Today we were running low on ‘Zac foods’. Our local Tesco, seems to be stocking less and less in it’s Free From section at the moment and our Waitrose is not much better. Sainsbury’s has by far the widest stock on shelves and some brands I have not seen anywhere else. So despite sending Tom to the supermarket yesterday for a ‘big shop’, I still had to go today.
Here is the list of items I bought and how much they cost.
Natures Path Gluten Free ‘O’s – breakfast cereal £2.75
Doves Farm Gluten Free Stars – breakfast cereal £1.94
Free From Ciabatta – 2 x small bread rolls - £1.80
Free From Digestive biscuits - £1.50
Free From Chocolate Coins (for his Christmas stocking) - £1.49
Orgran Outback Animal biscuits – £2.99
Free From Rich Tea biscuits - £1.39
Small bag of Free From Pasta - £1.50
Dietary Specials Gluten Free breadsticks - £2.49
Alpro Creamy Peach Yoghurts pack of 2 pots - £1
Alpro Creamy Cherry Yoghurts pack of 2 pots - £1
Gluten Free/Dairy Free chocolate spread - £2.29
Free From Spaghetti - £1.50
Small loaf of Genius brown bread - £2.90
Free From White bread rolls pack of 2 - £0.63
So that is almost £30 spent on special foods. I know it looks like a lot of snack foods. He won’t consume these all in a week, remember not all stores stock everything, so I tend to load up when I see a bit of variety. I do limit his snacking but when you have a child who cannot eat dairy or gluten, snacking is tricky. Active 3 year olds are hungry a lot and need extra fuel – so I do let him have the odd biscuit.
So what else can I give him? Certainly not cheese and crackers. Zac’s favourite snacks are raisins, grapes, apples, bananas and pineapple. All very healthy but you can’t eat too much fruit in one day. Especially if you have a sensitive tummy. It is not great for your teeth either, but thankfully he only drinks water and I always make him drink after snacks.
He also quite likes rice cakes and his other favourites are the gluten free breadsticks. And from time to time I believe he deserves a little something exciting and special, hence the little stock of treats I bought him. I do try and encourage him to eat the yoghurts. Being a dairy free child, getting protein and vitamins in him is tough, so the soya yoghurts are a great option – however, Zac likes to (and has been advised by the dietician to) eat 3 a day - at 50p each for his favourite brand and variety I am spending £1.50 a day on these alone.
I make all of his meals from scratch, so although it looks like there are a few treat items here, be assured the rest of his meals are rice, potato or gluten free pasta dishes with a lot of freshly cooked vegetables and some meat and fish cooked into the sauces. Ironically, as fish fingers and sausages were off the menu for a while, he is very wary of them and cannot be persuaded to try them – even though I have now found some very good quality alternatives.
So consider my weekly bill, food for the rest of us, a lot of the foods listed above, and on to top of that I would say Zac consumes at least one bunch of bananas a week himself, one punnet of grapes and half a bag of apples – and his sister and the rest of us double that. I know I get through bags of vegetables too, particularly carrots. So you can see why I feel so strongly about raising awareness of the challenges facing parents with food intolerant children.
It is so hard to get enough food in them to keep them well. Often they are fussy children because they are aware so many foods make them ill and they are understandably not very adventurous when it comes to trying something new. It all costs a fortune and you end up driving all over the place to track it down. Then often when you have stocked up you find you can get through several loaves of the bread (around £3 each) in a week, because the slices fall apart as you take them from the packaging. You get the biscuits home to find them smashed to pieces, same goes for the breadsticks and the packets of pasta are smaller than standard yet often twice the price.
It feels unfair that the supermarkets feel it is ok to charge between twice and three times the price of these foods as the standard foods. Many people out there have intolerances, really genuine ones, yet it is only confirmed Coeliac sufferers that are entitled to any assistance with paying for their food.
Yet every time we meet a dietician to discuss Zac, they are far more concerned as to how we cover his dairy intolerance. There is a Junior Soya milk which is fortified with adequate levels of B vitamins, C and D, as well iron, protein and calcium – he only has it on his cereal and will not touch it as a drink. The yoghurts are an even richer source of these vitamins etc and thankfully he loves them.
So to hear a dietician say it is crucial for his bone and brain development and general wellbeing to get adequate levels makes me wonder why it is only dairy intolerant infants (under the age of one) that receive any subsidised dairy replacements. Well I guess we all know the answer really, the cost to the NHS would be unmanageable. If the figures are to be believed, many more children and adults are (worryingly) being diagnosed with intolerances and the value of the market is in the millions – so why can’t the supermarkets show a tiny bit of benevolence and bring the prices of the ‘special’ foods back in the line with the ‘normal food’?
I suppose that is as likely as the NHS doing anything to help, but I can dream! And perhaps I can do something too? Shall we all write to and tweet and generally bother the supermarkets until they start to listen. Perhaps we can shame one of them into taking the moral high ground and actually championing our cause rather than robbing us blind every time we buy a loaf of their overprice and unusable bread! I seem to have the ‘ear’ of the press at the moment, so I will see what I can do.