With news that inflation in the UK has hit a 40-year high of 9% (May 2022), The Allergy Team asked co-founder Jen, our in-house expert on all things cooking and shopping, to look at how families living with food allergy could make savings.

Here at The Allergy Team, the rising cost of food is something we’re particularly concerned about because we know that families who have to buy free-from products already have a more expensive weekly shop.

At the time of writing a quick look at the price of cow’s milk and dairy-free alternatives demonstrates the issue:

In Tesco 2 pints of Tesco whole milk cost 0.88p/litre (£0.99), if you buy a 6 pints carton the cost reduces to £0.56/litre (£1.89), Tesco Oat Drink costs £1.10/litre, Rice Dream original with added calcium drink costs £1.40/litre and Tesco unsweetened soya milk £1.00/litre*.

If you’re buying food for a child or children with food allergies, you also have less choice and fewer options for shopping around. The financial and emotional impact this has on parents and carers was laid bare in the responses we had to the inflation survey we ran in January 2022.

Most of us are used to savvy shopping and saving where we can, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and forget about going back to basics. So, here’s Jen’s reminder of simple things we can all do to take the pressure off our wallets:

Buy in bulk:

It pays (or rather saves) to buy in bulk. For example, online, Sainsbury’s Easy Cook Rice is £2/kg for a 500g packet; £1.35/kg for a 1kg bag and £1.30/kg for a 2kg bag*.

Or go even bigger and buy catering supplies.  For instance, Sarah buys chocolate by the kilo from Plamil. Although this does require the willpower to not help yourself!

It isn’t necessarily always cheaper to buy directly from the producer rather than from a supermarket. But it does eliminate the worry about supermarket shelves being empty when you arrive.

Cook from scratch:

For allergy families, cooking from scratch can be reassuring because you know exactly what is in your food. Several of you have told us how hard it is to find bread that does not contain soya so you might want to think about making it yourself.  This recipe from Darina Allen is simple and doesn’t require any kneading.

What’s more, a recent article reported that the average family spends £25 a month on bread and that this could be reduced to about £10 a month if you make your own.

Snacks are expensive so if you have time, it might be worthwhile making them at home. Try this flapjack recipe.

And while we’re talking about flapjacks why not try this suggestion from Alison @budgethealthyeating; “non-oven-baked” flapjacks which save on energy as well as being lean on ingredients (if not your waistline…).

Own brands:

Own brands tend to be cheaper and sometimes have fewer ingredients – often they’re lower in salt and sugar too. Take the example of Sainsbury’s Corn Chips vs Doritos:

Sainsbury’s: 180g Doritos Cool Original at £1.25 (discounted price, 69p/100g). 200g Just Snax Tortilla Chips one-fifth of the price at 48p (24p/100g)*.

Tesco: 180g Doritos Cool Original vs £1.99 (£1.11/100g). 200g Tesco Cool Tortilla Chips is 76p (38p/100g)*.

Fruit and veg – frozen and eaten seasonally:

Eating fruit and veg which is in season will be more available and therefore cheaper.  Find out what’s in season this week here.  Frozen also reduces waste.

Soup:

We make soup a lot and it is rarely the same because it uses whatever we have in the fridge the night before a big shop.  Admittedly there have been some misses along the way!

Sweet potato soup recipe here.
Leek and potato soup recipe here.
Chicken noodle soup here.

Meat:

If you eat meat, choose it carefully.  For example, whole chickens often cost the same as a couple of chicken breasts.  Cheaper cuts are perfect for cooking stews and casseroles and are easy to bulk up with lentils, tinned pulses or whizzed up mushrooms to keep costs down and protein levels up.  Root vegetables are also great for bulking out meals.

Batch cook:

Batch cooking saves on energy/fuel and time. For instance, eating this Chilli Con Carne for one meal and freezing the rest.  Prep once, eat twice…  And if you’re already cooking something in the oven, think about roasting some veg at the same time.  You’re then halfway to a meal in terms of time and cooking resources required.  For example, corn on the cob or roasted cauliflower can be eaten cold in a salad the next day.

Leftovers:

Incorporate a buffet-style dinner meal once a week to use up everything in the fridge which allows you to stretch out the next grocery shop by another day.

Savvy shopping:

Look in different aisles for what you want.  For example, if your child’s preferred snack is raisins, buy them in larger packets from the baking aisle and decant them into pots yourself.  The same is true for spices: you sometimes find bags of spices in world food aisles that will be cheaper than jars.

Tesco: 1kg seedless raisins is £3.30 (3.30/kg). 500g seedless raisins in £1.80 (£3.60/kg).*

Tesco: 50g jar of mild chilli powder is £0.85 (17p/10g). 100g packet of East End Chilli is £1.15 (11.5p/10g).*

Asda: 44g jar of mild chilli powder is £0.70 (15.9p/10g). 100g packet of TRS Chilli Powder is £1.00 (10p/10g).*

Yellow Stickers:

Speak to staff at your local supermarkets to find out what time they put out their yellow sticker reduced items. Many items won’t be allergy-friendly but there’s always a chance you’ll find something heavily discounted.

Loyalty cards:

For example, families replying to our survey told us that the price of Oatly milk and other dairy-free products are often discounted with a Tesco Clubcard.

Food banks:

Food banks run by The Trussell Trust gave out over 2.1 million food parcels in the year 2021/22[i]. Families with food allergies can request parcels which meet their dietary requirements. The Trussell Trust says: “When visiting a food bank centre, one of the volunteers will run through the food parcel packing list with you to check any special dietary requirements that you may have. If they have the facilities to do so, some food banks can also provide fresh food.”

Apps:

Alison from @budgethealthyeating has pointed us in the direction of these great cash-saving ideas.

– Apps: GreenJinn, CheckoutSmart and Shopmium. Alison says these apps “often have ‘free from’ products listed at a significantly reduced price or free”. For example, she has found oat milk, pea milk edamame bean gluten-free pasta free recently.

Olio is an app which aims to reduce food waste by connecting you with neighbours and local businesses who have surplus food. Alison has found gluten-free or non-dairy products regularly available and adds, “if you can’t make immediate use of them remember you can freeze them until you need them. If there aren’t any businesses available in your area on olio you can speak to them directly to see if they are interested in reducing their food waste by joining the app.”

– Meat Free Monday is a brilliant resource for making creatively delicious, super budget-friendly, meat-free meals. There’s a website or you can find ideas on Instagram using #meatfreemondays.

*Prices correct 20th May 2022

** Rice drinks are not recommended for children under 5 yrs

References:

[i] The Trussell Trust

Written by The Allergy Team 20th May 2022