The Dollars and Cents of Grocery Shopping for the Allergy-Free – PART 1

The biggest question I get from friends and family when it comes to my dietary changes is: What does your grocery bill look like?

I am not going to lie, my grocery bill has gone up for a family of 4. It is partly my own doing because I browse the specialty isle and want to try a million different products. Companies are very smart in their advertising of allergy-free products and they know that people with dietary restrictions are desperate to find foods that are interchangeable with the everyday products. Sometimes I don’t have a choice but to buy the more expensive product – if I want to eat quality bread (and not make it myself) I will need to spend more money. I try to cook fresh clean meals, but the reality is my husband and I require a little bit of help from those convenience foods.

You pay for more for convenience

Convenience in regular foods is sadly cheap, cheaper than purchasing healthy fruits and vegetables. I suppose it comes with supply and demand. We are so busy with our lives that we demand the convenience of boxed foods to sustain us. Unfortunately, for people living on fixed incomes convenience foods become the staple in their household due to a limited number of funds.

Convenience for the allergy free does come at a cost. I would spend a fortune if I tried to buy everything I used to buy in an allergy free alternative (if it is every possible to do so). We try to limit our purchasing of convenience foods because allergy-free does not necessarily mean healthier. You still need to read your nutrition labels when purchasing these foods because they may contain preservatives, artificial sugars, and sodium.

Duplication of products

The increase in groceries does come partly from buying duplicates of convenience items. I buy a box of allergy free crackers for myself at $3 a box, while I buy another box of normal crackers for my family at $1.50 a box. In total, I have spent $4.50 on crackers when I used to spend the $1.50 for everyone. Now I could share my $3 box of crackers with my family, but the box would be empty in a matter of days and I would be stuck with nothing. In my mind, rather than going half way through the week and buying another $3 box (which would now be $6 in crackers), I will just buy one regular and one allergy free – it’s cheaper than 2 boxes of allergy free, right?

Wow. Now that I am writing this out I could just not buy crackers and spend $3 on healthy fruits and veggies, crackers are empty and expensive calories anyway. Now you can see what goes through my mind while grocery shopping… it shouldn’t be this complicated or expensive to buy food…

My mission

Shop the perimeter of the store

This is something I need to do more of.

The perimeter of my local store contains fruits, veggies, seafood, deli, bakery, meats, and dairy (and there is a clothing section, but that is not going to help the grocery bill situation. Note to self – stop before hitting clothes). Most of the perimeter contains the healthy clean foods. You don’t really need to shop in the middle of the store where they keep boxed and canned foods. Clean wholesome foods is what we should be buying. It is sad to look at my receipt from one week ago and see how much money I have spent on convenience items versus fresh foods. I definitely could have put my money to better use while benefiting the health of my family.

Make a list and stick to it

A lot of my fresh products or organic items are in the specialty isle where they keep the allergy-free convenience items. It is like there is a big sign above the specialty isle that says, “Special people with loads of money shop here!” It is already bad enough that I can’t eat what everyone else is eating, but now I have to shop in the “specialty isle” with inflated prices. So, I am going to outsmart them and stick to my grocery list. How many times do you go to the grocery store with 10 items on your list and walk out with 20?

Stop with the multiple trips

Again, if you run out of something at home (especially those convenience items) forget about it. Chances are there is a bunch of things in the refrigerator or cupboard that you haven’t touched. I try to shop once per week, but I live with monkeys. I will buy a bunch of bananas and suddenly run out half way through the week. I could buy more bananas, but then they get brown and nobody will eat them. Rather than running out to buy more bananas I could just open the fruit drawer and find a bag of apples nobody touched. I need to learn when enough is enough – if we run out, we run out.

My challenge (join me if you would like!)

With all this said, I think I need to stop blaming companies for the increase in my grocery bill. It is really my purchasing habits that need to change. There are some days where you want to save 10-15 minutes off your meal prep and buy something already made, I get that. Allergy-free grocery shouldn’t be so complicated or expensive.

So I call this The Dollars and Cents of Grocery Shopping for the Allergy-Free – PART 1 because I plan on challenging myself to reduce my grocery bill for Part 2 (take my own advice). I want to prove that allergy-free grocery shopping can be done at a reasonable price and without buying all the extras. Do we really need to buy all these allergy-free shelf items? Let’s see what fresh foods cost me this weekend versus my crazy bill from last week. I will post my before and after bill to show that it can be done!

When the next person asks me, “What does your grocery bill look like?”, I can confidently say that it is cleaner and less than before!

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