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Libby Stigaard Ilson is the mom of an adolescent boy with multiple food allergies. His first trip to the emergency room came when he was 4 months old, when he reacted badly to milk-based formula. Libby cooks without dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, red meat, and black beans. She began blogging at partly in order to document and organize her recipes. Today, she shares some money-saving ideas that will also help you cook ahead of time.


Two of the biggest challenges when feeding a family with food allergies are keeping the grocery budget from spiraling out of control and the difficulty of finding safe, convenient, go-to foods. Chances are good that if you want a meal you can pull out of the freezer, you’re going to have to make it yourself.

To stretch my grocery dollars, I try to purchase chicken only when it goes on sale. Then I freeze it and/or prep as much as possible for later, saving time for days and nights when I am too busy to cook. Here are two favorite strategies for making the meat tender, flavorful, and easy to prepare.



Freeze Chicken Raw in Marinade


The USDA has guidelines for defrosting poultry of any size, but I prefer smaller cuts to speed up the process. For drumsticks, I’ll usually use my family’s favorite barbeque sauce. For thighs, I prefer a lemony marinade that allows you to customize it to your family’s taste or allergy set.



BBQ Chicken Drumsticks




3-4 lbs chicken drumsticks
½ cup orange juice
6 oz can tomato paste
½ sweet onion, finely diced
3 Tbs brown sugar
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt


Combine all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Place chicken and sauce in a gallon plastic zipper bag or divide into quart bags for smaller meals. If freezing, arrange chicken to lie flat and squeeze out air before closing. Either freeze chicken and defrost later, or allow to marinate for 2 to 24 hours in the refrigerator before cooking.


Place oven rack on second to top shelf and turn on broiler. Line a broiler pan with aluminum foil. Arrange drumsticks to lie flat in the pan and pour any leftover marinade over the chicken. Cook under broiler for 15 minutes, turn drumsticks over, then broil for an additional 12 to 15 minutes.




Roasted Lemon Thyme (or Garlic or Pepper) Chicken Thighs




2 lbs chicken thighs
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried thyme leaves or a handful of fresh leaves, chopped, and/or
2 cloves garlic, smashed, and/or
A few twists of fresh ground black pepper


Combine all ingredients except chicken in a bowl or large measuring cup, then pour into a gallon plastic zipper bag or divide into quart bags with the chicken. Squeeze out all air before closing. Either freeze chicken and defrost later, or allow to marinate for 2 to 24 hours in the refrigerator before cooking.


Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place chicken, skin side down and pour marinade over pieces. Roast for 25 minutes, flip and roast for 10-15 more minutes until juices are clear and no pink remains in center. If desired, broil for an additional 5 minutes to brown.


Bonus: The juices from the pan can be used to make easy, dairy-free mashed potatoes. While chicken is cooking, boil 2-3 pounds of peeled and quartered potatoes for 20-25 minutes, drain, and return to pot. (Don’t return the pot to the burner, though!) After removing chicken from the pan, pour about half the leftover juices into the pot and mash. Continue adding liquid from the pan and mashing until the desired consistency is reached. Add salt to taste.


Cook Boneless Chicken Before Freezing


To make a truly easy meal later, I’ll cook up sliced chicken breasts or thighs with onions and peppers, then freeze them. After a short trip to the microwave I can serve it over rice or put fajitas on the table for taco night.




Simple Sautéed Chicken and Peppers




2 Tbs olive oil, plus additional as needed
2 onions, thinly sliced
2-3 bell peppers (any colors), thinly sliced
2 lbs skinless/boneless chicken breast or thighs, thinly sliced against grain
2 cloves garlic, finely diced (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in a large skillet or fry pan over medium heat. Add onions and bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft and the onions are translucent. Add sliced chicken to the pan and continue to cook until no pink remains inside the chicken. Stir in garlic, then season to taste.


Allow the chicken to cool. Pack tightly into a zipper bag and squeeze air out before closing and putting in freezer. Plastic containers will also work, but unless completely full, are more prone to freezer burn.


Note: You can make a double batch by removing the onions and peppers from the pan before adding the chicken. Mix them back together after the chicken is cooked through. Freeze two separate meals or serve half and freeze half for later.


For more ideas, including lunch box inspiration and holiday recipes, visit




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Kids With Food Allergies
A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
1235 South Clark Street Suite 305, Arlington, VA 22202
Phone: 1-800-7-ASTHMA (1.800.727.8462)
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