Groceries can be a major expense, but there are always ways to cut back without giving up your quality of life. Using these 20 tips, you can keep your meal costs low so that you can work on your bills, debts or savings.

Experiment with Discount Chains

You can save money on everything you already buy just by choosing to do your shopping at a discount grocery store. There’s one in almost every city or large town, and the savings can be worth $100s of dollars every week depending on your needs. You’re likely to find many of the brands you already love.

Wait for Big Weekly Sales to do Your Shopping

Most grocery stores publish and mail out a list of their big sales once a week. By looking through them, you can time your grocery shopping trip so that your trip takes place the same day that the items you need the most are on sale. 

Do Research to Make Sure Sales are Actually Deals 

A great-looking sale doesn’t always save you money. Sometimes, stores lower prices right after they’ve raised them to make a slight increase in price look like a big discount. If you want to know if a sale is worthwhile, compare it to the price at other local grocery stores.

Find Coupons for Everything You Buy

You can find coupons just about everywhere, including online. If there are items that you buy on every shopping trip, you owe it to your budget to try to find coupons that you can use. Check online, on the websites for the brand/product or on the packaging itself for cutouts. You may be able to find coupons for every item you regularly purchase.

Check Your Fridge and Pantry before You Leave the House

There are few worse ways to spend money than to buy items you already have and to end up with more than you can use before it expires. That’s why it’s important to take a full inventory of what you have on hand before you go shopping. 

Avoid Prepared Foods

Pre-cut vegetables and other prepared “time-savers” are really just a big expense for something that would only take you a few minutes if you did it yourself. By raw vegetables for a lower price and cut them at home. You can still cut them and store them if you want the convenience when you’re ready to use them.

Build Your Recipes around Staples

If you’re serious about saving money, build recipes around staples like rice, beans, and pasta. These cheaper dry foods stay good for months on end and are available in large quantities for a very low price. 

Buy in Bulk

When you’re buying items that last a long time, you can save a lot of money by buying it in bulk. See if you can save a lot of money by choosing larger packages of items like rice, flour, sugar or spices.

Buy to Cook from Scratch

Packaged foods may offer convenience, but they’re often a lot more expensive than cooking from scratch. Start buying the ingredients and cooking them yourself so that you can make more meals for the same price.

Eat before You Leave

It’s never a good idea to go grocery shopping hungry. When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to make impulse purchases or to crave items that you don’t really need. Have a nice meal before you leave to go shopping and you can trust yourself a lot more.

Choose Seasonal Foods

Fruits and vegetables are most affordable when they’re in season. This is because there is usually a market surplus as farmers try to sell all their produce before it spoils. During the rest of the year, the food is imported at a higher price. 

Choose 2 Liters/Gallons over 20oz Products for Drinks

As with most products, you can save on drinks when you buy them at larger volumes. When you buy soda, packaged coffee, juice or other liquids, you can save when you choose to buy gallon sizes over six-packs of smaller bottles.

Leave the Kids at Home

If you have trouble fighting the urge to make impulse purchases, imagine how much harder it is for a child without any sense of self-control. When you bring your child with you to go grocery shopping, you can expect your kids to try to coerce you into buying things that they don’t really need.

Mix Your Own Spices

Spice mixes are expensive, but they’re helpful if you like your cooking to have zestiness and variety. You may be able to save a little on flavor by mixing spices yourself. Most of the ones you buy are already almost 75-80% salt. For a one-time expense of buying multiple spices, you can make massive amounts of the mix.

Sign up for Loyalty Programs

Nearly every grocery store chain has a loyalty program now. Check their website to see if you can sign up, and what kind of advantages you can expect. Most of them offer regular discounts that apply at the register, and you may be able to get advance notice of the best deals.

Use Meat Sparingly

Meat is one of the most expensive foods by weight, and you can save a lot of money if you cut back, even just a little. Try to fill that protein gap with some healthy eggs and beans.

Check Prices by Size

Sometimes, what looks like a cheaper option is the more expensive one. Make sure you check the volume of each container. The more expensive one may contain a larger amount that will save you money before it runs out.

Pay in Cash

Paying in cash is a great way to reinforce your self-control at the grocery store. If you leave the credit cards at home and only bring a certain amount of cash, you won’t catch yourself over-spending. Set a budget before you leave, and only pull out that much cash.

Ask Staff about Special Deals

Being friendly with the people in the bakery, at the deli counter and at the check-out counter can yield some great savings. If there are unadvertised sales or big sales that are coming up for items that run out fast, these are the people who can tell you about them. 

Look Online for Toiletries

The grocery store is not the best place to buy items like toilet paper, soap, and toothpaste. You can find those items much cheaper in bulk online. They don’t spoil, so you don’t have to worry about the wait from the shipping.