Saving Money Buying Groceries with Allergies

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There is a very good chance that, if you have food allergies or an intolerance, you will spend more money on groceries than others who do not. A recent US study led by allergist Dr. Ruchi Gupta assessed the economic impacts of food allergies. The authors noted increased spending on groceries for families with food allergic members. The results of this study were published September 16th 2013 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The authors state: “Food allergy places unique out-of-pocket cost burdens on families such as purchasing allergen-free foods” (http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=1738764). I have lived with life-threatening food allergies and intolerances all of my life. It has been tricky to balance a healthy diet without spending more money than my budget allows. Being a full-time university student was definitely the most challenging time to eat healthy and stay on budget. What made this time particularly tough was that I had just started avoiding wheat and gluten. I took on part-time work to help pay the bills because I was spending huge amounts of money on groceries. With time, I have found tricks to help keep the grocery bills lower and still eat healthy. It has been a work in progress and I have learned quite a bit along the way. I have shared a few tips below that may help you keep your grocery bills a little lower and allow you to save money for other hobbies or priorities.

  1. Try to do a little more home cooking and baking. Products that are “allergen-free” or “free from the top 8 major allergens” can cost an “arm and a leg” and are often things you can make at home for a fraction of the price. It’s nice to have a treat every once in a while; however, some baked goods like muffins and cookies are definitely worth making at home and in the safety of your own kitchen. Pre-packaged foods that are allergen free can also be costly. I often like to try something new and then find or develop my own recipes to make a very similar meal at a fraction of the cost!
  2. Make a meal plan for the week.  By making a meal plan, you can do one-stop grocery shopping for the week. Trying to stick to one grocery shop per week means that you will likely spend less than if you went to go multiple times. It is also much easier to budget this way. List all the ingredients you will need to make each meal, once you have your meal plan, and you are ready to shop!
  3. Keep an eye on weekly flyers. Have a quick look at the flyer specific to the grocery store you usually go to before you make your meal plan for the week. If you see things on special, like meats or other products, plan your meals accordingly.
  4. Buy in larger quantities when you can. With allergies, buying in bulk can be really hard because the items they sell in bulk have avery high risk for cross-contamination. I never buy in bulk. I do, however, stock up on items when they are on sale and when, for example, a larger bag of rice is significantly cheaper than the regular size. Stock up on the staples if the discount is significant.
  5. Look out for coupons. Often brands will have coupons online or available with the purchase of their products. It may seem like a waste of time if you have coupons that are $1.00-$3.00, for instance, but it all adds up. I tend not to bother with the ones that are less than $1.00 off; but, again, everything counts when you are living on a tight budget.
  6. Make it and freeze extras. A jar of spaghetti sauce can run a few dollars at the grocery store. Buy some canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and add ground meat if you’d like to make a tasty homemade sauce that will cost you less and be just as tasty if not tastier that the store-bought brands! I like to make a double batch so I can freeze half of it for an easy dinner another night.

I’m sure you probably have some ideas of your own to save money. These are only a handful of the ones I use. Care to share a few of your own tips and tricks? How do you save money buying groceries with allergies? Share your ideas in the comments section so we can learn from each other.   Good luck!

Erika

How to Talk About Allergies in the Workplace: A Personal Perspective

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Author: Nicole K. I have worked at various businesses with distinct environments throughout my life. With that in mind, I would like to share some tips that have helped me manage my allergies. Below is my list of the top 5 things you should keep in mind when discussing allergies in the workplace. 

1)      Be Open Even if you think you are working in an industry where it is unlikely that you will encounter your allergens, you should inform your employer/employees. Let them know how severe your allergies can be and what to do in the event of an emergency. Realistically, employers want their staff to be safe, happy, and productive in the workplace.

2)      Have an Emergency Plan It is always a good idea to have an emergency plan in place in case an allergic reaction occurs in the workplace. Most employers have standard paperwork that requires employees to list their emergency contacts. This would be a great opportunity to discuss where you carry your auto-injector (e.g. purse, bag or pocket). Remember, a locker in the staff change room may not be the best idea. It may be inaccessible in the event of an emergency. Somewhere like a specific drawer or in a first aid kit (if available) would be a better option, however, carrying it with you at all times is most ideal. Remember to have a second dose available too.

3)      Plan Ahead for Special Events Say, for example, you hear about an annual employee picnic. Volunteer to be a member of the planning committee and assist with the organization of special events in the workplace. This involvement allows you to have more of a say regarding the menu and, ultimately, to ensure that there are some safe food options available for you and perhaps others! At the very least, you can make sure that the proper labelling of food is made a priority. If someone else is responsible for the planning, approach them and let them know about your allergens. I have found that, even when people appear to be overwhelmed with this information, offering to help them plan can alleviate any stress they may feel.

4)      Always Have a Back-up Plan Those of us with allergies always hope all of our food planning  comes together seamlessly. Yet that is not always the case! It is always important for you to have a back-up plan. If, for example, lunch is being catered at your workplace, I would recommend packing your own lunch. In the event of a miscommunication or error, you always want to make sure that you have something safe to eat. This can apply to festivities like staff potlucks, retirement parties, birthday celebrations, staff dinners, and staff socials (to name but a few).

5)      Discuss Any Concerns If there is any part of your job that you feel puts you at risk for an allergic reaction, talk to your supervisor immediately. You may encounter this situation if, for example, you work in the restaurant industry. It is easy to imagine a persistent feeling of discomfort as you wait and clear tables. One might find a way to minimize the risk of the reaction by wearing gloves, for example. Regardless of your approach, most employers will be more than willing to work together with you to find a suitable solution!

Best of luck,    

Nicole K.

By Food Allergy Canada