Shopping on a budget can be hard for anyone, but it’s especially challenging for someone managing multiple food allergies. Not only do they have to price compare, but they also have to label compare to find the right combination of ingredients needed to lead a safe and healthy life. Allergy-friendly shopping on a budget can feel a bit like a scavenger hunt, so we’re sharing three of our top tips to help you navigate it with more ease!
Tip #1: Aldi is Your Friend
Aldi is basically the Southwest Airlines of grocery stores—budget with a few quirks. 🤣 Because of some of their business practices, Aldi is able to keep its prices low while offering many high-quality goods. One way they do this is by not carrying as many name-brand items and stocking items still in their original shipping boxes to save on labor and restocking efforts.
Several of their products boast labels with advisory statements like, “Made in a peanut/tree nut-free plant.” They also offer a gluten-free line of products called LiveGFree. All Aldi locations accept SNAP EBT in-store, and more locations are accepting it online for grocery delivery or curbside pickup.
While Aldi may not have every item on your list, it’s a great place to start your shopping. Be sure to bring a quarter and your own grocery bags every time you visit—the quarter is for the shopping cart deposit (you’ll get it back when you’re done), and you’ll bag your own groceries before exiting the store.
Tip #2: Farmers’ Markets Can Double EBT Dollars
Farmers’ markets are great places to buy fresh, organic produce. They give you the chance to speak with the actual farmer and ask questions to learn about what goes into the production of any given food. While supporting your local farmer and community feels good, these markets can often feel price prohibitive as the costs are generally higher than at the grocery store.
However, that is changing for people who qualify for SNAP. More and more farmers’ markets across the nation are not only accepting Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) but are doubling its value. This benefit is known as Double Up Food Bucks and is available in 25 states.
There is no special process to apply. Once you have SNAP, you’re automatically able to use this benefit on fresh local produce at participating farmers’ markets, farm stands, and even grocery stores. Check out their website for your local markets and to learn how to redeem your Double Up benefits.
Tip #3: Apply For Services From Food Equality Initiative
It’s important to recognize that grocery shopping for someone with a restricted diet is complex and challenging. The more allergens you have to avoid and the more people in your household who need to avoid the same (or different) allergens adds even more complexity to the task. Additionally, specialty food items can be EXPENSIVE, and they often come in smaller package sizes. In order to get the free-from foods needed, consumers have to shell out significantly more money at the grocery store.
This chart shows the real cost of a food allergy and/or celiac disease diagnosis. And unfortunately, government assistance programs such as WIC and SNAP rarely cover specialty items like allergy-friendly and gluten-free products. That is where Food Equality Initiative (FEI) steps in.
To realize the potential of FEI’s mantra—Food is Medicine—FEI facilitates access to nutritious, free-from foods by subsidizing a direct-to-door grocery delivery service for food/nutrition-insecure individuals and families. Click here to learn what you can do to bring FEI’s services to your community.
— Sofia Gillespie, Food Equality Initiative
Sofia joined the FEI team as a volunteer in 2020. She is the Education Coordinator and oversees the editing of content, including Free-From Magazine. With a background in international education, she has a passion for sharing knowledge and engaging people of all ages and backgrounds. She enjoys traveling through Eastern Europe, quilting with her grandmother, and hanging out with her cat, Buzz.
About Food Equality Initiative
Food Equality Initiative fights for food and nutrition security, and health equity for all. We believe food is medicine to treat medical conditions such as food allergies, celiac disease, Crohn’s Disease, eosinophilic esophagitis, hypertension, and more.
As we strive to make an impact on feeding the hungry, we’re also making significant strides in increasing knowledge and raising awareness about food and nutrition insecurity in those with diet-treated illnesses.
Our vision is a world where safe and nutritious food is accessible to everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions, race, or income. FEI is currently seeking a new CEO. For more information, visit our Careers page.