Livin’ the Free Life

Livin’ the Free Life is much like an adventure. There are hills to climb and treasures to find. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it all alone.

Food Allergies In School – Helpful Resources for Parents

by Allergy Free Kitchens on March 14, 2014

Food_Allergies_In_Schools-Allergy-Free-Kitchens

Summer vacation is a short time away, but food allergy parents are often in high gear this time of year planning and preparing for the coming school year.  Whether your child is entering school for the first time, changing schools, or even changing grades, it is time to evaluate and assess your school’s readiness to respond in the event of an allergic reaction.

Where do you begin?  There are a number of resources available to assist you. One I’ve found helpful is the CDC’s Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs.  This FREE resource is designed for schools, but it is good for parents to read too.  I particularly like the charts and checklist provided at the end of Section 1 (pages 41-43).  You can review those with your school to help identify areas where your school excels  or falls short.

If you are somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer size of the CDC’s document, it will encourage you to know the document gets specific. From the superintendent to the bus driver, you will find position-specific guidelines for managing food allergies.  Those alone account for approximately two-thirds of the total page count.

My second go-to resource is the book Allergies at School, by author and 2014 FABlogCon speaker, Stacey Stratton. It is an inexpensive resource filled with valuable insights to help parents and caregivers arrive prepared and ready to communicate effectively with school officials.  I use it in tandem with the CDC’s guidelines to help me understand both sides.  Allergies at School is priced reasonably at $4.99 on Kindle and $8.99 for paperback.  You can obtain your copy at www.peanutfreezone.com  or on Amazon. (I do not receive any compensation from sales of this book.  I simply recommend it because it has helped me.)

If you are sending your child off to school for the first time, I hope you find this information helpful!  If you are an old pro at this process, please share the tips and resources you’ve found helpful in the comments below.   Thank you!

 

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The Chicago Gluten & Allergen Free Expo is Coming Up!

by Allergy Free Kitchens on March 7, 2014

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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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Her First Day of School

by Allergy Free Kitchens on August 29, 2013

I remember the day vividly.  As my husband quietly made his way down the hall to our little’s room, I heard him softly singing, “It’s schooly pookers time.  It’s time to give a cheer, ‘cuz schooly pookers here,” and I smiled.  That sweet little diddy is a song from his childhood, a song his dad sang to him every morning before school.  And that day he was singing it for the first time to our little girl.   The day was finally here.  Our lovey bun’s adventure at school was set to begin.

We had prayed.  We had met with the doctor.  We had met with the school nurse (whose office was directly across the hall from the classroom – comforting).  We had met with the teacher.  We had prayed.  A stash of allergen-free lollipops had been delivered to the teacher for the times I might have missed a note on the calendar that someone was bringing a birthday treat to class.  I had packed up vegan and gluten-free pasta in varying shapes for craft projects.  I had prayed.  Notice a pattern?

Leaving your child in the care of another for the first time can be worrisome enough, but when it comes to leaving your child with multiple food allergies and allergic asthma in an environment YOU can’t control, you have the perfect opportunity to be a ball of nerves.  In fact, something inside you seems to say you’d be an uncaring, unloving, brainless parent to be anything but a wreck.

But I’ve discovered something.  I’ve learned when I put my trust in God and not in me, myself, and I (or someone else), I can rest.  Have I always done that?  I’m sorry to say I haven’t, but I’m getting better at it.

I love the scripture that tells us God is faithful and utterly trustworthy – He will keep us, He will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).  And that day, amidst my anxious thoughts, I was able to grab hold of that wonderful truth and breathe.  Now, as we begin yet another school year, I’m reminded of His faithfulness all through last year.  He kept our lovey bun.  He did it.  And He’ll do it again.

If you are thinking about sending your child off to school, daycare, or preschool in the next year or two, I encourage you to begin your preparations with prayer.  The Bible tells us in all our ways to acknowledge God and He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6).  He will help you make the right decisions regarding where and when to send your child to school.

I would also encourage you to check out Stacey Stratton’s book Allergies at School, available on her website and through Amazon.com.  As a former educator, parent, and co-creator of www.PeanutFreeZone.com, Stacey’s perspective is expansive and helpful.

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Allergy Free Eating When the Lights Go Out

by Allergy Free Kitchens on July 5, 2013

Crazy weather.  Freak accidents.  Things like that happen.  When they do we often find ourselves without power.  Are you prepared?  It might seem like a silly question, but when you have multiple food allergies it should grab your attention.  Most of us “freebies” prepare meals from scratch using perishable items.  That’ll work if you can still get by with a cooler and your grill, but what about those prolonged outages?  What if you had to temporarily relocate?  In such cases, having a designated stash of non-perishable, allergy-friendly food items is a must.

Where do you start?  Well, if you can vegetables, soups and fruits, you have a pantry of food ready to roll with at any time.  For the rest of  us, it’s time to break away from the grocery store perimeter and make our way down the aisles.

Below is a list of the types of items we keep handy.  Maybe some of these will work for you.

Beverages 

Bottled Water

Juice Boxes

Boxed Milk Alternatives (i.e rice milk, coconut milk)

Groceries

Dried Fruit

Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.)

Sunbutter (or other allergy-friendly alternative spread)

Applesauce (in single servings)

Vegetable Juice (in single servings)

Allergy-Friendly Pretzels, Rice Cakes, Popcorn Cakes

Allergy-Friendly Crackers

Allergy-Friendly Cereal

Canned Beans

Misc.

Hand Wipes

Disposable Serving Dishes and Flatware

Ziploc Bags (to keep items fresh after you open them)

Can Opener

As always, please read the ingredient labels and consult with the manufacturer and your physician before making any item part of your pantry.

Frugal Tips:  

  • Choose the items on the shelf that have the longest timespan before expiring so you won’t need to replace them for a while.
  • Keep a list so you know when items are about to expire.  As that date approaches, incorporate those items into your menu plans so they don’t go to waste.

Want to pay it forward?  Consider supplying your local food pantry with items like those listed above to help assist men, women, and children in need with special dietary restrictions.   Watch for posts from FARE that tell when allergy-friendly products are needed in disaster areas.  Your generosity will not go unnoticed:  “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”  Proverbs 22:9

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