When dietary demons strike and food choices are limited, weekly food spending often rises. A quick scan down the Free From aisle in any supermarket reveals the price hike that has to be borne when buying ready-made versions of specialty breads, soups, cakes, biscuits and desserts.  Even the basics are more expensive – check out flours and margarines or replacements for egg, milk chocolate and dairy foods.

Of course, home baking makes awkward eating much more economical, but the time and hassle factors mean it isn’t always possible or practical. Here are some of our top tips for making sure that you can embrace your allergies and intolerances without breaking the bank…

1) If it’s on special offer and is a staple you use (such as a dairy free long life milk or spread or jars of gluten free sauces) – stock up, but do check use by dates. Passing the use by date is the usual reason for wasted food and money.

2) Start a war on waste in your home – plan menus and shopping to take into account the foods that are languishing in your fridge and only buy more than you can use if it will freeze or has a long shelf life. Routinely check your salad drawers and the backs of crowded fridge shelves and cupboards and bring short shelf life items to the front.

3) Make your own – but keep it simple when time is short – and if it is something that can be taken to work the next day, pack up the spare portion before you go to bed. Rushing to get out of the house in the morning thwarts many an intended packed lunch plan!

4) Whenever you can, cook twice or more of the amount you need and freeze the surplus – it takes an extra few minutes but will save you hours not to mention £’s over the course of a few weeks, especially if you live alone.

5) Onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, celery, leeks, mushrooms – they can all be chopped and cooked ready to form the basis of sauces and casseroles. Freeze in single or double portion size to shave 15 minutes off cooking times and lots of pennies off the cost of the ready-made bought varieties.

6) Keep an eye on specialist Facebook and Twitter feeds such as Dairy Free Baby and Me that signpost special offers in supermarkets – if there’s a BOGOF offer out there it’s good to find out about it… a word of caution though, don’t be tempted to blow the savings on extras that you don’t need. Or then again do if it makes life on a diet more pleasurable!

7) Dairy and/or gluten free crumble topping or scone mix are easy and quick to make and will keep for several weeks in a poly bag or box in the fridge – great for adding to stewed, frozen or tinned fruits to make a quick pudding.

8) Don’t throw away those soft and blackening bananas! Peel, slice and freeze them. Then when you fancy a frozen dessert, whizz some in a food processor with frozen fruits (mango and/or strawberry are good). As well as fruit, try adding peanut or other nut butter with a splash of whatever milk or cream you have in the fridge. This is such a quick, easy and super delicious way of creating gluten free, egg free and dairy free ice cream with no ice cream maker or constant freezing and stirring required.

9) Make use of stale bread (sorry birdies) by processing it into crumbs and freezing or ‘fridging’ them in poly bags. Use straight from the fridge or freezer - bash the frozen ones with a rolling pin if needed quickly. Breadcrumbs are great for desserts, sprinkled on top of baked savoury dishes or added to fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil for a whizzed up chilled Spanish summer soup. They are best of all for deep fried veggie fritters (courgette and cauliflower florets are our favourite).

10) Finally, keep an eye on the Awkward Eaters Twitter and Facebook posts for special offers in restaurants and cafes.

By Gilly Weaver | 9th March 2014