Grocery Budget Makeover – New Diet Restrictions

Maureen writes…

Trying to be the organized mom, I keep a list of our meals, who likes them, what to have as sides, which meats we like & how expensive they are in an excel spreadsheet. I open up the spreadsheet every time I work on our grocery list and meal plan.

I do this so we don’t keep having the same things over and over, and forget about other things we like. But, we are still having the same things all the time and mostly because of the reasons below…


  • Everyone loves spaghetti, but I can’t eat it due to recent health issues.
  • I have 2 health conditions that I really need to consider what I eat. I cannot eat soy or any of it’s counterparts. And secondly, it is painful for me to ingest tomato based foods, citrus based foods or other highly acidic and spicy foods.
  • I am willing to try lots of foods, but the family wants to eat the same old foods with the ingredients that I can’t have.
  • Budget-like everyone else in America during these times, or if you’re wise, frugal minded during any time.

I sincerely hope you can help us. Spaghetti (which I can’t have) every week is beyond old at this point.  Thanks! – Maureen

My Suggestions

  • Start with a family recipes pow-wow. Get some cookbooks, magazines, pull up some websites
  • Add to your spreadsheet and start incorporating your new recipes into your meal plan. Tett
  • Encourage flexibility. And this might have to come from your husband!
  • Check out the following soy-free recipes here on $5 Dinners.
  • If all else fails, short order cook a similar meal for yourself. Example, if you are making spaghetti for everyone else, you set aside some noodles and make noodles with olive oil and some batch grilled chicken for yourself.  It’s not ideal…but it might be worth doing once or twice a week!

What about you guys?!  Do you have any ideas for Maureen or recipes to share?!?  How can we help her out!?


  1. Sara Z. says

    I wish I could offer some advice, but really I’m in a similar situation. I have to watch my intake of carbs due to blood sugar issues (insulin resistance). My family is a carb-loving family. They like to have pasta or rice with nearly every meal and corn is the only vegetable my husband will eat. I have resorted to just avoiding the items I can’t eat and making larger helpings of the veggies I like. This doesn’t create a lot of extra work for me (fortunately) and my family can still eat what they like. I also try to fix more meals that work with my diet (like tacos) and fewer meals that are heavily based on carbs. I hope you find a way to keep yourself healthy while also keeping your family happy.

  2. Joseph Meany says

    baked potato night? everyone does own toppings some have meat, some cheese etc
    home made bread is easy with a bread make and doesnt have many ingredients and you can cut out the soy by using veg oil (canola) (lecithin is soy as she knows- so no more cooking sprays!) get an oil atomizer/pump– roast veggies, I like basil on my noodles with a fat olive oil or butter in your case— eggs are a decent meal, not that I am currently pushing them with the recall going on, home made pancakes with real maple syrup for you and any syrup for them, make friends with fruity jellies, peanuts, air popped popcorn, puffed rice and puffed wheat, why suggest those? why because you can coat chicken breast with them or have family cereal night-home made oatmeal-grilled corn–home made white pizza, you make the dough–not to pry int o your medical condition–but I had thyroid cancer and I have VERY strict dietary restrictions- there was a specialized online website and cookbook for patients undergoing treatments with radioactive iodine, I was not allowed any processed foods at all (some minimal ones) -if you have 2 conditions or allergies oh and here

  3. Ellie says

    I love the spreadsheet idea – might have to try that one. We’re big into freezer cooking – you can make a few bigger batches of diet-friendly meals for yourself and freeze them in individual portions. Then all you need to do on spaghetti night is reheat. Good luck!

  4. Jodi B says

    Breakfast? We have breakfast in our house at least once a week. There’s so many options and it’s cheap. Eggs are always on the menu. You can make sausage, or bacon, then toast or pancakes or waffles. And don’t forget fruit!

  5. says

    I have the same thing with Red Sauces – especially spaghetti sauces….What I do….
    I make something different for myself that night. I don’t want my husband or kids to not get some staples just because it gives me acid reflux….and I don’t make it enough that it’s ALL the time. So, I don’t mind making myself other sauce or a bowl of cereal or something else on those nights.

  6. Johanna says

    I am in the same boat. Soy and corn are definitely out. I can eat cheese if I take a Lactaid. I am waiting for a phone call from my doctor’s nurse because I have been having horrible symptoms that aren’t getting better even though I take the enzymes and acid reducing meds he prescribed. You may be interested in They have GFSFCF dishes. A place to start… : ) Not sure about cost. I have just learned to keep foods that I can eat frozen so when dinners are made that I can’t eat I have something to fall back on.

  7. says

    How about a riff on family favorites to incorporate things you do like/can have? So, instead of spaghetti, alfredo or chicken tettrazini. My family loves tacos, which get boring, so instead of ground beef and refried beans, I mix it up. Tacos don’t have to be hot and spicy, either. So, some common taco fillings at my house are scrambled eggs and cheese, leftover meat, whole beans and rice, fishsticks (everyone loves this!), and home fries with monterey jack.

    If your family loves hamburgers, you could do hamburgers, patty melts, grilled ham and cheese, sloppy joes (make yours just meat), pulled pork (make it sauce-less for you), or loose meat sandwiches. All of those would look familiar, but be different enough to help you out of your rut, you know?

  8. Kerry says

    Some yummy ideas for pasta night (instead of red sauce) for you, make your own white sauce using flour and olive oil/butter, and chicken broth with italian spices (it stays low fat when you use broth instead of cream). Adding chicken and cooked mushrooms, or broccoli is a great variation. Or bake and mash up acorn squash and broth for a sweet sauce for noodles that is good with cinnamon or nutmeg. Or even spaghetti squash with butter. Adding any sauted veggies in the squash family or roasted eggplant and garlic (if that spice is ok) and onion to the dish will kick up your pasta dishes, and using olive oil and low sodium chicken broth keeps it healthy.

  9. Stephanie says

    First, if there’s a Trader Joe’s in your area, definitely check it out. They have lots of wheat-free carb options, such as rice-based pasta. Or, try spaghetti squash or ribbons of zucchini in place of pasta. The most difficult part of the soy-avoidance will be having to read labels on all pre-packaged foods you buy. It is in so many food items these days.
    Second, regardless of TJs proximity, health food stores, sports-based nutrition stores, etc, should all have whey powder that you can use in lieu of soy. We substitute part of wheat with whey when cooking, plus it has a high protein content that is nice too.
    Third, the GERD-based food avoidances are a pain (did you know apples too can cause GERD? ugh!) so I am very sorry about that. I can’t give you much advice here other than to suggest you try doing some web searches and see what comes up. Pesto-based pasta instead of tomato, for example.
    Good luck and I hope these help.

  10. Lisa says

    As for spaghetti, it can be eaten with red tomato based sauces. We like to use whole wheat pastas with our asian vegs and turkey meatballs. Try tomatillas they are related to tomatoes and have less acid and a zesty flavor. Salsa Verde may work for you on those Mexican food nights. Good luck with the changes, it will get easier and better.

  11. says

    I love the verb “short order cook” — that’s what I do every night! My son requires a very special diet because he has multiple food allergies. Certain foods that he is highly allergic to, like nuts, we avoid altogether, but other common ingredients, like wheat and dairy, I cook for us and then substitute something safe for him. I think it works well when you can just make similar things. Like with the pasta, you could have it be a “make your own pasta bowl” spread, with plain pasta, then a couple of different sauces, some chicken, some bacon bits, veggies, and each take what you want into your bowl. Same with tacos – perfectly yummy without any salsa if you add enough cheese. 😉 I think the idea of a family recipes pow-wow is a great one too. If everyone (meaning the kids too) was engaged with choosing some new ideas, maybe they’d be more creative about it. Oh, one more thought – can you have a potluck recipe swap dinner with friends, where you each bring a dish and a recipe? You could limit the number of ingredients used or time spent per dish, if you are really looking for quick dinner solutions.

  12. says

    Try something like lettuce rolls – where you wrap meat and veggies in lettuce. While the meal is Asian inspired, you don’t have to include soy sauce or soy products in the marinade. Try Greek flavorings with yogurt or make your own light BBQ sauce (focus on sesame seeds and just a tad bit of ketchup and mustard).
    As for pastas, make more cream based or pesto based sauces for yourself. That way the family can still have their spaghetti every once in a while.
    Begin to push the kids to get used to trying new things – even if you start slowly at first. It will benefit you in the long run.
    All in all, pushing more veggies into your diet will help and you can use herbs and infused oils for flavorings.

  13. Glenda says

    Maureen, if one of your issues is acid reflux or such, have you tried aloe vera juice? You can get it at Wal-Mart in the ‘laxative isle’. It changed my life. It is sold as a laxative and it is IF you drink the recommended amount (something like 8 oz). I would take about 2 tablespoons in the a.m. and 2 in the p.m. I was able to eat the ‘acid foods’ again and after I did this for several years it healed my problem and except for the rare occasion, I have no issues with my stomach. I have had several friends who had similar success. It doesn’t taste wonderful but the benefits far outweigh the odd flavor. You can also get it in pill form but I didn’t think it was as effective. You could of course also just munch the plant…. 😛 (I had a friend that actually did that–she just froze it)

  14. Cindy says

    I can’t handle the tomato sauce either. Since I make my sauce from scratch and the first step is browning the ground beef I simply remove some of the browned meat before adding anything I can’t eat and put it in a small pan to finish a sauce for me. I add any seasonings I want and a little water (or broth). If the sauce seems too thin, thicken with a little flour or corn or potato starch.

  15. Kellie says

    Pesto sauce is my favorite sauce on pasta. Basil for the pesto grows well in a flower pot on a sunny porch or deck. You can make a big batch and freeze serving size portions for yourself. Just mix frozen pesto with hot pasta and maybe a little water that you boiled the pasta in to defrost.

    Chicken stock, garlic and olive oil also make a tasty sauce for pasta. Add shrimp or chicken and veggies and grated parmesan cheese.

  16. Kerry D. says

    One possibility to add into the rotation: we have a family favorite called “slop” which is ground beef, with a home made gravy (browned flour, seasonings, etc.) served over mashed potatoes. If the evening is busy, the potatoes might end up baked or boiled. Frugal, easy, tomato free…

  17. Donna P. says

    Maureen didn’t say why she could not eat spaghetti? Does it need to be gluten free or is she concerned about carbs because of diabetes.There are many gluten free options available and Dreamfields makes wonderful pasta that has only 5 grams of digestible carbs per serving. If she is concerned that it is more expensive, that’s true, but if the rest of her family is able to eat regular pasta she can cook her special pasta and separate it into individual servings, label and freeze them. When she is ready to make pasta for her family she can boil the water, drop her special pasta in to heat up and then remove from boiling water, then cook her family’s pasta in the same water. I do this all the time for myself with the Dreamfields pasta and for friends that have to have gluten free options. Also she can try pesto sauces for pasta, and if her family does not like pesto, she can do the same thing as with the pasta just freeze individual portions for herself. Another great idea is to use spaghetti squash instead of pasta.Hope this helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *