This cost of living crisis we are going through at the moment is really tough. Everything costs more, from petrol to bread and milk, and there are shortages too of staple goods. If you’re allergic to certain food allergens, buying even basic food items becomes a real struggle and a constant worry.
20 tips for saving money on free from food on a budget
Saving money on food shopping is already hard, without taking food allergies into consideration.
- Scouring the budget bins – If you time it right you can get some real savings, but watch out for things that aren’t marked down much at all.
- Being savvy with discounts – not all discounts are a saving, we all know that. But sometimes you can get really good deals in different supermarkets for free from and plant based allergen safe foods. If you have the storage, make the most of deals on gluten free bread and freeze it. Plant milks have a long shelf life too so if you can grab a good deal get on it!
- Cooking from scratch – you might not like this option, but it can work out much cheaper. Get the cheaper cuts of meat, on the bone and do slow cooked stews and casseroles.
- Seasonal is cheaper – Stick to the seasonal fruit and vegetables as they will be cheaper. So in winter that’s apples, root vegetables, purple sprouting, sprouts etc.
- Meat as a treat – At the moment meat is very expensive. See it more as a treat rather than food you have for each meal. You can also swap to cheaper cuts but cutting down on meat will save you money and help the planet.
- Alcohol as a treat – Again, much as you may love your favourite tipple, it’s not a necessity. The more I cut back on the booze the less I really feel I need it. And maybe I’m just faking that till I make it, but since I can’t really afford nice wine, beer and pub trips, I’ll just have to take it. It’s definitely better for my skin and my wallet.
- Sign up for supermarket apps – you can often make regular savings using different supermarket apps. For instance, the Coop app gives you weekly offers on things you regularly buy. Anything from 25p off fresh vegetables to 75p off wine.
- Support local greengrocers – You can often get stuff cheap at the end of the day, and it can also be cheaper to buy from your local greengrocers rather than supermarkets.
- Check your local savers – Huge savings can be made if you’re not fussy on brands. Things like antihistamines and pain killers, bandages and dressings etc. can be very cheap.
- Sign up to newsletters – You often get 10% off, and emails letting you know about special offers at your favourite free from companies such as Creative Nature,
- Buy in bulk – It will usually save you on postage if you buy over £40 worth of free from goodies direct from your favourite brands. I do this with Glebe Foods (my beloved Pure Oaty that I can’t afford at the moment) and Creative Nature regularly.
- Find a free from buddy – Get together with a friend and share the bulk buy costs, you’ll make savings in the long run and share the cost.
- Find promo codes – Many brands have limited time and constant codes that can get your anything form 10 to 20% off your favourite products. Check out my own affiliate codes here Free From and Eczema discounts.
- Holland & Barrett BOGOF deals – H&B do regular discounts off free from food and skin care products when they have too much stock of items close to their use by date. You can get some amazing bargains on Buy one get one free deals if you’re on the ball. You can regularly find Balmonds Skin Salvation with a BOGOF and supplements and other free from products.
- Loyalty cards – Sign up for these and use them regularly. You can the STOCARD app for your phone so you are never left without the relevant card when you need it.
- Coffee shop discounts – if you have a local cafe, see if they have a loyalty system so you can get the odd free coffee
- Eating out cards – Restaurants like Nando’s, Costa and Starbucks do loyalty cards that will give you a free coffee or free portion of chicken after a certain number of purchases.
- Get the free water – I know eating is meant to be a treat, but if you choose carefully and opt for the free water in restaurants it really ads up how much you can save.
- Farmers markets – Can also have some great bargains, especially if you slide by as they’re packing up at the end of the day.
- Take your reusable coffee cup – You can sometimes get some money off your coffee if you do this and you save on waste
- Community Fridges – A bit like a food bank, many local towns have set up community initiatives to help redistribute food that would otherwise go to waste. The difference here is you don’t need a referral. Anyone can go to the food fridge to take advantage of what’s available. This week I went for the first time and got eggs, avocado, a few turnips, a small carton of apple juice and a packet of crisps. It was a lunch for me and was very much appreciated. If you can eat wheat and dairy they had loads of bread and milk and some other things. You can’t rely on them having anything in particular, they get whatever is being thrown out, but it’s definitely worth swinging by if you’re struggling. They are usually open on a couple of days per week. Check out The Community Fridge network to find one near you. Thanks to the friends and my Mum for recommending this, I’m not too proud to accept this help.
- Food Banks – There is no shame in admitting you need help from a food bank. They are there to help you so check out whether you qualify. You will need to get a referral via your social worker, Citizens Advice or your doctor. Check out the Trussel Trust website to get started.
- Meal Boxes – If you sign up for some of the food meal box companies the new customer deals are amazing. You can get 40-60% off and as long as you cancel after your trial you’ll get some lovely meals for pretty good prices. They are often quite generous too so you can make them stretch to give you leftovers. Check out Hello Fresh, Gousto, Mindful Chef and Simply Cook. Be careful though, if you have allergies you will need to carefully scour each meal before selecting to make sure it’s safe for you. Read The Best Recipe Boxes Tried and Tested on the BBC website for inspiration.
- Too good to go app – Register for this free app and you’ll get the option to reserve and collect bags of hot and cold food from local shops and restaurants who would otherwise need to throw out that food. Request the app from the app store today. Features shops such as Wenzels, Leon, Waitrose, Asda, Coop and Costa to name a few. Thanks to Hannah, a lovely TSW friend for this recommendation.
- Always research journeys – By this I mean take some time to work out which transport method will be the cheapest. So taking my journey to London on a Sunday, I saved over £15 by driving a few miles to a nearby village, using a free local car park (not the station paid car park) and using the Met line tap and go underground system rather than the over land. I also get a Network Rail card and this saves me 1/3 off all my travel as long as I go after 10am.
- Go to industry shows – You can often get loads of freebies and show deals on your favourite free from goodies.
- Microwaves, Air fryers and One pot meals – Energy bills are so high at the moment. You can save money by switching to cooking in a different way, even if you are stuck for space. I don’t have either a microwave or an air fryer but I’m really considering shoe horning in at least one of them. Consider also making one pot meals and using a slow cooker as both use less energy that heating up the whole oven.
- Borrowbox – free audio books! This isn’t strictly allergy related but it’s another way that I save money. I’ve frozen my audible membership for a few months while I sort my finances but in the meantime, you can find lots of books on Borrowbox. They don’t have as many as audible and you sometimes have to wait for them to be available, but you can have them for long enough to listen and then you return them. I love it! Look for the app in the app store, sign up and get listening.
I’ve been doing all these things for years now, but never have they all be more useful. I’d love to hear of other things you guys do to help make your earnings go that little bit further.
Change your mindset
It’s not nice and it’s not easy, but if you can sit with your situation, accept it and be OK with it, it won’t be so scary, degrading and humiliating. No one wants to admit they can’t cope with paying their bills. It’s like a failure, but it doesn’t need to be. Everyone has hard times during their lives for many different reasons.
For me, it’s a combination of a chronic illness, Covid, losing clients due to the current difficult economic climate and living on my own. I’m doing what I can and trust fully that I will find a way forward.
On the plus side, the extra time, the walks in nature and the slower pace of life have meant I am much happier in myself. Maybe I needed to slow down and do less. Perhaps it was time for me to change direction and try new things.
Finally, living with one or more life threatening allergies is serious business. And it’s well known that your favourite nut and milk free products come at a price premium. If you can’t afford them, switch to a more basic shopping trolley of meat (though eat less meat), veggies, fruit and grains that are safe. Get your favourite treats and brands as a special reward, rather than a necessity. Support them when you can and pray they are all still there when your finances recover.
Look at your finances
This is pretty obvious and one of the first things you should do. Here are a few things to look for:
- Mortgage and rent – Are you on the best rate? I’m no expert on these things but get advice from a financial advisor and look at sites like Money Saving Expert for the most up to date advice.
- Bills – Look around for the best deal, it’s easy to swap these days and often companies will do it all for you. There are websites that help you compare prices, do a bit of research and you could save hundreds each year.
- Understand the minimum you need to live on – Take a good look at a couple of months in your bank statement. Make sure you understand all the bills that have to be paid, and what you need to spend on food, heating, petrol etc.
- Entertainment – give yourself a small budget for the odd coffee and treat, if you can, but stick to that rigidly.
- Apps and subscriptions – Check for all the apps and subscriptions you are signed up for. Often people aren’t even getting the magazine or using the app anymore. Wasted money! Can you cut back and cancel? Some are easy to stop but often you are tied in so make sure you are on top of when things expire.
- Organise an overdraft – You can usually request a reasonable overdraft of £500 to £1000 that will help you get from month to month without paying fees for going overdrawn.
- Bank – Some banks offer money back rewards for swapping. If you want to move bank, check out Money Saving Expert for the best deals. Some of the new online banks help you economise and manage your finances. You can set up alerts for when your bank goes below a certain amount, and really get on top of your finances.
I still have some of these activities to go through, like assessing the monthly bills for services like power and insurance. It;s time consuming but a great idea to spend time shopping around when it’s time to renew as you could save quite a bit.
Other things you can do to save money
Some of these are obvious, but they all add to help me save money regularly.
- Walk or cycle – Instead of driving when you can
- Early bird deals – Buy train tickets early to get super saver deals
- Parking – Research cheapest of free parking when you do drive places.
- Free or cheap entertainment – Arrange walks, cuppas at friend’s houses, film nights in over going out. Sounds dull but again, if needs must.
- Model days at hair dressers – You can often get a free cut and style at your local hair dressers when trainees are trying out styles and learning on the job. It’s obviously a slight risk you might ruin you barnet but I’ve had good experiences doing this. I have quite a simple hair style so it’s not difficult.
- Sell your stuff – I’ve been decluttering, both to friends, neighbours and charity shops. But I’ve also been selling stuff that could make a higher price on Vinted, Ebay and Facebook marketplace. If you have old iPhones, tablets, electrical items and brand name clothes you no longer use or need, you can make pocket money to help pay a few bills. It can take time, but be patient; I’ve made £300 on Vinted sales so far this year and put that towards my going out entertainment fund, paying bills etc Check out why I love Vinted – How Vinted made me money and got me more active.
- Honey app – You can download the Honey app to your desktop and it will look for promo codes every time you get to the checkout online. Microsoft Edge also does this. It’s not always successful but you can also earn points to get vouchers.
Tell people you might need help
Finally, tell your friends and family if you’re struggling so they can take that into account and make it easier for you. It can seem like you’re turning down offers out, but if they know you really can’t afford it good friends will modify plans to include you. For me, this means lots of nights in, cuppas at mate’s houses, walks etc.
Accepting offers of help
Of course if you do tell people you are struggling, some of them might actually offer you help. If you’re like me you’ll find that really hard. Don’t see it as permanent and know inside that things will get better and then you will be able to return the favour for someone in your own turn.
I’ve had some wonderful friends and also people I’ve never met do small and quite generous things to help me and I’m so grateful guys, honestly. A neighbour gave me some almond milk the same week that a lovely online allergy friend sent me some of my favourite Pure Oaty so I can now enjoy my porridge, coffee and hot chocolate again.
Trust that things will get better
Just when things can look really bleak, opportunities will appear, I’ve found this happen time and time again. I’ve recently offered my help to my local community fridge and also have done what I can for our local Big Issue seller Jessica. On weeks when I cannot afford the buy a copy I can always spare a few pounds. Some days I’ll just stop for a chat and other days I’ll ask her if she needs anything. That could be anything from a hot drink, a can of coke or some biscuits.
Even when things look and feel desperate, there are people worse off. Give positivity and happiness to the world and people you meet and you will attract it back in turn. Just this one I’ve got one piece of work that will really help and have a number of opportunities coming up.
Feel like you might be able to help?
If you’d like to help me in some small ways, you could make use of my discount codes, some of them allow me to use affilate earnings for money off when I buy them e.g. Lyonsleaf – WA20 and smol laundry and cleaning products. And some earn my money to my bank, like Balmonds, Equal Eats, Obvs skincare and Pura Collagen. My Allergy and Eczema discounts are all here, all pre-vetted and much loved products.
You could also buy one of my books, Anaphylaxis – the essential guide, or The Shape of Skin. if you’ve already done so, please review them on Goodreads or Amazon (use the book links here to visit Amazon) – this really helps others to find them online.
How are you finding the cost of living crisis times? Are you struggling to make ends meet? It’s really not easy, since having to leave my job at the beginning of topical steroid withdrawal, Covid and lockdown and losing some clients, it’s really hard to get by on my own at the moment. I’m coping OK though and just about making ends meet each month with only a bit of over draft usage.
You may also be interested in reading:
- Get £10 off your first fruit and veg box with Oddbox
- Best washing powders and cleaning products for eczema and sensitive skin
- Dairy allergic ate buttermilk by mistake – and not much happened!