Coping with Food Allergies
(Yes, that is a very large stack of gluten free pancakes. Recipe here.)
Here is where we dig a little deeper, as we figure out how to deal with food allergies without burning a larger hole in your pocketbook.
First off, I will be using the term allergy to mean all of the above…a true anaphylactic type reaction, a delayed “digestive” reaction, and an intolerance. Each of these situations means that one cannot have the food in question, so for our purposes I’ll be using the word “allergy.”
Second, for those dealing with food allergies…I’m sorry. It is no fun. It can be unpleasant, especially when a guest in someone’s home or when out to dinner with friends or family. But…it can be managed!
1. Please take the time to “grieve” over the loss of these foods. Let yourself, your child(ren), and your family grieve. Be open and honest about your emotions and don’t be afraid to share them. Talk about it. Talk to your family about it. Tell friends who are unhelpful or unsupportive how difficult it is and hep educate them. Let yourself feel and express yourself as needed.
And now for the more practical ways to save…
2.. Take a Look at What you CAN eat.
That’s what I told myself as I walked through the freezer section, looking at ice cream container after ice cream container on the shelves at the Albertsons grocery store near TCU.
I figured out during my college years that I was lactose intolerant and needed to cut out ice cream, yogurt, etc. from my diet. I was not particularly thrilled about the ice cream part. Not at all. I *may* have shed a tear while standing in front of the ice cream.
And then I bee-lined it for the back corner of the store, where they shelved the boxes of rice milk.
Lesson #1. After you grieve and fuss over what you can no longer eat, sit down and make a list of what you can eat. Get creative. Include foods you’ve never tried before. Do some research about what you can eat when on a gluten free diet, or a soy free diet.
3. Write out all the ideas you can think of for meal and snacks that you are allowed to have with your new restrictions.
Once you have your list of foods that you can eat, write out 10-15 ideas for meals that you can have..for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Include meals you’ve never tried, ingredients you’ve never cooked with. If you’re not sure where to look, google your particular diet and the word “blog,” and chances are you will find an entire community of people dealing with the same food allergies as yours.
An example…when we were on the GFCF (gluten free casein free) diet back when Ryan (my oldest son) was in the thick of his sensory integration dysfunction issues, I based all of our meals around potatoes, brown rice and sweet potatoes. Then as I got comfortable with those foods, I added in rice pastas and started using rice flour and other flours to bake little snacks for the (then 2) boys, as our budget would allow it. It was a slow process. But we made it through…and on a tight budget too.
If you deal with dairy issues, just omit the cheese and find “your new milk,” be it almond, rice, soy, coconut or hempmilk. (I omit the cheese from recipes all the time. Doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.) And if you want to make pizza, use a dairy-free alternative…but use sparingly…because yes, it is more expensive!
3. Write a short rotating meal plan.
With your list of “can eat” foods and your list of meal ideas, write out a 3 or 4 day plan that rotates. Write down everything that you plan to eat…as you’ll need to have everything on hand that you’ll need to eat for that time period.
Breakfast. Lunch. Afternoon snack. Dinner. Dessert/treat.
All of it!
Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4.
Meal planning is crucial for spending less money at the grocery store. Absolutely crucial! And sixteen times more crucial when you are dealing with food allergies and the need to buy more expensive products and/or ingredients. We’ve got to have a plan in place so we can balance the “regular” products and the “allergen products” and not have to spend 4 times that of your friend who doesn’t deal for food allergies.
After you start enjoying these foods that you can eat and have completely forgotten about all those foods that you had to give up, start adding new meals and treats to your rotating plan. With the new rotating plan in place, you’ll start to feel better, notice improved behavior in your kids and be on your way to a healthier you and a healthier family!
Get a FREE Gluten Free Menu Plan for the Month, when you join the FAB Family on Facebook or subscribe to the FAB email newsletter!
“Allergy Free Food” Coupons & Deals
I do my best to highlight allergy free food coupons. They are certainly fewer and further between, but they are out there! You can find allergy free products on Coupons.com, Smart Source and Red Plum every now and again, and you can also find a number of gluten free and other allergy free foods on Mambo Sprouts.
Most coupon websites are updated on a monthly basis, and sometimes the coupons will refresh and other times they will rotate off the website. So if you see one you like, don’t hesitate to print them!
And please don’t forget that you can write directly to the manufacturers, requesting coupons (LINK) for your favorite allergy free foods! Many of these companies are smaller and can handle the requests in a timely manner. I have done this a number of times, and have not been turned down once.
1. Amazon Deals app
I use the Amazon Deals (different from the Amazon app) app on my iPhone to alert me to the various lightning deals for products in the grocery department.
Here’s the skinny on Amazon deals. Sometimes you will see an amazing price of organic babyfood, or all natural fruit leather , but that price gets gobbled up in minutes and then the deal is off and the price jumps back up closer to its retail price. What I like about the lightning deals is that the deal price will stay the same for the full 3 hours of the deal. We will share pertinent lightning deals on the FAB Facebook page.
Amazon Deals will feature different allergy free food products every so often.
Also…searching online with Swagbucks is a great way to earn free Amazon credits. If you find yourself starting to purchase allergy free foods from Amazon, then please jump on the Swagbucks bandwagon and you will spend way less on these otherwise expensive products!!!
2. Local Health Food Stores
My local health food store has the monthly specials listed on their website, and also some exclusive store coupons. I can see that the Nature’s Path brand is still on sale for 45% off, which is perfect…as that’s Tyler favorite oat-free cereal. If your store does not list these on their website, then don’t hesitate to ask the manager if he/she can provide you a list of the brands or product lines that you can expect to see on sale and when.
Best Kitchen Practices
1. Cross-contamination – An important factor when cooking with allergy free foods is cross contamination. This is especially important for those with anaphylactic type reactions to foods. If you plan to cook separate foods for an allergy free individual, you will need to be sure that you haven’t contaminated the cooking space at all with the wrong ingredients. A simpleexample to illustrate would be with pastas. Say you have one individual in your family who has a gluten allergy or intolerance and you want to prepare rice pasta for them and regular pasta for the rest of the family. (This is certainly the cheaper way to go in the situation.)
You will need to be sure not to use the same pasta server in both pots as you cook the two types of pastas. You will want to use 2 different colanders, or drain the rice pasta first, as to not contaminate the colander with the wheat pasta. You will want to use clean pots and pans and not just “rinse and reuse” from wheat pasta to rice pasta.
2. Cook from scratch - Unless you want to buy all the overpriced allergy free products that are out there, you are going to have to get on the “slow food bandwagon” and start cooking from scratch. It’s just easier doing it yourself and knowing that your food is safe for you or your family member to eat and won’t send them to the hospital or into terrible stomach cramps or pain!
3. Avoid all together - As I mentioned before, it may just be that you have to eliminate nuts, dairy, turkey…whatever it may be…permanently, just for peace of mind. Figure out the work arounds and start exploring and cooking with those new ingredients.
4. Create “the shelf” - If you find yourself in a situation where just one member of the family is eliminating a food for allergy or intolerance reasons, then create a shelf in the pantry and a shelf/section in the freezer for the allergy free foods that they need. Talk to your family and tell them that these products are only for such family member and that they are a little more expensive, so please don’t eat them. For your pocketbooks sake!
5. Going out to Dinner - Dealing with food allergies when out on the town can be extremely difficult, as you have no idea what specific ingredients that are used in preparing the foods. If you have a soy allergy, you wonder if the restaurant uses soybean or vegetable oil to fry or saute. If you have a dairy allergy, you wonder if the bagels or muffins are made with bread.
Don’t be afraid to ask to see the ingredient list. Don’t be afraid to take your own food into the restaurant with you…just politely explain that it’s for your childor yourself, as you have a severe allergy, but still want to be able to enjoy eating out without worrying. Most will understand.
6. Kids Parties – What on earth do you bring to a kid’s birthday party?! If you are gluten free or nuts free, try this chocolate mug cake. Can be made in just a few minutes, as everyone is scurrying about to get out the door to the party. If you are dairy free, take along some sorbet that your child can eat as the other kids enjoy their ice cream.
What other tips or tricks do you have to share with us when it comes to dealing with food allergies practically in the kitchen?!
Recipes and Resources
While dealing with food allergies can be very difficult at the get-go, once you get into your new routine and learn the “new normal” things get easier, you learn what shortcuts and substitutions work and what don’t work as you experiment with these changes.
I wanted to share a few foolproof recipes and resources. To help get you started, or bring some variety and creativity back into your new food allergy free diet. Most if not all are Top 8 Free.
- Smothered Okra with Chicken and Rice
- Lemon Pepper Chicken with Chili French Fries
- Beefy Mac Soup – use rice pasta for GF alternative
- Cheeseless Chicken Enchiladas
- Red Quinoa with Avocado, Black Beans and Corn
Cooking How To’s
- Lynn’s Recipe Adventures – For nut, peanut and gluten free recipes
- Frugal Food Allergies
- A Year of Slow Cooking – For all gluten free slow cooker recipes
- Kids with Food Allergies – Great support forums
We are so glad you are here…we hope we can bring you the best frugal recipes, coupons and deals for your favorite allergen-free products!
FAB Hugs -