a rank of LIdl trolleys.

Don’t discount the Discount Supermarkets! #Lidl Surprise

When we first discovered that the boys had so many allergies, my plan was to take out a second mortgage and shop at Waitrose.  I enjoyed my trip around Waitrose and spent quite a lot of money, but I was really surprised how little there was in the way of Free From foods.

It turns out that the perceived quality of a supermarket is no measure of how good it is for Free From food. Lidl is my secret weapon.  Lidl doesn’t actually have a Free From foods section so you do need to put a bit of time into it.  However, after a few trips around, you will find that there are Free From food bargains in every section.

AProducts from LIdl photographed agsinst some shopping bags

For example, these were the extra products I discovered that boys can eat during one trip.  It doesn’t include all the ingredients we usually buy, such as fruit and vegetables.  It also doesn’t include the extra products that I saved back for individual review.  So that week, I found French fries (which cook really well but don’t have any allergen-containing coating), poppadoms for a Saturday night treat with dinner, soya milk, smoked almonds (which were really, really delicious), salted crisp sticks, and dark chocolate. The dark chocolate was a real find because it’s only ingredients are sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, and vanilla flavouring.  That’s right; a bargain product that doesn’t use soya lecithin.  I  shared a bar with a family that has to avoid soya in all forms, and it’s been a big hit in their household.

Products from Lidl's Greek range next to some shopping bags,

Another fun aspect of shopping at Lidl is that they have some products that are only available for a short period.  These are often themed around food from a certain country.  I was pleased to discover that many of the foods in the Greek range were suitable for the boys.  The little sesame bars are perfect for lunchboxes, and we are already fans of Halva.

You might have also noticed that there are two packets of sausages in that week’s haul too.  British sausages usually contain wheat rusk.  The gluten free sausages that don’t are often very expensive, and they usually contain other ingredients that the Allergy Brothers can’t eat.  Lidl, of course, is a German company so they sell German sausages, which are all meat.  We were spoilt for choice for Free From sausages, although they were not advertised or labelled as that.  To be honest, none of us were very keen on the Bockwurst, but the Bratwurst were very popular with the Allergy Brothers.  I was pleased to discover a quick dinner meal for the boys at a reasonable price.

Also, as a final bonus, you can feel good about shopping at Lidl because they pay their staff well.  Now, that is a #Lidl Surprise that I approve of!

A bargain is good, but a freebie is better!  Don’t forget to enter our giveaway.  Only a few hours left to go before it closes!

A screen shot from the Food Maestro app

Food Maestro App Update

Since I wrote my blog post about the Food Maestro app, I have been having a very helpful email chat with one of their developers.  It turns out that many of the suggestions I made in the blog will be happening soon so I thought I would report back.  We can look forward to:

  • Being able to split user profiles into allergy, intolerance and lifestyle factors.
  • Searching by ingredients (both inclusion and exclusion).
  • Search results filtering by key brands, latest, popular, etc.
  • Updated categories to improve consistency.
  • And finally, some general design updates.
There are longer term plans to work with manufacturers to improve the quality of the information that they receive.  And I sincerely wish them luck with that.
A screen shot from the Food Maestro app

Initial Impressions – “Food Maestro” App

I first heard about this app at The Allergy Show at Olympia before the summer holidays, but I have only just got around to trying it.  Incidentally, I think I may have slightly scared the man on the Food Maestro stand with my enthusiasm (I didn’t hug him. but I wanted to) because this app has a lot of potential for our family.  Basically, it allows you to create profiles for each family member of foods they have to avoid then you can search through all the UK supermarkets’ databases to find foods you can eat.  I know, how awesome is that!

Then I remember that the Allergy Brothers are allergic to some pretty odd foods.  It turns out that this is not a problem at all.  For example, the Allergy Brothers are allergic to chicken, but not turkey (different proteins, apparently).  This is not a problem, for their profiles, I can choose from a poultry menu and add in chicken, but leave turkey unchecked.  However, I could also check an “all poultry” button if I wanted to exclude that group completely.  It was actually kind of nice (in an odd way) to see that rice was listed as something to exclude.  Does this mean that the Allergy Brothers are not the only people in the world to be allergic to rice?  (Please leave a comment, if you are one of those people!).  The only allergen I couldn’t find on the list was chia seeds so I emailed Food Maestro, and, in less than an hour, I had an email back saying that chia seeds were now added to the seeds menu.  I checked and there they were, ready to be added to the boys’ profiles.


Once, you have set up your profiles then you can search for appropriate products.  I have had a few plays with this function, but I will report back in a few weeks when I have had a chance to play some more.  I decided to search by category for ready made foods using both boys’ profiles.  I really could do with some ideas for easy meals on school nights when they have clubs.  Food Maestro pulled up a list of an impressive 188 possible options.  The list included some good ideas, such as ready made polenta, ready to cook vegetable dishes, olives etc.  Unfortunately, there were some odd choices, chicken breast mini fillets and steak pies!, which were clearly not suitable.  The odd choices all seemed to be Asda products, and due to a lack of proper ingredients information feeding into the search engine.  For example, the Asda steak pie had 19% beef listed as its only ingredient.

So clearly, there are some issues, but I was also very impressed about the ideas that popped up that I might never have considered.  Also, as they showed when I asked about adding chia seeds, the Food Maestro team are very responsive to suggestions.  So here are my suggestions:

  1. I would like to see an option to choose which supermarkets appear in the search results.  There’s no point seeing the results for Waitrose, if you live 50miles from the nearest store.
  2.  I would like to see an option to add in lifestyle and religious options, such as vegan or kosher, as well as the allergy options.  This would be more inclusive as allergies can affect anybody.
  3.  This app only works if the information going into it is good.  It seems like this might not always be the case.  It would be nice if companies realised that ingredients lists really do matter.  I am not sure this is something that Food Maestro can change.  Maybe they could just not include companies that are persistent offenders?

In conclusion, my initial impressions are that this is a good app, that could be great with a bit of tweaking.  I will certainly continue to use it and report back.  It is available for Apple and Android devices.  There is also a website.  Finally, to end on some really fantastic news, the app is free because it is partially funded by the NHS.