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Allergen free groceries

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how to grocery shop free from allergens

If you have been diagnosed with food allergies, you will need to learn once again how to go grocery shopping. Much as we would like it to be, all food is not inherently allergen-free. It is easy to fall back into buying old favourites without determining if they are still safe to eat. Where to start with allergen-free grocery shopping, though?

First and foremost, remember that whole foods are generally straightforward with regards to allergens. Unless you are reactive to apples, there is no reason to avoid apples. If you are not reacting to bell peppers, you don’t need to avoid bell peppers. Single-ingredient foods will be your best friend while you sort out your new dietary needs. Shop the perimeter of the store to find the foods you can eat safely. If it's not a single ingredient food, it may not be that simple to find what you need however.

Rule #1: No bulk bins or salad bars

No more food from the bulk bins or the salad bar. It’s too easy for the scoops to end up in the wrong bin, which cross-contaminates all foods in the new bins. It's too easy for tongs to be switched from the lettuce to the croutons. This is especially a concern for grains, dried fruits, and nuts. Buy it factory sealed or not at all.

Rule #2: No deli

For certain types of allergens (gluten and/or dairy, for example), you will not be able to buy products from the deli area. Most stores will not have a dedicated slicer for gluten-free deli meat or cheese, so cross-contamination is rampant. Again, buy factory-sealed packages only.

Rule #3: Read the label

If you are buying pre-packaged foods, you will always read labels carefully before buying. The eight major allergens are required to be marked on the label. If you aren’t certain, you can always call the manufacturer about their processing information. If they hedge, don't buy their products. You will quickly learn if shared lines or shared facility are acceptable for your needs.

Rule #4: Choose your grocery store carefully

Grocery store chains vary from region to region, so please check with your local markets to see what specialty products they offer. You can always submit a request form to the store’s manager if you require a particular item or brand. There is also the option of ordering things online should you require a particular food that cannot be sourced locally.

Rule #5: Find your tolerance level

For those who are "merely" intolerant rather than allergic, find the level of allergen that you can tolerate. Hard aged cheeses might be a good choice if you're lactose intolerant. "Corn-lite" (or corn intolerance) might involve avoiding whole kernel corn and cornmeals while being minimally reactive to corn starch. If you can tolerate even a small amount of your allergen with no discernible reaction, that's a huge thing as far as food options.

Even if you may sometimes feel like your "safe foods" are limited to five items, you should have a food options available. Choose wisely and eat as well as you can under the circumstances. Try to make good food choices whenever possible, but if you can't eat something, you just can't.

Tips to shop smart at the grocery store

Know what foods you have stored already

Check your food stash before you go. If you already have bell peppers left from last week, don't buy more. Use what you have first. If you just ate the last ripe pear, you might need to add fresh ones to the shopping list.

Always write up a shopping list before you go

You don't have time to make a random run to the grocery store mid-week because you forgot something. A shopping list can help you stay focused to avoid impulse buys.

Don't go food shopping when hungry

Again, avoid impulse buys. Don't buy foods just because they look good. Eating before grocery shopping can help you stick to your list.

Coupon clip and comparison shop

Use a coupon app once your list is ready. If you have choices between similar brands or products, you can check the app before you leave to make a decision about which to buy for your needs. Check for any sales on items you buy regularly, and stock up while they are on sale. You can always put the extra meat in the freezer for later -- just remember that you have it!

Shop seasonally

You will be paying a premium for those out of season cherries. Buy them during their season to save money. Shop at a local farmers' market when possible to support your local community.

Batch-cook on weekends

Preparing food can be a chore, especially for every meal. If you can make a large batch of something on the weekend, you can freeze it in individual portions to pull out for easy lunches and dinners during the week. This also goes for snack foods and side items.

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