Following a healthy diet can be expensive at the best of times. Add special dietary requirements, like low FODMAP, to the mix and the cost tends to increase even more. Surcharges for plant-based milks at cafes is just one of many examples. Following a low FODMAP diet and managing what can be debilitating IBS symptoms is a stressful task in and of itself, so the last thing we want to be doing is worrying over money too!
Thankfully, you can follow a low FODMAP diet without the need to sell a vital organ to fund the venture! It’s all about becoming FODMAP budget savvy. Below, we’ve outlined some handy tips to save your precious dollars and avoid the grocery list breaking the bank. Many of these are applicable regardless of whether or not you’re shopping for an IBS sufferer following a low FODMAP diet.
- First things first – plan your meals and write a detailed shopping list, including quantities, brands etc. This is likely to prevent the whole - wondering the aisles aimlessly while being lured by clever marketing and ending up with a heap of products you don’t need - scenario we all know far too well. There are a number of handy smartphone Apps out there to help with the task of identifying which foods are safe to eat while on the low FODMAP diet, and take the work out of the meal planning / grocery list creation process. Impulse buying if your wallet’s worst enemy! Another great tip is to not venture to the supermarket hungry … research shows you’ll want to buy more!
- Secondly, try shopping local. This means venturing out to farmer’s markets, fresh produce grocers, Asian supermarkets, and independent butchers. Not only is the quality of the food fresher at these establishments (usually!), but prices also tend to be more reasonable, and there’s the option of purchasing in bulk. Independent butchers also tend to be more flexible and will allow you to specify the exact quantity of meat you require. If you know you’ll be purchasing items that other family members or friends also often buy, get together and form a food co-op.
- Cooking extra for dinner or meal prepping over the weekend and taking your pre-prepared meals to work/school will avoid the dilemma of hefty cafeteria prices and the probability of an IBS flare-up due to foreign, potentially high FODMAP, ingredients used in purchased meals. Homemade leftovers can also be kept in the freezer for a later date.
- Use frozen FODMAP-friendly vegetables and fruits, as these are equally nutritious (studies have shown sometimes even more nutritious!) and generally substantially cheaper. On the same note, invest in purchasing a variety of dried herbs or FODMAP-friendly stocks and spice mixes to add flavour to your dishes. These will last yonks, which is fine as they have much longer expiry dates than fresh varieties. Remember, convert fresh herbs to dry herbs at a ratio of 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs : 1 teaspoon of dried. If you’re feeling adventurous and prefer fresh, you could even try growing your favourite herbs in pots on your windowsill.
FODMAP friendly herbs like parsley, basil and chives are relatively low maintenance, so even a gardening novice should be fine. Nut / seed butters will be cheaper than buying these fresh, and will last much longer. Using artisan quality ready-made sauces will not only save you time but also save $$ and avoid any waste created when making these fresh.
- Filling meals with low-cost FODMAP foods like rice, rice noodles, and potatoes as opposed to specialised foods like quinoa or gluten-free pasta will also help the old piggy bank. Unwashed potatoes are cheaper than washed potatoes, and rice noodles can be purchased for next to nothing at Asian growers.
- If you’re a meat-eater, opt for (plain in saltwater) tinned varieties like tuna and salmon to avoid wastage and reduce costs. You can always jazz these up the safe way using FODMAP-certified spices and sauces. Similarly, lean minced and eggs are cheap and versatile low-FODMAP sources of protein. Remember, we don’t require as much protein as what the media would have us believe (average adult only needs 5 – 2 servings), so no need to go crazy on these expensive items.
- When it comes to dairy, lactose-free and plant-based varieties are almost always going to be more expensive. There is a way around this. You have the option of purchasing “regular” dairy, then adding your own lactase (available in drop or tablet form). While lactase can be pricey to purchase, it can last up to months and will significantly reduce the cost of the dairy products you purchase. Another option is to opt for low FODMAP supplements like protein shakes which can usually be made on water and are especially beneficial as a post-workout snack.
- Avoid the need to purchase soft drinks (boo from a health perspective!), juices, or bottled water by making a habit of carrying an eco-friendly water bottle with you at all times. Staying hydrated is crucial for overall (and especially digestive!) health.
So, there you have it! See, following a low FODMAP diet doesn’t have to = poverty. Just a little pre-planning and knowledge and before you know it, your grocery list cost will shrink