How To Balance A Special Diet and Your Budget

food budget

Guest author Melanie Sandwith is a Credit Counsellor, Daycare Provider and Triathalete. She talks about managing her family budget while meeting the challenge of following a gluten free and allergy restricted diet.

With the rising cost of food I have many clients that struggle with keeping their grocery bill under control.  When you add in a medical condition that requires being on a special diet this task can be daunting.

Over the years I have learned a few things about how to shop for special dietary needs while trying not to break the budget.  I have 2 boys with multiple food allergies (peanuts, tree nuts and dairy and previous egg and soy allergies) and I have a gluten intolerance and follow a strict GF diet.

If you have just been diagnosed and are starting to shop for a special diet it will feel like a huge challenge, but I believe this challenge has made me a better consumer and my family healthier.

The first step to saving money is to learn how to cook and make it a priority.  I was not much of a cook prior to the diagnosis and still things are hit and miss but it is worth it in the long run.  Scrapping the pre-packaged specialty foods not only will be kind to your wallet but also to your health, most of those items are filled with added sugars and fats and taste like cardboard.  I find creating my own food has taken a negative situation and turned it into a positive one.  I discovered that cooking and baking was a form of therapy.  It was a way of maintaining control when I felt anxious about having 2 anaphylactic children.

Finding great recipes is easier than ever.  Just google what you want to make and dozens of website will come up with recipes and reviews.  Use substitutions needed to suit your diet.  Don`t know what to use to avoid eggs? Dairy? Gluten? …  Google that too!

Now keeping the grocery bill down is possible but it takes a bit of effort with meal planning.  You probably already try to look at flyers to buy the staples on sale but most stores won’t advertise deals on dairy free milk and cheese!  The deals are out there but we just have look a little closer to find them.

I love Costco but it can be dangerous.  I do believe Costco saves me hundreds of dollars a year on specialty foods.  Their selection keeps growing and the products are fantastic.  Make sure if you decide to shop at Costco that you stick to the plan!  Make a list and put your blinders on!  They have a plethora of allergy friendly items throughout the store.  An example of some cost savings at Costco is the dairy free milk.  Most grocery store retail a 1 litre cartoon for $2.25 (a sale price would be $1.99), at Costco I get a 6 pack for $7.49.  I save about $1 per litre just on milk.  We go through approximately 24 litres of milk per month which saves up to $288 per year on milk alone.  I try to do one big shop at the beginning of the month to replenish the staples and possibly a smaller secondary shop in the middle of the month if needed.

Another great place to buy specialty foods is Bulk Barn.  Browse their flyer, they often have amazing deals on allergy friendly foods with 25%off.  Pair that with their $3.00 off $10.00 or more coupons and that`s when the savings really happen!  They often have their coupons right in the stores for you to take so you can time your shopping to make the most of their deals.

The Real Canadian Superstore has a decent size natural foods aisle that also have items that cater to special diets.  If you time things correctly you can benefit from the savings.  Sign up for the PC points and upload the `deals created for you“.  You can collect PC points based on what featured items have points.  When you collect 20,000 points you can get $20 in free groceries.  The nice part of this program is that the weekly offers are tailored to your buying habits, so if you often purchase items in the specialty section they will offer you bonus points on products they you may already need to purchase.

With most special diets it is unavoidable that you will have to pay a little extra for some of the staples on your grocery bill. This makes it even more important to save money whenever we can on the produce, meats and toiletries etc. My newest love is the Flipp app. If you have a smart phone download this free app to make price matching a breeze.  With the Flipp app you can browse all the flyers, tap on the best deals and save to your clippings.  When checking out at your favorite store you can just show them your phone with the saved clippings to get the best deal.

If you are meeting the challenge of lowering your food bills, give us your best tips in the comments section below.

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