You can’t live without groceries, but you could live without spending a fortune on them every single month. You don’t have to obsessively cut coupons and hunt for sales to trim down those receipts. Read these five tips to see how you can easily save yourself money when it comes to your groceries.

1. Make a Budget

Without a budget, you’re spending blindly whenever you go to the grocery store. You have no way to know how much is in your bank account, or how much you need to leave in there to cover essentials like phone bills and car insurance payments. Every time you load up your shopping cart, you risk pushing past your financial limits.

A monthly budget will do more than help you calculate your total income and track your expenses. It will protect you from being financially vulnerable, too.

You don’t want to find yourself at the checkout aisle and have your credit card declined. You don’t want to pay by cheque and have it bounce. You don’t want to drain your account and then get stuck with an expensive surprise, like a flat tire or a clogged sink, and wonder how you can afford to fix it.

Click here to read great finance resources with everyday budgeting tips to help you shrink costs for things like groceries, schooling, utilities and more. It will also show you resources for online installment loans and lines of credit that can help you cover unexpected emergency expenses that you don’t have the funds for.

2. Make a Grocery List

One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is to think about what you need to buy ahead of time and write a list. Without a grocery list to follow, you’re going to be basing your shopping on impulse instead of need. This means that you’re going to forget important recipe ingredients and everyday essentials. When you get home, you’ll realize that your shopping trip was not completely useful. So, you’ll have to go back to the store and spend more on everything you forgot.

To get it right on the first try, bring a grocery list. You can also bring a calculator to check to see that your list stays within your budget.

3. Go Meatless

Meat will be one of the most expensive items in your cart, especially if you plan on eating it every single day. So, consider putting alternative proteins like tofu, beans or eggs in yourcart. If you’re not sure what to cook,look up easy meat replacement recipes to get inspired. You can find vegetarian versions of your favorite dishes like lasagna, tacos, and burgers.

You don’t have to overhaul your entire diet. But, at least try to celebrate Meatless Mondays. It’s a once-a-week change that will be kind to your wallet.

4. Get Cooking

Buying your groceries ready-made is convenient, but it’s expensive. Cooking may take more time and effort, but it will save you lots of money. Think about how much it costs to buy a package of frozen French fries in comparison to a massive bag of potatoes. Or how much it costs to buy fresh dessert from the bakery counter versus baking your own.

It’s time to put on an apron, pull out a cookbook, and plan some recipes. Or take a look at all of the best foods to make from scratch and see how much money it will save you. In a few months, you’ll be proud of your professional skills in the kitchen and your healthier budget.

If you don’t like cooking, you can still make these simple homemade changes to save yourself money:

  • Instead of buying ready-made smoothies, get the ingredients and make lots of smoothies at home.
  • Instead of buying pre-cut fruit, buy whole fruit and slice it yourself.
  • Instead of buying coffee and espresso drinks, buy bags of roasted beans and make your own drinks at home.
  • Instead of buying bottled water, get a reusable water bottle and carry it with you.

5. Eat What You Buy

Americans have a big food waste problem – the country tosses out approximately 150,000 tons of food every single year. When you throw your groceries in the garbage, you’re doing more than wasting food. You’re wasting your money, too.

It’s simple. You save money by eating all of the food that you buy. Less waste means more savings. So, if you find that you’re putting wilted lettuce, rotten fruit and moldy yogurt into the trash on a regular basis, you need to rework your shopping strategy. When you go to the grocery store, focus on the food that you will eat for the rest of the week. Don’t plan far into the future. Overstocking your fridge will inevitably lead to food going uneaten and turning inedible.

Cutting the cost of your groceries doesn’t have to be a big challenge. You can make small, simple changes and give your bank account a boost. Who knew saving money could be so easy?