Here are 3 ways to save money on allergy friendly food. In this new instalment of our money saving ideas articles we will look at three new tips.
In our last post “3 Ways to Save Money on Allergy Friendly Food“ we talked about our first 3 tips on how we are reducing our family’s food bills with a few simple steps. Groceries and food are one of the biggest expenditures that most families have. It can be really hard to start the saving on as it can be overwhelming. We are breaking down how we take what can be a really expensive way of eating and turn it into healthy, allergen friendly meals for our family on a budget.
We have quite a few tips and tricks we want to pass on. Some are pretty simple little tricks, others require a little more work to implement.
With all of this said, We are going to give three more ways we cut our costs. Here is how we keep our food budget down for a family of 6 on a top 8 free restrictive diet.
TIP 1 OF 3 MORE WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON ALLERGY FRIENDLY FOOD
Produce Wholesalers and Seconds
There are many wholesale businesses that sell fresh produce in bulk and wholesale. Yes, there is Costco, Sam’s club, and Canadian Warehouse who get their produce at reduced prices and pass those lower costs on to consumers as lower prices in the store. There are also places that supply to restaurants like Sysco and Gordon, they usually don’t sell to the public. There are other alternatives for the regular consumer, produce wholesalers who sell to the public.
Produce Seconds and "Ugly" Fruit
There is a term called ugly fruit used in the produce business. This derogatory sounding term refers to fruit and vegetables that don’t look perfect. These foods may have blemishes, be odd shapes, look less than perfect. Just because their appearance is considered less than desirable for consumers doesn’t mean that these fruits and veggies contain fewer nutrients or are bad for anyone. They just aren’t a 10 on the food appearance scale. They still possess all the benefits consumers look for in produce with regards to nutrients, taste, and vitamins.
How These Stores Work
In parts of Europe, like France, the supermarkets cannot throw out less than perfect produce. They have chains that instead sell them, often at a reduced cost. We did some digging in our area and found some of these stores. They usually only sell what is in season. Much of it comes from local growers. Another way they get their stock is from lots purchased from produce transporters and producers. Sometimes when a delivery is set a grocery store may turn away an order or refuse it based on current stock and their back stock. If they have too much on hand that isn’t moving then they may choose to refuse the delivery. Since produce is a cargo that will expire the discount produce stores will buy the lot and sell it in their stores.
The Availability May Change Often
This means it can be a hit and miss as to what is available. If flexibility can be afforded in the stock for purchasers they can sometimes get fruit and veggies at a fraction of the cost in other large grocery stores. For us it has meant we save about ¼-⅓ of our food budget over what we were spending by frequenting the produce seconds sellers. We plan our meals keeping in mind what may be available and what is in season. The rest of our snack fruit is usually whatever is in season, be it bananas, apples, or cherries. We sometimes have to buy it by the case to get the best deal.
Buying by the Case
When a whole case of 15 pounds of cherries for $15 was the daily special we bought one and shared the extra with our neighbours. We have a large family and we eat a lot of fresh fruit. If buying a case of berries is daunting see if a friend or neighbour will split the cost and get half the goods. We sometimes get a few dud fruits in a case but when we purchase a case of pears for $15 and get 60 pears, even if 5 are rotten it will still be around $0.27 a Pear.
Preserve the Extra Bulk Produce
The extra fruit can be frozen for winter to make smoothies, pies, and baking. Any surplus veggies can also be frozen in portion bags to pull out and use in soups, as sides, or in casseroles later on. Canning can also be a fantastic preservation method, if there is the time and energy. Making fruit jams and sauces is easy and can be kept for a long time. Low acid veggies are more difficult as they require pressure canning in North America for safety. Dehydration and freeze drying are other ways to preserve the produce but the equipment is super expensive and not in the budget for most families needing to save a bit of money on food.
Community Produce Programs
There are sometimes produce box organisations. Not the full meal already prepared boxes but ones where consumers can sign up for a box a month for a flat rate and an organisation will make the boxes on a certain day each month and they can be collected by the purchaser. The contents in those boxes often change and are almost always seasonal from local farms or major produce suppliers. Some organisations may require a proof of need for discounted produce others do not. Here they are called the Good Food Box Program and anyone can buy them.
Lastly, see what is grown in your area and either buy it directly from the farmer, their stand, or a produce market that showcases local produce. Many summer farmers markets are thought of as chic and expensive but many others are not. We prefer the ones that have local farmers and they run their own booths. Buying in season is critical here as that is usually what will be cheapest. Some items will be more expensive, such as highly sought after strawberries in July. Others like 15 Lbs bags of fancy coloured peppers can be really inexpensive compared to what a red pepper may fetch in a grocery chain.
We use a combination of local growers and discount “ugly” produce stores to help us feed our family well on a budget we can afford each week.
TIP 2 OF 3 MORE WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON ALLERGY FRIENDLY FOOD
Types of Meat, and the Cuts Chosen
Sometimes we choose cheaper kinds of meat. It is just how it is. We try to balance the meat types and cuts, if we can. If you have friends who hunt and can eat venison, moose, caribou, those kinds of meat may be more affordable for you.
Where You Buy it From Can Make a Difference
We eat a lot of lamb but we buy it right from the farmer who sells us a whole lamb at the beginning of the season and come butchering season the meat is processed and inspected by a professional inspector. It is ⅓-½ of the price for us than if we bought each cut from the store. We do the same for beef. This is really good for people who react to certain kinds of meat where the animals are fed a specific feed, like corn. You can talk to the farmer and discuss your needs and how they feed their animals to see if they are safe for you.
Buying what is near you and readily available can be beneficial. If you live in an area with lots of pig or chicken farms they may be cheaper in your area. Check out if you can also buy them right from the farmer or if butchers in your area do a similar deal.
Different Cuts of Meat Can be Cheaper
Cuts of meat are really important too. A lot of people love chicken breasts but they are more expensive than drumsticks or thighs. Yes, there are differences between the meats, dark meat is a bit of a richer flavour and higher in myoglobin and fat according to Chicken.ca.
If you are doing a casserole or a dish where the chicken is cut up and mixed like a curried chicken salad use a 50/50 mix of each to help get used to the change. The nice thing with thighs is not only are they usually cheaper, they cook up juicier than breasts. They are perfect for slow cookers and instant pots as the thighs don’t dry out like breasts will.
I love a nice tender steak. We won a prize at a local butcher and got a tremendous prime rib steak that was so tender and juicy but something we simply would never have been able to afford if we hadn’t won it. It was $60!!! For one steak. It was almost 3 Lbs of meat and could feed 3 of us but still that is wayyyyyyy out of what we can afford. So we often buy much cheaper cuts of meat.
Slow Cooking to Tenderise the Meat
That means we have to cook them differently than we did with our reverse seared prime rib. With a cut that tends to be cheaper they also tend to be tougher. This is due to where the meat comes from and how much the area is worked and how the fat is marbled. A really tender cut is marbled but isn’t great for putting in the slow cooker. So we will buy a brisket and pop it in the slow cooker and make pulled beef with it. The cooking for hours in the sauce helps the meat to break down and become nice and tender.
Marinating to Tenderise the Meat
Marinating will also help to tenderise them meat. For lower quality steaks we always marinade them. A beef steak can usually be marinated for 2 hours to overnight for extreme flavour. The acid in the marinade will help and tenderise the meat making it just as delicious and soft as the prime rib but cheaper for a family to buy.
Stewing meats, stir fry cuts, and rouladen cuts are all ones that can be marinaded or slow cooked for hours to make them fall off the fork tender.
TIP 3 OF 3 MORE WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON ALLERGY FRIENDLY FOOD
It goes without saying that the most expensive part of feeding a family with or without allergies can be the meat and protein. There are three easy ways to reduce meat costs. Stretching, types of meat, and the cuts chosen. By stretching the meat it isn't pulling from one end to make it longer. It is replacing part of it or adding other protein sources to recipes to make the most of the meat that is affordable.
What to Stretch With?
Stretching the meat is really easy with ground meats. Lentils and beans are really high in protein and iron. If they are safe for your family, reduce the amount of ground meats, like in a ground beef taco and replace or add ¼ of it with red or green lentils. The lentils will need to be boiled a bit to soften and then added in to fry up with the taco seasoning in the meat and frying up to mix and flavour. Red lentils will lose their firmness most and green lentils will hold their shape more.
A Cost Comparison
Lentils can be incredibly cost efficient as they can be bought dried and one bag can last over many meals. According to Selina Wamucii wholesale lentil prices top out currently in June of 2022 in the US at $0.29 a pound. Compare this to beef which in the US is $ 4.79 a pound in May of 2022 according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can use more lentils to beef to save more money. It will change the texture of the dish and take a bit of getting used to. It is better to slowly ease into it by starting with ¼ cup per pound of beef and increasing it as necessary to get to an affordable balance with taste.
Do the Nutrients Match Up?
Lentils have 12 grams of protein and 15% of the daily recommended iron per ½ cup (approx 64g or 2.25 dry ounces) . This is according to the nutritional information on Lentils.Org. While beef contains 19% of the daily recommended iron in 3.5 ounces (100g) according to ThinkBeef. Beef also contains 35 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100g) when cooked according to ThinkBeef. That is why we use lentils to supplement our meat. If we have to reduce the amount due to costs we will increase our plant based proteins and irons which while they have less protein and iron are better than not replacing the meat and just reducing the beef.
Beans can also be used for example on nachos using ½ the amount of beef. Another Example is our Thick chilli recipe cut the meat by ½ and use ½-⅔ cup of black beans. The beans will also add protein and iron like lentils do. This will not work for all allergies as many with EoE are also allergic to pea and lentil proteins.
Rice is another way to stretch the meat. It doesn’t have as much to offer with regards to iron and protein. The rice is used as a filler and will help to bulk up the meals with a starch. We use this one last sparingly and usually in soups. There is an effort to try to make sure we are including other important nutrients. That those are packed with vitamins and protein.
This can be as easy as adding lentils to a Dairy Free Shepherd’s Pie. Another tip is using black beans on our Taco Salad From Leftovers to make the taco meat go further. It really can be that easy. The kids may take a while to get used to the new textures and flavours.
3 More Ways to Save Money on Allergy Friendly Food are available. They require a lot of leg work to find places to shop. Learn to figure out which cuts of meat will be cheapest but still work in some favourite recipes. In all these three areas there have been ways we save money on our food each month.
1- Check out Local Produce Wholeseller and Seconds Stores
It does require a bit of research to find reputable places to buy from. We often check on Google for new places in our area. Talking to other producers and farmers who may know someone we want to buy from is another ressource we use. Join FaceBook Groups that talk about local produce sellers and what is in store and the quality of it to find deals in your area.
2- Get Lower Grade Cuts of Meats
Choosing tougher meats usually means they are cheaper and more affordable when grocer prices rise. Slow cooking and marinating meats will be the best way to cook these cuts. They allow them to tenderise and get the best flavour into the meat. When cooked properly these cuts can give a lot of nutrients by cooking them as soups and stews.
3- Stretch the Meat
A great way to make the budget go further is to make more meals out of the meat. This is achieved by adding high protein lentils and pulses. This will help reduce the costs while not giving up on nutrients and good food.
By choosing to:
- Buy from stores that sell less than perfect fruit.
- Buying directly from farmers for our produce and meat
- Adding beans, peas, and other pulses to our diet.
- Stretch the meat we eat.
We do not give up on nutrients, taste, and variety of foods our family eats.
If there is something the family loves and the way to make it is elusive, please contact us. We may have a recipe we haven't posted yet or can help with adaptations. Our newsletter often has quick recipe ideas that have not been posted to the site yet. Our meal plans also have quick recipe notes that haven't been posted as full recipes on the site.
These 3 ways to save money on allergy friendly food can help to work within the family’s food budget and follow a restrictive eating diet with allergies.