Updated on 09.09.16

Two Tips for Dealing with Food Allergies on a Budget

By Katy DeDeyne

When you’re trying to make better financial decisions, one of the first areas to look at trimming back is food. From cutting down on dining out, to making a meal plan, to trying store brands, there are lots of ways to reduce the amount of money you spend feeding yourself and your family.

But when you add a food allergy into the mix, it gets a little bit more complicated. Specialty foods, like gluten-free products, are often priced at a premium — one study in Australia found that gluten-free options were up to 500% more expensive than those containing wheat.

In our family of six, two people are gluten intolerant. While they don’t have an allergy, realizing that they can’t eat certain foods meant figuring out a whole new way to eat food for all of us. Two things helped us adjust.

1. Keep it positive.

The best piece of advice I ever got was to focus on what you CAN have, not on what you CAN’T. So we started there. Meats, fruits, vegetables. Dairy, spices, other grains. Once we shifted our focus, there was quite a bit that we could still eat, and many opportunities to try new things that we hadn’t had before.

We could still shop the specials for meats and produce that were on sale. We could still keep a running list of pantry staples. They were just a little bit different than before.

2. Keep it simple.

Once we were comfortable with our new way of eating, I started to look at more than just the basic meals. What about brownies? Birthday cake? Muffins? But gluten-free baking can get pretty complicated. I’d click on a recipe that sounded yummy, and be immediately intimidated by the list of four flours and two thickeners in the ingredients list, and extra steps in the directions.

I knew there had to be an easier way.

I happened upon a recipe that mentioned substituting oat flour for some of the wheat flour to increase fiber. That benefit didn’t matter so much to me, but using oats intrigued me. So I ground up some of the oats that I had, and reworked a muffin recipe I found online. After a few adjustments, I knew I was onto something. I kept experimenting, and pretty soon I had a whole list of gluten-free muffin recipes using oats — like the one below.

Gluten-Free Muffin Recipes

Perfectly Peach Muffins
Makes 15-17 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups old-fashioned oats, ground into oat flour (see notes below for how to grind your own)
  • ½ cup additional old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ½ tsp. almond extract
  • ½ cup milk (or peach juice if using canned peaches)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 peaches, chopped*

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. In large bowl, mix all ingredients except peaches until combined. Fold in peaches.
  3. Scoop muffin batter into greased muffin pans, filling almost to the top of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely before removing muffins from pans.

*You can also use a can of peaches in 100% juice for this recipe, and replace some of the milk with the juice from the can.

Notes: To grind your own oat flour, simply measure the amount listed in the recipe into a blender or food processor. You may need to do this in batches – my cheap blender takes about a cup at a time. If you prefer to use pre-ground oat flour from the store, or want to make sure you have the right amount, one cup of oat flour weighs 3.75 oz. Half a cup weighs 1.85 oz.

Peaches & Cream Muffins: Prepare the recipe as stated above. In small bowl, mix 2 oz. room temperature cream cheese, ½ cup powdered sugar, and 2 Tbsp. milk. Before baking, add a small spoonful of cream cheese mixture to each muffin and stir slightly. Bake as directed above.

Raspberry Peach Muffins: Prepare recipe as stated above. Before baking, add 1 tsp. of raspberry jam to each muffin and stir slightly. Bake as directed above.

Making your own gluten free muffins doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t need to involve multiple ingredients or expensive equipment. Oats are one of the top 10 frugal foods, after all.

Even with food allergies, it is possible to rein in your food costs and stay within your budget. By focusing on the positives, and keeping it simple, you can find a way to still enjoy delicious food.

Katy DeDeyne is the wife of a pastor, whose ministry recently moved the family from northern Iowa to northern Oregon. She writes about food, homeschooling, parenting, and home management at www.findinghomeblog.com. Her cookbook, Oat Flour Muffins: Gluten-Free Baking The Simple Way, is available on Amazon

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