oat, and soy is a different ballgame. Planning dinners (and lunch and breakfast) is really hard. Basically I stick to meat, potatoes or rice, and vegetables; casseroles are gone. We all like beef & pork roasts (which go on sale regularly), whole chicken ($.79/lb), chicken thighs, and ground beef. Sometimes I fix rolls for those who can eat wheat.

    I really feel like fresh fruits and vegs are an important part of our already limited diet and therefore I am willing to pay $20-$30 a week on produce that we really do eat. We eat salads, broccoli, lots of apples, oranges, & bananas.

    My other splurge is Hormel Natural Choice lunch meat. It is free of wheat & dairy as well as yucky nitrates. It is easy to break in pieces for the little ones, transportable to the park (unlike roast), and very tasty. I often eat apple slices dipped in sunflower butter (though I’m hesitant to actually feed this to nut-allergic children b/c it is processed with nuts).

    Soy Dream and Rice Dream make pretty good ice creams for special occasions. One son who can have soy loves Tofutti ice cream sandwiches. Sorbet (not sherbet) is a great dairy free, easily accessible treat, too.

    Bob’s Red Mill Gluten free All Purpose Mix is great for making pancakes & brownies. Google “Wacky Cake” for a tasty chocolate cake, safe from eggs & dairy, and can be modified for wheat free, too.

    My last two comments: 1. Try not to focus on all the things you (or your child) can’t have. Learn to embrace potatoes and rice. 2. Try not to worry excessively about your food budget. At $500/month, I feel like I am doing the best I can for our family of 5. Yes, I would like to save more, but we have to eat (and I like to eat as nutritiously as possible).

  • says:

    I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease (meaning a no gluten diet) and I also have poor tolerance for beef and soy. Most of what I would have said has already been mentioned above; however, I do have one more suggestion for you.

    Once you get comfortable with some of the different flours/products, etc and know what you want, start looking at A lot of times you can buy food there in bulk for cheaper than you would buying one package at a time at a store. Granted it is a bigger expense initially, but in the long run, it can save you quite a bit. I actually set aside a bit of my grocery money every month just to save up for my bulk shopping days on Amazon.

    I buy all my pastas there (Tinkyada pasta is the best gluten free one I’ve found yet) and a lot of my flour there as well. Just make sure you buy the food when they’re available with Amazon’s “no shipping” option.

    Also, as you no doubt know, it’s harder to just pop out to a store when you’re dealing with needing very specific items, so having them on hand in bulk really helps the stress levels as well!

  • says:

    My son had milk and egg allergies until last year. He grew out of them. Woo hoo! But, it’s what he is used to eating, so we still eat a lot of the same things since he doesn’t like cow’s milk or egg, etc.

    Cooking everything from scratch was not really an option for me and I don’t think for a lot of people, especially those who work.

    I have written about what we did to save money here and there and what kinds of things we cooked over at my blog at

  • Lisa says:

    I have an extreme allergy to eggs, one of my daughters is allergic to cinnamon, and another is allergic to artificial colors in foods. We have to buy a lot of natural and organic foods! Target is the cheapest place to buy foods like this (especially snacks). For example, at Sweetbay it costs $6 for fruit leather but at Target it costs $3! Also, if you have a food co-op near you, you can buy a membership and may also be able work a few hours each week (as a volunteer) and get a huge discount on the food you purchase there.
    Hopes this helps!

  • says:

    I know that this is late, but it might help someone in the future, so I write it now. Our son has eosinophilic esophagitis and major food allergies. Basically, he can eat only about ten foods.

    I think the major thing to change is your mindset. I know that was what I had to change. I was trying to make sure he had bread so he could have sandwiches, cookies and pizza and ice cream! I had to realize that my son is different and will not be able to enjoy those type foods. Trying to buy (even make my own from scratch) became VERY expensive.

    Other kids say that they feel sorry for my kids because they cannot have such and such to eat (we are all pretty much on the same diet so I am not a short order cook). But I feel sorry for those kids that think that FOOD is what makes something fun. That is how kids get unhealthy and fat. My kids are super healthy, rarely get sick, and are super happy. I truly believe it is because we eat the foods God gave us to eat. VERY few things in my house have a label on them.

    Farmer’s Markets are my best friend. I become friends with the farmer’s I buy from (EVERYTHING has to be organic – my son reacts if it is not – that is how sensitive his system is). They usually have a stuff a bag for $10 (get a $1 off if you use THEIR bag which you can buy once and bring back again and again year after year). I and now my oldest daughter are REALLY good at stuffing a bag. I can usually get $35 worth of produce for about $10 this way. The smaller two girls will pick out what looks good, and my oldest and I will pack bags. Going when the market is about to close gives you the BEST bang for your buck.

    Keep an eye out on freecycle for a freezer. God knows you will need one and He will be faithful to provide. We had to wait a year, but He provided a VERY big one for our family. It has been a true blessing. Now we buy a lot during the summer, freeze it and preserve it and have plenty all winter. I have not had to buy an onion since August!

    We also stock up on sales of meat at the grocer. My son is allergic to all meats but buffalo and beef. We stock up on grass fed beef and buffalo when it goes on sale for about $3/lb. Normally $7/lb.

    Also, look for ways to cut elsewhere in the budget. Do you still have cable? Netflix? The library has everything for free, and you can watch most TV shows free online (a few days after they have already aired). And Red Box has coupons for free rentals for when you just can’t wait. Are you eating out a lot? Make eating IN more fun! You save money AND you don’t have to worry about the waitress accidentally giving your son milk when you ordered water (thank God I had an epi pen with me!). Do you have two cars and two payments? Do you really need that second car? I know it is difficult to sometimes just stay at home, but it saves you money (no second car payment, and no temptations from Goodwill!). If you need fellowship, invite friends over to your house (a great way to make sure your child is not getting any allergens at another friend’s house).

    I have to second (or third, whatever place in line I am) the – great stuff that can be modified to fit most any allergen diet.

    And while my son cannot have ice cream. He can have fruit popsicles. I can even shave ice and pour fruit juice over it for a special treat. I can dehydrate fruit to make leathers for him. I still make cookies (I have a recipe on my son’s web site ), but they are simple and use ingredients I already have on hand, not specialty ones that cost an arms and a leg. He cannot have cheese, but he can have jerky. Pray about fun and unique ways to make sure your child with special food needs gets to participate.

    My son is happy and healthy and thriving now (no longer on a feeding tube). Sacrifices have to be made. God will bless you for them and He will provide. I hope that this was helpful.

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