19 Apr 2022

Are you 'eating your money'?

From Nine To Noon, 11:45 am on 19 April 2022

Food is one of our biggest household expenses.

At a time when thousands of New Zealanders are going hungry, there are also many people spending money on food they'd be better off saving, says financial planner Liz Koh.

woman in wheelchair with coffee and food

Photo: Marcus Aurelius / Unsplash

Liz Koh

Liz Koh Photo: CapturedByFridayPhotography2021-38

Many people don't know how much they spend on food, Koh says. But if we're not careful, this outlay can "easily go overboard".

To get a sense of how your food spending compares to other peoples', this annual report on NZ food costs by Otago University is a good starting point, Koh says.

Feelings of choice and comfort are tied in with our individual food expenditure but making sacrifices can offer deeper satisfaction, she says.

"[Food] is an area of your budget where you can make huge savings but also do a favour for yourself healthwise and do a favour for the planet in the sense that you're cutting down on wastage.

"As we go into this next economic cycle where we've got this high inflation, we've got high-interest rates which are going to affect our mortgage payments and our rent, it's the one area that deserves a lot of attention."

Someone who could find a way to spend $125 less on food per week would save well over $6,000 if they kept that up for a year, Koh says. After a decade, that could become over $60,000.

"By simply changing some habits you can actually save a lot of money."

To begin your own investigation, Koh recommends first jotting down a list of everything you spend on food in a week, then looking at where you can cut back.

"Even set yourself a [weekly] limit and say 'my grocery budget is going to be xX-amount per week and once I've exceeded that I'm gonna have to think outside the square in terms of what I put on the table."

Liz Koh's tips for shrinking your food spend:

  • Cut down your supermarket visits (and the number of opportunities to "impulse buy" things you don't need)
  • Plan meals and make sure you have the ingredients on hand
  • Cook in bulk
  • Stop buying lunch
  • Watch your coffee and cafe snacks