Savvy Spending – When Food Allergies Eat Up Your Budget

Shopping allergy-friendly and gluten-free can have an impact on your bottom line. Thinking outside the box can help you turn that budget frown upside down.

Eat Your Veggies Lentil Soup (Gluten-Free with a Vegan Option)

by Allergy Free Kitchens on February 27, 2015

Lentil_Soup_Allergy_Free_KitchensMy husband and I embarked on Arbonne’s 30 Days to Healthy Living and Beyond in February, and then the craziest thing happened. After making the commitment and broadcasting it to family, friends, and clients that we were participating, I developed an abhorrence to salads. They were not at all appetizing to me. You know that weird, back of your throat kind of feeling when you’re about to get sick? Yep. That’s exactly what would happen when I thought of eating lettuce of any variety. Lovely. That said, in order to stay the course and eat my veggies, I needed an alternative.   Soup came to the rescue, namely this tasty little gluten-free (can be vegan) lentil soup number.

I used to be intimidated at the thought of cooking dried lentils, but I’ve found it rather simple and such a great value. You really do get more for your money without sacrificing a lot of time. Add in a store like Aldi nearby and it’s a total win!

The Aldi near our home carries organic options for most of the ingredients in this soup. In addition to their organic produce, I used these options from their Simply Nature line:

  • Organic Vegetable Broth (when making the vegan version)
  • Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
  • Organic Diced Tomatoes
  • Organic Fire-Roasted Tomatoes

Over the course of this frigid February, I’ve made this soup multiple times, vegan and not vegan, and I like both equally.

Today, as I feasted on a bowl of this deliciousness, I decided for my next batch I will whip up a side of herbed flat bread. Oh. My. Yum. I’m gonna have a happy tum!

Recipe:  Eat Your Veggies Lentil Soup (Gluten-Free with a Vegan Option)

Easily serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp coconut oil (You can use olive oil or another oil of choice.)

3 stalks of celery, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 cups diced and peeled tomatoes (You can substitute a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes. The fire-roasted variety gives a nice flavor.)

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

1 cup dried lentils, sorted and rinsed

4 – 5 cups broth, vegetable or chicken (I use 4 cups because I prefer a heartier consistency.)

Instructions:

Add the oil to your stock pot and heat over medium-high heat. Carefully add the chopped onion, celery, carrots and pepper and sauté until the onions are translucent in color. Add the garlic, tomatoes, salt, cumin, coriander, and lentils.  Slowly add in 4 cups of broth, and stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil. Place the lid on your stock pot, reduce your heat to low, and let the soup cook for 30-45 minutes. That’s it. Simple, huh?

Now if you’re like me and prefer a creamy textured soup over a broth soup, get your blender out. I simply blend about one-third to one-half of the soup right in the stock pot with my immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can ladle some of the soup into your countertop blender, blend for 30 seconds, and return it to the stock pot.  Note:  Always use caution when blending hot liquids and follow the manufacturers instructions.

If you find the soup is too thick for your liking, thin it with more broth.  Start in ¼ cup increments until your desired consistency is achieved.

You can dress up your lentil soup with a variety of toppings. Some of my favorites include just a simple drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, or a sprinkle of chopped parsley with a dash (or two) of crushed red pepper.

Give it a try and let me know how you like it.  🙂

A note from Allergy Free Kitchens:

As with any recipe, please be sure you use ingredients deemed safe for your dietary restrictions and always read labels, even if you’ve used the products before. What’s safe for some isn’t always safe for all.

This is not a sponsored post. All of the products mentioned are products I purchase and use in my home.

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Smart Money Smart Kids – Help for Livin’ the Free Life

by Allergy Free Kitchens on March 28, 2014

Smart-Money-Smart-Kids-Book-Allergy-Free-Kitchens

As I shared in an earlier post, a study on the JAMA Network revealed the additional cost incurred by a family raising a food allergic child averages $4184 a year.  Well, we’ve been at this for six years.  So let’s do the math:  $4184 per year x 6 years = $25,104.  Hello.  I am thankful we had the money to use it, but in recent years it wasn’t funded from our budget; our savings account was the supply.  Not good.  Going backward is the wrong direction.   The solution?  It was time to suck it up and get smart with money.  Big revelation there, right?

I’m not saying my husband and I have blindly and ignorantly made our way through life up to this point.  We’re not extravagant.  We give.  We have a modest home.  And we have a number of steps in The Total Money Makeover completed, but we were lacking the “gazelle intensity” Dave Ramsey talks about.  That has now changed and we look forward to what God will do through us in the years to come.

Like all good parents, we want to model good stewardship before our daughter, and we want to have an atmosphere of contentment in our home.  The first step was to get ourselves on the right path.  Check!  The second step is to have our daughter join us on the journey.  Enter Smart Money Smart Kids, a new book by financial-expert and best-selling author Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze.  It is exactly what we needed to unite our little family on the path to win with money.

 

Smart-Money-Smart-Kids-Book

As part of the Smart Money Smart Kids launch team, I had the privilege of receiving a copy of the book ahead of the April 22 launch date. It is hands down one of the best books on parenting I’ve read thus far.  And it holds true to Dave’s statement:  “Teaching kids about money is never just about money.”  

In this wonderful book, Dave and Rachel share encouragement and age-appropriate ideas to help parents teach their children how to develop a good work ethic, wait for what’s right, and properly steward what they’ve been given.  Everything is purposeful and meant to help you grow your child in a way so he or she will develop a right heart attitude toward money. There’s something else in this book I appreciate – grace.  We all need grace.

To help you get a feel for the heart of the message Dave and Rachel share, I thought I’d share a few quotes from the book:

  • “When a kid saves money, it is not a mathematical event; it is a maturity event that gives dignity.  When a kid buys something with money he or she has saved, it is not merely a financial transaction, you are watching poise, confidence, and maturity develop right before your eyes.” – Dave Ramsey
  • “Children who can learn to plan and be forward-thinking are more poised and confident because life is not always happening to them – they are happening to life.” – Dave Ramsey
  • “The opportunity to learn and witness the discipline of saving at a young age can be one of the greatest tools you pass on to your children.” – Rachel Cruze

I invite you to visit smartmoneysmartkids.com.  There you will have the opportunity to learn more about the book,  read the first two chapters of the book for free, or pre-order your very own copy.  If you pre-order before April 22, you will receive more than $50 in free extras!

Here’s to livin’ the free life,

Wendy

 

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How to Save on Groceries – Shop Aldi Stores

by Allergy Free Kitchens on February 26, 2014

Shop-Aldi-Organic-Allergy-Free-KitchensI saw a study on the JAMA Network  that revealed the additional cost incurred by a family raising a food allergic child averages $4184.00 a year. This includes factors such as medical, out-of-pocket, lost labor productivity, and related opportunity costs.  In recent years, we’ve felt it. Time to reassess our budget.

To start the year off, my husband and I assigned a place for every dollar we have of income (Thank you, Dave Ramsey and the Total Money Makeover).  We were shocked to find we had been living in a dream world when it came to our grocery expenses.  To our dismay, we found we spent double what we had predicted.  To be honest, I was a bit frustrated.  Our weekly menus are nothing extravagant.  There wasn’t anywhere to cut if we wanted to maintain a balanced diet.  What we spent was legit. Ugh.

Then I discovered how to save on groceries – shop Aldi stores!  They recently opened one less than two miles from our home.  Following our grocery budget fiasco, I decided to take a stroll through their aisles.  I’m very happy I did.  In taking the time to do some comparison shopping, I discovered I’d enjoy a savings of 44.7% by shopping Aldi for a number of natural, fresh, and organic food items.

Here is a list of my regulars and the price comparison with the other local grocery store (part of a large grocery store chain that’s popular in this area).  Many of these comparisons are store brand to store brand.  Sizes and quantities are equivalent or very close.

Organic Free Range Chicken Broth    Aldi: $1.79     Other: $3.69

Organic Agave Nectar 11.75 oz     Aldi:  $2.99     Other: $4.49 (Aldi vs. Domino)

Organic Baby Spinach    Aldi:  $2.49     Other:  $3.99

Organic Mixed Greens    Aldi:  $2.49     Other:  $3.99

Organic Soy Milk    Aldi:  $2.29     Other:  $2.99

Organic Salsa    Aldi:  $1.99     Other:  $2.99

Organic Tomato Basil Sauce    Aldi:  $1.99     Other:  $2.99

Nitrate Free Ham Slices    Aldi:  $2.99     Other: $3.59 (Aldi vs. Hormel Natural Choice)

Nitrate Free Bacon    Aldi:  $3.89     Other:  $6.99 (Aldi vs. Coleman)

Organic Apples 3 lb bag    Aldi:  $3.99     Other:  $5.99

2 Green Bell Peppers    Aldi:  $.89     Other: $2.42

Mixed Pepper Pack – 1 Red & 1 Yellow Bell Pepper    Aldi:  $1.99      Other:  $5.98

Fresh Green Beans    Aldi:  $1.49      Other:  $7.99  (Crazy, right?)

Eggplant    Aldi:   $1.49      Other:  $2.48

Organic Pumpkin Flax Granola Cereal (for the hubs)    Aldi:  $2.99     Other:  $4.19 (same brand name comparison)

Comparison Totals    Aldi:  $35.75     Other:  $64.76    Difference:  $29.01  (44.7%)

I will gladly bag my own groceries for a savings like that!

For those wondering if we’re sacrificing quality, we’re not.  So far, the only thing I’ve purchased at Aldi that I was disappointed in was their Greek yogurt (kid-free shopping day splurge).  I also tried their canned diced tomatoes and they just didn’t have the flavor I was accustomed to.  I may try them again on the chance I goofed the recipe I used them in.  Everything else has been spot on or better.

Now if only the folks at Whole Foods and Trader Joes would bring stores this way, my allergy-friendly shopping utopia would be complete!

Do you shop Aldi?  What are your natural, organic, and fresh food faves?

Next step in overhauling our budget, menu planning.  Wish me luck and send me your tips. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Save, Give & Build Hope – All in One Transaction

by Allergy Free Kitchens on October 18, 2013

Save-Give-Build-Hope-Allergy-Free-KitchensWe’ve had to learn to be creative in our spending and our giving to accommodate the increased costs associated with living with food allergies.  Shopping Habitat for Humanity ReStores is just one avenue we’ve found that helps with both.

When we purchase furniture, building supplies, and other items available at a ReStore, we are getting them at a fraction of what they would cost at retail AND we are helping Habitat for Humanity help others. Quoting from http://www.habitat.org/env/restores.aspx: “Restores are proudly owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity affiliates, and proceeds are used to build homes, community, and hope locally and around the world.”

Are there really deals to be had?  Yes!  When it came to furnishing our little girl’s room,  what we wanted to do didn’t quite compute with our budget.  So off we went to our local Restore. As my husband and I made our way into the room where they keep headboards and footboards, I saw a four poster bed in need of some TLC.  Making our way through the dressers, we found one that complimented the style of the bed.  Our eyes lit up.  We could see the potential.  The pieces were solid wood, had loads of character, and together cost a reasonable $53.

Sure, it took some elbow grease and an investment in paint and supplies, but when it was all said and done, those pieces transformed into a beautiful all-wood bedroom suit that cost hundreds less than purchasing one brand new.

If you have some home repairs or updates you need to make, it would be worth your time to visit your local ReStore.  I’ve found custom kitchen cabinet doors for a quarter, tiles for pennies, and brand new toilets and pedestal sinks still in their boxes!

Think about it.  You can save, give, and help build hope all in one transaction.  Sounds like a win-win to me!

 

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Whole Foods, Whole Lotta Fun!

by Allergy Free Kitchens on September 26, 2013

Road trip!  Without a Whole Foods within a distance that makes weekly shopping trips practical, we pack up the cooler and make the pilgrimage when we can.  It is always a treat.

Selecting her faves from fresh produce is big fun for our lovey bun.  As we make our way through the aisles, her little eyes are peeled for Enjoy Life chocolate chips, Froose Juice, and her Yummi Bears Vitamins.  Me, on the other hand, I’m shopping for some of our basics, that are just better priced at Whole Foods than elsewhere ‘round these parts.  Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread, Vegan Buttery Sticks, Daiya Cheese, Applegate meats, Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta, Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream (contains soy), Go Veggie! Vegan Parmesan Cheese (contains soy), and the list goes on.

I look forward to the day when we make our turn past the amazing galley of prepared foods and park our cart in front of the bakery case so our little one can choose a delectable delight of her own, but until then she is as pleased as punch with her little finds.  And so am I.

Thanks, Whole Foods!  Oh…and please bring a store to the Akron/Canton, Ohio area.  And all my northeast Ohio friends said? Amen!

What are your favorite allergy-friendly finds and sweet deals at Whole Foods?  Do tell.

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