There have been many years when I really had to scrimp to pay my taxes, but I’ve found that casseroles, frozen veggies, and meatless meals are a great way to help make ends meet. Admittedly, you should be frugal about your grocery expenditures at any point during the year. But during tax season, it can be especially crucial to pinch pennies (at least until you get that tax refund, that is!).

Not long ago, I was that person who went to the grocery story list-free and haphazardly selected items for my cart as I passed by. Then I realized that as tax season was approaching I should consider a more frugal approach to feeding myself. Intrigued by the idea, but skeptical about my ability to execute on it, I dove in and decided to pare down my grocery bill. Originally, I was worried that scrimping on price would mean lowering my standards for quality, but it turns out that with a little careful planning, you can make some really delicious meals on a dime. Scroll on to see what I discovered.

Use a Grocery List

The number one tenet of saving on your grocery bill is to make a list and stick to it. This goes hand in hand with meal planning and makes everything from budgeting to cooking a more streamlined process. Although it seems like a lot of upfront effort, think about it like this: Even if it took you one hour a week to plan — which, according to Investopedia, could help you save about $640 or more a year on food waste and other costs — that would save you about $12 an hour. For those who make $12-$15 an hour, the savings are like taking a paid week off of work!

Sale Stockpiling

So many things freeze beautifully. When items that you use regularly are on sale, from bread to butter to meat, snap them up in bulk. Although the savings seems minimal, when you add it up over a year’s worth of purchases, the amount of money you keep in your pocket will be significant. Plus, if you buy in bulk, you’re always guaranteed to have your favorite ingredients on hand.

Freezer Section

If you’re doing things right and stockpiling, then you’re going to make good use of your freezer. Although we want to eat our favorite fruits and vegetables year-round, buying things in season is significantly cheaper, which means that when these items are affordable and available you’re going to want to stock up. Even if you’re buying pre-frozen fruits and vegetables, you’re saving money, and the research shows that you’re not losing any nutrients by doing so.

Seasonal is Best

While you can most likely find your favorite items at your grocery store year-round, prices (and not to mention taste) will fluctuate greatly based on the season. In particular, if you’re buying tomatoes, berries, grapes, peaches, or asparagus out of season, you could really be hurting your grocery budget. Instead, opt for their frozen counterparts or wait until they are *naturally* back in the store.

Casseroles

Casseroles do not belong in the 1950s. In fact, they are every bit as valuable today as they were 70 years ago. Why? Because they’re a healthy and delicious way to stretch out pricier ingredients and feed more mouths. You could feed each person one chicken breast or you could use two in an entire casserole which will feed you both for dinner and leave you with leftovers for lunch the next day. If you’re not sure where to begin, do a quick search on Google and find tons of Brit + Co casserole recipe inspiration.

Herbs and Spices

Scenting your meals with a handful of herbs and spices is a good way to add a lot of flavor with little extra cost. Bonus points if you grow your own herbs. Also, you should definitely be buying spices in the international section of the store. I recently noticed that an ounce of cloves costs $3.79 in the spice aisle but 99 cents in the international section.

Meatless Most Days

Meatless Mondays are all fine and dandy, but if you really want to save a few extra dollars, you need to make more than one day of the week meat-free. Not to mention, it’s better for your overall health to eat less meat. Studies show that people who eat less meat have a lower risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. So you’ll be doing something good for your wallet, and your well-being to boot.

Share your favorite budgeting tips with us @BritandCo.

(Photos via @neonbrand and @igorovsyannykov /Unsplash)