Food Allergies and Intolerances: How to manage the cost

There are many reasons to switch to specialized foods: dietary choice, latest trends, food allergy, environmentally conscience, are just a few.  Whatever the reason, becoming food conscience costs.

Costs Can Add Up

The majority of the cost comes from parents having to relinquish a job to tend to the child with allergies.  Food allergies and intolerances change the lifestyle of the family.  Depending on where you live, grocery shopping is an obstacle.  This article mentions shopping online, which is convenient, but adds an extra cost of shipping.  There are the specialty stores or markets which carry products, but usally for a higher price.   For example, a quart of lactose free milk is close to $4 yet regular milk is under $2.  It is virtually impossible to keep food costs the same when selecting allergy free or environmentally friendly.

According to ABC News, it costs approximately $4,000 per a year for a child with food allergies.

Then there is the location of the specialty stores.  When visiting Eugene, Oregon it seemed like every food store carried organic, bio-friendly, or allergy-free products.  But in small town Georgia, it was a different story.  It was a thirty minute drive to the nearest store with a selection of products.

Learning to budget for food allergies is a process.  .  The grocery bill rising, the gas budget increasing, medical costs accelerating, forces sacrifices.  This means cutting costs in other areas.   Add the new costs and the possibility of job stress, it can create financial burdens.

How to Curb the Costs?

So where do you begin to save to keep a similar standard of living? Unfortunately, it means time.  In order to save from spending more, it takes time, reading, and commitment.  Just looking at the grocery budget, here are some tips to try and keep costs down:

1.  Join a food allergy support group.  A support group or friends with similar allergies can share product information.  My son, with lactose intolerance, also has to refrain from gluten.  I spent oodles testing gluten free flour, almond flour, corn flour, and various other products to see which worked best. Friends have already learned the difference with taste and texture, learn from each other.  Now I am throwing away bags of flour that taste horrible.  Learning to cook for food allergies is trial-and-error, filling up many trash cans with expensive food.  Ask for samples when possible.

2.  Plan your shopping trips.  This is where neighbors, support groups, and computers help.   It took me several months to find a mall with an allergy free grocery store, pharmacy, dry cleaners, and farmers market.  The research has paid off in gas prices.  Driving once a week to this location is saving at least one gas tank a month.

3.  Make a specific shopping list before going to the grocery store.  Apps like Food Intolerances provide product information.  Meals and snacks are organized, so there is little need for waste.  Give yourself time to read labels so you know exactly what you are buying.  Avoid shopping with kids the first few times since they will distract from reading labels, but also add unnecessary items to the cart.

When life provides new challenges, find the way to take charge of your budget.

photo by: stevendepolo
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About Kristine Young

Kristine Young, a current AFCPE intern, earned her Masters Degree in Human Relations from University of Oklahoma, Overseas Branch. Kristine currently works at Patch High School in Stuttgart, Germany as an AVID tutor. It is through her experiences of working with scouts, teen programs, high school, and raising four children, she became aware of how few teens have opportunities to learn about finances. To her, the teaching of financial independence while still in a home environment establishes the quality future habits and security that one desires.