Your Biggest Expense

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Look at your spending over the last year and you will no doubt find that, aside from your mortgage or rent, your biggest expense is food. Cutting back on how much you spend on food each week is a great way to find a few extra dollars to add to your savings.

Food bills can creep up if you:

  • Make multiple trips to the supermarket each week
  • Buy food on impulse
  • Have expensive taste.
  • Do a lot of entertaining at home
  • Often throw out food which is past its use-by date

It is not easy to judge how your spending on food compares with other families. However, a good benchmark is the annual Food Cost Survey done by the Department of Human Nutrition at Otago University. This survey is based on a balanced diet, in three categories of Basic, Moderate and Liberal, broken down by geographic area. A family of two adults and two teenagers living in Wellington with a Moderate diet would spend around $346 per week or just under $18,000 a year on food. This represents around 21% of the average annual household income of $85,000. A Basic diet would cost around $260 a week and a Liberal diet would be around $414. Switching from a Liberal to a Basic diet results in a saving of $154 per week, which is a staggering $8,008 per annum.

Cutting back on groceries doesn’t mean living on bread and mince. It’s all about planning meals so you only buy what you need and use seasonal produce when it is at its cheapest. Make a shopping list and stick to it. Eating less meat, stockpiling discounted groceries and growing your own vegetables can also help cut costs. If you want to save more, check your food budget.

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