Food allergies on a budget

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If you or a member of your family has a food allergy or an intolerance, you will know how expensive it can be. Gluten free foods in particular are a horrendous price. So how can you cope with food allergies on a budget?

Free from comes at a price

Awareness of allergies and intolerances has finally hit the manufacturers’ commercial sensors. It is no longer difficult to find ‘free from’ products on the supermarket shelves. However, more availability doesn’t necessarily mean these items come cheap. How can you stick to your budget when you have to pay £4 for a loaf of gluten free bread, or £1.50 for some lactose free milk?

Fortunately, I don’t have any true allergies, but I am intolerant to most dairy and feel better on a lower gluten diet. If I eat toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch I bloat like I am 6 months pregnant and have other unpleasant symptoms that I won’t go into.

I won’t pretend to be any kind of expert, but I would like to share some tricks that I have found to help cope with food allergies on a budget so far.

Bake your own

I know! What a faff baking your own bread is. Or is it? I recently started baking my own spelt bread and, as I mentioned in this post, I accidentally discovered it was dead easy. The fact that bread makers exist made me assume it was all horribly complicated, but it isn’t, as I found when my bread maker died and I had to make it by hand.

food allergies on a budgetI know spelt bread isn’t gluten free, however. The best book I have found for baking without gluten is Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap, by Nicole Hunn. It is American, but has loads of recipes for great looking bread and other baked goods. You can buy gluten free flour, rice flour, etc in the supermarkets reasonably cheaply now. If you make a batch of bread or rolls they will store nicely in the freezer and work out much better value than the ready made varieties.

Consider other carbs

food allergies on a budgetYou don’t have to eat bread for lunch every day. Quinoa, polenta or rice make nice salads and are all gluten free. How about a delicious thick soup with plenty of veg and potatoes? I have become much more adventurous with my packed lunches since I cut back on sandwiches. Rice cakes with humus is one of my favourite lunch combinations!

Focus on what you can eat

Similarly, rather than worrying about what you can’t eat, focus on the foods that don’t cause reactions. This might mean avoiding processed and convenience foods, but this doesn’t mean the food you eat needs to be complicated and fussy. An omelette (if you don’t have issues with eggs), a nice piece of meat or baked fish with vegetables, a filled jacket potato or a roasted tomato sauce on gluten free pasta are all quick and easy dinners.

Think about how many store cupboard basics are suitable for your allergy or intolerance and meal plan around those items. If you are organised generally you save money on your grocery shopping and even more so if you are catering for

To save yourself even more time, batch cook as much as you can and fill your freezer.

Approved Food

I am a fan of Approved Food as regular readers will be aware. However, did you know they often have speciality foods for those with allergies and intolerances? Stock moves quickly, but they currently have quinoa flour, rice flour, pretzels and even gluten free jammy dodgers at massively reduced prices.

Lidl and Aldi

food allergies on a budgetKeep an eye on Lidl and Aldi for free from foods. At the moment Lidl has quite a few specials. I bought two packs of gluten free spaghetti and some ginger cookies yesterday. Aldi is always pretty good, with various non diary milks and their own, much cheaper version of Lactofree dairy milk – £1.15 a carton. They also sell lots of delicious gluten free cereal bars and snacks.

These discount supermarkets are both great for good quality, very dark and dairy free chocolate too.

Asda also now do lactose free milk at £1.20 a carton. They also sell delicious lactose free Greek yogurt in big pots, currently 2 for £2. Their own brand coconut milk is 97p. You can buy cheap soya milk and yogurt everywhere these days too.

I realise this post only scrapes the surface of the tricky subject of food allergies on a budget. I have found some interesting websites that are worth exploring too:

Free From Heaven features recipes to suit all kinds of dietary issues, as well as news about new products.

Gluten Free on a Shoestring is the blog to go with the book.

freefrom.com from the mum of a coeliac sufferer.

If you or a family member has a food intolerance or allergy, how do you manage? What are your tips to save money? Is it possible to deal with food allergies on a budget?

15 thoughts on “Food allergies on a budget

  1. I wonder whether this food allergy problem is a 21st century problem, Jane? I never heard of anyone having a good allergy in the 1950s when I was growing up (that isn’t to say people didn’t have allergies, only I never heard of it.) The problem then was getting sufficient to eat and we were glad to see food on our plates at all – there was food rationing until 1953. OK, some of us didn’t like some food items but this wasn’t an allergy, just a preference. Now we have gluten free this , lactose free that, and goodness-knows-what free. I wonder if all these ‘allergies’ are because we have rather too much of a varied diet now, far too much choice? – The UK diet used to be rather bland, but since the 1960s and holidays abroad, we have adopted the foods of many other countries and now our diet is so mixed our innards no doubt wonder what on earth’s coming down the hatch next! I’m somewhat bemused by it all, but I have noticed that all this ‘allergy’ food is rather expensive!
    Margaret P

    • I think it could be all the rubbish we eat and the chemicals we ingest in various ways. However I’m sure people always had intolerances and allergies but we weren’t wealthy enough to worry too much unless they were likely to kill you!

      • Jane, I meant “food” allergy and not “good” allergy … honestly, I do wish my fingers would learn to spell!
        You are right, though, maybe people always had food intolerances, but I also think our diet was much more bland than it is today – well it was in our home in the 1950s, lots of things like rice pudding and mashed potatoes with everything. Chilli and spag bol and Thai curries … they’d not even been heard of and a wrap was something you put on to keep warm! Salad was lettuce, cucumber and tomato, breakfast was cornflakes. We only had melon as a ‘starter’ for our Christmas dinner, and that was considered exotic! But yes, we eat a lot of chemicals now – even microscopic plastics are finding their way into our food and drinks, which will be next big health problem.
        Margaret P

        • I totally agree with you Margaret. Chemicals on our food, chemicals in our food, giant perfect vegetables and fruit, and food eaten out of season! Too much food and too much variety. No wonder our poor bellies protest.

  2. I have a friend with a peanut allergy, is severe even slight traces are life threatening!. She will never ever eat out as people do not understand even tiny traces could be fatal. I am trusted and she will eat here i vet every tiny ingredient and she knows that. I failed once 10 years ago bathroom cleaner included peanut oil for shine. We had to get an ambulance. I think real allergies are rare. More intolerance yes. We have become fashionable to say i,m allergic to this or that without any medical diagnosis.

  3. You are a real friend Kirrie! I hesitated to respond to this as I (and my son) are alleegy sufferers and have both had symptoms since being weaned in the 50s and 80s respectively. I was tested again last year and am still allergic to the same foods (legumes and nuts) and I was even able to tell the clinic which would produce the most severe reactions! We feel we have a hidden disability which has shaped what we have been able to do in life – eating out is very difficult, travelling abroad is less than relaxing, virtually every meal has to be prepared from scratch.

    As far as budgeting goes, it’s a case of swings and roundabouts as I would always prefer to take a picnic (cheap and safe) rather than try to find something when we are out. However, I often have to go for an expensive option such as plain steak if we are celebrating in a restaurant. I found work meals very difficult as they were often curries – appealing to everyone as cheap usually but out of the question for me. I felt a real killjoy as I wasn’t often inclined to pay for a meal I couldn’t eat and watch everyone else tucking in! For those who don’t suffer, they seem to think allergies are a lifestyle choice and I am just being awkward!

    To sound rather brutal, society is a victim of its own success at the moment – fewer children are dying from allergies as we can treat the symptoms and so people reach adulthood and pass on their faulty genes so inevitably there are more people who are sensitive to harmless substances. Until these genes can be switched off ie a cure is found, the problem will grow. I think the whole issue of chemicals, plastics, intolerances is a more recent development but don’t have any experience to back this up.
    Rant over! Vicki

    • It is hard work for those with actual allergy. It’s just an inconvenience for me and not life threatening. I have a good friend who has coeliacs disease. She can’t tolerate any gluten whatsoever. She is a fab cook luckily and adapts all kinds of recipes but eating out can be an issue for her too. True allergies must be a nightmare.

  4. I find the most important thing I do is cook from scratch, that way there are no hidden ingredients. Like Vickiey I usually have steak or chicken and chips when I am out. I started the FODMAS 4 weeks ago and came unstuck in the first week the chips were coated with wheat flour and the plain steak had a coating which contained wheat flour and lactose . So no more eating out for a while. Thankfully my allergies won’t kill me but make me feel rotten for upto 6 weeks. I think allergies must be carried through the genes as the whole family are a nightmare, but we are not all allergic to the same foods. The only places I really feel relaxed eating with are close family.

  5. I have a proper tomato allergy. Eating out is difficult as even stock with a trace of tomato must be avoided. Capsicums, eggplants and quinoa make me sick. Then there are other foods which don’t “agree” with me. Sometimes people just don’t allow tomato in the home when I stay, others don’t care and use their cutlery with tomato on, to go into shared food. It is a juggling act, for sure.

      • I have a proper allergy to citrus fruit which also include pineapple, tomato, kiwi fruit and food adertivies E 330 to 335 ,also fish and apples. These do not all now up on restaurant allergy information and now you can’t get a list of ingredients for all restaurants, thanks the powers above. I am luck I can eat peppers so they are usually what I swap into a recipe. When I was first diagnosed over 30 years ago a friend told me the dish was OK for me it had no tomato in it just tomato puree.

        • How often have I heard somthing similar, Chris! From ‘there are only a few peas in it, can’t you pick them out’; to ‘there are definitely no peas or beans in the soup’ (but the water vegetables had been cooked in was added to the soup which I found out after my holiday was ruined!). Perhaps most worrying of all, my son had ordered a meal for a flight to America and had been told that it would not be a problem to exclude eggs, turkey, dairy, nuts and fish but when it arrived it was salmon which they didn’t consider to be fish! The hotel in Los Angeles, however, couldn’t have been more helpful which made up for his in-flight experience! All three occurred several years ago now and I think people sre more aware now. Vicki

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