People gotta eat, right? And many probably don’t realize how much they spend on groceries because you don’t always think about your spending when it comes to the staples of life. There are things that you can do to lower your monthly grocery bill, though, so it doesn’t break your budget.

First of all, make a list and withdraw the cash with which to buy the groceries. You are more likely to spend less when you’re paying with the cash you have in hand than when you whip out a card and pay “whatever it costs.” Take along a calculator (every new Smartphone has a calculator app, so you always have one with you) and tally up as you go to make sure you stay on budget.

And don’t shop when you’re hungry. Those items you don’t really need look awfully good when your stomach is rumbling for them.

One of the best strategies is to buy what you need when you intend to use it, not doing a big shop when you have lots of money (on payday, for example) and then hoping what you bought lasts for the next two weeks, because there’s bound to be wastage.

Think about this: food is one of the few things on which you spend money, that you are prepared to throw away — not all of it, but some of it — and we don’t really think much about it. For example, we cook up gallons of pasta and load up plates and quite often we don’t eat everything that’s served, with the scraps going into the garbage or the bigger portions set aside as leftovers that don’t often get consumed before their fridge life expires.

Meats are often sold by weight, so you’re not saving by buying in bulk unless you find a drastically reduced price. But if you don’t have the means to freeze meats (preferably individually wrapped, so you can defrost what you need later, rather than defrosting the entire package), don’t buy in bulk.

When it comes to fresh items such as produce, buy what you want to consume right away (or within a couple days). There isn’t a lot of discount on produce for buying in bulk, and it doesn’t store exceptionally well, so you’re best to buy it as you use it.

If you want the convenience of having your vegetable of choice to complement a meal, buy frozen vegetables and cook what you need when you need it. Also, look at options in portion sizes. Broccoli crowns, for example, usually allow you to consume everything you buy, whereas broccoli stalks likely result in considerable wastage if you only consume the crowns. Also, mini-cucumbers allow you to use what you want as you go along, rather than cut up half an English Cuke and hoping you can finish the rest before it goes off.

And since many of today’s stores match prices, don’t drive around to save a couple pennies on a product you want. And use coupons. Coupons are big savers on items you’re going to buy anyway and if you find a deal on something and the coupon applies to all quantities, you could save a bundle on bulk buys. You may also be able to combine price matching with in-store coupons for extra savings.

Finally, be aware that you’re going to pay extra for convenience. Think about those single serving coffee makers. You can spend $6 for a box of cups that will allow you to make 12 cups. However, you can buy a reusable cup for $3 and fill it up with your favourite ground coffee for about the same price, and enjoy exponentially more cups of coffee for your expenditure.

Finally, remember that nutritious eating is better controlled by you than somebody at a big corporation, which may put in ingredients in their food you may not want in yours. Stay in control of the food you prepare and that will likely also keep you in control of your food budget.

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