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Frugal Food Allergy Living: Well-Stocked Pantry

Stocked Pantry

 

This is the last week for my guest posting stump for Embracing Beauty.  I am so grateful to Ashley for this opportunity to share my experiences with food allergies and frugality.  I hope that it has been helpful to you as well.  Many blessings to you, Ashley, and your sweet family.

 

If you want to know more about food allergies and how to live frugally with them, you can find me everyday at The Willing Cook.  If you ever have any questions or requests, don’t hesitate to let me know.

 

I came across a post recently that mentions the cost savings of having a well-stocked pantry/freezerand I thought that it would be a great “extra” post for the Frugal Food Allergy Living series.

Frugal Food Allergy Living

Living a frugal lifestyle can be a daunting task.  Throw in food allergies and you have a real challenge on your hands.  But challenges are good, right?  Personally, I get a sense of satisfaction out of saving a few dollars at the grocery store, especially allergy-friendly foods, and creating healthy, safe and delicious foods for my family.

 

It is easier to accomplish frugal food allergy living when most of your ducks are in a row.  On top of the list is having a well-stocked pantry.  While it is an inconvenience to not have enough eggs for the cookies you are making to take to your son’s birthday party at school, you can always borrow an egg from a neighbor.  What if your son has an egg allergy and you are completely out of egg replacer? You can’t simply borrow egg replacer.

 

Having a well-stocked pantry is…

  • Convenient
  • Saves money
  • Essential for food allergies

 

A well-stocked pantry is convenient.  There is no arguing with this point.  It’s a pain to be in the middle of cooking and realize that you are missing a key ingredient.  It can change an entire dish.

 

A well-stocked pantry saves money.

  1. You can stock up on the pantry essentials when they are on sale, instead of being forced to pay full price.  If you find that you have to make a quick trip up to the over-priced corner store to pick up that missing item, you are going to pay more.
  2. You save on gas and time when you don’t have to make that spur-of-the-moment trip to the grocery store for that one missing item.
  3. If you have to make a quick run to the store, you are more prone to put other items into your basket that may not be on your grocery budget.

 

A well-stocked pantry is essential for food allergies.

  1. There are not always easy substitutions for missing allergy foods.  Substituting for the “real” thing is simply not an option; in fact, it is dangerous.
  2. You cannot easily borrow an ingredient from a neighbor.
  3. The small corner grocery store is less likely to carry a good selection of allergy-friendly foods causing you to make a trip to the larger grocery store.
  4. Specialty allergy foods are not always the cheapest products on the grocery shelves.  It is good to save a little money by stocking up when they go on sale, not in a last minute state of desperation.

Here is my list for a well-stocked food allergy pantry that I posted a while back.

 

What can you add to this list? What are your reasons for having a well-stocked pantry?  What do you include in your well-stocked pantry that I don’t have on my list?

 

Frugal Food Allergy Living: Prepare Food from Scratch

Frugal Food Allergy Living is coming to a close, although I have decided to extend it a little longer with one additional topic.  If there is a topic that you would like to see featured, please let me know in the comment section.  You can find more on living a frugally with food allergies at The Willing Cook.

Frugal Food Allergy LivingFrom the original post on Food Allergies and Budgets:

Prepare Food from Scratch
Avoid pre-packaged or processed foods, even allergy-friendly foods.  They are pricey and generally not the healthiest for you, especially when avoiding multiple allergens.  Stick with fresh meat and produce, dry beans, bulk rice, and oats, for example.

Eating “whole foods” seems to be all the rave these days in healthy circles.  There are many websites dedicated to “whole food,” as well as grocery stores and restaurants.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines whole food as “a natural food and especially an unprocessed one (as a vegetable or fruit).” It is simply preparing food from scratch or homemade, although there are many variations of this (avoiding buying processed foods versus milling own flour, making homemade yogurt, raising chickens, etc.).

Preparing food from scratch becomes a necessity when living with food allergies, rather than a simple exception.

  • Most prepackaged food has one allergen or another in it.  Just read the labels and you will see all the “contains.”
  • The most common allergens found in prepackaged food is dairy, wheat, soy and corn.  Not to mention the preservatives and artificial colors and flavors added to prepackaged foods.
  • Even so-called “allergy-friendly” pre-packaged foods that are becoming more common on the grocery shelves are not necessarily good for you.  Furthermore, they are really expensive.  You can make a homemade version for a lot less.
  • Try making a similar version as the pre-packaged allergy-friendly foods at home.  For example, instead of buying allergy-friendly pre-packaged cookies or cake mixes, I make them homemade.  I make a couple dozen cupcakes at a time and individually freeze them.  When my son goes to a birthday party, I take a cupcake out of the freezer, spread on some icing that I keep in the refrigerator and he’s off to a birthday party.  You can do the same thing with cookie dough.  Make a batch or two ahead of time, freeze them, and bake as needed.
  • There are exceptions to this rule.  If you want some prepackaged foods for convenience sake, just make sure you read the labels carefully.

Frugal Living and Preparing Food from Scratch

  • It is true that there often better deals in the grocery ads or more coupons available for processed foods.  But is their a potential cost to your health?
  • If your family is stuck on convenient, pre-packaged foods, I encourage you to sit down with a calculator, pen and paper and do a line-item price comparison for each meal for a week.  Here is a spreadsheet example below.

  • If you stick to buying the fresh foods that are on sale, manager-specials and in-season produce, you may be surprised at the cost savings.  You will get much better quality as well as more healthy choices.
  • Remember to buy extra fruit and vegetables when it is in-season and freeze it for those winter months.
  • We are looking into having fresh, quality meat by buying a cow or pig straight from a farmer.  Find family or friends who would like to split up the cost and quantity of buying a whole animal.  Keep in mind that you will need extra freezer space for this option.

Now, I am by no means a purist.  I don’t make everything homemade all the time, but I try to as often as possible.  It is cheaper, healthier and safer for food allergies.  On Friday, I will give a short run-down on “safe” prepackaged foods that I usually have in our home.  Be sure to check in.

Are there any foods that you only buy pre-made? Are there foods that you choose to make from scratch? I’d love to hear your comments on this topic.

 

Next week: How Frugal Food Allergy Living is easier with a well-stocked pantry.

 

Frugal Food Allergy Living: Avoid Restaurants?

Food Allergies & Dining Out

 

Wow! I can’t believe there is only one week left in this series and in my guest posting.  It has been fun for me to write and share this information with the Embracing Beauty readers.  I hope that you have benefited from it.  If you have any further questions or suggestions on the topic, don’t hesitate to let me know.  I’m happy to continue with this series as long as needed in order to cover all the basis.

 

If you are just now tuning into the series on Frugal Food Allergy Living, you can read more on food allergies and living frugally at The Willing Cook.

Frugal Food Allergy Living

From the original post Food Allergies and Budgets:

Avoid Restaurants
In our home, the possibility of cross-contamination carries too much of a risk just for the convenience.  Plus, I can fix dinner for my family of 5 for about the same price as 1 Happy Meal.

We have two main reasons for avoiding restaurants: food allergies and money.  If we didn’t have food allergies with which to contend and an abundance of money, we might frequent restaurants much more often.  But that is not our situation, and we are fine with it.

Restaurants and Food Allergies:

  • You truly never know what you’re going to get.  I have heard numerous stories, including our own experience, when you think a meal is safe and ends up tragic.
  • A new chef/cook at a restaurant that has always been “safe,” can change up the ingredients in a familiar dish.  I was told a story of this happening to a man with a peanut allergy that ended in his tragic death (The pharmacist told me this story after my son was in the ER for his anaphylactic reaction at a restaurant.  Maybe not the best story to tell an already anxious mother.)
  • You can tell a server of your food allergies, but they either don’t care or don’t understand the acute danger of it.  There was a recent news story of a woman dying in Israel from a nut allergy at a restaurant after informing her server of her allergy, but was served it anyway.
  • All your ducks could be in a row, yet there is still a risk of cross-contamination.  Cross-contamination can be in the form of sharing serving utensils with allergy food, allergy food on the same grill as your “safe” food or many other possibilities.
  • Unknown ingredients.  If you are not able to read the packaging from which the food comes, you cannot be certain of it’s safety.  Bread/buns with a milk ingredient is a good example of this.

Restaurants and Budgets

  • I have heard news reports that low-income families cannot afford healthy food, so that is why they tend to be overweight and/or make poor food choices.  I do not completely buy this.  While it might be the case that food stamps do not cover healthier food options (the specifics of this, I do not know), there are still inexpensive options with fresh produce and manager special meat.  I could get on a soapbox about this, but I will refrain from that here.
  • I have figured out that I can easily feed my family of 5 a nutritious and tasty dinner for less than the price of a value meal at McDonald’s.  You can read this post on a recent weekly menu where we only spent $30 for 5 meals for our family.  It is so easy to do.
  • Eating out is expensive! Period.  You can try to mimic a favorite restaurant dish at home by simply googling the recipe.

The Exceptions

  • Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to get away from home and enjoy someone else serving you.  You have to budget for it though and you have to be practical about what you can afford.
  1. Don’t buy the lobster tail when you should settle for salmon.
  2. Skip the appetizer, dessert and drinks, and have them at home instead before/after you go.
  3. Be selective about your restaurant.  If you don’t go out to eat very often, save this special treat for a place that you know will end in an enjoyable meal.
  4. If you know you should cut this expense out of your budget, try it slowly.  If you go out to eat once or twice per week, slowly knock it down to once or twice a month.
  5. Look for coupons.  GrouponLiving Social and Restaurant.com are great websites for finding restaurant coupons.  Some large cities have city-specific deals websites too.
  • As far as food allergies go, I have read that chain restaurants typically have specific protocols in place for food preparation, ingredients, etc., making them a possibly “safer” choice.  Note that I said “typically.”  Many restaurants have their menus online with ingredient information that you can check before going.
  • Allergy Eats is an online guide to allergy friendly restaurants.  You can read personal reviews of many restaurants and leave your own.
  • When in doubt, bring your own food (or your child’s food) to a restaurant.  Let your server know of your food allergies and ask if they mind that you brought your own food.  This is especially the case if you have to go to a restaurant for a special occasion/gathering.  Most of the time, restaurants are relieved.

Finally, always carry your allergy rescue medication with you!  It can save a life!

 

Do you have any experience or suggestions to add about avoiding restaurants in order to live a frugal food allergy life?

 

Our final post in the Frugal Food Allergy Living series next week: Prepare Food from Scratch.

Frugal Food Allergy Living: Shop Around

You can see all the posts in this series by clicking on Frugal Food Allergy Living series.  You can find more about living with food allergies on a budget at The Willing Cook.

“Shop Around” is part five of our series from the original Food Allergies and Budgets post:

Do not be product or store loyal, if possible.  Shop at many stores in order to get the best deals (Asian grocers, Aldi, Costco, etc).

While shopping around to get the best deal is not a new concept to anyone who sticks closely to a grocery budget, I find this to be particularly true when shopping with food allergies.  Most new food allergy shoppers (or non-food allergy shoppers) believe you are stuck to shopping only at one very expensive specialty shop.  This is not the case.  (You can read the series on where I shop and where I purchase particular allergy-friendly foods at The Willing Cook.  You can find this series in the category “budget tips” on the sidebar.)

Benefits to Shopping at Multiple Stores:

  • You are able to shop the grocery ads to get the best prices.
  • You can take advantage of the cheaper store brands that are allergy friendly.  For example, Costco carries a lot of allergy-friendly foods that are Kirkland brand.  Of course, the same goes for Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that carry their own brand of food and are often allergy-friendly.
  • Don’t stop with the “specialty” stores.  The big supermarket brands can often have store brand allergy-friendly food as well.  You just have to read the labels.  For example, Meijer carries a great selection of Meijer Organics and Meijer Naturals food that are sometimes allergy-friendly.
  • Asian supermarkets often carry gluten-free flours or whole grains that you can make into homemade gluten-free flour that cost much less than the pre-packaged gluten-free flours at the big chain stores.
  • There are also local health food stores or fresh produce markets that can offer good deals on allergy-friendly products as well.  I have found some of these stores to be particularly good at offering “manager special” deals.

All of the above points lead me to say that you cannot be brand loyal, unless you have to be.  Now, as far as allergies go, sometimes you have to be brand loyal.  In that case, that is fine.  But if you don’t have to be loyal to any particular brand, this is an area where you can save a lot of money.  Personally, there is rarely a difference between the name brand and store brand products.  In some cases, I prefer the store brand over the name brand.

Some of you might say, “I cannot go to multiple stores a week, especially with kids in tow or I work a full-time job.”  However, shopping at multiple stores does not have to become a 2nd job as long as there is a little planning involved.

  1. Try to review the store ads for the upcoming week before planning your grocery shopping for the week.  You can then map out if you want to hit a couple of stores based on those ads.  If possible, avoid weekend grocery shopping because it is so busy.  Night time is a great time to have some peace and quiet in the store.
  2. Make out a grocery list to save you time (especially if you have kids in tow).  This list will also help you stay focused on your budget with what is “needed” and not what can end up in your cart from “wandering.”
  3. Be practical about shopping at multiple stores.  You have to take gas into consideration when driving from store to store.  If you only save a small amount on one product at one store but are purchasing multiple products from another store, it might be worth your time and gas to just buy everything at one store.  This is where planning ahead comes in handy.  Be smart about it.
  4. Don’t hit every store, every week.  Costco/Sam’s Club, Trader Joe’s and Asian Grocers do not rotate sales, so you can plan a trip to those stores every 6 weeks or so (less for Asian stores if only buying flour/grains).  Try to stock up on their products to last you until your next trip.

What if you live in an area with only one store option?

  • There is always online shopping.  Again, compare the prices.
  • If there is a warehouse store or other specialty shop (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s) in a city close by, figure out the gas-time-cost savings of making a trip there a couple of times a year to stock up.
  • Don’t limit yourself to just grocery stores.  You can often find a small selection of allergy-friendly foods at Dollar Tree, Big Lots and Drug Stores.

So, I think that covers all my points for Shopping Around.  Is there anything that you would like to add?

 

Up next week in the Frugal Food Allergy Living Series: Avoid Restaurants

Frugal Food Allergy Living: Make Homemade Gluten-free Flour

You can see all the posts in this series by clicking on Frugal Food Allergy Living series.  You can find more about living with food allergies on a budget at The Willing Cook.

Frugal Food Allergy Living

Money Saving Mom featured my “Reader Tip” back in April.  I encourage you to read that post Make Gluten-free Flour Using Your Coffee Grinder.  Today, I will elaborate on those points a little further.

From the original post on Food Allergies and Budgets:

Pre-packaged gluten-free flours are pricey.  A coffee bean grinder and whole grains/nuts can be a wonderful way to save money and enjoy various “flour” dishes.  I have mentioned this on The Willing Cook website when I discussed my essential kitchen tools and more is to follow on the specifics of homemade flour in an upcoming post.

My husband has a wheat allergy, but no other glutens.  His allergy is not so severe that I have to only buy certified gluten-free oats.  Many oats on the market have a chance of being cross-contaminated with wheat (they interchange growing wheat and oats on the same field and use the same processing equipment), so most Celiac sufferers and severe wheat allergies have to use certified gluten-free oats.  (I can tell you that they are not cheap.)

Since oats are a staple in his diet, especially for breakfast, this was the first place we started making our own flour.  I could never come to terms with the high price of the pre-packaged wheat-free flours on the grocery shelf.   So I decided that we should try to make our own flour and thought our small coffee bean grinder would be a great place to start.  The money savings: oats already in the pantry and coffee bean grinder given to me as a birthday gift years ago — win-win budget savings.

Our first attempt was the wonderful recipe for date bars.  I thought oat flour would work great for the crumbly crust and top.  We were not disappointed (and we served them successfully to company too).  We followed this with ground rice flour for our gluten-free fish breading.  Again, we had a winner.

Over the years, we have successfully ground oats, white and brown rice, chickpeas, tapioca pearls, almonds, and even Rice Chex once when I was out of oats.  This experiment has helped us keep a trimmed budget because we don’t buy the pre-packaged gluten-free flours.

Braun Coffee Grinder is the brand that we own and it has worked nicely for us.  The one drawback is that the size is just over a half cup, so it doesn’t make large batches of flour.  (Not that you would want to make large batches for fear of it going rancid.)  There are larger coffee bean grinders on the market, such as Cuisinart DBM-8 and Bodum Bistro, but I do not have experience with them.

The other option, of course, is a grain mill.  I have heard wonderful reports from people who grind their own wheat flour in a grain mill.  They say there is nothing better than fresh baked bread made with freshly ground wheat.   Upon researching the options, I found a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer Grain Mill attachment and the Electric Wondermill Whisper Mill.  These options are much pricier, but would grind larger quantities of flour.

 

How does it work?

  • You put the grain in your coffee grinder and grind it to the desired consistency.  Repeat as necessary until you reach the required amount.  That is it!

Old-Fashioned Oats in Coffee Grinder

 

Grinding Oats

Freshly Ground Oat Flour

 

What are the actual savings of grinding your own gluten-free flour versus buying the pre-packaged flours?

I noted a few of the comparisons that I researched for the Money Saving Mom guest post.  Here is a little more detail on where I find the best prices:

  • Old-Fashioned Oats: The cheapest I have found is $1.99 for a 48oz can at Aldi.  Compared to Amazon’s price on oat flour, there is about a 50-80% savings.
  • Almonds: Best price for whole almonds is at Costco or Sam’s Club.  If you can get them for $3.99/lb., that is a good price.  Recently, I have been buying my almond flour at Trader Joe’s as it is less than buying whole almonds and grinding them.  If you don’t have TJs, try grinding them yourself.
  • Rice: I buy the large 25lb. bag of Basmati Rice at Costco.  Aldi used to carry brown rice for the best price, but they no longer do.  I now buy it at Costco.  We eat a lot of rice, so buying the large quantity is a good deal for us.  Over pre-packaged rice flour on Amazon, I save about 50%.
  • I buy whole chickpeas and tapioca pearls at a local Asian grocer.  This saves me about 90% over the pre-packaged ground flours.

So, have I convinced you to grind your own gluten-free flour?  It truly is easy and economical.  If you already grind your own flour (gluten-free or not), do you have any tips to share?

 

Up next week in the Frugal Food Allergy Living series: Shop Around

 

Frugal Food Allergy Living: Shop Manager Specials

You can find all the posts in the series, Frugal Food Allergy Living.  Read more on the subject of food allergies at The Willing Cook, including budget & cooking tips, recipes, personal stories and more.

Continuing on…today we focus on how to shop the “Manager Specials.”  If you employ shopping the manager specials on a regular grocery budget, you know that it can truly make a big impact on the budget.  It does not have to apply to “regular” grocery budgets though, as there are plenty of options for food allergy shoppers as well.

From the original post on “Food Allergies and Budgets,” I briefly noted the following concerning “manager specials”:

Many grocery stores have set times for selling their marked down products that are nearing expiration, dented, or being discontinued.  Buy expiring meat and produce (like bell peppers or onions) and freeze or cook immediately .  Sometimes, you may find allergy-friendly products being cleared off the shelf (I scored Gluten-Free Bisquick for $1.99, regularly $5.39.  My husband was thrilled…for the whole 16 ounces!).   A coupon for a “Manager Special,” may make it free!

Let’s go over shopping “manager specials” in more detail…

  • Almost every store has a set time that they bring out discounted produce and meat.  Ask the manager in that department what that time is.  Sometimes, it can be multiple times a day.
  • Buy meat that still looks good and has a couple days until expiration.  Either cook the meat up immediately for dinner (or you could freeze cooked meat) or freeze.  Remember when thawing the meat back out that you use it immediately.
  • Buy produce that still looks good.  Discounted produce doesn’t do you any good if it is mostly rotten (and sometimes they do put rotten stuff out there!).  Again, either prepare or freeze immediately.  You can freeze many vegetables and fruits, and then use them from their frozen state.  I do this with bell peppers, especially.  I refuse to pay $1/bell pepper, when I can stock up on manager special getting 3/$1.
  • Don’t stick to just the meat and produce departments.  Most stores have a section for discounted dairy and eggs as well.  You can freeze milk and thaw it out to be used in a recipe.  A good example of this is using frozen milk (thawed) in large batch recipes (like freezer cooking).  Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes is a great such recipe.
  • Other great “manager specials” that can be found in most grocery stores is non-perishable items.  Again, many stores have a dedicated section in their store where they’re trying to sell off these items.  Such items as discontinued goods, dented cans/boxes, seasonal items, package redesign and goods nearing expiration.  You can ask someone at the Customer Service desk where this area is as sometimes they are in hard-to-find places.
  • You can sometimes be fortunate enough to have a coupon for a “manager special” making for a fantastic deal!
  • “Manager Specials” aren’t focused only on “normal” food.  I have found numerous allergy-friendly foods over the years, including non-dairy milks, yogurts and ice creams, Gluten-free Bisquick, and more.  I often find organic products as well.
  • Finally, health/beauty and household products are also placed on “manger special.”  Such items that I have purchased in the past include, Pyrex casserole dishes, diapers and sunscreen, just to name a few.

I want to give you some recent examples of our “Manager Special” buys.  Our local Meijer always puts out a big cart of discounted produce on Sunday around noon.  We stop every week on our way home from church.  There is always a line (and a struggle : ) for the goods…well not really).

Some of our Manager Specials
  • 6 artichokes – 25¢ each
  • 2 containers Earthbound Farm Organic Baby Spinach – 50¢ each
  • 2 packs stuffed portobello mushrooms – 53¢ each
  • 2 organic zucchini – 50¢ total
  • 2 organic cucumbers – 50¢ total
  • 1 large papaya – 53¢ (This ended up not tasting very good, so we threw half of it out.)
  • 3 tomatoes-on-the-vine – 47¢ total
  • large bag grape tomatoes – 60¢ total
  • 1 eggplant – 64¢
  • 3 large sweet onions – 56¢ total
  • Fiber One Yogurt, 4 pack – $1.38 + $1 off coupon = 38¢ total
  • 2.5 lbs. Chicken Legs – 95¢/lb. = $2.68 total
  • 5.8 lbs. Lean Ground Beef – $1.99/lb. = $12.13 total  (I split this up into 1 lb. bags and froze.)
  • We also bought several bags of pears that I used to make a gluten/allergy-free pear crisp.  Recipe coming soon.

I could go through and figure out the money saved on these purchases, but you get the picture.  One word of caution: don’t buy something that you know you won’t eat.  Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean you need to buy it.  If it’s thrown out, that’s money thrown out too.

So, get out there! Get started! Talk to your store about their set “Manager Special” time and save yourself some money.  You CAN be frugal and live with food allergies!

Do you have any stories on how you save buying “manager specials”?  I would love to hear your experience.

 

Up next week: “Frugal Food Allergy Living: Make Homemade Gluten-Free Flour”

 

Frugal Food Allergy Living: Use Coupons

So far in this guest post series has been Food Allergies and Budgets and Shopping Grocery Ads.  You can read more on the subject of food allergies at The Willing Cook, including budget & cooking tips, recipes, personal stories and more.

Today’s topic: Using Coupons to help your grocery budget, even when living with food allergies.  Since this is partially a coupon site, this is not news to most of you and probably old hat to many.  However, just because you have food allergies or Celiac doesn’t mean you have to throw all those coupons out the window (just some).  I hope that some of you will find good advice from this post today.  From the original post on Food Allergies and Budgets

Coupons for allergy-friendly foods are few, but they aren’t completely non-existent.  When there is an allergy coupon, ask friends and family for their extra.  I do not purchase a Sunday paper because I don’t like buying it when I may barely break even.  A neighbor gives me her coupons or I check the recycling center.  Another resource is the online coupon sites.  Also, coupons for toiletry and household products can help reduce the budget.  Every dollar saved helps and it adds up!

Now, let’s break that down…

  • First, coupon options:
    1. Sunday Newspaper
    2. Websites: Coupons.comRedplum.comSmartsource.com
    3. Coupon Blogs: Many of the grocery deal/coupon blogs have links to coupons.  I mentioned some of my favorite in grocery ad/coupon match ups in last weeks post.
    4. “Blinkies”: Coupon displays on grocery store shelves.
    5. Digital Coupons that are store-specific.
    6. Printable or printed store-specific coupons (ex., Whole Foods prints the“Whole Deal” and can be found in the store or on their website).
    7. Other Media: magazines, newspapers, periodicals, mailers, etc.
  • Using the various outlets for coupons, you can find allergy-friendly food coupons, on occasion.  If online, print them quickly as they tend to run out of the number available quickly.
  • Round up as many of the unused allergy-friendly coupons from the Sunday newspaper as you can from neighbors, family, friends, recycling centers, etc.  A good example are recent coupons for Silk Almond Milk.  A big couponing friend of mine buys 8 newspapers each week, but does not use the Almond Milk coupons.  I scored big time on these when they gave all 8 to me.  With these coupons and a recent sale at Kroger, I was able to get Silk Almond Milk for 99¢/half gallon.  We are still using up this stash of Almond Milk as they do not expire as quickly as cow’s milk.
  • If you are like my family and are only able to snip a small number of coupons from the Sunday newspaper each week, you must decide if the cost of the newspaper outweighs the savings with the coupons.  If that is the case, you’re not helping your budget to buy the newspaper.  I have a neighbor who does not use her coupons, so she gives them to me.  You could ask family, friends or even check recycling centers.
  • Coupons are not limited to just food.  You can save a lot of money in a year using coupons for health, toiletry and household items.

Advice on Using Coupons

  • Just because you snip a coupon doesn’t mean you have to use it.  I will often cut out a coupon just in case I find a great deal on it when matched up with a sale.  There are many times when I allow coupons to expire (or I will place them on the grocery shelf for someone else’s use) because it’s not a product that I really need and it’s not a good enough price to warrant purchase.
  • Along the same lines, using a coupon just because you have it can still have a negative affect on your budget.  If you don’t really need the item now, need the item in the future or plan to donate the item, why spend the money on it?  Many new couponers find themselves in this position where they buy things because they have the coupon and find at the end of the month that they’ve actually spent more with coupons than without.  Be careful of this trap!
  • Try your best to hold onto a coupon until the item goes on sale, so that you can get the most bang for your buck.  You can often score free products this way.

Couponing Extras

  • Many people donate or sell their extra coupons.  If you have a big stockpile of coupons, this might be a good avenue for you.
  • If you find yourself stockpiling on items, especially household and toiletry items, consider donating them to non-profit organizations that help others.  With the recent tornadoes, there has been an outpouring of coupon-generated stockpiles for these needy people.

Do you have any additional tips about incorporating couponing into your food allergy budget?  Please share your ideas with us!

Next week: Frugal Food Allergy Living: Shop “Manager Specials”


Frugal Food Allergy Living: Shop Grocery Ads

How to Shop Grocery Ads Like a Pro

 

In case you missed it, you can read the first post, Food Allergies and Budgets, from this guest post series.  You can read more on the subject of food allergies at The Willing Cook, including budget & cooking tips, recipes, personal stories and more.

 

Frugal Food Allergy Living

Last week, I asked the question of whether it is possible to be frugal and have food allergies? When faced with the reality of “specialty” foods, how can you possibly stick to a strict budget?  Today, we start breaking down the brief list of how you can begin and stick to a food allergy budget.  Of course, none of these suggestions are specific to food allergy shoppers.  They are great tips for everyone to follow.  However, if you find that you are having a hard time keeping a budget as you incorporate food allergies into your life, these suggestions are a great place to start.

 

On the initial list of how to have food allergies and a budget was “Shop the Grocery Ads.”

As soon as the week’s ads come out, take 15 minutes to find the best deals.  Circle each item or write it down and indicate if you have a coupon for it.  Try to minimize buying non-sale items.

Where to Shop the Grocery Ads:

  • Many cities deliver paper copies of the grocery ads at the end of each week for the upcoming week’s sales.  If this is not the case where you live, almost all grocery stores have websites where they publish their ads the first day the sales start.
  • In many cases, you can do a google search, such as “Meijer grocery ad June 12” and come up with a number of websites or coupon blogs that have the deals listed for you.  You will find a variety of features on these blogs, including customized printable grocery list, coupon match-ups, and more.  Some blogs that I suggest are EmbracingBeauty, Money Saving MomSouthern SaversFaithful Provisions, and Happy Homemaker Cindy (note: some of these sites are region-specific).
  • The best deal on certain products may not be in a store at all.  I have heard from a number of people that Amazon has some good deals (they rotate) on allergy-friendly foods, especially if you use the “subscribe & save” feature.  I have not personally bought allergy foods from amazon as I have always found better deals at my local stores, but it may be a good choice for people with few local store options.
  • Along with Amazon, there are many other online stores that sell organic or allergy-friendly foods.  Saving Naturally is a great source for the best deals on a variety of these type of stores, including the Amazon deals.

How to Shop the Grocery Ads:

  1. Once you have located the grocery ads (either paper copy or online source), start scouring the ads for products that you use or buy frequently.
  2. Circle the items that are a good price and indicate how many of that item you will purchase.*
  3. Look through your stash of coupons (we will discuss coupons next week) and match-up what you have with what items you have circled.  If using an online coupon source, print out any available coupons that match your selections.
  4. Organize your coupons according to number, type and store.  This really helps with the amount of time you spend in the store, especially if you are fortunate to have kids in tow.
  5. In some cases, there might be a coupon code available for online stores.  Do searches for these codes as you might be able to get a percentage off your total or free shipping.

Learning to Shop the Grocery Ads:

  • After repeat exposure to the grocery ads over time, you will start to see a cycle.  Every few months, stores cycle through their product deals.  If you find a good deal on a particular item, try to stock up on it until the next cycle.
  • You will also start noticing what really is a good sale and what can wait for a better price.*
  • If comparing between multiple stores, you may see deals rotate on opposite weeks as they compete for your business.
  • Once you begin your shopping, it is very important that you stick to your list and the grocery ads.  This is the only way you will stay on your budget, especially if you’re “prone to wander.”

*Note: Grocery prices are on the rise, so a current price may or may not be the best you are going to get.  It’s the risk you take in buying now or waiting.  If it appears to be the rock-bottom price, see if your budget will allow you to stock up.

 

Have I missed anything from you seasoned food allergy budget shoppers?

Up next week: Frugal Food Allergy Living: Use Coupons

 

Food Allergies and Budgets

Budgets and Allergies

 

Hello! My name is Michelle, guest posting for Ashley while she’s on maternity leave.  Congratulations, Ashley!  I blog about living with food allergies and how to do so on a budget at The Willing Cook.  I’m the mom of three children, one of whom has severe food allergies, as does my husband.  The Willing Cook is my story.

 

I have been doing a series called “Frugal Food Allergy Living” for the past few weeks and Ashley asked that I share my knowledge with you.  I want my food allergy readers to understand that you can still maintain a frugal lifestyle/strict budget when living with food allergies.  Thank you, Ashley, for allowing me to share my knowledge with your readers.

 

 

Is it possible to stick to a strict budget or be frugal and have food allergies?

 

The simple answer is “yes.”

 

Do you or someone you love have food allergies and have a strict budget?  When faced with the reality of food allergies, it seems impossible to live on a budget.  Actually, budgeting for food allergies does not have to be much different from budgeting for normal groceries.  There are a few easy ways you can live without fear of mounting debt (or starvation) and produce good, healthy food.

 

Before employing any of these methods to lower your grocery budget, for food allergy families in particular, you cannot compare yourself to someone else’s grocery budget who does not have food allergies.  There will be a discrepancy and that’s just the way it is.  But you have to take every opportunity available to you as a food allergy shopper to save a buck.  You know the old saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

 

Now, for that list…

 

1.   Shop the Grocery Ads
As soon as the week’s ads come out, take 15 minutes to find the best deals.  Circle each item or write it down and indicate if you have a coupon for it.  Try to minimize buying non-sale items.

 

2.   Use Coupons
Coupons for allergy-friendly foods are few, but they aren’t completely non-existent.  When there is an allergy coupon, ask friends and family for their extra.  I do not purchase a Sunday paper because I don’t like buying it when I may barely break even.  A neighbor gives me her coupons or I check the recycling center.  Another resource is the online coupon sites.  Also, coupons for toiletry and household products can help reduce the budget.  Every dollar saved helps and it adds up!

 

3.  Shop “Manager Specials”
Many grocery stores have set times for selling their marked down products that are nearing expiration, dented, or being discontinued.  Buy expiring meat and produce (like bell peppers or onions) and freeze or cook immediately .  Sometimes, you may find allergy-friendly products being cleared off the shelf (I scored Gluten-Free Bisquick for $1.99, regularly $5.39.  My husband was thrilled…for the whole 16 ounces!).   A coupon for a “Manager Special,” may make it free!

 

4.  Make Homemade Gluten-Free Flour
Pre-packaged gluten-free flours are pricey.  A coffee bean grinder and whole grains/nuts can be a wonderful way to save money and enjoy various “flour” dishes.  I use a coffee bean grinder to make all my gluten-free flour because I already had it when I started this process.  You can also use a grain mill.

 

5.  Shop Around
Do not be product or store loyal, if possible.  Shop at many stores in order to get the best deals (Asian grocers, Aldi, Costco, etc).

 

6.  Avoid Restaurants
In our home, the possibility of cross-contamination carries too much of a risk just for the convenience.  Plus, I can fix dinner for my family of 5 for about the same price as 1 Happy Meal.

 

7.  Prepare Food from Scratch
Avoid pre-packaged or processed foods, even allergy-friendly foods.  They are pricey and generally not the healthiest for you, especially when avoiding multiple allergens.  Stick with fresh meat and produce, dry beans, bulk rice, and oats, for example.

 

One final note, don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen, especially when you’re getting used to cooking allergy-free on a budget.  Try to avoid getting into a dinner rut.  Look through cookbooks and online recipe sites for some ideas.  The recipe might not be allergy-specific, but don’t be afraid to make substitutions.  Do your best, and take the good with the bad.

 

These are the methods that we use in our food allergy home, but we’re not perfect.  You might just find a Happy Meal toy (or two) floating around our house.

 

What methods do you employ in your home to lower your grocery bill, allergy-family or not?

 

Next Friday, I will continue with this series and begin breaking down the bullet points into more detail.  First up is “Shopping the Grocery Ads.”

 

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