rich emollient used in the management of eczema, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions.


Have you ever analysed how long it takes you to do your weekly allergen friendly food shop? If you’re like me you’ll stock up, use the freezer for home made ready meals and soups but in one week I can be going to four or five different shops to get different things.

I’d been thinking about blogging about this and then I read about a study looking into just – how hard it is for people with allergies to do their shopping, and we haven’t even discussed the label checking yet.

Michelle Berridale-Johnson of Foods Matter wrote a blog about How allergic people shop and shared details of a study by Hazel Gowland of Allergy Action who has been working with a team from Unilever to discover how people with food allergies actually shop. They came up with some interesting, although not entirely surprising, conclusions:

“Although self-reported, the pattern of food allergy reflects other studies. A minority of food-allergic individuals in GB, even among those reporting severe symptoms, have a formal diagnosis and most never come to the attention of health services, suggesting that food allergies are under-estimated while more severe reactors are over-represented in GB clinic populations. A substantial proportion of respondents regularly take risks when purchasing food including those reporting severe reactions, confirming that current application of precautionary labelling to mitigate and communicate risk is of limited effectiveness. Furthermore the failure of most food-allergic consumers to read labels on every occasion highlights the importance of thinking beyond legal compliance when designing labels, for example when adding an allergen to a product that previously did not contain it, the change should be flagged on the front of the pack to alert allergic consumers.”

For more see Clinical and Translational Allergy here.

Do you always read the label, even on products you know and love?

It seems the main point was that people are inclined to take risks because labelling is too vague. Being a serial label checker can be very boring and time consuming but it’s the only way.

I’m sorry allergy folks but you’re just going to have to keep checking those labels.

I get around this by pretty much avoiding processed foods apart from a few things which are my cheats like rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk, coconut yogurt, ready salted crisps, gluten free bread occasionally, Nairns oat cakes and Rude Health oat cakes and Humous.

I do regularly check the labels on these as recipes can change. An example of this was the Seeds of Change bars I used to eat. These did even have a ‘new recipe’ flash which I hadn’t noticed. I was quite happily eating them when my Mum noticed that they had a new recipe and spotted almonds in the ingredients.

She flew through the air to snatch the offending now almost demolished snack bar from my hand.

By then I was on the last bite. I had felt none of the tingling, itchy mouth and clagging horrible sensation in my mouth. None of the throat shuddering which fortells another allergy disaster. I was fine. But, not only had I failed to check the ingredients for a nut I WAS trying to avoid, wrongly thinking I was allergic to it, but also I hadn’t noticed the LARGE new recipe flash.

I learnt a lesson that day. I got away with it, discovering that I can eat almonds into the bargain, but if that had been peanuts they had added I would have been in serious trouble.

I often go without the coconut yogurt, not because I don’t want it or can’t afford it but because I can’t find it where I’m shopping.

I go weeks without plant milks because many places only stock soya milk and I’m allergic to soya milk.

How many shops do you visit to get everything freefrom that you need?

So, here’s what I do, and I wonder whether many others are the same, or whether you have found a one-stop-shop for all your grocery needs.

  1. Small local shops for fresh produce – Aldi, Coop or Budgens for vegetables, fruit and some meat and staples. I buy oats from here (I don’t need to have gluten free oats) and they have just started to sell Harvest Morn ground seeds AND very delicious gluten free sausages. They also stock ‘Has No’ soup in pouches and the Chicken and sage one is lovely.
  2. Local organic meat – when I can afford to I go to my local farm shop for eggs, bacon, beef, chicken and anything else that takes my fancy. We tend to cook a whole joint and freeze left overs and make stock with the carcass. Or buy large amounts of chicken legs or diced beef and do big slow cooked meals which again give me lovely left overs for the freezer. You can also do the stock/carcass in the slow cooker – thereby avoiding leaving the pan to boil dry and burn on the hob…)
  3. This week's Goodness Direct order with free packet of Goobers

    This week’s Goodness Direct order with free packet of Goobers

  4. Goodness Direct – for rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk, quinoa, Plamil chocolate drops (they never have the rum & raisin flavour in stock), supplements, Doves biscuits, Mrs Crimble ginger and apple cake, Les Pains de Fleurs crackers, dates etc.
  5. Direct with the freefrom company – I also buy direct from Plamil so I can get my favourite Rum & Raisin chocolate which is NEVER in the shops ANYWHERE. Ilumi pouch meals are only avaialble direct from them but I do this regularly. They are now my favourite can’t cook won’t cook solution. Dairy free wine I buy direct from UVA wines.
  6. The main supermarkets – I work from home which also makes shopping harder but when I am out and about or working at a client’s site I often nip into Sainsbury’s to stock up on their breakfast chocolate brioche, gluten free fish fingers, chicken stock pot pouch meal etc.
  7. This week from M&S, New Mini Coconut macaroons #Gluten Free #Wheat Free #Dairy Free

    This week from Marks New Mini Coconut macaroons #GF #WF #DF

  8. For a treat – We often take advantage of the M&S dine in for £10 offer as they amazingly seem to have quite a few options that I can have.

    There might be a whole chicken or a gammon joint. The husband who can eat almost anything gets a better deal because invariably the puddings are stuff I can’t eat and I’m not getting a plastic tub of cut up fruit when I eat fresh fruit anyway myself.

    I can’t afford to shop in M&S often but they also do gluten free coconut macaroons which are very nice indeed. A new Waitrose has opened in my nearest town and if I could afford it I would love to shop here. They do stock far more things I like than many other supermarkets but it comes at a price.

  9. The health food shop – Very occasionally has Coyo yogurt and deals on supplements. I pop in to buy small amounts. Sometimes Quinoa, maybe coconut milk etc. and Bessant and Drury coconut ice cream. And just a chat. The girls in my local health food shop are lovely.
  10. The allotment – currently only supplying spinach by the gallon

So this week that’s EIGHT places and I’m about to buy some dairy free wine direct from UVA wines.

Sometimes it makes my head spin…

Sometimes I live off tinned fish, tinned soup, pasta and rice with things from the freezer till we run out of my home made frozen meals because this endless drudge of a million shops gets too much.

Husband who can eat anything is very good and stopping on the way home at Co-op for veg and fruit. We try to buy what we need as we need it to cut down on waste and also plan meals that are healthy, balanced and varied. If we count his very likely trips to Coop too that makes 8 or 9 shops as a family in a week.

It certainly all adds up. However M&S is not a weekly shop, it’s a treat. Goodness Direct is probably more like monthly or bi-monthly when I run out and the farm shop produce is often frozen for future meals. And the shopping direct from Plamil and Ilumi is infrequent because I buy in bulk.

What would I do without my freezer?

Generally though I enjoy doing the food shopping, looking out for new stuff and reading labels. But I buy very little from the freefrom shelves because it often contains one or more of the allergens I have to avoid. OR a long list of ingredients my granny wouldn’t have recognised. If you can’t imagine it – don’t eat it is my motto. All these gums and dextrose and sugars and flavourings and preservatives… When did we stop eating just real food? It should need all these bits adding.

So what about you?

How do you shop?

Do you check ALL labels or do you get lazy and just assume things will be OK?

Do ignore may contain warnings? Or stick to them like the law?

Where do you shop for freefrom stuff?



An allergy and health writer and freelance copywriter, Ruth is passionate about helping those with allergies and food intolerances take control, embrace their condition, and learn to live with and love who they are. It can be very lonely finding you have allergies and discovering what helps you can be a life long journey. What works for one person won't work for another, so after trying nearly every allergy treatment under the sun and finding hours of research necessary to keep abreast of what's going on, Ruth started writing her blog, What Allergy? in April 2009. Ruth has life threatening allergies herself to all nuts, all diary, tomatoes and celery and knows first-hand what it's like to have an anaphylactic attack. Voted in the Top 5 UK allergy blogs by Cision UK in 2011, What Allergy is packed full of interesting articles, hints and tips and product reviews which are a must read for anyone with allergies, food intolerances or sensitivities, asthma and eczema. From subjects such as "What is celery allergy?" to "Surviving a holiday abroad with allergies", it's packed with useful and interesting information. You can register free for a weekly newsletter by visiting her website and also keep in touch by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

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