It happens every month: You vow to eat out less, make your lunch more and actually remember to bring your coupons to the grocery store. So let’s do this. Let’s actually save money on food this month. Presenting your step-by-step guide. (It’s not too painful, we promise).

RELATED: How to Become a Better Cook in 30 Days

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Day 1: Decide on Three Rotating Breakfasts

If you’re like us, you scramble around every morning, trying to find something healthy and cheap to grab for breakfast. Make it easy on yourself (and your wallet) and always keep the fixings for three simple options on hand. Granola-topped yogurt, oatmeal with banana, and apple and toast with peanut butter. Done, done and done.

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Day 2: Pack Your Lunch (and Stick with It)

Nope, this isn’t just a one-day thing. Keep your fridge stocked with healthy lunch ingredients that are easy to put together the night before, like a turkey-and-avocado sandwich, a kale salad with roasted chickpeas or just leftovers from dinner. And do it every. Damn. Day.

RELATED: How to Make a Week of Happy Desk Lunches For $10

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Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Day 3: Make a List of Affordable, Go-To Dinners

Now that you’ve got breakfast and lunch covered, expand your horizons so you’re not eating spaghetti and frozen chicken all month. (These recipes feed the whole family for under $15. Score.)

RELATED: 3 Easy Weeknight Dinners You Can Make For $10 (or Less)

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Day 4: Outline a Weekly Meal Plan

OK, now that you’ve done some brainstorming, it’s time to plan out your meals. Some people like to do this monthly, but we find weekly is the easiest. Plan out how much each meal will cost, and try to overlap ingredients—but don’t go overboard. Veggie chili sounds great on Tuesday and Friday night, but maybe not for every dinner this week.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Meal Prep Like a Total Pro

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Day 5: Create a Monthly Grocery Budget

Congrats on figuring out what you want to eat. Now it’s time to figure out how to actually pay for it. Start with the amount you’d ideally pay for groceries—let’s say $300 for a family of four—then cut corners in your meal plan where you can. (Do you really need that crumbled feta on your salad on Wednesday?)

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Day 6: Make (and Freeze) Staples in Bulk

We’re talking beans, rice, ground turkey and anything else you eat on the reg. Buy a bag of brown rice in bulk, then spend an afternoon cooking it, splitting it into small portions in plastic containers and freezing it. When you come home late next week with no time to cook, you’ll be glad you did.

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Day 7: Try a New Cut of Meat

No, we’re not forcing you to buy tongue or tripe. But skip the $6 per pound sirloin and try the $3 per pound brisket this time. You’ll learn how to cook something different and might discover a new favorite meal.

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Day 8: Buy Store Brands

Quit being such a grocery store snob. The generic version is often the same thing, and nearly always a cheaper price. Those off-brand cookies are just as tasty, we swear.

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Day 9: Double Your Recipes

If you’re really serious about saving money and time, start multiplying every recipe you make by two and freezing the second batch.

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Day 10: Stock Up on Healthy Staples You Love

Some foods are the ultimate trifecta: healthy, cheap and tasty. (For us, that includes peanut butter, brown rice, apples and tuna.) Keep these magical foods in your fridge at all times, and incorporate them into as many of your meals as you can.

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Day 11: Buy Extras When they Go On Sale (But Not Too Much)

Don’t be that person who buys 20 boxes of cereal just because they’re 25 cents off. In this case, the savings aren't worth your cabinet space. Think about what you really use the most, and if there’s a sale on those items (hellooo, canned tomatoes), by all means, buy five. Otherwise, save your money.

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Day 12: Reward Yourself For Not Eating Out

If you’re trying to save money, eating in restaurants is obviously the first thing you stop doing. ($22 for chicken marsala? That’s the cost of four lunches!) But feeling deprived isn’t the way to go, either. So make sure to treat yourself from time to time—that pint of Ben and Jerry’s is the same price as a single cone at the ice cream shop, so just go for it.

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Day 13: Switch It Up

In the middle of the month, you will inevitably get bored with what you’ve been eating. It’s time to seek out new recipes, featuring ingredients you don’t usually eat. Jackfruit tacos, anyone?

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Day 14: Stock Up on Cute Leftover Dishes

Think about it: Are you more likely to devour a lunch you brought to work in an old plastic takeout container or an adorable, portable bento box? We rest our case.

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Day 15: Know What to Buy in Bulk (and What Not To)

Nonperishables, like pasta, beans, rice, canned goods and paper goods, are typically a better deal when you buy them in bulk. If you know you’re definitely going to use them over the next couple of months, nab ’em at a store like Costco or BJ’s. But maybe skip the pallet of blueberries unless you’re planning to make smoothies all week.

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Day 16: Swap In Frozen Fruit

And while we’re on the subject, guess what’s even more affordable than fruit in bulk from Costco? Frozen fruit from Costco. It lasts for over a year in the freezer, it’s just as healthy as fresh fruit, and it’s a snap to throw into smoothies, or thaw and add to recipes. Depending on how much fruit you buy, this simple switch could save you over 100 bucks a year.

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Day 17: Skip the Deli Cheese

When you’re eating a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mustard and pickles, are you really gonna miss that slice of provolone? If you’re spending $6 on cheese every week, it’ll save you $312 a year. If you must buy it, buy prepackaged cheese slices, which are usually a better deal.

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Day 18: Buy Frozen Seafood

If you buy fish exclusively from the grocery store seafood counter because you think it’s fresher, here’s an eye-opening tip: Most of the fish they’re selling has been previously frozen. (Sorry, but a fishing boat probably didn’t drive up to your local Stop and Shop this morning.) When you’re on a budget, the best deals are the frozen shrimp and fillets in the freezer section. And if they’ve all been frozen anyway, what’s the difference?

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Day 19: Shop at Multiple Stores

It’s a little more time consuming but totally worth the extra cost in the long run. We buy our staples at our local grocery chain, our organic veggies at Trader Joe’s and our bulk items at Costco.

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Day 20: Create a Fully Stocked Pantry

No, not of snacks and sodas. Of healthy, multitasking ingredients that you always use, like canned tomatoes. Do you know how many meals you can make with those guys? (A lot.)

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Day 21: Toss Your Takeout Menus

You know that drawer full of sushi and Thai menus you flip through when you don’t have time to cook? Yeah, it’s time to stop relying on those. They’re all available online, anyway. (And you’ll be less tempted to order takeout if you get them out of plain sight.)

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Day 22: Create a Price Chart

Remember the list you made of foods you love that also happen to be healthy and cheap? The next time you go to a grocery store, jot down how much these items cost at each store, and repeat at every chain you go to. (You quickly discover which store has the best deals.)

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Day 23: Swap Canned Beans For Dried

Canned chickpeas and black beans are fairly cheap, but you know what’s even cheaper? Buying a bulk bag of dried beans and boiling them yourself. Yes, they'll need to soak overnight and cook for two hours, but you’ll make the equivalent of three or four cans and save at least $5.

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Day 24: Make Meat Part of the Meal Instead of the Star

If your usual spaghetti and meatballs calls for a pound of ground chuck, try using half meat and half spinach or black beans tonight. Or better yet, try these veggie meatballs and forgo the meat all together.

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Day 25: Buy Herbs Only Once a Month

Have you ever, in your entire life, used an entire bunch of herbs you’ve bought at the grocery store? (Yep, we thought not.) So this time, commit to using the whole bunch. Chop the rest of that dill into small pieces, mix it with water and freeze it in ice cube trays. The next time you need a sprig, pop an ice cube into the pan.

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Day 26: Eat In-Season Produce

You love watermelon (hey, so do we), but if you buy it in the middle of winter, it’s going to be twice as expensive and probably not even taste that great. It’ll be worth it when you finally have a slice in June, we promise.

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Day 27: Shop Without Your Kids

Hey, sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if you can leave your kiddos with a family member or babysitter, you’ll be able to shop in half the time without them begging for cookies, cereal and other items that aren’t on your list. (And sometimes hiding candy in the cart without you knowing. Sneaky, sneaky.) 

RELATED: 6 Secrets of Moms with Polite Kids

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Day 28: Go Meatless

A bag of dried chickpeas at our local grocery store? $2. A pound of turkey? $4. It definitely pays to cut meat from your meals at least once a month (but we’re hoping you’ll love it so much, you’ll do it once a week or more).

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Day 29: Make Your Own Coffee

Look, we love Starbucks as much as the next gal, but do you know what we love even more? Money in our pocket. So buy pre-ground beans (or heck, even K-cups) and make your own brew. Best of all, you can make it just the way you like it.

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Day 30: Celebrate

Congratulations! You’ve officially saved a bunch of money this month. Now use a little of it to go out to dinner. You deserve a night off. (But not, like, an eight-course tasting menu. Let’s be frugal here, people.) 

RELATED: 6 Ways to Save More Money at Trader Joe’s

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