Elizabeth Gordon is the author of 'The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook and Allergy-Free Desserts'. She was diagnosed with multiple food allergies in 2007 after the birth of her first child and decided to combine her social work background with her love of the culinary arts to help people just like her. She cooks up new treats, weekly, on her blog allergyfreedelights.com
The United States is home to 9 million adults and 6 million children coping with food allergies ranging from annoying rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Millions of other families are taking note of government-funded initiatives like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move project and reaching for less processed and more natural fare.
While healthy and safe eating is the common denominator between these groups, there is likely another: sticker shock when the checkout person hands over the grocery receipt.
I was more than surprised when the cart, loaded with produce, a package of gluten-free flour, some gluten, dairy, soy, nut and egg-free chocolate chips and gluten-free snacks like pretzels came out to be almost three times what I previously budgeted for groceries.
I thought that there was a mistake. There wasn’t, but even seven years later, I still can’t believe the amount of money that we spend on food. Granted, there are four of us, we live in New York City where the cost of living is higher, and specialty items that are both safe for me to eat and that my children enjoy are simply more expensive.
However, I know that I am not alone. I took an informal survey of my Facebook fans, and of the roughly 50 responses, only one person said that her food bill hadn’t tripled as a result of her child’s severe food allergies. One food allergic family even added that they factored their food budget into their mortgage refinancing as a medical hardship.
Whether coping with life-threatening food allergies or just buying more mindfully, families know that eliminating any or all of the top eight allergens (dairy, wheat, eggs, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts and shellfish) from their diets can get pricey.
Here are five practical ways to reduce the weekly expenses:
Opt for beans and rice over pasta
Make your own
Invest in a slow cooker
Don’t be afraid to freeze
Don’t stop at just frozen produce! Freeze leftover herbs to avoid waste. Freeze coconut milk kefir in ice cube trays if you only use a little bit for baking. Stash the meat that was on sale at the market in the freezer for up to three months. Just these little steps reduce waste and expenditures in the supermarket.
Safe and healthy eating does come at a price. Fortunately, simple steps can reduce it, because as every family, whether allergic or not, knows, every penny counts.
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