The biggest expense for a young family is the cost of housing. Rent and mortgage payments are fixed costs which can only be reduced by moving to a cheaper house, so when it comes to saving money we need to look at the next biggest expense, and that is the weekly shopping bill. There is a wide range of food spending patterns depending on household income, the number and ages of family members, people’s eating habits and expectations about the standard of food they like to eat. Whereas some people expect to dine on roast lamb and salmon, others are quite happy living on mince and sausages. Because there is so much variation, food is a prime area for finding ways to cut back and save. One of the easiest ways to do this is to shop as infrequently as possible with, say, a big fortnightly shop of non-perishables supplemented by more frequent purchases of fresh food. It is important to buy the right kinds of food as well as spending the right amount.
Every year, the University of Otago publishes a Food Cost Survey which is available at otago.ac.nz. Click on the consultancy section and then food costs. This survey calculates the weekly cost of purchasing a healthy diet for men, women, adolescents and children in major cities and looks at basic, moderate and liberal budgets. It’s no surprise that food costs for a teenage boy are around $107 per week compared to $85 for a grown man! A moderate budget for a couple and two children under the age of five living in Auckland is around $255 per week. For a couple with two teenagers the cost is around $359 per week. Use this guide to set a strict budget for your food, so you don’t eat your money!