Welcome to Allergy Free & Cheap Like Me!

gluten, dairy, egg & soy free

I’m so happy you are here! I hope to create a place for you to find lots of information about food allergies, as well as, lots of goodies to help you not only eat better, but more affordably! Please feel free to share all of your own tips, tricks, and recipes too! Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you again very soon! You can read more about my allergy story here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Healthy Crumbs Week: Cheap Tip Tuesday: Saving on the Cost of an Allergen Free Diet!

Cheap Tip Tuesday came about because it came to my attention by comments from a few of my wonderful readers, that I have neglected the “cheap” in Allergy Free and Cheap Like Me. It is true, I have. I haven’t done this on purpose. But I have forgotten to include regularly how making things at home is much cheaper than buying pre-made items from the store, especially allergen-free products. Or how I save at the grocery store when I buy ingredients for my recipes. On Cheap Tip Tuesday, look for ways to cut the cost of making all of your allergen-free meals and treats. These tips and tricks can also be used to save money in others areas of your budget too! Remember, crumbs here and there might not be much by themselves, but gathered together, you can make enough stuffing to feed the whole family for Thanksgiving!  

Healthy Crumb; Cheap Tip Tuesday: Saving on the Cost of an Allergen Free Diet!
One of the biggest hurdles and complaints of an allergen free diet is the cost. Allergen free breads, pastas, baked goods, and pre-made meals often cost more than twice as much as "regular" products. Some allergen free specialty items, depending on where you live, might sometimes have to be ordered by mail, with extra costs for shipping. This all adds to the expense of staying healthy and allergen free. Here are some tips to help you save on your food budget and still stay on your allergen free diet!
Plan ahead: Make a menu or weekly list of meals. This not only helps you save money and time at the grocery store, but it prevents you from buying things you don't need or wasting time trying to find something that sounds good. It also helps you figure out what to make for dinner in the middle of a busy week. 
Where to shop: Shop at regular grocery stores. Get as much of your food as possible at regular grocery stores. Most items on an allergen free shopping list are naturally allergen free, and these items will often times be cheaper at a regular grocery store instead of at a specialty foods store. You can also find lots of things on your list at a "club" or "warehouse" store and most of the time buying in bulk is cheaper! Just make sure to always comparison shop and check the prices by pound or ounces to make sure a product is really cheaper at a club or warehouse store. This goes for buying in bulk at the regular grocery stores too. Make sure bulk is indeed cheaper than the packaged version; sometimes it is, sometimes it is not! You should also scan weekly flyers for sales on items you use regularly and try to stock up them; try to never buy them unless they are on sale. Shopping locally at farmers markets or farm stands can be another good place to find bargains as well. Produce will not only be fresher, but most likely grown organically. As an added bonus, because it's local, you are also helping to reduce the transportation costs and impact on our environment!
Shopping online: Do some comparison shopping online. If there is a specialty item you are looking for, search for it on Google and then check the prices at a variety of sites. Product prices can vary widely among companies, as well as shipping costs. You can reduce shipping costs by placing larger orders at most places, but check around. If you use an item regularly, try looking into ordering a case or carton. (My husband frequently uses this trick.) If your storage space is limited, consider asking a family member or friend to go in on a case or carton with you before buying.
Coupons: You can get coupons from lots of different places and coupons on allergen free products are not unheard of if you look for them. Check out manufacturer websites, the weekly Sunday paper, websites of your favorite stores, coupon codes online for online stores, and coupon websites such as, coupon cabin, mambo sprouts, and smart source for coupons.  
Eat In: As often as possible, cook or bake from scratch, it's always going to be cheaper than pre-made items. When I was newly diagnosed and overwhelmed with all the new changes, it was much easier to buy pre-made products than to think about how to make my own. But after a while, I realized I could make yummy delicious things from scratch for far less money, much healthier, and with better flavor than anything that came out of a box! 
Tax Deductible / FSA Savings:
While I am not an accountant or legal tax expert, the IRS may be able to help you better cope with some of your allergies. (When's the last time you heard someone say something good about the IRS.) If you suffer from celiac disease you may be able to deduct the extra cost of gluten free foods on your taxes. In the United States, the IRS makes no specific reference to celiac disease. However, several rulings by the IRS seem to suggest that if your total medical expenses for the year exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you may be able to deduct the difference in cost between “regular” food products and gluten-free alternatives, as well as the total cost of items that would not be purchased at all if not for the gluten-free diet (i.e. xantham gum or shipping costs). Only food used by a celiac patient would be deductible. Every receipt must be saved, along with receipts for gluten-containing foods to prove the difference in price. You’ll also need a doctor’s letter to confirm the diagnosis and the need for the gluten-free diet.  You might also be able to consider a flexible spending account. If your out-of-pocket medical expenses won’t total more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you may be still be able to use a Flexible Spending Account to pay for the difference in cost between “regular” and gluten-free foods (and related shipping expenses) with before-tax dollars. Of course, be sure to see if your flexible spending plan covers these expenses and always check with a certified public accountant before claiming any of the above expenses on your taxes. 
Well I hope some of these tips were helpful.  Do you have any cheap tips for an allergen free diet?  If so, please feel free to share them with your fellow readers!  

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