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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: 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.

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.”