When you or your child gets diagnosed with Celiac disease, you discover a lactose intolerance or any other food allergy/intolerance, often one of the first thoughts (after “WhatEVER will I EAT?!?!?!?”) is “how can I afford this”? At first look, it does seem like your entire paycheck is going to have to go to some top-notch-organic-specialty-health-food store, but have no fear. With a few simple tips (I have 5 for you here this week) you and your family can eat delicious, high quality food that is free from whatever your body has decided it hates.
Tip #1: PLAN AHEAD
I know you have probably heard this before. Planning can be the key to success for any kind of eating, but it especially applies to those of us with limited choices in our diet. Food-intolerant folks like me can’t just grab a sandwich for lunch or Chinese take-out after a long day. For us, and our budget, planning is key.
I spend some time each Sunday planning the week of meals. I keep recipes in a GIGANTIC binder in my kitchen sorted in categories like salads, soups, Mexican food, seafood dishes…etc. I love paging through it and getting motivation to try something new. I’m constantly adding to this book with recipes I find in magazines, on other favorite blogs and of course, Pinterest.
Then, I make an outline of of the week like this:
You get the idea…
The first thing I do is fill in any meals that we will be eating out of the house. There is usually some kind of lunch meeting, and maybe a date night dinner. Then I check our refrigerator and pantry and take a mental inventory on anything that needs to be used up. From there, I start looking for recipes or just placing in some of our stand-bys. We try to make enough at dinnertime to feed the two of us for leftovers the next day, so I don’t have to come up with too many lunch ideas. As I am choosing recipes, I try to pick things that have ingredients that may overlap into meals for the rest of the week. I always seem to buy cilantro for tacos one day and the rest just sits in the fridge until it goes bad. Ingredients like that can easily be used in multiple meals and then will go un-wasted. Once my dinners and lunches are planned, I do breakfast. I like to make a big batch of protein pancakes on the weekend, so I have a few breakfasts taken care of right there.
Once the meal outline is finished I pull out any recipes that I need for the week so they are easily accessible when it is time to cook. They also help me make my shopping list. If you make a shopping list consisting only of things from your food outline you get a double benefit: you will likely not waste much food, and you will not have a bunch of junk sitting around to munch on all week. Once your list is complete, check your local ads. I I typically shop twice a week at Sunflower Market or Sprouts for my produce, meat and any specialty gluten free/dairy free ingredients and once every week or two Walmart or a chain grocery store for my staples like milk, eggs, juice and non-perishables. Another twist on meal planning is to check your local ads first, and try to pick recipes with items that are on special that week. The only things I usually purchase that aren’t a part of my meals are some fruits and veggies for snacking. If you want to get really specific, you could add a snack column to each day so that you are prepared for those too.
It does take some time to get your plan completed, but once you do your mind can be at ease for the rest of the week. It is such a good feeling to be able to just check my outline in the morning and know what I’m going to make for dinner; and to know that I have everything I need for it! Si nce planning our meals this way, we have spent so much less money on groceries and thrown away much less food. At the end of the week, our fridge is typically close to empty.
Each one of us needs to find the method of meal planning that works best for us. Some people do once-a-month cooking, others have a rotation of meals they use each week. I don’t think there is one BEST way, I just know that planning ahead will save you time, money and wasted food every time.
Check back tomorrow for more money saving tips!