As soon as you start restricting your diet and removing some of the more commonly available foods, the overall cost of your grocery bill rises. If the restriction was a personal choice, it might not be so bad. But it’s seriously frustrating when you’re making dietary changes for the sole reason of controlling a medical condition.
I wish I could tell you how to make a low FODMAP diet cost the same amount as a regular diet, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s remotely possible. At least not if you want to eat a balanced diet. So instead I’m going to give you the best tips I know to help keep the cost of food as low as possible, within the restrictions of the low FODMAP diet.
1. Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, or use frozen options when out of season
This tip actually applies to making any dietary approach budget friendly since fruits and vegetables are always cheaper when in season. This is a simple case of supply and demand – when there’s more produce available, the price is always lower. As a bonus, in season produce always tastes better because it hasn’t been sitting in storage for ages, meaning more flavour for your meals.
But on a low FODMAP diet, there are restrictions on the fruits and vegetables you can eat. It’s not as big an issue with vegetables, so there’s normally plenty of seasonal options available. Fruits though are a different story since they’re much more restricted and it gets boring if you only eat the few options that are currently in season.
One way around this is to use frozen produce to supplement your choices, because it’s normally much cheaper than out-of-season produce. Good examples are berries and green beans. Out of season, the prices for these items are quite exorbitant, but they’re much more manageable in frozen form.
Admittedly I do eat out of season produce when I get bored with the options. It’s more expensive, but it stops me from feeling too restricted on the low FODMAP diet and I think the mental health benefits are worth it. But to make it more manageable on the purse strings, I mostly use in season (or frozen) produce and add one or two non-seasonal options into the day.
The trick here is to plan meals based on fruits and vegetables that are in season. That way you’re more likely to stick to seasonal options and less likely to spend more money on non-seasonal options. It’s also good to keep some low FODMAP fruit and veggies in the freezer for when you want something extra.
2. Stock up on low FODMAP frozen, tinned and pantry items when they’re on special
Some foods need to be purchased fresh, but many foods can be stored in the pantry, fridge or freezer for a considerable time. And many of these less perishable items, especially the more ‘standard’ options that are also low FODMAP, are put on special by the supermarkets on a regular basis. So if you’re organised, you can stock up on these items every month or so and save a considerable amount of money in the process.
First, you need to learn which items you buy (and use) on a regular basis. There’s no point stocking up on foods you don’t use or they’ll get wasted. Have a look through your pantry, fridge and freezer for items you use a lot. Then think about items that you buy every week. Write all of these down, paying particular attention to things that can be stored for at least one month.
Next, work out which of these items go on sale regularly by scanning the supermarket catalogues to see what on sale. Once you learn how often a particular product goes on sale, you can then work out how much to buy each time it’s on sale.
Things that I buy on special include tinned chickpeas and brown lentils, tinned tomatoes, passata, tinned fish, frozen berries, frozen vegetables, frozen fish, UHT almond milk, rolled oats, rice.
But also keep an eye out for perishable items that are on sale each week, such as fresh produce and meat. If you can adapt your meal plans for that for week, for instance cooking a roast instead of steak, you could save a fair bit.
The trick here is to make a list of the items you use on a regular basis that also go on sale regularly. Then each week, grab a copy of the supermarket catalogues and see if these items are on sale. Then of course add them to your shopping list.
3. Choose cheaper protein sources instead of expensive cuts of meat
One of the things I love the most about a low FODMAP diet is that I can still eat whatever meat I want, provided it hasn’t been doused in garlic or onion, of course. But when it comes to the food bill, meat is one of the most expensive components so it’s good to find some cheaper protein sources.
Firstly, cheaper cuts of meat… minced meat is a good option that’s very versatile and can be used to make pasta sauces (including lasagne and pasta bakes), meatballs, meatloaves, patties/rissoles and hamburgers. You can also use it in curries, soups and stews. Another option is the cheaper cuts of meat that need slow cooking into casseroles and stews. These cuts need a bit more love but are also much tastier. The best bit is these slow-cooked meals are normally ‘set and forget’ options, so while they take longer to cook, they don’t take longer to prepare.
Secondly, use non-meat animal protein sources such as eggs. While free-range eggs may seem a little expensive when they cost $6 per dozen, remember that you get 6 serves of 2 eggs from each carton, which is only $1 per serve. That’s much cheaper than most meats.
Thirdly, use non-animal protein sources such as legumes. Admittedly it’s a little tougher to find low FODMAP choices here, but you can eat firm tofu, tempeh, canned chickpeas and canned lentils. And a can of chickpeas or lentils, when bought on special, is only $1. Now that’s cheap.
The trick here is to plan different ways to use cheaper protein sources in your meals. Have a look through a low FODMAP recipe book to get some new ideas. And if you like the meal, make sure it goes on your list to cook again.
4. Make more of your food at home instead of buying pre-packaged low FODMAP foods (or eating out)
I know that most people are pushed for time, but the fact is you can nearly always make food cheaper at home than if you were to buy it pre-prepared or from a restaurant or café. Certainly there will be times when you want to eat out, or when you don’t have the time and would rather use a bottled sauce, but they will cost you more for the convenience.
The other advantage to making food yourself is that you have 100% control over the ingredients and can be certain there won’t be any hidden nasties. While you can be sure of convenience products that are certified as low FODMAP, such as the very handy SOME Foods simmer sauces, most convenience products aren’t likely to be safe. And the reality is that most products specially made to be low FODMAP have a premium price because of their lower production volume compared to regular foods. Sometimes that cost is worth it, but most people can’t justify it all of the time.
Now, since you’re human, it’s fair to say you won’t have the time (or desire) to make all of your foods from scratch. In that case you need to pick your battles. Look at the pre-made options that you’re using regularly and work out which ones you could easily make at home. How about giving these easy recipes a try:
- A basic tomato sauce for pasta that’s low FODMAP but full of flavour.
- A Roasted Eggplant Dip or a Carrot, Cumin and Chickpea Dip, both of which can be frozen for later use.
- A low FODMAP gluten-free flour blend.
The trick here is to choose a couple of things you can start making at home instead of buying them pre-made. Then once you get the hang of making them, choose some more things to try. Start off with the foods you use the most often or that are the most expensive.
Did you find this helpful? How about sharing it on social media to help other people who are feeling the pinch on a low FODMAP diet.