Hints and Tips
When looking for recipes, add "vegan" to whatever your search terms are. Since vegans do not eat eggs or dairy, you can utilize the vegan community to find recipes. You can always add meats, although nuts are generally a staple in a vegan diet so you may need to find other options for nuts such as seeds.
Food Preparation and Storage:
You will need to think about your food preparation and storage. Talk to your doctor as to whether or not other members of your family can continue to eat products to which your child is allergic. If you agree to do this, understand that shared food storage and equipment is a primarily place cross-contamination can occur. Here is how I handle this:
- Use glass and avoid plastic for food storage. I never felt confident that I was getting plastic completely clean. There are lots of good reasons to avoid plastics for food storage, and having an allergic child is just another one. We do have a couple plastic plates and sippy cups and we label those for each child. We use glass almost exclusively for food storage. See "My Favorite Things" for recommendations. We also use the dishwasher for anything that touched an allergen. I just feel more confident that it is clean that way.
- Avoid non-stick cookware. Same deal here. There's lots of good reasons to avoid non-stick cookware, and now you have another. I never was confident it was clean, especially for things you couldn't hand wash like a griddle or electric frying pan. See "My Favorite Things" for recommendations. If you do use these items, do not use them to cook anything that contains an allergen.
- Have "dedicated" equipment. My son has his own forks and spoons, sippy cups, plates. We cook eggs regularly in our house for breakfast, and they have their own pan and spatula that we only use with eggs.
- Label, label, label. Painters tape works great for labeling items for the fridge and freezer. Don't put anything in the freezer that isn't labeled as "ok" or "not ok" for your allergic child. You'll forget, I promise!
- We do not allow my son to eat any food at restaurants. Many restaurants will offer allergen-free menus, and many even advertise and guarantee that certain items are free from cross-contamination. No thanks! It's not worth the risk to me.
- Find a good lunchbox, it will get a lot of use!
Emergency Kits (this is a summary, click here for my full blog post on this topic)
- I have a shoebox packed in my car with non-perishable foods for my son. If we ever have car problems or are stranded, I cannot be sure there will be access to food he can eat. I pack it with shelf-stable milk and juice boxes, canned meat (chicken and vienna sausages), single-serve cereal, applesauce, fruit cup, etc. It also comes in handy if you end up dining out at a restaurant when you hadn't planned on it, or when you forget to pack something in the lunch box. You'll always have some items handy.
- I have a long-term emergency food kit in our home for situations where we may need to move quick, or be stranded without electricity. If there's a hurricane or other emergency, and we need to depart ASAP, I cannot rely on a shelter to have safe foods for my son. So, I have packed a plastic tub full of food that we can grab and go. Or, if we are ever stranded in our house, I'm sure to have enough food to last through the emergency. We also have a propane single-burner stove and several gallons of water. Ideas for food include sunbutter, oatmeal, cereal, snack bars, pasta, canned meats, canned soups and veggies, applesauce, rice, dried or canned beans. I rotate this food every few months based on expiration dates.
- One day I happen to be looking at a hand lotion in our house and realized it contained almond ingredients. Suddenly it hit me that no one ever told me to read ingredients on personal care products! Milk and nuts are common ingredients. This is hard, because they are not always listed clearly. But, now I know not to buy anything without a clear ingredient label. Make sure to check shampoos, lotions, soaps, sunblocks, etc. Visit "My Favorite Things" for the brands we use.
Affording Allergen-free Living
- I don't know if you've noticed yet, but buying safe foods can be expensive! It all depends on your prior habits and the availability of products in your area, but I would estimate that transitioning to safe foods can cost as much as $50 more per month for a child over the age of 1, and may get more expensive with time as they consume more. So how can you find $50 a month? Here are some suggestions:
- The average family of 4 will probably spend about $40 on a casual night of dining out. It is easy to cook at home and feed that same family for $10 or less. So, there's $30 you've saved just by eating out one less time a month.
- Coupon! There are coupons to be found for products you may now need. I like to follow a few bargain blogs and will share deals as I come across them on my Blog.
- Drop your convenience foods. Frozen meals, single-serve milks and juices, applesauce, fruit cups. Time is money...Convenience foods save you time, but cost you money. If money is tight, you may need to sacrifice some time. Freeze your own single serve meals for the kids, use thermos' for milk and juice, and use your own containers for applesauce and fruit cups.
- Begin meal-planning. There are plenty of resources online for this, but most people would agree that meal planning saves time AND money. Plan your meals a week or month at a time, reduce your visits to the store, reduce wasted food, and reduce the frustration of the 5pm "what am I gonna cook" panic. It's a winning situation all around.
Use your Freezer
- Don't be afraid to double or triple a recipe! Save the extras and save yourself from having to cook again in a couple weeks.
- Freeze several single-serving size meals for your allergic child. Rather than buying frozen meals at the grocery store, make your own! There are lots of easy options for this. I do this with soup, spaghetti, taco meat and beans, sloppy joes, etc. If the rest of the family is eating something your child can't eat, you'll still have a healthy option for your child.
- Rice and Pasta both freeze well. When you cook it, make extra and freeze in either meal-size portions for the family or single-size portions for the kids.
The Infamous Snack Jar
- I have a HUGE tub that I use to store my "on-the-go" snacks for the kids. My go-to snack is a mix of various cereals. When we leave the house, I load up their snack cups, so they essentially get one cup of this nearly every day. I use a mix of cereal like Cheerios, Multigrain Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, Cascadian Farms Clifford Crunch, Mom's Natural Frosted Wheat, Puffs, Wheat/Rice/Corn Puff Cereal, and Quaker Oatmeal Squares. I also add Veggie Straws. My tub holds 42 cups of mix! This saves a lot of time because I never have to figure out what snack to pack. It saves money because I don't need to bother with little single-serving snack bags that are expensive. Fortified cereal is a great source of iron and fiber.