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Staying safe with food allergy while on a budget

September 12, 2019

How do we protect our wallets while staying vigilant about our food allergies? It’s no secret that in a lot of situations having a food allergy means supplying your own food or enough for everyone so that we’re aware of the finer points of a meal. Medical costs aside, the business of buying safe foods, cleaning products, etc. can sometimes take a toll on your mind and your wallet. We’re often talking about the stress and anxiety of food allergies, the worry and precautions that go into everyday life, but we rarely hear the financial woes of shopping with a food allergy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been grocery shopping and forced to purchase more expensive items because their allergen labels were well detailed compared to others and made me feel more comfortable. The grocery store can become a veritable money pit causing me to go over my budget each time I visit. So how do I get a hold of the situation in a way that helps me be safe, smart, and thrifty? I have a few tips and thoughts that I’ve cultivated over the years that help me when I enter a store or market to stay safe and keep my costs down:

“I’ll have ten please” I once said this to a butcher who had an Italian chicken sauce clearly labeled with “made in a peanut/nut free facility” on sale. The holy grail of products: it’s allergen safe, labelled well, yummy and it’s on sale! It’s a situation that doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does we should take advantage of it. Whether it’s something we can put in a cupboard for a few months or freeze for another day, finding something that is allergen safe that we can store for a “rainy day” is a great way to cut costs each time we go to a grocery store. Make a list or note and put it somewhere you’ll always see it in the kitchen and mark down how much you have and lower it each time you use it. Bonus tip: Write down a few dishes or recipes you can use the item for as well so that you’ll always have a great meal with prep items at the ready. Buying in large quantities might seem silly if you’re trying to save money, but if you find something that is allergen-safe that you like and it’s on sale, it’s definitely worth buying a few extra because you never know when it might be on sale again.

I found this thing online. Most modern recipe idea moments start with this sentence. But we can find more than just cooking ideas online. Do some research online to find allergen-safe brands, research where you can find them, calculate their average cost, and start building a budget from there. Sometimes you have time to research a recipe and sometimes you just grab what you can. To avoid the costs of the latter, keep a list of recipes or meal ideas on your phone with the names of allergen safe brands beside their different meal components and always remember to double check the ingredient list before buying to ensure safety! Bonus tip: Check out their website and see if they have deals or coupons to help cut costs further. It’s easy to go over budget in grocery stores when we don’t have a plan, but if we keep a list (and stick to it), we can help keep both our cart and wallet full.

I’ve made eight meals in one day. Think. Plan. Prep. I don’t think this applies to just those of us with food allergies or shopping in particular. It’s a great idea to think of a week’s worth of meals, note what ingredients overlap, and shop accordingly. Plan out meals and snacks that are allergen safe and well labelled and shop accordingly. This way, you take the guessing out of ingredients and have less to worry about when you’re on-the-go or in a rush. An allergen safe snack or meal will always be within reach. Head to your local store or market with a planned list, stick to your budget, find deals, use coupons, and resist the urge to buy more. Bonus Tip: If you’re like me, you know you’re going to feel snacky during the week and when on-the-go, so to avoid buying other food, I try and make sure I budget in some allergen safe snacks with proper ingredient labels. I read them in the store and again before I eat.

We’re always stressing the importance of reading ingredients, asking the right questions and staying safe when it comes to our food allergies, but we never talk scanning price tags and finding the right deals to keep us and our wallets full. You should never compromise on safety, but you can on price! With a little bit of research and some thrifty shopping, you can stay safe on a budget.

– Arianne K.