8 Minute Read
So you want to know what to stockpile in your grocery cart next time you’re in New Zealand? We’ve got you covered. While living here for three months, we’ve learned a few things about how life on the road can change what you eat – for better or worse. In this post, we’re talking about:
- What you can find at a New Zealand grocery store and local markets
- How food prices compare to the USA
- Our top items to try
Plus, there’s a bonus section with our top tips for saving money when you grocery shop.
How different is a New Zealand grocery store from one in America?
Not different at all. We’ve been to several supermarket chains in New Zealand and they are all pretty similar to what you’d expect at an American grocery store. Just like in the US, there are different types of grocery stores as well.
- New World – Some of the nicest, yet most expensive, grocery stores we’ve shopped. We might say it’s akin to Whole Foods. Their deli counter is AMAZING, by the way.
- Fresh Choice – Pretty similar to New World. The last one we visited had an over-the-top candy and biscuit display for Christmas.
- Countdown – Your average grocery store. We’d compare it to Hy-Vee.
- Pak N Save – This is the value or discount grocery store. They promise to have the lowest prices and usually do. Pak N Saves felt the most like grocery shopping in a big box store like Wal-Mart. They do deliver on the low prices and had some grocery items we weren’t able to find at other stores. Probably the most common New Zealand grocery store.
One thing you might notice no matter where you go: people walking around barefoot. It’s very acceptable in New Zealand to go a lot of places without shoes.
The Food Selection
You should be able to find all of your grocery staples in New Zealand. Scott and I have been making the same recipes we make back in the States and haven’t had trouble finding ingredients (except for pumpkin puree for Thanksgiving, but that’s pretty specific). We have sacrificed some of our usual buys to save money, but more on prices in the section below.
A New Zealand grocery store is laid out just like you’re used to, with sections for produce, deli, meats, baked goods, liquor (wine and beer can be sold in grocery stores here) and dry goods. Most stores have a small health section so you can pick up things like toothpaste or body wash. If you need actual medication – or as I found out, contact lens solution – you’ll have to visit a pharmacy (some call it a chemist). These are pretty easy to find all around town, so nothing to worry about there.
Of course, there are new foods you wouldn’t find in a US grocery store that are available in your average New Zealand grocery store (see “Top Grocery Store Finds” section), so have fun trying some local options. You’ll also want to keep in mind that product names can be different. For example, baking soda is called bicarb soda and red pepper flakes are called chili flakes. If you’re having trouble finding something, just ask.
We’ll give it to you straight: food prices here are more expensive and your wallet might take a big hit. Take into account a variety of circumstances when regarding the price of food in New Zealand.
Why are prices higher?
Well, firstly, because of the exchange rate between New Zealand dollars (NZD) and United States dollars. As of December 2017, $1 NZD is equal to 70 cents USD (click here to get the updated exchange rate). So no matter what you buy, it will feel like it costs more because of the exchange rate. How much you care about the exchange rate and keep it in mind when shopping is up to you.
More technical factors include food importing and exporting to Asia. I think this article from the New Zealand Herald does a pretty good job of summing up what’s happened.
Okay…how much are we talking?
Well, it really can depend on the item, so I’ll give you a few examples. I looked up current prices in the USA using HyVee’s online grocery store option. Keep in mind prices listed are in USD using a conversion. When you shop in the grocery store, things will be priced like the States at $3.99, $5.99, etc.
- USA – $6.99 for 16 oz
- NZ – $2.80 for 6 oz (and this is on sale!)
- Fresh Asparagus
- USA – $3.99 for one pound
- NZ – $4.20 for 6 oz
- USA – $5.99 for a 32 oz container of Oikos Greek Yogurt in Vanilla
- NZ – $6.31 for a 17.6 oz container of The Collective Yoghurt in Vanilla
- Loaf of bread
- USA – $1.99 for a 20 oz loaf
- NZ – $2.80 for a 20 oz loaf
- USA – $4.89 for 16 oz block
- NZ – $7.01 for a 16 oz block
- USA – $12.00 for a 30 pack of Milwaukee’s Best
- NZ – $40.00 for 30 pack of local swish
Generally, prices are almost double in a New Zealand grocery store. You’ll find fresh items like baked goods and produce are the most expensive. So what are the best ways to save money when you’re grocery shopping in New Zealand? Don’t worry…we’re going to give you our top tips!
How to Find Good & Cheap Food
Bulk Food Section
Like grocery stores in cities larger than Winona 😉, the average New Zealand grocery store has a bulk food section. If you like to snack, we’d recommend checking this section of the store first before buying chips, crackers or other pre-packaged foods. You can also usually find a couple of different items on discount each week, which is a great cost saver.
Look for Sales
Yep, food is still on sale all the way over here. Just look for sale tags when comparing items to see how much you can save. New World even has a section of sale items grouped together near the produce. Keep an eye out for it.
Grocery Store Discount Cards
Some of the stores in New Zealand have frequent shopper cards that give you additional discounts. The cards are typically free and you just ask for one the first time you check out. For example, with the New World Clubcard, you can take advantage of member deals (basically extra money off specific sale items) and a percentage discount off of your entire purchase (if I remember correctly somewhere around 10%). So, the discounts definitely add up over time and can save you a lot of money.
Buy Frozen over Fresh
As we mentioned before, produce is some of the most expensive food in New Zealand. While Scott and I definitely prefer fresh food, we’ve opted to buy frozen vegetables to cut costs. You can usually get a large bag of mixed veggies (1 pound) for around $2.80 USD, making your dollar go much farther.
Shop at Local Markets
Going to the local Farmers Market is a great experience and is another way to find better prices on product, so you’re better off going there if freshness is a priority. The Harbourside Market in Wellington was one of our favorites. There were so many different stalls and tons of fresh vegetables and fruit to choose from. It’s a much more organic experience than your average New Zealand grocery store. But just make sure you bring cash – it’s the easiest way to pay!
Top Five New Zealand Foods to Try
- Local Meats (Lamb & Fish) – Being from the Midwest, we can’t easily buy fresh seafood. Of course, this is not the case in New Zealand. Their meat counters are always stocked with a variety of fish and seafood options. If you’re not sure what to try, just ask the person working the meat counter for a recommendation and they’ll probably give you suggestions on how to cook it. Same goes for lamb. Give it a try!
- Ice Cream – We had a lot of ice cream in New Zealand and we don’t regret it. The best word I can use to describe it is “creamier”. Just go get some and see for yourself. We loved the cheap brand, Tip Top, just as much as the gourmet brands, like Kapiti.
- New Zealand Booze – Pick up a bottle of locally made wine or craft beer. NZ makes a lot of wine, hence there are tons of varieties to choose from and something that fits every budget. Keep in mind, it will still be about twice the price of a bottle of wine or six pack in the States.
- Kiwifruit (A “kiwi” is the bird in NZ) – It’s what they’re famous for so it’s basically a requirement.
- Crumpets – This is actually just an English food (not specific to New Zealand) that I fell in love with. It’s like an English muffin, but it tastes like a popover. And it’s delicious.
- If possible, bring your own bags to the New Zealand grocery store. Otherwise you might be charged 10 cents per plastic bag you use.
- What we call shopping carts, they call trolleys.
- If you want tobacco products you have to specifically ask for them. The store has them locked up in an unassuming shelf in the store.
Did we miss something on our list? Is there a question you still have about grocery shopping in New Zealand? Let us know in the comments and we’ll make sure to reply. Happy shopping!