How We Prepare Allergy-Friendly Foods on a Budget

How We Prepare Allergy-Friendly Foods on a Budget - jenniferajanes.com

How We Prepare Allergy-Friendly Foods on a Budget

Note: This is a little “off” the usual topics of faith, family, and homeschooling, but it still fits because it’s “special needs.” I am often asked how we eat allergy-friendly on a budget and what our favorite resources are, so I decided to put everything in one place as a resource I can point people to. I will add more favorite recipes and cookbooks as I come across things we truly love.

Our search for an inexpensive way to prepare allergy-friendly foods began with the realization that Princess Roo has food allergies and sensitivities. Her diet needs to be free of wheat, eggs, and milk for her GI issues to remain stable, and she also avoids shrimp because of a positive allergy test and a family history of anaphylaxis to shellfish.

Then, several years ago, I had an anaphylactic reaction to shrimp after eating it for 21 years. After my life-threatening reaction, I learned that I have a history of shellfish allergies on my mom’s side of the family. My allergy is very serious because I am extremely sensitive to shellfish proteins. I have even had reactions to airborne proteins where shellfish are cooked and served.

While shrimp and other shellfish are pretty easy to avoid, wheat, eggs, and milk are more challenging. It didn’t take me long to learn that buying allergen-free foods was an expensive way to go, and our food budget wouldn’t support that cost indefinitely. I realized I was going to have to make a lot of foods myself to save money. I bought a couple of cookbooks and then found out that they required a lot of ingredients that I could only buy at a specialty store, and they were (as you’ve guessed) expensive! I began a quest to find recipes I could make at home with ingredients I could buy anywhere.

I am slowly creating a list of cookbooks and online recipes that work really well for us. I am including the list here and will update it periodically.

Caution: These recipes work for our dietary needs, but they may not work for you or your family. Please consult your doctor if you have any questions about your personal dietary needs. This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice from your physician.

Cookbooks

  • Sophie-Safe Cooking by Emily Hendrix – This has been my go-to cookbook for four years. My copy is in really bad shape because I use it so much.
  • Simplified Dinners – Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free by Mystie Winckler – This has become the second favorite at my house since we began using it several months ago. I especially love that it has shown me how to effectively use spices in my cooking!

Online recipes

We’re just branching out to try new recipes from online sources, so this list will grow as we find new favorites.

  •  Southwest Veggie Soup from Cornerstone Confessions – We recently tried this soup, and it was an instant favorite. (Kathy said you can substitute cornstarch for the wheat flour if you want to make the chili seasoning mix she links to in the recipe.)
  • Gluten-Free Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies – We have a hard time keeping these cookies around after I make a batch! I make mine as cookie bars and bake them for ten minutes. (We substitute rice or soy milk for the milk, shortening for the butter, a flax/water mixture* for the eggs, and use GFCF chocolate chips.)
  • I haven’t tried all of the recipes on this board (nor are they all okay for our family), but if you’re a Pinterest lover, you can also follow this Allergy-Friendly {Recipes} board.

*Egg substitute: 1 T. flaxseed meal and 2-3 T. water per egg. Whisk together and let sit for five minutes. It will get gummy, like eggs. (This substitution has been successfully used for up to four eggs in a recipe.)

How We Keep Allergy-Friendly Foods Budget-Friendly

Menu planning. Seriously.

I resisted menu planning for a long time, but we have found that we save a lot of money every week by planning menus before we make a grocery list. Then we inventory what we already have on hand and compare it to what we need to prepare the meals on the menu. We look at our coupons and sales ads to see where we can get the best prices on the items that we need, and we work hard to stick to the list and resist impulse buys.

Cooking from scratch.

As I mentioned before, I prepare as much as I can from scratch because that’s the only way I have complete control over every ingredient (for allergy reasons) and can prepare recipes that every member of my family will enjoy.

I will also confess that we don’t buy allergen-free foods for everyone in the house. Princess Roo is the one who needs them, so we buy them for her. Everyone else gets regular crackers, bread, milk, etc. Since Roo’s issues with wheat, eggs, and milk are GI-related, this works fine for us and saves us a lot of money. Shellfish, however, is non-negotiable. It is not allowed into the house in any form, including in vitamins or supplements.

What do you do to keep allergy-friendly food prep budget-friendly?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend products that my family actually uses and enjoys. See my disclosure policy for more information.

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20 Responses to How We Prepare Allergy-Friendly Foods on a Budget

  1. I had the same type of thing happen with the shrimp but mine not so severe and I took Benedryl right away. Now I also carry it and my epi pen at all times. It’s a challenge to change these habits. I no longer eat shrimp :( You give great resources here. Thanks.

    • I have to carry Benadryl and an Epi-Pen all the time too. I’m sorry you have had the same thing happen. Actually, I forget about the shrimp sometimes. Since we don’t have it in the house anymore, and we tend to choose restaurants that don’t serve shellfish when we eat out, I have to remind myself how careful I need to be when we go somewhere that serves seafood!

      I’m glad you found the resources helpful. I’ll add more as I come across things we truly love.

  2. I would whole-heartedly agree with all of your advice. My daughter had severe food sensitivities. We are so thankful they are subsiding, but last year when she was about 6 weeks old I ended up needing to go gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, soy-free and chocolate-free. It was daunting since I had never had to deal with this before.

    Meal planning is what saved me. Well, that and not trying to re-create what I missed. We started eating a lot more rice dishes and tons of soups because those were easy to control ingredients and I could nurse a pot of soup all week. Adjusting to the new reality certainly had an effect on our homeschool year. We were a lot more relaxed and my boys learned a lot about nutrition and fresh-food prep!

    With the help of an amazing chiropractor we were able to reduce the food sensitivites to dairy and eggs. As a result, I look for a lot of vegan recipes because those don’t use dairy or eggs. :)

    Thanks for the tips. I’m adding this to my allergy-friendly board. Even though we don’t have severe allergies, my two closest friends have children with them. I’m thankful for our experience this last year because I’ve learned how to cook for friends with specific nutritional needs.

    • Thank you, Heather. You are so right about not trying to recreate what we’re missing. That’s an exercise in frustration. We have learned to love all new recipes and foods. Occasionally, we find a good “substitute” for one of our former favorite foods, but for the most part, we just find new items. I have learned to cook in a whole new way and to respect those who have restricted diets, whatever the cause. Excellent point!

  3. Ticia says:

    I’m very thankful none of my kids had severe allergy issues, but I’m always trying to learn more about different issues like this because I’m encountering it more and more.

  4. Cristi says:

    As much as I hate meal planning, I couldn’t live without my plan. I keep the costs of allergy-friendly food down by relying on simple recipes. It’s a lot cheaper to make an allergy-friendly meat with a veggie and a starch than to recreate a fancy casserole that needs lots of expensive substitutes to make it safe.

  5. Thank you for the resources! I’d like to try your egg substitute. I’m following an anti-inflammatory diet for health reasons and adding in more raw foods. I have several sensitivities so the allergy friendly foods are just what I need. I’m visiting from Healthy Habits Tuesday.

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  7. Vicki Arnold says:

    I’m very thankful not to have food-allergies in our family. My oldest son does seem to have a sensitivity to wheat (or gluten, not entirely sure). We’ve always had a hard time getting him to gain weight (the boy is TALL and THIN). We did try a 6 week GAPS experiment last year that proved to be beneficial for all of us (I lost weight and he gained), but was so expensive compared to our normal diet (pasta, bread & rice all help stretch the food budget). I’ve been planning our garden in my head for this year ever since. It will be key in us giving GAPS a try again for healing purposes. :) (sorry for all the parentheses, lol)

    • I’m glad GAPS helped and hope that you will be able to pick it up again so that you will all feel better! It is very expensive to eat a special diet. I hope some of these tips helped for your next try.

  8. Anita says:

    Very good post! My grandson is peanut and tree nut allergic, so I understand how careful one must be with food preparation. I agree, from scratch is definitely the safest way!

  9. Gabrielle says:

    Great post! Planning is definitely the key to dealing with food allergies. My toddler is allergic to peanuts and cashews, so we have to be very careful. Our policy with baked goods is that if mommy doesn’t make it, Andrew can’t eat it. But your post confirms some of what I’ve thought for the past year that we’ve dealt with his allergy: As much of a hassle as a nut allergy is, wheat, dairy, and egg allergies really are a much bigger pain. Sounds like you’re doing a great job of navigating food allergies. I still haven’t taken the energy, time, and emotions to blog about my son’s nut allergies. I’m trying to get the guts to do it now, but for me, it’s very emotionally-charged. Many people simply don’t understand and feel that we’re being overly protective of him.

    • I understand your reluctance to share it and about how emotionally-charged it is. There are people who believe that we’re being overprotective too. You can’t be too careful with food allergies, though. They’re much more dangerous than most people realize.

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