Every family spends a large portion of their income on food, whether buying groceries or eating out – and the price keeps going up. People are usually trying to find ways to cut back on their food budget while still feeding themselves healthy, nutritious meals. The good news is that if you have some extra time and a little creativity in the kitchen or know where to shop, you can save money on groceries.

Here are some helpful strategies.

Buy In Bulk

This is probably the most popular tip that everyone knows about. The idea of buying bulk foods means that you buy a larger amount of a product when it goes on sale, instead of buying several smaller packages when they are more expensive. You can store them and use them as needed. When you buy something like bulk dry beans you can store them in a cool, dry place and have beans for days. Buy a big bag of rice when it is on sale, and keep it in a cool, dry place until you need to use it.

If you have a membership at a wholesale store, buying food in bulk and splitting it with your neighbors or friends is another way to save money. Dairy items will always go on sale, so make sure you buy them at their lowest price. You can freeze milk or yogurt if you don’t get through it in time, and cheese keeps for a while – especially hard cheeses like Parmesan. Since most dairy products are used in more than one meal (for example, milk is used in cereal and cooking), there’s no reason that they should ever go to waste.

Beware Of Coupons And Buy Discount Store Brands

Coupons can be very enticing, but make sure that the items you buy are on sale before purchasing. Manufacturers often put coupons on products simply because they want them off the shelves and replaced with newer stock, not because they think the product needs a price cut. Make sure you check out discount store brands, too; they’re typically low-quality goods and sometimes quite unhealthy (think: flavored potato chips and soda), but anything that saves you money is worth it – unless, of course, you like the brand-name product.

Plan Your Meals Around What’s On Sale

You can save money on groceries if you plan your meals around what is on sale at the grocery store that week. Stick to shopping in your local store; some stores will actually double coupons (but they change their policies often, so be sure to ask). The “manager’s special” section of the produce department is also a great place to look for discounts or deals, as are seasonal goods and day-old bread/bagels/bakery items. Fancy packaging makes products sell for more money, meaning items found in bulk bins or loose instead of packaged usually cost less money.

Do Your Grocery Shopping

Grocery stores employ high-pressure sales tactics on their employees because they want to get you to spend more money, not less (that’s how they make money). Don’t fall for it; the best time to go grocery shopping is when nobody is there – that means early in the morning or late at night. Checking out yourself will also speed up your trip and save you time/money – although if you’re worried about safety, then maybe “late” isn’t an option.

If grocery shopping all by yourself seems complicated, try stocking up on food once a month or once every two months so that you have enough food to last until the next round of cheap groceries is available. Cheap groceries may be hard to come by sometimes, but finding them is vital for those looking to save money on groceries.

Make a List And Stick To It

This is another one of those no-brainer tips, but it’s surprisingly easy to go off-plan when you’re shopping. Check what you already have at home before leaving (you might want to make a list on your computer or phone first so that you don’t forget anything), and stick to the items on your list unless there are other offers/discounts. If the store only has four apples left, for example, then that should be enough for this week – don’t buy six just because they’re cheap.

If you have a prepared shopping list before going to the supermarket, no impulse buys will be made. This is because you already know what needs to be bought, and it will not be changed by an extra item that catches your eye while strolling through the grocery store. Also, stick to your planned budget – you can’t save money on groceries if you blow your entire food budget in one aisle.

Buy Online

If you purchase your groceries online, you can stick to your list, compare prices, and also save on gas money. You can use a grocery store app to carefully select your items, or shop on a website like Amazon. Amazon grocery has plenty of reasonably priced items, from bulk items, to subscribe and save, to their own brand.

Avoid Pre-Packaged And Ready-To-Eat Items Whenever Possible

Pre-made and ready-to-eat foods are typically high in salt, sugar, fat, and preservatives – all terrible things for your body and your budget. The other issue with “ready to eat” items is that they encourage people to eat more than they should (you don’t want those 2lbs of potato chips to waste, now do you?). So instead, make food from scratch as much as you can; this will save you at least half the cost of pre-packaged goods, not only because those items are usually expensive but also because you’ll be eating healthier when you do.

Fast food items are typically more expensive than things you could make at home, so eating out should be done sparingly. There are also many negative health consequences associated with fast food, which means doing this can affect your quality of life.

If you reduce impulse purchases, plan as much as possible, shop the sales/manager’s special section of the store, cut out fast food or at least limit it to a few times a week, and cook your food whenever you can. You’ll be well on your way to saving money on groceries. Doing this is easier said than done, yes – but if people follow these tips, they’ll save more money on groceries every month.