Nowadays, we are often encouraged to live a frugal life due to increasing food prices and uncertain incomes, but, as I discovered very early on, that’s just not possible when you’re catering for multiple food-allergies. One of the most noticeable impacts of the last week has been on our bank account.
We do get a very few items on prescription for M because of his allergies, but the list is limited. Every month, in addition to the medicines M needs, we get 4 loaves of gluten-free brown rice bread, 2 packets of vanilla wafer biscuits, 2 500g boxes of gluten-free pasta and 1kg rice flour. This is enough for the month and allows me to bake a few treats or desserts for the children.
However, this just about covers the gluten-free aspect of the diet, but doesn’t allow for the dairy, egg and soya free parts. Every month, we have to buy cereal, margarine, mayonnaise, milk, corn thins or crispbreads, coconut cream, sausages, fish finger or fillets, chicken nuggets, yoghurts, peanut butter, stock cubes, date bars, cereal bars and fruit snacks; all of which have to be gluten, wheat, egg, soya and dairy free. Occasionally I invest in dairy and soya free chocolate treats, ice cream or chocolate spread, but the cost of those is phenomenally high. Imagine spending £7 on a small box of just 9 truffles or £7.50 for a 500ml tub of ice-cream just for the children! My monthly shop is predominantly filled with food for M and G and rarely sees change from £100 for their food alone. That, of course, does not take into consideration my weekly shop for fresh produce: fruit, vegetables, meats and fish, nor the bits and pieces for Mike and me.
I read, with awe, the forums on Martin Lewis’s website, Moneysavingexpert as hoards of savvy shoppers talk about spending no more than £50 a week to feed a family of 4 and frequently speak in terms of a monthly spend of between £150 and £200. If I had children without allergies, I have no doubt that I could do that, or at very least have a good try, and we would all still eat well, but with the dietary requirements I have to accommodate, that just isn’t possible.
I cook from scratch when I can, not only to be frugal, but also to know what the children are eating and that the food is M-friendly, I shop cannily and have gone down a brand as Martin Lewis suggests, but I’ve yet to discover any major answers as to how to be frugal and allergy-friendly.