If you're new to living on your own, it may seem both tempting and cheaper in the short run to live off fast food and dining hall cereal. And it's true that if you wander into Whole Foods without a plan, you can quickly run up a $50 grocery bill on Monday and be living off a can of olives and expired spinach by the weekend. However, you'll find that with some smart shopping and careful planning, your money stretches much further at the store than it does at the drive-thru. Below are some simple tips that can teach you how to save money on groceries and still feast like royalty.  

1. Plan your meals

vegetable, pepper, zucchini, meat
Christin Urso

Your first step to learning how to save money on groceries is creating a solid plan for the week for what meals you're going to be cooking. This doesn't mean you need to know exactly what you're going to eat for every meal of the week. But having a set idea for a week of dinners and a few possibilities for lunches and breakfasts can make sure you're wasting less cash and time when you're at the grocery store. 

This also means you can intentionally plan meals around what's on sale. Browse coupons or daily deals booklets before you leave for the grocery store and plan your meals accordingly. 

2. Shop with a list (but leave some wiggle room)

kale, lettuce, vegetable, swiss chard, fresh vegetables, local produce, farmer's market
Sam Jesner

Similar to the previous tip, it's best to create a list and stick to it. Planning to buy exactly what you need is the best way to stick to your budget. However, when you're on a budget it's nice to build in a little bit of flexibility to your list in case you stumble across any unexpected deals. If you have spinach on the list but see kale is on sale, consider going for kale instead. 

3. Go to multiple stores

Grocery, supermarket, Trader Joe's, Market, shopping cart, shopping
Caroline Ingalls

If you're only shopping at one grocery store, you're probably regularly overpaying for multiple items. To be clear, this does not mean you need to go to multiple stores in one day or even in one week. Few college students have the time or gas money to waste doing this. However, stores like Walmart and Trader Joe's might have great deals on pantry items or frozen foods and less than stellar deals on fresh produce. Meanwhile, farmers markets might have great deals on produce, but not stock the pantry items you need.

Consider stocking up on non-perishables biweekly at cheaper stores and buying perishable items like produce or bread once a week at a more expensive store. It's not too much of a headache for you, and you'll get better deals on everything you buy. 

4. Buy dry goods in bulk

Caty Schnack

If you eat a lot of a certain food that doesn't go bad quickly, you can save money and reduce wasteful food packaging by buying it in bulk. You can buy nuts and spices in bulk at farmers markets, or grind your own peanut butter at Whole Foods. If you're a junk food connossieur, you can also buy chips or ramen in bulk at big box stores like Costco or through Amazon. 

5. Avoid pre-packaged foods when possible

yogurt, milk
Jason Cruz

When you're on a busy schedule, it can be tempting to opt for convenient items like prepackaged chips, portioned yogurt, or even shredded cheese. However, keep in mind that anything you buy that's really convenient is most likely going to significantly more expensive. If you can buy a big bag of chips and portion it out into snack sizes yourself, you'll save a few bucks. 

6. Buy frozen fruits and veggies

vegetable, pea, frozen peas, legume, broccoli, cabbage
Katherine Baker

When you're on a health kick, it can be tempting to fill your cart with fresh fruit and greens. However, you may want to consider heading to the freezer aisle instead. Frozen produce is often a couple cents cheaper than fresh produce. It can also be difficult to determine how fresh your produce really is, especially for newbie grocery shoppers, so incorporating more veggies into your diet is easier at first with frozen vegetables. Plus, it can be easy to overbuy and not eat all your produce, which can lead to food waste. 

#SpoonTip: A recent study found that because frozen produce is picked and preserved at its peak freshness, it often retains more nutrients than fresh produce.  

7. Shop what's in season

pasture, sweet, strawberry, berry, Fresh, Fruit, farmer's market
Caroline Ingalls

When you're opting for fresh produce, your best bet is incorporating as much produce that's currently in season as possible to your grocery list. Not only will in-season produce be the least expensive, but it will also typically be fresher than out of season produce. You can view a list from the USDA of what produce is currently in season here. 

8. Sign up for store cards/ discount programs

chocolate, coffee, candy, tea
Bernard Wen

If you find yourself shopping at a certain store a lot, you might as well take advantage of their reward program. Kroger has a store card that's free and will discount items if you scan your card, as well as give you discounts on gas. Whole Foods is rolling out a 10% discount for Amazon prime members, so if you frequently shop at both Whole Foods and Amazon, signing up for prime might be a good choice. 

9. Download cash back apps

beer, tea, money, cash, bill
Anna Arteaga

If you're constantly losing physical coupons, you can take advantage of apps that will give you cash back just for shopping at certain stores. Shopkick will give you points just for walking into their partner stores, which you can redeem for gift cards. Ibotta will give you cash back if you purchase certain products on their list, and scan your receipt from stores like Walmart or Target. 

10. Don't shop hungry!

Research has shown that shoppers who are hungry both spend more money, and opt for more junk food than non-hungry shoppers. So before you leave for the store, grab a snack. Your grocery bill will thank you. 

Smart grocery shopping isn't rocket science; it's just planning your meals carefully and resisting the urge to impulse buy. So make your list, clip those coupons, and head to the store to rake in your savings. You'll find somewhere much more fun this summer to spend that extra cash.