Today’s Frugal Friday post is a little different than normal. Instead of offering a frugal tip, today I’m hoping to bring awareness of the costs of food allergies to NON-food allergic families.
Grocery shopping with food allergies is not for the faint of heart, you see.
Food allergy families are already aware of these problems, but may find this a useful post to share with friends and family who don’t quite understand why you’re so financially strapped all the time.
Here, in a nutshell, is why food allergy families often struggle with money:
WE HAVE TO EAT.
Not only do we have the myriad medical costs that often pile up, but our average grocery bill would make and extreme coupon-er immediately pass out in shock!
This week gave me a perfect example to share with you all: Spaghetti Noodles.
I found Ancient Harvest corn/quinoa spaghetti noodles on sale at my health food co-op. Their sale price was $2.35 per box. Normally they’re 90 cents more! I bought a case of them, which entitled me to a 10% discount.
Total price per box? $2.11, down from the normal price of $3.25 per box. That’s a great savings!
Back in our pre-food allergy days, when I was a frugal housewife attempting to drop our monthly grocery costs to under $300 (I laugh, now), I could buy plain old wheat spaghetti noodles for $1 per bag.
So even with my excellent savings, I’m still spending over twice as much for spaghetti noodles as a typical non-food allergic family would have to spend.
Let me also break down a little bit of our absolute monthly necessities.
Zac and I are on very restrictive diets; him more so than me. For all our restrictions, though, that doesn’t make our costs any less. In fact, it costs more to feed the two of us than it does to feed Darrel and Jed in any given month!
We consume roughly a case and a half of quinoa per month. That’s 18 boxes. As of this writing, Amazon has a case of quinoa seeds for $52.68. However, I’ve paid as much as $66 for a single case before, even on Amazon. That breaks down to $4.39-$5.50 per box, or $79.02-$99.00 per month. Remember, these boxes are only 12 ounces each, too.
Compare that to your typical, plain white rice, which can cost as little as $2.50 for TWO POUNDS.
Beef is a considerable expense for us. We just bought another cow and picked it up from the butcher. My in-laws give us a deal on the costs of the cows, thankfully, and this cow cost us $1,000. The butchering fee was $195. We netted 350 pounds of meat. That breaks down to a mere $3.41 per pound – which is FAR cheaper than could be found in the grocery store on a normal day.
However, we consume at least 3 cows per year, which means that every month, our beef costs average out to $298.75. Just for the beef.
Some families choose to drink bottled water. Most families drink tap water, generally speaking. Sometimes they throw a filter on the tap, or buy a filter pitcher and call it done. We can’t. We have to use a specific brand of bottled water for safety. No tap water option for us!
Fortunately, we can buy it at the Dollar Tree, but even at $1/gallon, it adds up. Considering we consume 45-55 gallons in a month, that’s an additional $45-55 out of our budget.
Last year, according to my health food co-op (who keep records on such things), I consumed 600 pounds of potatos. Since I know I purchased additional bags of potatos at other grocery stores, I think it’s fair to say that my actual potato consumption was probably closer to 700 pounds. That’s just about one case of 50 pounds per month.
Each case costs between $35-60, depending on time of year and seasonality. Let’s split the difference and say that each month I spend $47.50 on potatos.
In order to make sure we’re getting pure olive oil that hasn’t been cut with other things, we order olive oil directly from Lucero. Since we use huge quantities of olive oil and that is the only safe oil I currently have (aside from tallow), we order in bulk.
Each 2.5 gallon container of olive oil lasts us approximately 2 months, and costs us $130 (with shipping, etc.) That’s $65 per month in olive oil costs.
Our goat milk costs are reasonsable, actually, at $6 per gallon. Regular, horrible milk at the grocery store is $4-5 per gallon, so the direct price isn’t too high. However, I do have to drive 65 miles one way to pick it up.
Based on my SUV’s gas mileage, that means that in addition to the $54 we spend every month in milk costs, our goat milk costs us an additional $57 in fuel expenses for procurement. That’s $111 per month!
Total for goat milk per gallon with fuel factored in: $12.34.
Originally my parents and I agreed that they would pay the same amount they were already paying for chicken feed, and I would pay the difference for the special, corn & soy free chicken feed we are now feeding their chickens.
As parents are wont to do, however, my folks have been kind enough to pay for all the chicken feed expenses since we began the experiment.
So far, their chickens have been eating $53.60 in feed per month. They recently enlarged their brood, however, and the new chickens are hungry! Next month the costs will increase to probably around $160.80 to keep all the chickens fed and happy. (Apparently, these chickens are fond of eating every bug and grub they can find, but still want to eat the feed, too. Hungry birds!)
Still, at $53.60 per month, that makes each dozen (based on 11.5 dozen per month) $4.66. Our family has been taking 6-8 dozen per month, so on an average of 7 dozen our egg costs should be $32.62 monthly.
(Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
That doesn’t count for the costs of Zac’s pork, or the (hopefully soon) monthly costs of the bananas. It also doesn’t factor in the costs of the special salt we have to use, or ANY of the foods we feed Darrel and Jed. While, yes, Darrel and Jed eat some of these foods, too, they mostly eat other things.
I still have to buy those other things in addition to the $693.88 per month it takes just to feed me and my not-quite-2-year-old.
And there is no couponing, no specials, no special grocery store savings games I can play to reduce this food budget.
To quote an overused phrase: It simply is what it is.
And this, dear readers, is why grocery shopping with food allergies is so expensive, so UN-frugal.
We have no choice but to buy the foods and brands that are safe for us, at whatever price it is marked. The lack of options means a lack of PRICE options, as well.
For this Food Allergy Awareness Week, I hope this post sharing the true “cost” of food allergies in terms of Grocery Shopping will help non-Food Allergic families understand the process of living with food allergies a bit more.
At the very least, I hope other food allergy families will see that they’re not alone in exorbitant food prices.
If there is any tip to be had in today’s post at all, it is simply this: don’t stress about food costs, food allergy families. Use your frugal tips in other places in your life.
In the end, the high costs of our foods and our constant diligence have kept both our kids out of the hospital for almost two years. What’s the phrase? “Pay your doctor, or pay your farmer.”
What’s your most expensive monthly grocery cost as a food allergy family?