With interest rates, food costs and general living expenses on the rise, many Kiwis are struggling to make ends meet. We have pulled together a wealth of information on how you can save money in these tough economic times.
How to save money on food
Food prices were 10.7 percent higher in November 2022 compared with November 2021, according to Stats New Zealand.
Kiwis are seeing price increases across all food categories - grocery food prices increased by 10 per cent, fruit and vegetables increased by a whopping 20 per cent and meat, poultry and fish prices increased by 12 per cent.
Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices increased by eight per cent.
It’s the highest annual food price increase recorded since September 2008, and it comes at the same time that we are facing higher interest rates and increases in other household expenses.
Combined with the extra costs of Christmas and the summer holiday period, it’s no wonder our bank accounts are looking decidedly unhealthy.
But the good news is that food is one area where you can save some money by making a few small changes. Here are our tips for spending less at the supermarket:
Have a budget for food and stick to it
Plan meals ahead and shop with a list once a week so you only buy what you need. Buying something on special doesn’t save you money if you end up throwing it out!
Stick with what’s in season – when you are meal planning and shopping, look at fruit and vegetables that are arriving fresh from local growers. Avoid paying high prices for food that’s imported or out of season – not only does it cost more, it also won’t taste as fresh.
Reduce food waste - New Zealand households throw away 157,000 tonnes of food a year. That is equivalent to 271 jumbo jets of food that doesn’t get eaten. Planning meals is a good start. But we can also look at using more of the food we buy. There are plenty of vegetables, such as carrots, that can be eaten with the skin on. There are also lots of vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower that you can use from tip to stalk. Broccoli stalks are great in a stir-fry or curry.
Look at buying food on subscription – meal plans such as Hello Fresh or My Food Bag could save money in the long run as you are only paying for what you need. Te Atatu Toasted flexible monthly subscriptions save you up to 25 per cent on the cost of a healthy breakfast! They also reduce the waste as you avoid having open cereal bags that go stale and often end up being thrown out.
Use your freezer wisely – it’s more cost effective to make big batches of pasta sauce and curries and freeze in meal-sized portions. Also freeze leftovers if you know you are not going to eat them in the next day or so – otherwise they just get chucked out. Or if your supermarket is offering cheap deals on a particular cut of meat, stock up and freeze some to use later.
Consider a few meatless meals each week – not only will you save money, you will also be helping the environment. Look for recipes that use cheaper alternatives such as lentils, canned beans, chickpeas or canned fish.
Watch portion sizes – if you make a meal intending to have leftovers for lunch the next day, put that aside before you serve. That means you or your family won’t eat two meals’ worth of food in one go.
Look at how you are storing food to ensure it lasts longer.
Bread should be kept in the fridge or freezer to stop it going mouldy
Put a selection of fruit in the fruit bowl and keep the rest in the fridge to keep it fresher longer. This works well for many fruits including apples, citrus fruit and ripe feijoas, kiwifruit and stone fruit
Keep potatoes and onions in a cool, dark area but don’t store them together. They both release moisture which makes them sprout faster.
Keep tomatoes at room temperature
Wrap pumpkin in cling film and store int the fridge
Consider investing in containers that help keep produce fresher longer – check out Sistema Freshworks range or the Décor Tellfresh range available at Spotlight.
By focusing on reducing your food bill, you can lessen the financial stress for your family.
Easy healthy breakfast recipes you haven’t thought of
Summer holidays have come to an end for most of us and the mornings are a blur of getting ready for work, school or wherever our busy lives take us. We need a breakfast that’s quick to make but we don’t want to sacrifice good nutrients for the sake of convenience.
It might be tempting to reach for a pre-packaged breakfast drink but remember, these are often expensive, high in sugar and additives and create unnecessary waste that flows into our landfills.
So we found a few alternatives that won’t slow you down in the morning, will provide the energy you need for your busy day and won’t break the budget.
Breakfast in a jar
We love layered breakfasts – they can be made the night before, saving precious minutes in the morning, they are easy to take to work or the gym if you need breakfast on the go, and every spoonful tastes different.
You really can’t go wrong here – just layer the ingredients you love (such as healthy, low-sugar cereal, fruit, nuts, yogurt, grated carrot, spices) in a eco-friendly reusable glass jar, pop the lid on and leave in the fridge overnight.
But if you want some inspiration or ideas, we’ve got six yummy recipes on our breakfast in a jar page.
Bacon and eggs have been a Kiwi weekend brunch favourite forever, but eggs can make a quick, easy weekday breakfast too.
Not only are they delicious, they are also very nutritious - eggs are a good source of protein, contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats and are a great source of important nutrients, such as vitamin B6, B12 and vitamin D.
One of our favourite quick breakfasts is scrambled eggs with a few additions for extra fibre or flavour. Try stir-frying some onion or capsicum, then adding your eggs to the pan. Or add in some diced tomatoes, grated cheese or herbs as soon as you remove the eggs from the heat. Breakfast can be ready in less than 10 minutes!
High-performance fruit salad
Not everyone feels like a big breakfast in the morning but it’s important to eat something to boost your metabolism and stabilise your blood sugar. If you are not a fan of food first thing, a fruit salad is a great light option. However, on its own, it won’t provide the nutrients you need for energy and to keep your brain sharp. Luckily, it’s easy to transform a simple fruit salad into a high-performance breakfast.
Sprinkle a handful of your favourite Te Atatu Toasted muesli on top of your fruit salad. All our mueslis are low-GI foods, which means they provide slow-release energy throughout the day. If you choose our original blend, you are getting a mix of fruit, almonds, seeds and whole oats which will help keep you feeling full longer.
Adding a dollop of yoghurt to a fruit salad is another way to add protein to your breakfast.
Other options for people who aren’t big breakfast fans are a few bliss balls or a protein bar. If you have made them at home, you will know they are not too high in sugar. We’ve got a great recipe for Bliss Balls or have a go at making our Chewy Paleo Bars. These are usually a breakfast hit with the teens.
Now you are on your way to having mornings sorted.
Summer fun on a budget
Summer means long weekends and long light evenings, giving us even more opportunity to enjoy fun times with family and friends. But with the cost of living on the increase, it can be difficult to make the budget stretch to expensive outings. We’ve tracked down 21 ideas for fun activities that are either cheap or free, so you can tick them off this summer.
Head to a weekend market. You can usually pick up fruit and vegetables that are fresher and perhaps even cheaper than what’s on offer at the supermarket and there are always loads of new things to see or try. Follow Te Atatu Toasted on Facebook or Instagram to see which markets we will be at each weekend.
Check out what free music or movies are on offer in your area. In Auckland, Movies in Parks runs on Friday and Saturday nights until the end of March and Music in Parks events are on Saturdays and Sundays for the same period. Check out what’s on in your area – if you live outside of Auckland, try a Google search for free outdoor movies and music.
Run your own My Kitchen Rules event at home – this is great if you have older children or teens. Everyone has a turn at creating their own restaurant at home for a dinner or lunch, complete with a theme and their own menu. When it’s the kids turn, the adults might need to pitch in with the food prep and cooking, under the “chef’s” direction of course. Decide whether you are going to run it as a competition with points awarded or maintain family harmony by doing it just for fun.
Visit your local art gallery or museum. Most have at least some exhibitions that are free and the exhibits change regularly. It’s a cheap date or catch up with a friend or you can take the whole family. You can always bribe those that aren’t great lovers of culture with the promise of a post-visit ice-cream or wine.
Go camping at home – put up the tent on the back lawn. (If you don’t have a tent, someone in your neighbourhood Facebook group is sure to have one you can borrow). Play some backyard cricket, make lunch a picnic and dinner a BBQ. You can sleep out under the stars if you want or retire to the comfort of your own bed.
Try some free online workout routines or yoga classes. There are many that are suitable for all ages. We love Yoga with Adrienne – get started with this 17-minute Rainbow Yoga sessionand make sure everyone wears their brightest exercise gear.
Throw a pool party – you don’t even need your own pool. In Auckland, most of the public pools have free admission for children under 16. Let you kids invite a friend or two, pack food and plenty of sunscreen and head to the pool for the day. If you live outside of Auckland, you can find you nearest public pool with a quick online search.
Visit eventfinda to see what’s happening in your local area. You can search by location and event type and even look for events that are free or cost less than $20.
Have a movie day or night at home – this is a great idea for those rainy summer days. Check out new releases on your streaming services or you can rent recently released movies from Google Play or Microsoft for about $5. That’s a bargain given a family pass to the cinemas can be around $60. Stock up on snacks and homemade popcorn for your movie marathon.
Launch a family photographic challenge. Everyone competes to take the best picture of the day, with all competitors getting a vote. Then when winter sets in, you can make a scrapbook or album with all the shots as a memento of the fabulous summer you had.
Devote a day to decluttering – not only will you tidy up the house, garage or shed, you might even find some items you no longer need that you can sell to make some money to pay for a summer outing. Trade Me, Facebook Marketplace and even an old-fashioned garage sale are all simple ways to get rid of unwanted goods that someone else might value.
Host a games night – invite extended family or friends over, set up teams and let the competition begin. Whether it’s Twister, Trivial Pursuits or table tennis, it’s sure to be a lot of fun. I’ve been playing a lot of cards lately and my favourite are Five Crowns and Phase 10. Offering dessert to your guests is cheaper than providing an entire meal or make it pot luck.
Take a tour of your local area. Auckland Free Walking Tours offers a free two to three-hour tour around Downtown and the central city. Who knows what you might learn. A quick Google search will also find free walking tours and self-guided walking tours all around New Zealand.
Volunteer for a day. You could find a local animal shelter or food bank that’s looking for extra hands or simply spend a few hours picking up litter in your neighbourhood or at a local park or beach. It’s a great way to contribute to your local community and create some feel-good vibes.
Try geocaching – this is a real-world global treasure hunt that’s happening all the time. Participants use the Geocaching app or a GPS to find cleverly hidden containers called geocaches. There are millions of geocaches in 190 countries waiting to be discovered—there are probably even some near you right now. Find out more.
If it’s really hot, a water fight is a super fun way to cool down, no matter how old you are. Dig out the water pistols or guns from the toybox or invest in some reusable water balloons. We love EcoSplat Reusable Balloons – they are a bit more expensive but there is no rubbish to pick up, they are better for the environment and can be used over and over again. Or you can make your own reusable water balloons with kitchen sponges.
Join your local library. They offer so much for the whole family – you can check out books or e-books for all ages to read at the beach or in the hammock. They even have audiobooks if you prefer to listen to the latest best-seller. Plus they run a variety of events and programmes throughout the year, including activities for tamariki and teens, workshops and talks, exhibitions and computer classes.
Walk your way through summer (and winter!). Whether you explore your local neighbourhood or head further afield to try some of New Zealand’s beautiful bush walks, this is a cheap, fun activity that’s suitable for all ages and most levels of fitness. Make it more interesting by signing up for Wilderness magazine’s Walk1200km challenge. The idea is to walk 100km a month for 12 months. There are progress trackers to download and a Facebook group you can join.
Embrace your inner artist and create a chalk art competition. Draw your masterpieces on the driveway or share them with your neighbours by turning your footpaths into a canvas for your brilliant chalk creations.
Change up your summer style without spending a fortune by visiting recycle boutiques or second-hand clothing stores. We love re:generate Fashion in the Auckland suburb of Takapuna – they offer carefully curated clothes for the fashion savvy. But every town has at least one good second-fashion outlet.
Last but not least, spend some time at your local beach or freshwater swimming hole. We are spoiled for choice in New Zealand when it comes to safe, clean waterways to enjoy but if you do have concerns you can check out coastal water quality and hazards at safeswim.org.nz. Take care of yourself and friends and family – never swim alone and stay between the flags when there are lifeguards on duty.
Easy lunches for work and school
By February most of us are back at work or school. After the lazy days of holiday, it can be a struggle to get back into making lunches to take. But heading to a café or getting school lunch orders every day soon adds up so we’ve got a few suggestions for yummy, healthy lunches and snacks that make for interesting eating without breaking the bank. No boring sandwiches made the list – find a few new faves for 2023.
Poke bowl – these are easy to assemble in the morning and you can use whatever vegetable ingredients you have to hand to go with the basic rice and protein base. Make them for the whole family and just adjust the ingredients in each to suit everyone’s taste. Keep any dressings or marinades in a separate container to add just before you eat so the ingredients don’t go soggy. Check out our Te Atatu Toasted poke bowl recipe.
Rice paper rolls make a great change from sandwiches or wheat-based wraps and are suitable for kids and adults. There are loads of different ingredient combinations that work in a rice paper roll but we like this recipe that uses poached chicken. Take your dipping sauce in a separate container. Rice paper rolls can stay fresh for three to five days when kept in a sealed container in the fridge, so if you make them at the weekend, they will get you through the first half of the week.
Corn fritters are loaded with veges and full of protein from the eggs. Cook up a batch of corn fritters on Sunday night and store them in the fridge either wrapped in cling film or in an airtight container. Make sure you eat them in the first half of the week. If you have access to a microwave at lunchtime, you might like to warm them up and have with a side salad but they are also yummy eaten cold.
Mini pizzas are usually a firm favourite in school lunchboxes. Trying using pita bread or muffin splits as a base. Spread pizza sauce, add your chosen ingredients, top with cheese, then bake at a medium heat for eight to 10 minutes. Kids (and adults) will happily eat them cold for lunch. A similar option is pizza pinwheels – we like this recipe from Kidspot. These are great in lunchboxes or as an after-school snack.
Fried rice is good for lunch – cook some extra white or brown rice at dinner time, then quickly sauté vegetables such as peas, carrots and onion. When the veges are nearly cooked, push them to the side of the fry pan, then use the free space to scramble a couple of eggs. Add the rice to the vege and egg mixture and flavour with soy sauce.
Frittatas are another yummy egg-based lunch option. Use this easy oven-baked frittata recipe from Taste.com.au but swap out the ingredients for whatever you have to hand. Any left over vegetables or roast root vegetables work well, experiment with feta or cheddar cheese and try ham, bacon or chicken instead of pancetta.
Make a Ploughman’s lunch in a box – a Ploughman’s lunch is a traditional English pub meal that’s based around cold meats, cheese, pickled onions, chutney and bread. But make a more modern version by adding cherry tomatoes, cucumber and hard boiled eggs and swapping the bread for some interesting wholegrain crackers. Take it all to work in a sealed container and enjoy.
Kiwis young and old have embraced sushi for lunch and it’s not that hard to make it at home. Try this beginner’s sushi recipe from Kidspot.
If you have access to a microwave at lunchtime, steamed vegetables with cooked chicken is an easy, healthy option. Set aside some cooked chicken from dinner (this works well if you have roasted a whole chook or picked up a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket) and take it to work with an individual serve of frozen vegetables. We like the Watties Steam Fresh range.
Back to school baking
The Te Atatu Toasted website has loads of recipes for baked treats that are perfect lunchbox fillers or work morning and afternoon tea snacks. Check out our collection.
You might want to try our Breakfast Muffins – these are yummy any time of the day but will also be popular with people who can’t face eating breakfast before they leave home and want something filling a bit later in the morning.
Gluten-free Crunchy Banana Bread is bound to become a family favourite. You can even freeze slices to use later but it will probably be gone before you get a chance.
Still on a banana theme, check out our Paleo Banana Cookies. These are delicious straight out of the oven but will also freeze for lunchbox use.