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Shopping with food allergies is expensive. This was a really hard fact for me, the deal-shopping addict, to accept. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve learned how to balance a budget and allergic eating. This is by no means a $50/week plan. I do not believe that is possible with food allergies and a focus on organic, non-GMO ingredients. This is simply how I stretch our food budget as much as possible so we always have safe, delicious, and healthy products for our family. Let me help you start saving money with food allergies!
my other love, the command center
The full beauty that is our meal planning system, our “command center”, has its own post here. It came out of my hatred of constantly looking through Pinterest, printed recipes, and links I saved in twelve different places and my extreme love of organization. This thing was planned out for MONTHS while our house was being built. I’m not afraid to admit that, I’ve been amply picked on already. Meal planning is key to saving money. I know if I don’t have a meal plan, I’m going to ask my husband to pick up Chipotle on the way home at least once during the week. I plan one week out, always considering what is in our pantry/freezer and what is on sale, which brings me to the next point.
be that crazy sale lady
Every week, I scour the fliers of our local specialty food stores and chain grocery stores. I know their release schedules. I’m the crazy person who calls Healthy Living if it’s Wednesday afternoon and I can’t see the new flier online. I always look at sale produce when deciding what to make. When going through a flier, I note items we might buy and their price in my bullet journal. On Thursdays when I make our meal plan, I go through and check prices to figure out where produce costs less and match processed goods with coupons we have (see below). My husband and I divide and conquer, each shopping at a few stores near our work during a lunch break. Ain’t nobody got time for fives stores on the weekend!
a wannabe extreme couponer
I’ll never be an extreme couponer like you see on TV (secret dream of mine), but companies are starting to offer coupons for organic and allergy friendly products. The sites I use most are coupons.com and Mambo Sprouts. I’m also in a local Facebook couponing/savings group, Vermont Savings Mamas. There are a lot of online communities and forums to join. Make sure to subscribe to the newsletters of your favorite products, too, as they often send coupons. I know this is true for Enjoy Life, Daiya, and So Delicious at a minimum. I go through all the coupon sites about once a week and print any for products I think we might use. When scouring sales and meal planning, I check for coupon matches. All in all, I bet I spend an hour planning each week. It really isn’t a huge time investment once you get your system down.
Every once in a while, I reach out companies directly and let them know how much I love their products, how they’ve helped our family, and inquire about coupons. We’ve gotten coupons for free stuff this way! Most companies love hearing from their customers and are happy to send coupons along to someone who genuinely appreciates the product. I find this especially true with allergy friendly and organic food offerings.
I also use Ibotta (use the link andreferrall code wikqcpk for a $10 bonus). For me, this goes along with couponing. It is a rebate app that allows you to take a picture of your receipt and get paid for buying certain products. I know some people that make hundreds per year. We’ve made about $50 in three months. I recently cashed it out for an Amazon gift card; this year that’s where a good number of my son’s Easter goodies are coming from! There are rebates for generic produce, meat, and even just any old grocery receipt, which is what I use the most. You also get a percentage back when shopping online. I always compare Ibotta and Ebates before placing an online order.
be that crazy sales lady, again
I sometimes go to grocery stores at night. To me, it’s therapeutic to wander around an almost empty grocery store. I love quietly looking at whatever I want without a wild toddler or impatient husband in tow. It’s the perfect opportunity to check out labels on products to find new, safe foods!
There are two near me that often have reduced organic meat. My parents gave us an upright freezer they no longer needed when we moved to our new house. For Christmas this year, I received a FoodSaver. This has made stocking up on sale meat easy. Whenever there is reduced organic meat available, I buy it all. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. We needed a whole chicken recently and I noticed the sell by date was the current date. I’ve NEVER done it before but I went to the meat counter and asked if there was any chance the product should have been discounted given the date. The butcher said yes and immediately added $5 off. He actually thanked me as it’s something stores can get “secret shopped” on. Embrace the crazy sales lady in you AND help your butcher stay out of trouble! It’s a win-win situation.
Some weeks, the sales just aren’t great or I don’t have the time to dig in like I should. That’s when I go to my failsafe stores. I feel confident in them due to years of comparing prices and being generally deal obsessed. I always start at Costco. There are only three of us, yet TWO Costco sized packages of organic raspberries don’t always last us a week. Our Costco has an impressive selection of organic produce. It is always the first place I go for berries and salad mix. If Costco doesn’t have all that I need, Trader Joe’s is next.
In terms of processed goods, watch for your favorites on Amazon. Create online lists and monitor prices. If I see bulk deals on a few Subscribe and Save items, I find five useful products to get to 20% off and then immediately cancel all future shipments. Soon I’ll be sharing what I always keep in my pantry. I’m beginning to find good deals on VitaCost, too, so always check there before buying on Amazon. Make sure you’re using Ibotta’s online shopping cashback, as well!
There are even more money saving details I can, and will, share soon. Let me know if you have one to add! As I’ve said, I’m kind of obsessed with getting a good deal. To end today, here’s a recap of my money saving tips and tricks so far:
- Must MEAL PLAN
- Scour the SALES FLIERS
- Clip COUPONS & submit to IBOTTA
- Find REDUCED DEALS (Ask for them if needed)
- Know your STORES