Grocery Shopping

December 23, 2012

There is a term that I kept hearing before we left, and keep hearing since we’ve arrived in New Zealand. To be honest, I am sick of this term. It’s used too much and probably inappropriately used, really. It’s also pessimistic and in my opinion, comes from downright laziness, which are 2 of my very least favorite things. Lazy pessimists, get off my island. The phrase?

“New Zealand/food/petrol/cars/accommodation/_fill in the blank   is so expensive.”

Yes, some things such as your frozen lean cuisine from the US or your 64GB imported limited iPhone 5 are truly expensive. It’s an island. Stuff has to come here on a boat. From really far away.

But on the whole, if you are creative and tenacious, you will not be broke.

This brings me to the event that was my biggest fear: grocery shopping. Everyone (mostly expats and Americans who have visited NZ) gripes about the prices of food. I’ve read sporadic articles about how if one is able to shop with regard to the season (no bruschetta in winter ya’ll, get over it) then it shouldn’t be so bad. But more commonly, I read and heard about how unreasonable all food is here, to the point that some expats have left New Zealand and returned to America, land of government subsidized poison GMO ridden mass-produced food.

So how’d it go? Well it went pretty damn great. I have a habit of doing “mental math” while I shop to see how close I can get to the actual price when it’s all rung up at the end. Weird, I know. I admit, I was pretty distracted by all the super weird brands and packaging to really focus on my math game, but regardless, we came in $25 under what I expected, with a total of $125. For perspective, we bought a lot of essentials… food for a brand new flat, cleaning supplies, a few kitchenwares, etc.

Fun facts:

Tomatos cost $2.99/kg. Thats roughly $1.30/lb, which is unheard of in the states. Oh, and they aren’t from hothouses in Mexico.
There is peanut butter, and everyone that told us that there isn’t is a liar.
There are also tortillas. In varying shapes and flavors. More lies.
Eggs aren’t refrigerated. And the yolks are so yellow they look orange.
Bell peppers are called “capsicum”.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and especially boysenberries are all cheaper (but probably only for this month. Things are very seasonal here.)
Honey is a solid, kind of like a butter color and texture.
Wine is barely more expensive, if at all. Beer is astronomical. (Stella, gross, on sale for $20/12 pack.) Liquor is more expensive, but not like beer.

One of my favorite things was the “confection free” line. There are 2 check-out lines dedicated to having no candy, and therefore no grubby hands grabbing wildly, no toddler meltdowns, and probably even a reduced temptation to those who would otherwise grab that un-needed Snickers. The confection free line does offer raisins, nuts, etc. however. The other mama-friendly tidbit I noticed was “family parking” right next to the handicapped parking places. Pretty cool.

The best deal were the venison hamburgers we got, 6 patties freshly made with seasoning and everything for $7. They are AMAZING. Oh, and the salmon fillet we got. Big enough for 2, caught 12 kilometers out of Christchurch, $8. A very, very tasty win.

Anyways, since I didn’t take any pictures of my groceries, I’ll leave you with a picture of a little trail up at the top of our street.

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  • Reply Jenny @ Practically Perfect... December 23, 2012 at 8:36 am

    That’s great about coming under budget while grocery shopping 🙂 I agree that if you shop seasonally and aren’t fixed on having only certain foods or certain meals, then yes, you can definitely live in NZ and not go broke.

    I’m one of those expats who complained about the cost of things over here, but I wouldn’t say it was because I was lazy or pessimistic. Part of it is living in AKL, where things do cost more than elsewhere in NZ and it can be harder to stay on budget because of higher rates & rent. Part of it’s the learning curve, as I’d never been to NZ before moving here and there really wasn’t much info out there about prices (at least not that I could find then). And part of it is where you come from in the US, as some states have lower cost of living than others and so it’s more of a shock. But, you pay for the lifestyle in NZ, and we’ve been very happy with that lifestyle and all of the things we’ve experienced despite accepting a job offer that has us returning to the States next year. I think some people forget that and get hung up on how expensive stuff is when they’re really getting a great quality of life in return.

    That’s weird that you’d heard there was no peanut butter and no tortillas! I’ve heard people say that you can’t buy “authentic” tortillas, but even that isn’t true if you know where to look. You can buy liquid honey (my preference) but yeah, creamed honey is more common. We don’t buy beer that often but even if the wine does cost more, I think it tastes better, so it’s worth it 🙂

    • Reply Kristen Fellers December 23, 2012 at 10:31 am


      I don’t actually recall you complaining about expenses! I must have missed that post. I suppose I went on a bit of a rant there… but I felt the need to defend New Zealand a little bit, ya know? I mean, basically, if you’re able to buy what is grown and/or produced in the country, you wont break the bank. And we didn’t go in blind- we were well informed (obviously, haha) about how expensive things were, and we also came from arguably the most expensive state in the US. Regardless of it all, I’m just glad that – so far – sticker shock hasn’t been too shocking. And MULTIPLE people told us we wouldn’t find PB or tortillas! So weird.

      Above all else, I whole heartedly agree: the wine is definitely better.

    Come on, you must want to tell me something!