Groceries Cost More in New Zealand than in the U.S.

How much do you spend on a weeks worth of groceries?

I’ve always hated that question. In the U.S. groceries prices went up in 2008 and 2009 so a frequent water-cooler discussion was the cost of food. I remember a co-working asking how much Paul and I spent in groceries a week and I had no idea. It isn’t as if I didn’t do the grocery shopping and it wasn’t as though I wasn’t aware of how much things costs. BUT our grocery habit varied a lot. One week I might be inspired to cook 4 cheese risotto and spent $25 on fancy cheese and the next week we might eat a lot of beans and pasta which costs very little.

$170 of Groceries in New Zealand

$170 of Groceries in New Zealand

Here in New Zealand we are a little more consistent with what we eat. We don’t really eat a lot of fancy dishes with obscure ingredients – partly because we don’t have the spices and don’t want to buy them just for one or two dishes and partly because groceries are expensive and we are living on a budget.

So – if you are traveling to New Zealand how much should budget for a weeks worth of groceries? I’d like to be able to tell you to plan on spending $50 a week per person on groceries, but it really depends on your eating habits. So – I’ll show you how much we are spending.

First – a little about our eating habits.

1. We Cook

We cook almost every meal and create most dishes from scratch.  Since we arrived in January we’ve probably eaten out less than 10 times. That is about 2 times a month. We’ve learned to make everything from the most basic ingredients. For a cheap source of protein we stock up on pinto, black and kidney beans at the Bin Inn – and we even started making our own tortillas for tacos. We bake our own bread and bagels. I make chicken pot pie from a whole chicken and even make the pie crust with butter and flour. We make our own pizza crust, our own cookies and blackberry pies (with free, freshly picked blackberries).

Blackberry Pie with Freshly Picked Blackberries

Blackberry Pie with Freshly Picked Blackberries


2. We Eat Healthy and Fresh

When we go grocery shopping most of our time is spent in the produce section. We typically buy apples, bananas, carrots, celery, tomato, lettuce, onions and bell peppers every time we go grocery shopping. We splurge on hummus, which we eat daily with carrots and celery. We snack on nuts and fruit. We do have guilty pleasures, but our junk food is usually homemade – like pies and cookies – when you cook your own junk food you eat less b/c it is too much of a hassle to make. We’ve also stopped eating wheat bread since we’ve started baking our own bread. We haven’t been able to make good bread with whole wheat flour.

Homemade Bread

Homemade Bread

3. Typically meals

We eat a lot of tacos, which may not be healthy if you are getting them from Taco Bell, but ours are healthy. Our tacos typically have beans not ground beef and they are loaded with fresh tomatoes and lettuce. A little hot sauce, maybe some rice, a sprinkle of cheese and a couple unhealthy corn chips on the side. Depending on what we have handy we’ll also add bell peppers and onions.

Chicken – we buy the whole chickens to save money and we stretch the chicken by eating it with rice and vegetables. We’ll make a few chicken and tomato sandwiches, but usually we add the chicken to something like chicken pot pie which is 90% carrots, onion, celery and potatos.

Rice – We eat a lot of rice. We try to eat some brown rice, but white rice is so easy and goes with everything. It is also very cheap.

Pasta – Pasta is so easy and cheap we end up eating it a couple times a week. Usually our pasta we’ll include at least one can of tomatoes, but we change up the sauce between a red sauce with lots of onions and garlic or a lighter virgin olive oil sauce.

Breakfast – We eat oatmeal, bananas, apples and bread with peanut butter quiet often. Sometimes we’ll scramble eggs with cheese and we’ve even splurged on about 3 packets of bacon since we’ve been here.

4. Budget Brands

We buy the store brands of most items. We check the price per liter to make sure we are buying the least expensive brand of almost everything. We also stock up when something is on sale.

What We Spend

I’ve gone through our bank statement and added up all the grocery purchases since we moved to Motuoapa (around Jan 15). This total includes all toiletries and anything you would buy at the grocery store. In 3.5 months we’ve spent $1,382 USD ($1,944 NZD), and we have a full fridge and stocked cabinets. We have enough pasta, beans and rice to last until May 31st (our departure date). So, we only plan on buying fresh fruit and veggies for the next 5 weeks.

At first glance, $1,300 USD for 4.5 months (including May) seems like a lot, but keep in mind we had to buy EVERYTHING from salt and pepper to shaving cream. The first month we were here we spent $604 USD, nearly half of our budget. This is when we had to stock up on the basics; spices, sugar, olive oil, yeast, bottled water, shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent – many things that lasted our entire trip. This $600 also included the more expensive ready-to-eat meals we purchased during the week we stayed at the Motuoapa Lodge; canned soups, chips, cereal bars, pre-cooked chicken, etc.

We probably go grocery shopping 2-3 times a month. It is hard to say exactly because sometimes we’ll go twice a week to the nearby New World for something special and other times we’ll go a long time in-between shopping trips b/c we picked up a few fresh veggies at a local market and we eat tons of beans or soups we have frozen.

I think $300 a month is probably a reasonable budget for two people eating at home in New Zealand.


Common Grocery Items Costs in New Zealand Dollars

  • Milk 3 liters (.8 gallon) – $4.85
  • White Rice 2 kilos – $3.69
  • 10 Pack Tortillas – $3.99
  • Brown Onions 1.5 kilos – $3.15
  • Carrots 1.5 kilso – $2.98
  • Iceberg Lettuce (similar to iceberg, but NZ) – $1.65
  • Bananas 1 kilo – $1.55
  • Eggs dozen – 2.99
  • Butter 500G (4 American sticks) – $3.99
  • Chili Seasoning Mix – $1.49

A Typical Grocery Store Purchase

We went grocery shopping today (my inspiration for this post) and really stocked up on everything. We spent $170 NZD, which is about $120 US. Back home I think $80 is a big grocery bill, but I go to Publix more frequently so it isn’t a fair comparison. Today we got a little bit of everything, including personal items (toilet paper & soap). We had a couple splurges Salami for pizza $6.00,  shaved ham and roast beef $6.50, and a chocolate bar $4.00.

Our biggest purchases were hamburger meat (minced meat) and frozen chickens. The hamburger meat was on sale – we bought two 900 gram packages for $13 NZD. That is about 4 pounds. The regular price is $10 per package. The chickens were $12 each and weighed 1.8 kilos each. They are typically $15 each (for size 18).

We also bought things we haven’t been buying since arriving in New Zealand – bread, tortillas and sliced cheese.

Tips to Save Money on Groceries in New Zealand

  • Watch the newspaper specials and stock up when things you normally buy are on sale.
  • Do a Pack and Save trip to stock up on dry goods.
  • Eat beans – a cheap source of protein – available for purchase at Bin Inn.
  • Don’t shop hungry, because you’ll grab expensive pre-cooked food or junk food.
  • Pasta – learn a variety of ways to make it, for example white sauce and red sauce.
  • Water – drink tap water if it is acceptable. Re-use your old bottle for trips.
  • Pack sandwiches, nuts and fruit on road trips.
  • Cut up carrots and celery to eat as a snack so you don’t waste money on chips and cookies.
  • Do your own baking. We bake bread, bagels, pizza crust, muffins, pie shells and tortillas to save money.
Homemade Bagels

Homemade Bagels

Have any more information on New Zealand Groceries? Please share.

4 Comments

  1. Adeline ?>

    Tell me about shopping for groceries in NZ! My husband and I were shocked when we found out the amount spent in NZ (for a single shopping trip) is exactly the same dollar value back in Malaysia – and yet we got more for what we spent back home! It’s mind boggling.

    I think it has something to do with the service – oriented economy in NZ. You pay heaps more for what it’s actually worth. Did u also notice that u dont quite get the best pick of the lot for veges here in NZ? Ive been to Australia, and my my my, they have an awesome choice of the freshest, roundest, juiciest, cheapest range of veges and fruits there! In fact, I’ve seen chain stores purely dedicated to selling fruits …rows and rows of colourful fruits!! And these stores were in small suburbs of Oz! I nearly went blind with awe. LOL

    I believe even the NZ locals complain that we dont get to call dibs on the best produce of NZ… the good stuff are usually exported out of NZ. Heck, even the butter, cheese and milk aren’t exactly cheap here.

    Where are u based at in nZ?

  2. admin ?>

    I am in Motuoapa, which is a small suburb outside of Taupo. Actually it isn’t a suburb like you would think of in America. It is just a cluster of homes in a rural area.

    I haven’t found the product to be bad. Actually i’ve thought it was pretty good. But it lacks variety. I’ve found that the produce lasts longer here than back home – maybe it is Florida heat. The celery will last a week without going limp, another week if I chop and put in water. At home, it only last a few days and another day in water.

  3. Annalise ?>

    yeah the food pricing here is ridiculous. If I want to create a tasty meal (one with herbs and spices etc) at home for my family of four its around $60.
    Our best bet is to grow our own herbs and vegetables. meat prices here suck. And you would think with the amountof sheep we have, that our lamb would be cheaper. Not! its expensive!
    I live in the Hutt Valley.

  4. Nick ?>

    Veggies probably last longer here because we have a lot of humidity. They don’t dry out so quick

Leave a Reply