May 21, 2011

Food Allergy Lifestyle – Budget Groceries with Food Allergies (dairy free, egg free & many more!)

Today’s post is a bit different. It’s about ‘Food Allergy Lifestyle’. I've wanted to expand Survival Guide: Dublin with Food Allergies for a while now to include a 3rd weekly post dedicated to discussing ‘Life’ with food allergies. By this I mean groceries, allergy tests, living with allergies on a day-to-day basis, recipes and experiences, or anything that might fall under this category – I’m totally open to suggestions too as I always love to hear from you! So I will launch my first official ‘Food Allergy Lifestyle’ post today: ‘Budget Groceries with Food Allergies’ which is a topic that is of increasing interest to me.

Possibly due to the recession, possibly due to the sky-rocketing prices of allergy friendly foods, or perhaps just to teach myself a lesson and practice self-restraint. Whatever, the reason I am on a mission to live within a stricter budget without giving up my quality of life/food.

You might have noticed from time to time, reading my posts or by following me on Twitter, that the varying price of food from shop to shop is something that interests me, sometimes infuriates me but mostly bewilders me. I understand rent differences, and turnover and all of that fun stuff involved with running a shop but still, if it’s not ingredient lists, then its prices which engross me when I’m shopping, more out of interest than being savvy but that’s about to change! I want to eat well which, to me means eating a nutrient rich and balanced diet that tastes good – and all this I want within a budget… and of course this has to happen with consideration of my food allergies...

I was inspired by a post in titled Frugal Feeding your Family of 4 for <€56 per week that appeared in anygivenfood’s Sunday blogroll a couple of weeks ago. After reading this post I was annoyed at the amount of money I spend every week on food alone. I have long wanted to scale back a bit on my weekly bill. There was a time when I regularly spent between €80-100 on my food bill (for just me). I have scaled this back a bit but instead of continuing to reduce it, it seems to be creeping up again. I am presently spending about €70 on food each week which feeds just me and an additional couple of dinners and snacks for F when he’s about on the weekend. The time has at last come to change my ways in earnest.

I don’t believe that I should have to pay two and three times the amount of money to eat both healthy and tasty food just because I have food allergies. I don’t like supporting shops which have 40% mark ups from the RRP (or any % markups for that matter) just because something is Dairy free or Gluten free or Vegan. I especially don’t think that quality fresh fruit and vegetables should cost the world. For me, living food allergy free is not a luxury. It is a necessity and I don’t believe that the prices of this necessity should be reflecting a luxury lifestyle as is so often the case in Ireland.

So as I was saying, I was inspired...

First: I decided to start making proper shopping lists (harder to do than I had imagined) so I would only buy what I need.

Second: I also decided to do some serious shopping around to find the best deals on good quality foods in Dublin

Finally: I decided to share this change of pattern with Survival Guide because I want to inspire others to
- be savvy shoppers
- get ideas for their own food allergy friendly grocery lists
- help me with any ideas or bargains you might know of!

On a side note, just to make it more fun for myself I added a little challenge. I rang my mom and told her what was on my shopping list. She possesses a curious talent for adding up the price of what a list of groceries will cost. She is not very savvy herself but has years of experience with the weekly shopping. The challenge was to beat her prediction.

So, my shopping list was:
- Biona Balance Oil (or Hemp oil)
- Vegan Margarine
- Toothpaste (Tom’s of Maine)
- Carob Powder
- Manuka Honey
- Oat Bran
- Rice Milk x 1
- Drinking Water
- Ground Almonds
- Rice Noodles
- Bok Choy
- Sunflower Seeds
- Raspberries (or Blueberries)
- Wholegrain Bread
- Medjool Dates x10
- Fresh Beetroot x1
- Fresh Mint x1
- Sprouts
- Canned Chickpeas x1
- Canned Beans x1
- Lemon x1
- Leeks x3
- Spring Onions (Scallions)
- Courgette x1
- Carrot x3
- Spices x1 (something new!)
- Sugar Snap Peas

Mom’s prediction was €66.00 (she said that if she could see the food in front of her she could probably guess it within 30c –note: Mom lives in co. Laois.

And so the hunt began... my shops were:
- 375 g rice noodles €1.25
- 2 x 400g boiled chickpeas €1.30
- 300 g ground almonds €3.20
- pack of 6 bok choy heads €2.20
- bunch of fresh mint €1.90
- 1 lemon €0.40
- 200g sugar snap peas €1.95
- 1 x sweet potato (white flesh) €1.17

- wholegrain bread €1.79

- 85ml tom’s of maine toothpaste €3.95

- 300g frozen blueberries €2.00
- 1 x 400g fava beans €0.99
- 40g ground galangal €1.50
- 3 small carrots (@1.50kg) €0.41
- 227g bean sprouts €0.99
- 1 x courgette/zucchini (@3.49kg) €1.24

- 5 ltr still spring water €1.89
- Carton organic rice dream milk €2.00

- 10x medjool dates €3.50

- 250G sunflower seeds €1.50
- 1 bunch scallions (green onions) €0.89
- 4 x leeks (2 sml, 2med @1.99kg) €1.80
- 250g +12 manuka honey €11.65
- 250ml hemp oil €10.76
- 500g oat bran €1.50
- 250g carob powder €2.50

The outcome: €64.23 a.k.a. Failure
because I didn’t even get two things on the list (fresh beetroot & vegan margarine) & I made a couple last minute changes to keep the bill down –not exactly fair to the challenge but I didn’t want to lose sight of the forest through the trees!
I did make two obvious mistakes. I definitely could have got my hemp oil for cheaper at The Hopsack in Rathmines and I found out too late that Dunnes Stores carry Manuka honey for significantly less money so I will have to try out some of their brands when I run out.

So, one point for mom and I predict a long road ahead trying to get my bill down to at least €50
Please share any thoughts, experiences or tips you have!

Have a nice weekend.


Adventures in Veg said...

Great post!! Like you I find I spend a fortune on food as I'm vegan (and am intolerant to dairy and sensitive to certain foods, nothing major but my digestive system is very picky!!) and some weeks I'm shocked at how much I spend.
I also tend to do all the food shopping as I love cooking so it tends to me spending all that money...and my health shop addiction doesn't help either ;) Anyway I found your blog post really helpful. Don't feel bad for spending that much money, I bet the next time you'll spend less as you learned things along the way.
Must go back through your archives, what a great blog :)

Aurea@Survival Guide said...

Thanks so much :) I'm glad you found it helpful.
I wonder if there is an AA for Health Shop addicts? I'd definitely have to join - I even love the smell of health shops but I'll blame that on nostalgia!