With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people everywhere to stay at home, cooking at home has become a more common practice for many families. While crafting your own meals at home can bring plenty of joy and satisfaction, it can also cost a pretty penny if you’re not careful. Luckily, there are plenty of tips out there to help you cut down on the costs of cooking at home. Let’s dive into the most helpful ways to save money while you play chef in your kitchen.

1. Make a Plan Before Going to the Store

Many families end up spending an exorbitant amount of money on food because they don’t go into the grocery store with a plan. Even when you think you’ll be able to only buy the things you need, wandering eyes can justify almost any purchase if you don’t have a solid grocery list. You also won’t be able to take advantage of sales and coupons when you don’t plan ahead.

Before you go to the grocery store, spend just 15 to 20 minutes doing prep work. The first thing to do is to visit the website of your usual grocery store and find their weekly flyer. That will tell you which items are on sale. You can then use these items as inspiration for the meals you’re going to cook and craft your meals for the week around them. Checking out the sales beforehand will also allow you to stock up on groceries you always buy while they’re discounted.

Once you know what’s on sale and how you can use those items in your meals, make your grocery list. This simple preparation will not only save you money while you’re at the store but it will save you time as well. With a list in hand, you won’t be aimlessly wandering around the aisles deciding what to buy.

2. Grow Vegetables and Herbs

People often viewing gardening as a major commitment, meant only for those born with green thumbs. In reality, growing certain vegetables and herbs does not take much work. Being able to grow fresh vegetables at home is the number one reason people garden today, with 30% of people who garden giving that answer. About 25% do it to get better-tasting, higher-quality food, 22% do it for fun, and 15% do it to save money. While you may start in that final category because you’re interested in cutting down on the cost of your produce, you may soon find yourself edging into the percentage of people who do it for fun or for the higher-quality vegetables.

Start a small vegetable garden in your yard and begin with easy veggies, such as tomatoes and peppers. If you live in an apartment and don’t have outdoor space, you can just as easily grow these vegetables in pots. You can also grow herbs such as chives, rosemary, thyme, and oregano in an outdoor garden or in pots indoors. For a small amount of effort, you’ll get harvests of vegetables and herbs that you no longer have to spend money on at the store.

You can find plenty of ideas online for your garden, including free garden marker ideas.

3. Cook What You Already Have

The average pantry is stuffed with boxes of mac and cheese, bags of rice, and all kinds of usable goods. Many families have these unused stores from nights spend eating at local restaurants or having meals delivered. The items in your pantry may have been kept for a rainy day and the coronavirus quarantine is nothing if not a series of the rainiest days we’ve ever seen.

Dig into the back of your pantry and discover all of the meals you can make without having to go to the grocery store. Get creative with how you can use the ingredients you have on hand. Even if you can’t make a complete meal, you will likely only need one or two things from the store. Using what you already have in your pantry is an excellent way to save money while also avoiding wasting food.

Cooking at home doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. By finding ways to cut down on the costs of your groceries, you can create meals that are delicious and keep your money in your bank account.