As you have probably noticed, I am eating a “special” diet right now. And by special, I mean that I’m NOT eating any of the following foods:
- Dairy (including butter, cheese, yogurt, shortening, etc)
- Gluten (including wheat, oats, rye and barley)
- Tomatoes (tomato sauces or anything else containing tomatoes)
- Dehydrated Fruit
- Rice, corn, potatoes
- Coffee, black tea, and soda
- Fruit juices
- Iodized salt
- Sugar and natural & artificial sweeteners (including honey, agave, coconut sugar, stevia)
- Soy or any products containing soy
- Beef, pork, shellfish, cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs, canned meat, sausage
Why? I’m following an Anti-Inflammatory diet given to me by my holistic care doctor. I’m currently on day 7 of this new diet, and I’ve found already that I’m not having to take my daily nap every day anymore. I had 2 good days during this first week, and that’s more than I’d had in the previous month! What a blessing.
It is, however, more expensive to eat this way….at least for me. No matter how you look at it, sweet potatoes generally cost more than white potatoes. Quinoa is WAY more expensive than rice. It’s just how it is.
So, how do you eat a special diet on a budget? Well, it’s something that I’m slowly figuring out, and I wanted to share what I’ve found so far with you:
Shop the Sales (?)
This can be very hard when you are so limited in what you can eat. For example, if you are allowed fresh veggies, but the veggies you are able to eat aren’t in season, well then what’s a girl to do? Just this last week I went to pick up some bell peppers and the cheapest I could find them was $1.29 PER PEPPER. Ridiculous! So, I went without. Instead, I ate other veggies that frankly, I’m not as fond of. If you’re on a tight budget though, you’ll just have to learn to be less choosy (a lesson I’m currently learning). Shop the sales. It’s critical.
2. Buy in bulk
By “bulk”, I do not necessarily mean “buy a ton”. Sure, Costco and other warehouse locations offer some great deals. I’ve been very impressed with Costco’s selection of healthy foods. The quinoa there is a great deal. However, in addition to that type of shopping, try to shop the bulk sections at other stores – you know, when you bag your own stuff, tie it up and weigh it. Winco is my favorite place to do that. There are bulk bins at most health food stores as well, like Whole Foods and Sprouts. That way, you’re not paying for the packaging.
3. Keep a price list
Oh my gosh, keep a price list. If you find yourself trying new foods you’re not used to, I’m betting you’re not familiar with the average price for that food. You’ll have NO idea if you’re getting a decent deal or not! Ask friends and family what they pay, and when you make a purchase, write down the cost-per-ounce or pound and take that book with you when shopping future sales. Know what a good deal looks like.
4. Stick to the basics
I know. It’s hard. You want to try a new recipe because you are SO SICK of eating carrot sticks and baked chicken. I feel you. (really, I do.) If your budget allows, try some new food ideas, but don’t plan a huge shopping spree to buy all new stuff. What if you don’t like half of it? It’ll go to waste, and you’ve lost that money. Try a few new things at a time, and stick with the basic meals you already know for now. As you slowly build up new recipes and items that you like, your menu will expand, but only do it as you can afford to.
5. Give yourself an occasional break
Don’t expect that you’ll be perfect all the time. When I first went gluten free, I refused to buy $5 frozen gf pizzas, because it would cost more money than making my own. Then I would get a hankering for pizza and not have anything on hand, so I’d go out and spend $12 to get a freshly cooked one from a gf friendly restaurant. If you have a weak spot and you know you’ll eventually cave, don’t be afraid to spend a little money buying some of those items pre-made and frozen. If you truly have the time, then save even more $$ by pre-cooking and freezing some of your favorites. Speaking of which…
I know life is busy, and not everyone will be able to do this. If you have the time/energy, I’d highly suggest doing a freezer cooking session. Make a double or triple batch of gluten free cookie dough, or of dairy free rolls, and freeze them. Mix up a huge batch of turkey burgers, shape and freeze them. This makes buying in bulk during the sales easier, and it makes your life a whole lot easier when you don’t feel you have time to make an involved meal. If you don’t have an entire day to devote, you can do a mini 1-hour freezer cooking batch, like I do.
7. Stick with natural foods
As much as possible, try to stick with foods that are naturally dairy free, or peanut free, or whatever your need may be. Fresh fruits/veggies and unprocessed meats are generally allergen-safe (depending, of course, on the allergen you are avoiding). Buying the gluten-free version of something generally is going to cost at least TWICE the money than it’s wheat-filled counterpart. If you stick with the naturally safe foods, you’ll save.
I realize that not all of these tips will work for everyone. Do what you can with what you can. I’m sure there are a lot of other fantastic ideas. Like I said, I’m new to this, and am still figuring things out. I’ll happily share any other tips that I find as I go! And hey, if you’ve got a great idea to save money on these types of meals, you’d better tell me! :) Now let’s go save some moolah.
*Linked up at Thrifty Thursday!