Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Allergy-Free Eating on a Budget: Tip 2 and Cereal and Snack Ideas

     My second tip for allergy-free eating on a budget is to buy your ingredients and/or foods in bulk.  It is always cheaper in the long run to make your food from scratch.  I choose to do this for the most part, however there are certain things that I buy already made, knowing it would be cheaper to make them from scratch.  I just don't always have the time or equipment to make literally everything myself.  For instance, I buy GF pasta.  Sure it would be cheaper to make noodles from scratch, but if I am making spaghetti for dinner, chances are it's been a busy day for me and I am making pasta because it's easy and fast, not just because it tastes good, although it is delicious.  I also do not own a pasta maker, which makes it more difficult and time consuming for me to make pasta.  I also buy rice tortillas.  I am aware that I can make my own tortillas and freeze them for future use, which would be much cheaper than buying them.  I just haven't tried it yet.  I don't have the right size frying pan at this time, and it hasn't been a priority of mine.  At some point, I may try to make my own tortillas.  I have heard it is very easy.  I will need to buy a new frying pan, first. 
     So, you know that I am not perfect.  I don't make everything from scratch.  I do buy some GF foods that are already made and are more expensive than making my own.  I have every intention of trying to make pasta noodles and tortillas from scratch someday but not just right now.  In order to save some money, though, I do buy my ingredients, a few mixes, tortillas, pasta, dry beans, canned tomato products, etc. in bulk.  There are several ways that I do this:

     I happened to find a local food co-op that places monthly orders to UNFI (United National Foods, Inc.).  While I might pay near $4 per 6-pack of Food For Life rice tortillas at my local health food store, I can by them on sale through the co-op for perhaps $2.50 per 6-pack in a case of 12 packs.  If I don't want 12 packs, I have the option of splitting the case with someone else in my co-op for the same per pack price.  I don't have to pay any shipping charges for stuff bought through the co-op.  I just have to be available one morning each month to go help unload, sort, and pick up my food.  If I am not available, there is usually someone in the group that is willing to bring my stuff to me or take it to her house, where I can pick it up later.  You very well may have some local food co-ops, too.  You could try searching on Google to see what you can find.  You could also try searching through the yahoogroups to see if any co-op groups pop up there. 
     Another way I sometimes buy in bulk is by purchasing cases of produce from a local company that sells produce to the grocery stores.  I usually do this when I have the freezer space available to do some bulk cooking and freezing of meals.  If I find that a case of bananas is cheaper through this local company on a certain day, I may purchase a case of bananas.  I'll let them ripen, then peel and freeze them for future smoothies, cakes, breads, etc.  (If I can find bananas on sale at a store for cheaper than this produce company.  I will buy a huge amount of bananas at the store and freeze them the same way previously described.)  I do try to get certain fruits and vegetables organic.  For instance, I try to buy organic according to a list found at  I can't always afford to buy all my fruits and veggies organic, so I at least try to follow the list.  I used to buy tons of non-organic apples.  My kids would eat 2-3 every day until I found out they were second on the list of dirtiest fruits and vegetables.  I now buy more bananas since they are one of the cleanest, and they happen to be much cheaper per pound, anyway.  I buy nonorganic kiwis, oranges, grapefruits, pineapples, etc.  I still buy apples, though they are organic and more expensive.  I encourage my children to eat more of the other fruits and a little less of the apples.  We actually are getting a larger variety of fruits than we used to.  We love dehydrated fruit, also.  I buy bulk raisins and dehydrated fruits through the co-op.  Frozen organic fruits and veggies are cheaper through the co-op than through the regular grocery store, so if I have the finances to get frozen organic veggies, I will order through the co-op.  I buy nuts and seeds through the co-op, as well.  There is a large bag of frozen mixed fruit that I do buy at Sam's Club to make smoothies sometimes.  I know that it's not organic, and there are peaches in it which have more pesticides in them, but we don't have it every day or even on a frequent basis.  I get it as a once in a while treat when I can't afford the organic stuff.
When there are good sales on the fruits and veggies I am looking for, I buy in bulk and freeze the extra.  You do have to blanch some veggies before freezing, so just check into the correct way to do it before you try freezing fresh veggies/fruit.
     Try your local BJ's, Costco, Sam's Club, etc.  I buy a lot of GF spices in bulk at Sam's Club.  Tone's and Spice Island (both brands that SC carries) are GF, according to the representative I spoke with from the spice company (both made and distributed by the same company).  They have wonderful bulk bottles of GF vanilla that is much cheaper than buying at the regular grocery store.  You can buy bulk baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, etc.  SC also sells bulk bags of organic baby carrots and organic salad greens that I love, much cheaper than the grocery store.  I buy my pineapples, limes, kiwis, and cucumbers at SC when they're not on sale cheaper somewhere else.  There is also a nice GF (though not soy free) cracker that Sam's sells in bulk that is quite delicious and affordable, I am told.  However, crackers are not a necessity when finances are not available, and you can make your own if you must have them and have the time. 
     For those of you who may live closer to Bob's Red Mill than I do on the east coast, you will find that Bob's sells 25 lb. bags of many of their GF grains, flours, etc.  You can order directly from Bob's Red Mill.  There will be shipping fees that you will have to pay, but it may be cheaper for you to buy in bulk from Bob's than to get stuff at your local store.  You may find that if you can get enough people to chip in with you to get an exceptionally large order from Bob's, perhaps shipping costs would average out to be more affordable.
     I do order some things in bulk directly from other companies or online.  For instance, the cheapest place I have found to get coconut oil is  I absolutely love the organic coconut oil from there, and it is a real bargain when I buy it in gallon sized containers versus buying it in the little glass jars at the store.  Since I cannot drink coffee without some major digestive issues, I either drink herbal tea (bought at store or through co-op) or Dandy Blend (cheapest at in the 2 lb. bags with free shipping).  If you buy tea, make sure there isn't any barley in it, or soy if that is an issue.  I also buy blanched almond flour from  I did find that the owner of my local health food store can order 25 lb. bags of the blanched almond flour for just under $4 per pound.  If the flour isn't on sale through Honeyville at the time that I need it, I do order it through my local health food store.  For those of you who use ground almonds, note that the blanched almond flour is MUCH cheaper than buying almond meal.  Also, if you want to use almond meal, you can make your own in your blender or food processor, though making blanched almond flour may be a little more difficult, though possible.
    Another place I buy things in bulk is my local farmer.  I have several farmer friends who sell grain-fed all natural meats.  They give me good prices when I consider how much that same type of meat would cost at the health food store.  I try not to purchase meat at the regular grocery store since it's full of all kinds of unwanted things, but I can't afford to pay $7/lb. for good meat!  If it comes down to that, we will eat beans and rice to get in our protein instead of meat!  Right now, I can buy all natural ground beef for around $2/lb. from one of my friends.  I can get all natural stewing chickens for 95 cents/lb and roasters for $2/lb.  While they are not 100% organic, they have been grass fed, pastured animals.  They have not been given hormones or arsenic.  Another good thing about making friends with and buying from your local farmer is that occasionally they may throw in a little extra something, just because.  I have gotten specials on all-natural bacon, sausage, and ham with no additives.  I have gotten free potatoes, carrots, and beets.  All big blessings to our family!  Another place I have found decent chicken is my local butcher shop. 
     Sometimes butcher shops will give special prices when you buy cases of certain meats, as well.  I always feel good when I buy local and support local farmers and businesses.  I can't always afford it, but when I can, I do.  Note:  if you don't object to "regular" meat from the grocery store, you should check into case prices on meat.  You can save quite a bit of money by purchasing your meat by the case.  Simply divide and package it at home, and then freeze it.  I have bought cases of chicken pieces before, made up several different marinades, divided the chicken pieces between labeled freezer bags, poured in the marinade, and frozen it.  When I wanted the chicken, I would thaw it in the fridge and bake it.  Very flavorful!
     As you start paying more attention to prices, it is helpful to keep a little record somewhere, perhaps in your planner or purse. You can jot down prices of things you normally buy at different stores. You can start to compare. Soon, you'll know where to buy different things. For instance, I was looking everywhere for sweet rice flour. I couldn't find it in any of our health food stores, Wegmans, etc. I read somewhere that the cheapest place to purchase it was an Asian food store. My husband found one 1/2 hour away. He found that the sweet rice flour was about $1/lb. He bought 5 lbs. That ought to last me awhile since I don't use it that often, but it doesn't go rancid and will store well for quite a long time. I could have purchased sweet rice flour through the co-op for over $3/lb. I'm glad I found another source!

Breakfast and Snack Ideas:

     Breakfast cereals can be very expensive. We do a lot of GF oatmeal, but sometimes the kids get sick of it and want something else. I like to buy a bulk bag of Mesa Sunrise cereal. I buy bulk raisins, unsweetened shredded coconut, some dried apple rings and/or pineapple rings, raw sunflower seeds, maybe some pecans, and craisins. I mix a big batch of cereal/granola by mixing up the cereal flakes with all the other additions in whatever proportions fit our tastes. Instead of pecans, I have used sliced almonds. I usually cut up or break up the apple/pinapple rings into small pieces before I add them to the mix. I bought a big plastic cereal storage container at WalMart for somewhere around $4-$5. I can make a big batch of cereal and it all fits in that container. My whole family loves it, and it lasts for awhile. It makes breakfasts nutritious, fast, and easy. My kids usually wake up at the last possible minute before I want the school day to start. They'll grab a fast bowl of cereal and a banana or other piece of fruit, and then they can start on their day.

     Some affordable snack ideas might be fresh fruits and veggies. My kids like to take a stalk of celery, add a little peanut butter (or cream cheese if you can have dairy) and maybe some raisins--"Ants on a Log." I sometimes make a snack mix with some GF Rice Puffins, a small bag of EnerG pretzels, raw cashews, shredded unsweetened coconut, banana chips, craisins, raisins, dried apple rings or other dried fruit, raw almonds, lightly salted rice cakes, raw sunflower seeds, etc. You can really use whatever you want, and feel free to substitute what you like for the things I use that you don't like. I don't have any measurements really. I just keep adding stuff together in a huge bowl until the proportions look good. I break the pretzels up, so they go farther because they are expensive. I break up the rice cakes, too. I might break up some of the larger banana chips if they look too big. I cut the apple rings or pineapple rings into pieces, as well. My husband and kids love this mix. I have used other flavors of rice cakes. Another snack we like is organic air-popped popcorn which I buy in bulk through the co-op (this month it's on sale for 82 cents/lb.). I melt a little coconut oil and mix it in with the popcorn and some sea salt. Delicious and healthy! Sometimes we put peanut butter on a rice cake and add banana slices. Drizzle on a little honey, too. My kids love that.

     What about you?  Do you buy any of your food in bulk?  Do you have any helpful ideas of places where we can purchase some of our groceries at good prices?

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