50 ingredients, endless food

Budget & Kitchen Management FAQs

Grocery shopping, cooking, and saving money are huge topics to cover, and I explore them in depth on the blog and protopantry newsletters. On this page, you’ll find a few quick tips to get your started and inspired. Feel free to contact me with your questions—I’ll answer as many as I can!

-Lauren

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How do I make sure I always have something to eat at home?

Of course, I recommend starting with the pantry as your guide. It includes a healthy dose of fresh produce and proteins to throw into a meal. Feel free to make swaps to fit your dietary needs.

That being said, the key to never having “nothing to eat” and blowing your budget on takeout is to keep a few basic categories in your cupboard stocked with your favorite items:

  • Grains or pasta

  • Canned vegetables

  • Salty and spicy toppings

  • Canned proteins

  • Dressings and salsa

  • Crunchy foods

Find what you like and buy when cheap. Look for your favorite foods in the bulk section of your grocery store and buy in the quantities you need. You’ll get the hang of the combinations you enjoy most very quickly. Bonus: these ingredients are also the foundation of tons of soups and salads.

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How do I stop wasting so much food?

When you sign up for the protopantry newsletter (keep scrolling to sign up), you get a free pantry guide explaining how to store and freeze each and every ingredient in the pantry to extend the life of your food.

A good way to start reducing food waste is to set a reminder on your calendar every week (I do “freezer Friday”) to go through your pantry and fridge and preserve as many things as you can. It’s a great habit to get into, and will supply you with budget-friendly freezer meals every week over time.

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How do I save money dining out?

Dining out is insanely expensive. Your safest bet for meeting your financial goals is to always minimize this expense.

Realistically, though, we all have social lives and food we didn’t cook ourselves just tastes better sometimes.

A few things to think about to stop the bleeding in this budget category:

  • Plan your order ahead of time

  • Reduce alcohol consumption—it’s the most marked-up stuff on the menu

  • Consider vegetarian entrees

  • Have friends over for parties instead. You cook, and your friends bring the booze. Here are a few of my favorite party-friendly recipes.

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How do I save money on groceries?

Generally speaking, I don’t recommend focusing on coupons or obsessing over sale items for beginners. The first and most important step to saving money on groceries is nailing down the affordable staples you will use most often, and learning how to cook with them. Once your kitchen is stocked, don’t shop just to shop or just because it’s Sunday. Make sure you’re using everything you have—after all, limitations are the birthplace of creativity! You’ll be surprised how much money you save when you shop for what you need and actually use it.

I also recommend tracking prices between stores and from week to week so you can 1) learn how items are priced in your area and 2) identify the best grocery store for you. Use this free spreadsheet to get the hang of prices at your favorite spots.