Food Prices – Eating on a Budget

Food Prices – Eating on a Budget

As a backpacker there is quite a few things you can do without – food is not among those items. Unfortunately price tags for groceries in New Zealand supermarkets can often cause a shock among travelers. Especially Auckland is rather expensive.

One of the reasons is that New Zealand only really has 2 rivaling supermarket chains. New Zealand owned company Foodstuffs Ltd. runs 4Square, New World and Pak&Save while Countdown is operated by Australian owned Woolworth Limited. You can see how it is rather impossible to encourage a price war as seen in Europe.


Choose your supermarket wisely


Generally speaking New World is the most expensive supermarket, closely followed by Countdown and 4Square. Pak&Save normally allows you to save up to 30% on your bill compared to a shopping trip to any of the other stores so we definitely recommend getting your groceries there.

Most bigger towns now have at least one of the bigger supermarkets with 4Squares scattered around the more remote areas. You will also find hundreds of so called Dairy Shops which are similar to a kiosk offering anything from milk, pies, lollies and more. These are quite pricy, though, so if you don’t have a car we suggest carpooling with other backpackers to do a proper grocery shop at Pak&Save.


Buy local produce


Fresh fruit and vegetables are best bought at the markets or from local producers who often sell avocados, lemons, oranges and other seasonal fruit on their doorstep. Market days are usually Saturday and/or Sunday. Check local newspapers for dates. In Auckland you will find Avondale Market open every Sunday from 9am to 1pm which offers fresh produce for reasonable prices.

When it comes to lunch or dinner meals the cheapest thing to get if you’re on a budget is pasta, canned tomatoes and baked beans. Shop around for meat to see where you get the best prices. Especially mince is pretty much always on special with prices averaging around $8 to $9 per kilo. Surprisingly you might also find that mussels are rather cheap in New Zealand thanks to their abundance.

If you suffer from food allergies you might have to dig deeper into your pockets. Though gluten-free and/or dairy-free options have become more popular on the supermarket shelves their prices are still unbelievably high. A loaf of gluten-free bread for example costs around $6 to $7 compared to the cheapest ordinary bread which you can find for $1.40.


Takeaways and Eating Out


Eating out will give you more options regardless of your diet. One of our top recommendations is Sushi. It’s healthy and compared to European prices rather affordable. Also a good idea for vegetarians who otherwise might feel left out seeing that New Zealand mostly is a beef and dairy country. You can get a sushi roll for just $1 or deals offering 8 rolls for $5. Also check the stalls when closing time nears as prices will again drop quite a bit.

Most bigger towns and especially cities like Auckland or Christchurch also have food courts. For $10 you can chose from a range of mostly Asian dishes such as Chinese, Korean, Indian or Turkish.


Cheap Recipes


Here are 5 recipes to keep you going on a budget:

Avocado bread spread ($2):

1 avocado
lemon juice (you often find lemons growing on the side of the road)
salt & pepper to season
1 garlic clove

* mash together and enjoy

Tabbouleh ($3)

1 tomato
1/2 onion
salt and pepper to season
lemon juice

* prepare couscous according to package (soak in boiling water)
* mash together and season to taste
* eat warm or cold (refrigerate for up to 2 days)

Pasta variations

instant noodles ($1)
can of tuna ($2)

* mix together


instant noodles ($1)
50- 100g prawns ($10 per kg)
1 garlic clove
olive oil

* fry prawns and garlic
* mix with pasta


instant noodles ($1)
can of chopped tomatoes ($1)
minced beef ($9 per kg)
salt, pepper to season
pinch of sugar
1 garlic clove

* fry mince with garlic
* add chopped tomatoes and season to taste
* let it simmer, then mix with pasta

Scrambled eggs ($5)

2 eggs ($2.50 per half dozen)

* pan-fry with whatever ingredients you prefer – ham ($1 per 100g over the counter), tomato, onion, parsley, salt & pepper…

Pumpkin soup ($3, autumn/winter dish)

1/2 pumpkin ($1 depending on season)
2 potatoes ($1 per kg)
1 kumara ($3 per kg)
1 onion ($2.50 per 1.5kg)
salt, pepper, curry powder and ginger to season
1 can of coconut milk ($1)

* boil vegetables and mash
* season to taste
* add coconut milk and let simmer

Another tip to eat on a budget: shop and cook together! You not only share the bills but will also meet new people and have fun sozialising. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge and saved for the next day.

Happy shopping and cooking!

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