As the cornerstone of biomedical treatment, the Gluten-, Casein- and Soy-Free (GFCFSF) diet has resulted in tremendous progress for more than 90% of children with ASD who’ve tried it. The diet can be done many different ways, ranging from VERY expensive to very cheap – it all depends on how much premade food you buy versus making your own meals.
We wanted to find out if all of our families could afford this basic treatment so we did an investigation. What we found out surprised us all and we are thrilled to offer this information to the autism community so more families will know they have access to such a vital treatment to help their children.
This article is NOT just for those who receive food stamps, but for anyone who wants to save money on the diet.
Criteria We Used
According to the USDA’s SNAP program, a family of four can get up to $588 per month of food subsidy funding. Of course, not every family gets that much so we aimed at the median family of four subsidy of $396 per month. However, we did it in just $319! (Technically, the food needed only cost $282.05 so the $319 includes the leftovers.)
We only included foods that were free of gluten, casein and soy. We based the menu on the USDA’s Nutrition program for quantity and food groups to make sure the diet was healthy, not merely inexpensive.
Once we had a monthly menu and a shopping list, we compared costs for the same products in three states to get a national average cost.
Tip! Want to save a bundle? Plant a garden! Even a small patio can grow plenty of money-saving and healthy food, plus it’s great for the kids to learn! If you have room for a tree, make it something that fruits and feeds your family. Also, buy food in season because it’s cheaper when it’s abundant.
Please note that the following menu, shopping list and recipes are for FOUR people for each meal and all four people are on the GFCFSF diet. It will be even CHEAPER if you use non-GFCF things like pasta, bread and pancake mix for those who don’t need it but we wanted to make sure that the diet COULD be done on this budget with the most ease when cooking for a whole family. If you do this, you should cook the non-GFCF pasta or pancakes in a separate pot/pan.
- Food Stamps - SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) - helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health. Benefits are provided on an electronic card that is used like an ATM card and accepted at most grocery stores, and even some health food stores. A family of four can get as much as $588 per month in Food Stamp subsidies.
- Food Stamps & Other Nutritional Programs
- Getting Food Stamps.org
- Breakfast Program - Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the School Breakfast Program. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. (For the period from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009, 130 percent of the poverty level was $27,560 for a family of four; 185 percent was $39,220.) Children from families over 185 percent of poverty pay full price, though their meals are still subsidized to some extent.
- Lunch and Snack Programs - Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the National School Lunch Program. The financial requirements are the same as the Breakfast Program. Local school food authorities set their own prices for full-price (paid) meals, but must operate their meal services as non-profit programs.
- Afterschool snacks are provided to children on the same income eligibility basis as school meals. However, programs that operate in areas where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals may serve all their snacks for free.
- You can have the school prepare GFCF meals under these programs at no additional cost to you. Read here for more information.
WIC provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, and referrals to health and other social services to participants at no charge. WIC serves low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutrition risk. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder under 5 qualify for WIC. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders under 5 years of age qualify for WIC.
Other Food Programs
(going to local farms at the end of their seasons to pick for free)
(aka Food Pantries)
- Feeding America
If you need food, we can help you locate emergency food assistance services in your community. Every food recipient is treated with dignity and respect. The call is free. The food is free. Please note that many food banks do not provide direct food assistance to families and individuals, but do provide food to soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. Your local food bank can refer you to soup kitchens and food pantries in your area. These community agencies provide direct food assistance. Please call 800-771-2303 or use our food bank locator online to find the food bank nearest you.
- Food Pantries Locator
- Database of Food Bank Programs
Other Articles in the Autism on Public Assistance Series:
Autism on Public Assistance: Introduction
Resource List of Free and Low-Cost Services
GFCFSF Diet on Food Stamps (Yes, you can!)
Autism Journey Blueprints
Parent Mentor Program
Find a TACA Chapter near you
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