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18 Oct 2010   ·   79
How to afford special diet foods on a budget

Buying Special Diet Foods on a Budget

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

How to afford special diet foods on a budget

Guest post by Anne from When Food is Dangerous and Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy

These days, it seems like everyone has to deal with diet restrictions, either for themselves or a family member. Diets can be restricted by a variety of health conditions. Diabetes, heart disease, food allergies, food sensitivities, bowel diseases, celiac disease and lactose intolerance are just a few reasons some people are forced to change their diet — sometimes drastically.

Making the necessary changes can be daunting, especially when you begin to research the costs for replacements and substitutions. I should know! My husband has ulcerative colitis, a condition that does not allow him to eat either excessively fibrous or highly acidic foods, and my son has multiple severe food allergies.

Learning how to cope with these varied diets on a limited budget has stretched my creativity to say the least. If you are struggling in a similar situation, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

1. Focus On Foods You Can Have

For most people, whole foods are still an acceptable and desirable part of their diet: meats, fruits, vegetables, and certain grains, seeds and nuts. Focusing on those foods will not only make you healthier, but help you stick to your budget. Avoid overly processed foods with long lists of ingredients that could create dietary issues.

2. Make It Yourself

Instead of purchasing items like breads, sweets and snacks, learn how to make them yourself. That way you know exactly what ingredients go into each food item and you can tweak recipes to meet your dietary needs.

I learned early on how to make bread that strikes the balance between my own and my husband’s dietary needs – a mix of whole grains and regular all-purpose flour. For my son, I’ve learned how to make everything from granola bars to fruit leather so as to provide healthy, inexpensive snacks that are safe for him.

3. Find Inexpensive Substitutions

This may require some creativity. My husband can’t have tomato sauce, so when it comes to pizza and pasta, I have learned to come up with a variety of creative sauces. Instead of pizza sauce, for example, I use barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, alfredo sauce, or even just olive oil and some herbs. One of my favorite pasta sauce substitutes is actually pumpkin-based!

4. Research Sources for Necessary Substitutions

When first learning about my son’s allergies, I spent a great deal of time researching both local and internet-only sources for flour substitutions because of his wheat allergy.

I learned that the Walmart Supercenter is surprisingly the cheapest source for rice and chickpea flours.’s Subscribe and Save program is probably the cheapest way to purchase Bob’s Red Mill grains and flours, among other foods. Local ethnic markets can also be great inexpensive sources for things like tapioca starch or other food alternatives. I have found that a locally owned organic market is the cheapest place to buy coconut milk and coconut milk yogurt, which I substitute for regular dairy products in my son’s diet.

5. Forego Unnecessary Substitutions

This one can be very difficult. My husband simply has to live without some foods he used to love, even healthy foods, like spinach and corn on the cob. There just are no substitutes for those foods!

For my son, the choice was a matter of budget. The only “cheeses” and store-bought breads he can eat are prohibitively expensive, so he simply does without. Except for basic food substitutions, like the coconut milk, I almost never buy him specially made and packaged “allergen-free” foods. I either make it myself or forego it altogether because the cost is not worth it to me. And let’s be honest, most of those substitutes taste nothing like the real thing, so what’s the point, anyway?

6. Find Mainstream Foods That Are Safe

This principle applies particularly to food-allergy sufferers, but has useful applications for other diets, like gluten- or lactose-free. You don’t really need to shop from the “allergen-free” section at the health food store, and that should be a relief to you if you’ve ever taken a peek at those prices!

Instead, be a detective, and take some time to browse the detailed nutrition information on packaged foods to find ones that are naturally free of allergens, or whatever food it is you have to avoid. I discovered early on that while my son could not have the traditional Cheerios or Gerber Puffs as a first finger food, Kix were a safe option. As a toddler, he still loves them, and I buy them whenever I can get them cheap on sale and with a coupon.

Similarly, I’ve found a variety of safe snacks and convenience foods — all available in any regular grocery store, and often available for cheap on sale and with coupons — that I keep on hand for those times when making his food myself is not an option, or for when we’re on the road without the usual emergency snack or meal from home. Of course, when dealing with allergies, always proceed with caution when trying a new food.

7. Expand Your Palate

Because of our various diet restrictions, certain foods I used to dislike, or had never experienced, began to creep into my regular menu. For example, I never had much experience with winter squash because my mom never cooked with it. However, since my husband has a limited range of fruits and vegetables he can safely eat, I’ve realized it’s necessary to incorporate all that he can eat, and that includes winter squash! I’ve found some really creative ways to hide it in foods while we adjust ourselves to the taste and texture.

When I was nursing my son and was therefore on his restricted diet, I found that almond milk was my favorite substitute for cow’s milk, and since then, I’ve learned to buy it when on sale — with coupons of course! — to use as a cheaper substitute for baking and cooking.

8. Look For the Silver Lining… and Give Thanks For It!

This is sometimes difficult for me when I get discouraged by the amount of money or time I spend on making and procuring safe foods for my family. It’s imperative, though, that I keep my mind focused on the blessings to be found in our enforced diets: for one thing, we all eat a lot healthier than we would otherwise! A positive perspective goes a long way in helping me continue to improve my efforts to provide safe, healthy, and affordable foods for my family.

Anne Simpson blogs about living with life-threatening food allergies at When Food is Dangerous, and about preparing healthy foods without sacrificing time or money at Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy. She is mentally preparing herself for whatever dietary needs her second son may have when he arrives early next year!

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality, original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

photo credits: kaintuckeean; Elana’s Pantry

18 Oct 2010   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Interview on Working from home as a blogger

I was honored to recently have the opportunity to be interviewed for an article on about working from home as a blogger. If you’re a blogger or someone considering blogging, you might enjoy reading it.

By the way, once I start and finish the Time Management series, I plan to update and repost my Blogging for Profit series for those interested in earning an income through blogging.

In the mean time, if you haven’t read it, you might enjoy my Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series.

photo from Shutterstock

17 Oct 2010   ·   42
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: A trip to the Bulk Foods Store

We took a field trip to a Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze on Friday with some other friends.

Kaitlynn’s curly hair turned into “crazy hair” with all the wind! That girl has some volume! 🙂

In addition to the corn maze and pumpkin patch, they had some different play areas set up for the children. I think the favorite of Kathrynne, Kaitlynn and Silas was the hay area.

Since it was quite a drive to get there, we stopped by the Bulk Foods Store which was in the area and were able to re-stock up on turbinado plus buy some other goodies including two pounds of local honey for only $7.34! We ended up spending about $31 on food. Plus, I let the children pick out a few treats to eat on the way home.

All in all, it was a fun day for the children. And I was happy to get in a little bargain-shopping, too!


Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

15 Oct 2010   ·   40
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: SUV

We paid cash!

A testimony from Amy

In October of 2008, my husband and I discovered we were pregnant. While this baby was not a “surprise” by any stretch of the imagination, we quickly discovered that our world was about to be turned upside down.

The first dilemma was getting from point A to point B with baby. You see, at that time our vehicles were not purchased with a baby in mind. My husband’s car, while very nice, was a four-door Coupe and not the most space-efficient. A car seat + baby + diaper bag would take up most of the back seat.

My car was a “college car.” It was my first car, purchased used when I was in high school. And, five years later, I was still driving it. It was beginning to become unreliable and definitely wasn’t the safest option for our baby. Because of this, my husband and I decided to start saving for an SUV. We started the savings process almost immediately after seeing the positive pregnancy test.

Our goal: pay cash for a safe, used (but still in good condition) SUV all before baby was due in July.

How We Did It

  • Cut back on the budget. We cut down on the money we were spending on groceries. I started shopping sales and using coupons. We saved about $80 a month doing this. We also had more date nights “in” rather than expensive dinners out. We rented movies rather than going to the theaters.
  • We put all of my husband’s work bonuses into a separate savings account — for the car.
  • We spent less on Christmas gifts. I made a lot of gifts and made our own Christmas cards.
  • We put our savings each month into the account for the car.
  • We applied our tax refund to the car account.
  • We sold my car.
  • We bought used baby items and put the money we saved into the account for the car.
  • We bought used.
  • We weren’t picky.
  • We were patient. (This was hard for me!)

We Paid Cash for our SUVMy husband’s uncle is a car dealer. We talked to him early on in the process and told him what we were looking for. Once we had the money saved up (all $13,000!) we gave him a call and he began the search.

It took him about a month and a half, but he eventually (and before baby arrived!) found the perfect SUV for us. It was a 2008 Saturn Vue in great condition.

The carseat fits great in the backseat and we still have room in the trunk for our dog! We will even have room for an extra carseat come January. 🙂

I love my SUV, mostly because I know how hard we worked to pay cash for it, and how much money we saved in the long run by doing so!

Amy is a stay-at-home mom to a little boy with a little girl on the way. Her husband is a computer programmer who works hard to provide for their family. They are striving to live debt-free and set a good example for their kids of what it means to be good stewards of what God has given them.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

15 Oct 2010   ·   26
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash :: Vacation Home on a Lake

We paid cash! Testimony from Lana

All of my life I wanted a vacation house on a lake. I don’t know what gave me this desire and I don’t remember a time that I did not have it.

The Background

About eleven years ago there was a class action suit against the manufacturer of the siding on our house. In the end, we got a check for $6500 in compensation. Our siding was fine so we didn’t need the money for replacement. I asked my husband if we could set up a savings account for my dream of a lake house. He was agreeable.

As I was setting up the account, I prayed for that money to be able to purchase our vacation property. I thought to myself that it was a ridiculous prayer as it was not even enough for a down payment and we couldn’t afford to put any other money toward it anyway.

Then a Big Surprise!

Two weeks later, I was listening to a garage sale program on a local radio station. A man called in with a 1/12 share of a cottage on a lake for $6000.  Well, I was so excited I didn’t even write down the phone number. I called the station after the program and they had the number in their notes.

We contacted the owner and went to look at the house that afternoon. We agreed to purchase his share of the house. He told us that he had paid $5000 for his share 18 years earlier and he just wanted another family with kids to enjoy it now.

What We Gained

We have been blessed by being able to get away one week out of every season for over 10 years and we only pay 1/12th of the cost of keeping up the house. Our share of the upkeep is less than we would pay to rent a house for only one week.

We could have spent that settlement check on so many things but have been so blessed to have saved it and invested it in this way. Property values have tripled on the lake, so our money will someday give us a good return. We have also been able to share our time with friends who needed a break and could not afford to pay for a vacation.

(No picture — we have been going over there so long that we have long ago stopped taking pictures!)

Lana, and husband Bill live debt-free in Wellford, SC. They homeschooled their five children for 23 years and they are all grown and either married or in college. She enjoys teaching young women how to coupon and stretch the family budget.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

14 Oct 2010   ·   210
Money Saving Mom

Time Management: What questions would you love to have answered?

I’ve been getting a lot of emails recently asking “How do you do it all?”

Well, the truth of the matter is that I don’t do it all — and that’s the only reason I can have three young children, homeschool, keep up with a large blog, stick to a budget — and still have time to read, have a clean and organized home (most of the time!), get enough sleep (most nights!) and go on dates with my husband.

I’m speaking some on balance and time management at The Relevant Conference next week (can’t wait to meet some of you there!) and since so many people are asking for my practical suggestions on time management and how I manage to accomplish what I do, I thought I’d share some of what I’ll be sharing at Relevant in a series on time management here, as well.

However, in an effort to make this series as helpful as it can be, I wanted to open up the floor for requests. If you had a specific question you’d like for me to address regarding time management, what would it be? Email me with your question or leave it in the comments here.

I plan to begin this series near the end of October and will be posting one post per weekday until it is finished (no making you wait a week or two or 15 for the next installment as I’ve sometimes done in the past!) No promises that I’ll have a great answer to your questions and am pretty positive I won’t be able to address everything regarding time management in the series, but I’m hoping to make this series as comprehensive and helpful as possible based upon what is working for me.

14 Oct 2010   ·   53
Money Saving Mom

Quick and Easy Peanut Butter Granola

Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures is sharing my recipe for Quick and Easy Peanut Butter Granola today. It was originally in one of my ebooks that I put together and sold way-back-when and I gave her permission to share it on her blog.

This is such a simple and economical recipe and it freezes well, too. I’ve not made it for quite some time, though, and now that we’ve eliminated regular oil and processed sugar in our baking, I’m thinking about trying it with coconut oil and sucanat instead of the oil and brown sugar. Not sure if it will work, but I think I might give it a shot!

13 Oct 2010   ·   102
Money Saving Mom

Revamping My Freezer Cooking Methods

As I’ve mentioned in the past few months, I’ve been simplifying and streamlining a lot of areas in my life so that I can focus on the most important priorities, not overload my plate and have time to “stop and smell the roses” instead of feeling like I’m barely staying afloat.

One area that I’ve felt needs some revamping is my method of Freezer Cooking. When I had one and two small children, it was pretty simple to pull off a six-hour Freezer Cooking Marathon if I did a few hours in the morning while the girls played or helped me and a few hours in the afternoon during naptime.

Now that I have three children and a big chunk of our day is dedicated to homeschooling, I’m finding that fitting in a Freezer Cooking Marathon is just not, well, fitting in. In addition, we haven’t been eating casseroles and instead are mostly eating simple dinners of meat, veggies and either fruit and/or mashed potatoes, rice or bread. These meals don’t require a lot of prep work ahead of time, unlike the meals I used to make on Freezer Cooking Days.

The past month, I’ve been experimenting with doing a 30-minute batch-cooking session once or twice each week — marinating four meal’s worth of chicken breasts, quadrupling a batch of meatballs, making up a quadruple batch of pancakes or cooking a roast in the crockpot and then shredding it and turning it into a few meal’s worth of barbecued beef. I usually tack this onto our regular dinner prep in the late afternoon and I’m discovering if I do this once or twice each week, we consistently have at least a week’s worth of meals in the freezer at all times.

I was feeling guilty about doing Freezer Cooking this way as it just didn’t seem “right” compared with how I’ve always done it. When I was talking with FishMama about the guilt I was struggling with in admitting to you all that having a Freezer Cooking Marathon is just not working for us right now, she reminded me that there is no right way to “do” Freezer Cooking.

It’s not about trying to copy what works for someone else or trying to mimic what once worked for us. Being a successful homemaker, wife, mother and home economist is about finding what works for you and your family and doing that — and having freedom from guilt about what others do or don’t do.

So, I’m going revamp my previous Freezer Cooking methods and do what works for us right now — which is just having a mini freezer cooking session once or twice a week. I might not stay as far ahead or have my freezer quite as stocked, but it will still save us a great deal of time. And I really don’t think it will end up taking any extra time and my kitchen won’t get so utterly destroyed all at once (though I might end up washing a few extra dishes by breaking it up like this).

I’ll still be posting an occasional freezer-friendly recipe, but I’m handing off the hosting of the monthly Freezer Cooking Day link-ups to FishMama for now (she so generously offered to take over the shouldering of it for me!). I may pick it back up again in the future, but for now, I’m going to guiltlessly enjoy doing what is working for our family.

photo from Shutterstock

13 Oct 2010   ·   50
Money Saving Mom

Sticking to Your Financial Goals — Even When it Hurts

My friend, Jen, has an incredibly encouraging post up about their “hunk ‘o junk” minivan and how she’s learning to let go of her ego and drive it –peeling paint, dents and all — so that they can stay on track with their financial goals.

If you’re struggling with playing the comparison game and worried about what other people might think of the financial choices you’re making, I think you’ll be inspired and blessed by her post.

And I just have to say, that after I saw the pictures of the minivan she’s driving, our beloved Old Blue doesn’t look that bad. Oh wait, I guess that’s playing the comparison game, too. 🙂

13 Oct 2010   ·   180
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: How do you save money when you work outside the home?

This question comes from Amy:

I have an outside my home job that requires 40 to 50 hours per week. I try very hard to save money. We use coupons, cook at home (most of the time) and various other things to save money. I would like to hear from other moms who work outside their home on how they get it done.

I rarely have time to go to the store more than once every couple weeks, so I can’t really plan around sales. I try to go to Walgreens over my lunch hours, but I would like to know if anyone else has tips for how they get in on the deals and stay organized enough to cook dinner every night. Thank you! -Amy

12 Oct 2010   ·   180
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: Do you ever just buy free items?

I have a question that might seem silly but I’ve wondered about it a few time. Do you ever go to a store and only get items for free and not pay anything at the register? For example, I might want to go to CVS to get crackers that are on sale for $1 and I have a $1 off coupon. But I feel really awkward not paying anything so usually grab something else that is small to buy when I check out. Do stores even let you just get the free items and walk away? -Liz

There are no silly questions, Liz! I’m pretty sure that plenty of others have wondered this, as well.

And the answer is that I have no problem at all only buying free items. In fact, I think it’s really rather exciting to go up to the register and have ten items end up ringing up for less than $1 after coupons! Usually, the cashier is a little speechless and says “How did you do that?”

Since they are reimbursed for the value of the coupons plus $0.08, stores are rarely losing money by people using coupons. In the case of a loss leader sale or a store coupon, it is possible that they are losing money, but it’s their prerogative to determine what sales they offer and coupons they release.

Where we live, there is sales tax, so it’s near impossible to have a $0 total, but there have been occasions when Dillon’s has had an instant discount sale running and, after my coupons, my total was actually negative. In those cases, I just add something onto my order to get it up past $0 and then checkout.

So as long as you are using coupons ethically (not copying coupons, not using coupons for items they weren’t intended to be used, not following a store’s coupon policy or using more than one manufacturer’s coupon per item), you can be completely confident in your couponing and check out without an ounce of guilt — even if your total ends up just being pennies or even $0!

What about the rest of you? Do you ever just get completely free items in a shopping transaction? If so, does it make you feel awkward or triumphant?

12 Oct 2010   ·   113
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: How We Save $20 in 15 Minutes

The following tip was submitted by Melanie G. from Buffalo, NY:

My husband and I are both employed full-time out of the house. We don’t have any kids yet, but we are planning for that day and already
have savings mechanisms in place so we can make the transition easier from spending for two to spending for more!

One of the easiest and quickest ways we have found to save money is by bringing our own lunches to work. On days that we don’t, we easily spend $10 each on lunches that probably aren’t very nutritious and don’t really even provide leftovers for another meal.

Our solution to this problem is to take 15 minutes (or less) every night after dinner to pack our lunches for the following day. Even on nights that we are just so tired or can’t think of what we would like to eat the next day, we realize that it is totally worth the effort to take the time right then to save us $20 the next day. If we didn’t do this, we could easily spend $400 per month on lunches out during the week, money we would much rather put towards becoming debt free!

One easy meal solution for us is to make twice as much dinner as we need, then take leftovers for lunch the next day. Another oldie-but-goodie standby is to make sandwiches. I always make sure to have bread and deli meats available. -Melanie

What are your favorite quick and easy sack lunch ideas?

photo by Kusine

11 Oct 2010   ·   81
Money Saving Mom

Nine Fun & Frugal Wedding Ideas

Guest post by Amanda

The wedding industry has become a beast to be reckoned with. I recently pulled off my entire wedding for less than $2,000. It can be done!

My Advice

Be prepared to have an army helping you! We could not have done it without so many people offering their services and their time.

Prioritize what you really want and be prepared to make tough decisions. Do things because you and your fiancé want them, not because they’re expected.

1. Our Invitations

Frugal Wedding Invitation

We got 100 invitations from for less than $35. Formal invitations didn’t fit our not-so-fancy wedding, and we liked that we could customize the postcards. The purpose of invitations is to give people information — they don’t have to be a piece of artwork!

2. The Flowers

The only flowers we had were bouquets, which we got at Kroger for less than we would have spent at a traditional florist.

3. What We Wore

Frugal Wedding Dresses

I was lucky enough to find my dress (which I loved!) on sale for $99 at David’s Bridal.

Bridesmaids wore blue dresses of their own choosing. I’ve been a bridesmaid six times and know how expensive it gets. My girls looked great and each of their total outfits was less than $40.

Frugal Wedding Suits

The guys wore black pants and white shirts, and matching ties from a discount online tie shop.

4. The Cake

Frugal wedding cupcakes

We decided to do only one small cake and supplement with cupcakes. I made a “tower” for the cupcakes by covering boxes with white wrapping paper and accenting with orange ribbon.

5. The Cake Table

Just Married Sign

I found a template for a “Just Married” sign online. We ran string above our cake table and secured the letters with clothespins.

The total cost of this was less than $10 and it looked great!

6. Instead of Centerpieces…

We didn’t do any centerpieces for our reception tables. I struggled for weeks trying to think of an inexpensive idea, but even at $5 a table, the cost really adds up. I finally decided that centerpieces weren’t necessary, and they definitely weren’t worth the stress!

I searched online for a crossword puzzle template and made one themed around Dave and I. I used them as placemats and they also served as a fun activity for guests.

7. Reception Decorations

Frugal wedding decorations

I made tissue paper flowers to hang from the rafters. These were inexpensive and added a great pop of color and dimension to our space.

Don’t be afraid of plastic serving ware! Our color was orange, so I wrapped orange cutlery in a white napkin and secured it with orange ribbon. I also made contrasting ones of white cutlery in orange napkins with a white ribbon. So cute!

8. Our “Guestbook”

We made a homemade “photobooth” by hanging a sheet where guests could take pictures with my digital camera and leave a note on a card made from scrapbook paper in leiu of a traditional guest book.

9. Be You!

Keep things simple and do things that reflect who you are. Dave and I had volleyball at our wedding because we both love it. And people didn’t think it was weird — they loved it!

Our wedding was definitely a reflection of family and community, which made it all the more fun.

Amanda Ungleich lives in Knoxville, TN with her husband Dave. They both work two jobs and are going back to school, so they know the value of saving a dollar!

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality, original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

11 Oct 2010   ·   272
Money Saving Mom

How many loads of laundry do you do per week?

Last week, after I posted my Minimalist Wardrobe vlog, a number of you asked how many loads of laundry we do at our house each week.


Do I have to admit that in public? Because methinks we probably do more than average. {Update: After reading the comments, you all are making me feel so much more normal. Thank you! :)}

I wish I could tell you that I have perfected the laundry system and we do two loads per week for our family of five. But alas, that would be very far from the truth.

In fact, most weeks we do an average of seven loads. This includes bedding and towels and spill rags and the like (which usually comprise at least two whole loads per week). But it still sounds pretty pathetic that we somehow produce a whopping five whole loads of clothing which need to be washed between the five of us each week.

I really do try to encourage the children to wear and re-wear stuff. But in reality, they are children. Which means they spill things, get into peanut butter, dig in the dirt, experiment in the kitchen… and get their clothes awfully dirty. And I still haven’t gotten over my perfectionist tendencies enough to allow them to wear mud-caked clothes all day, so it’s not uncommon that they go through more than one outfit each day.

How many loads of laundry does your family do? Do you have any tips or suggestions for how to reduce the dirty laundry output in order to save time, energy and wear on our clothes? I’d love to hear!

photo credit