Yesterday I started a mini-series of posts about eating allergen free (and healthy) on a budget. My first tip was to Plan Ahead. Today I am going to talk about another key way to save money on food and groceries when eating a “special” diet.
Tip #2: Eat Naturally “FREE”
The number one way to blow your food budget is to try to replace foods you once ate with their pre-packaged, allergy-modified versions. For example at most health food stores, you can find packaged versions of gluten free muffins, cookies, burritos, chicken fingers and cereal. Or how about the imitation meat, mayo and cheese? While it feels so good to pull something off the shelf to feel “normal” again, it’s usually not worth it. Not only does the gluten free (or dairy/soy/egg/nut/etc free) version cost much more than it’s normal counter-part, it typically doesn’t compare in taste either. A better choice is to save these treats for special occasions (or last minute emergencies) and spend the majority of your food budget on REAL, naturally “FREE” foods. It all depends on which foods you are avoiding in your diet – but a diet focused on fresh produce and lean meats is often your cheapest and healthiest choice! Shop the perimeter of your grocery store; this is a great rule to follow for healthy eating in general. When buying fresh produce, be flexible in your menu planning and eat what is currently in season. You can also get just as much nutrition plus convenience and cost savings by buying frozen or canned. I always stock up on unsweetened frozen fruit, frozen veggies and canned beans. I buy my grains like rice and quinoa in bulk.
Because of multiple food intolerances, I can’t eat ANY pre-made gluten free food item. If I want a muffin, pancake, cupcake, or bread, I make it myself…and it is atreat This can become time consuming, but I love the control that it gives me over what I choose to put in my foods. I can use the sweeteners and flours of my choice, and really control the nutritional value of the food that I am putting in my mouth. I know a lot of you are saying that gluten free baking can be expensive and it can be. I buy my flours in bulk and typically stick to the cheaper ones (brown rice, buckwheat, garbanzo bean, tapioca starch). I watch for sales (Sprouts’ Gluten Free Jubilee is my favorite!) and stock up on flours and mixes and store them for on-going use.
When you first go allergen free, it can be challenging to look beyond your previous eating habits. But if you can look at your new diet not as a limitation but an opportunity, I think that you will find that you can eat some really delicious foods without replacing everything you used to eat. Think about foods that you CAN eat, and then look for ways to combine them into delicious meals.
My favorite “FREE” meal this week:
Note – this meal is safe for ME. Everybody has different food intolerances so plan based off of your own specific needs. For more meal planning help check my coaching page out.
- Grilled porkchops seasoned with paprika, pepper, sea salt and espresso grounds
- Baked sweet potato fries with olive oil and sea salt
- Spinach salad topped with dates, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, cucumbers peppers and a lemon balsalmic dressing
- Mixed fruit salad of pineapple, kiwi and berries
We made this meal when we had some friends over last weekend, and I don’t think anyone noticed that it was gluten, dairy, egg, soy and nut free!!