When dealing with food restrictions, the one most important thing is to come to terms with the fact that you may not be able to be as frugal with your food as some other people. In fact, your food bill may be much higher than you'd like it to be; to compensate for that, you might need to do some more extreme frugal things in non food related areas, like getting rid of the second car (or going without one at all, as we do), cloth diapering, or homeschooling kids instead of sending them to private school (if public school isn't an option where you live).
But I always do recommend trying to keep your food bill as low as possible (because it is the most flexible of our expenses) even once you do other things to be frugal. Here's some suggestions how to be frugal, even with a family with allergies.
Frugal with Allergies
I've been told matter-of-fact-ly by people with allergies that "there's no possible way for me to lower my grocery bill. I have to serve meat every night for supper because all the other options are out because we're an egg and dairy free home."
The woman who contacted me shared her list of allergies. They were- one person with an allergy to eggs, nuts, and sesame, and another person sensitive to dairy, wheat, and processed sugar.
The most frugal meal option of all, as everyone knows, is the bean based meal. (Dry beans, not canned, as I figured out previously.) Too many people write off non meat meals because they can't have dairy or eggs, but there's a whole world of beans out there. Yes, there are some people with allergies to beans as well, but there are such a large variety of beans that most often, people with allergies to one type of bean have no problem eating another type. If you're sensitive to peas, you might be able to have navy beans or lentils; if you're allergic to chickpeas, don't write off kidney beans, soy or black beans. To people trying to lower their food bill but need to take allergies into consideration, strongly consider using legumes as a protein source, or at least stretch your meat with it.
Another important thing to note- specific "allergy friendly food substitutions" like rice noodles, gluten free bread, corn thins- these are usually all very expensive. Consider using the natural, non processed version, like using plain rice and corn instead of rice noodles and corn crackers. Alternatively, buying a grain mill may prove beneficial, so you can grind your own specialty flours instead of paying through your nose for allergy friendly alternatives.
For those allergic to milk and/or soy, instead of paying for more expensive rice or oat milk, consider making homemade sesame milk, chickpea milk, rice milk, or oat milk for a fraction of the cost.
As with any type of shopping, but most importantly if you're restricted to buying only the more expensive types of foods, shop sales, stockpile when things are cheap, shop around for the cheapest prices, buy bulk or directly from the manufacturer, by produce in season, and be creative.
One final note...
A friend of mine has a son with Celiac disease. It's not easy, and she's complained to me about how expensive his special foods are, his gluten free breads, GF crackers, GF noodles, etc. One thing this friend does very right is that the allergy friendly foods are just for her son, not for the whole family. Its expensive enough to cook special, expensive, allergy friendly food for one person; there's no reason why every family member needs to eat that food. (This is especially true in cases where different family members have different allergies- you're restricted enough when making food for the person allergic to dairy; why restrict yourself further and make gluten free foods for that person as well, just because a different family member is allergic to gluten but not dairy.)
If you're going to be making rice noodles for the wheat sensitive individual, make the whole meal but keep the noodles separate. Make a small batch of rice noodles for the allergic individual and a larger batch of regular noodles for everyone else.
If one person is allergic to dairy, make one type of dairy food for the family and make a different type of protein for the allergic individual.
Yes, this takes more work. Consider cooking a lot of different freezer safe allergy friendly dishes and freeze them in portion sized containers, defrosting and using as necessary.
Allergy friendly foods are expensive enough; don't waste your money on buying expensive foods for the whole family when they are fully capable of eating the cheaper foods.
Are you dealing with any food restrictions in your family? How do you keep your food bill low even with these allergies or food restrictions?
This reader who emailed me has a child allergic to eggs, nuts, and sesame. Her husband cannot have wheat, dairy or processed sugar. She would like suggestions of frugal meals from you readers. Please help her out.
If you have any questions that you'd like me to address, either by email or on the blog, contact me at pennilessparenting at yahoo dot com.
Linking up to Frugal Friday, Fight Back Friday, and Pennywise Platter.