'Shocked me': Woman saves almost $2600 a year on food, uses money to pay for holiday

After realising her family spent $300 per week on food, Ruth Henderson committed to cutting back, saving almost $2600 last year.
After realising her family spent $300 per week on food, Ruth Henderson committed to cutting back, saving almost $2600 last year. Photo credit: Getty.

After realising how much she spent on food, a Kiwi woman has detailed how she saved almost $2600 in a year, using the money for a holiday instead. 

Food is a big expense. A 2019 Otago University food costs survey estimated a moderate food shop for a four-person family costs $258 per week, on average ($83.25 per adult). 

And prices are going up. Statistics New Zealand food price index data shows in the year to December 2020, fruit and vegetable prices increased 8.9 percent and general grocery food prices increased 1.8 percent.

Living in a three-person household with two part-time incomes, Ruth Henderson, blogger at The Happy Saver, said after adding up supermarket spending she was shocked to discover that food represented a quarter of her household expenses.  

"It shocked me - that was too high, far too high."

Her weekly supermarket shop used to cost about $300 but last year, she got it down to $251.09 - $13,057 over the year.  This fed two adults, one teenager, one small cat, and one large dog. 

A further $1216.40 ($23.39 per week) was spent on eating out, a cost that could be cut but was reserved for enjoyment.

By planning a menu using what was already in the pantry, writing a shopping list, and sticking to it, Henderson saved just under $50 per week - almost $2600 in total.  

"Most people who plan meals, shop to a list and cook most meals at home end up saving thousands of dollars a year - just my example had us saving [almost] $2,600 a year. My holiday cost just $2,200 - reducing my food bill paid for [it]," Henderson added.

As it's easy to slip back into old habits, the trick is to stick to it - people have to commit and monitor what they do, she says. A good place to start is to do a stocktake of what's in the pantry, fridge and freezer.

"[People] write a meal plan first, listing out seven evening meals, what each family member likes to eat for breakfast and lunch.

 "They then create a shopping list based only on this - after taking into account what they already have. They do this week in, week out," Henderson said.

To make meal preparation faster and avoid buying duplicate items, Wick Nixon, a foodie, and owner of Wicked Wellbeing, suggests starting by removing expired and unusable items from the pantry and bringing usable food to the front.

 "A clean, organised pantry reduces the overwhelm, the stress and the frustration of not being able to find anything.

 "I highly recommend starting the new year off on a clean slate but don't feel like you need to tackle the whole thing at once: just work on one shelf at a time," Nixon suggested.