Six creative ways to cut your food bill

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As the cost of feeding the whānau continues to rise, many New Zealanders have already taken measures to get more bang for their buck at the supermarket.

But what if planning meals in advance, buying in season and ditching the treats still isn’t making ends meet?

Here are some other ways to spend less and reduce waste – and there’s not a packet of two-minute noodles in sight.

Foraging

Foraging is like a treasure hunt for your taste buds, and with more than 2500 varieties of foraged foods in New Zealand, the chances of finding something edible are high.

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In the age of the internet, you don’t even have to spend all day out searching.

Several online maps allow users to pinpoint free fruit, vegetables and herbs. The New Zealand Fruit and Food Share Map also includes pataka kai (open food pantry) locations across the country and has information about harvest time for public crops and anything else you should know.

If you haven’t preserved food before, start by learning the proper techniques.

Supplied

If you haven’t preserved food before, start by learning the proper techniques.

Halve expensive ingredients, double cheaper ones

Adjusting your favourite recipes to bump up the cheaper ingredients and reduce the more expensive ones could result in significant savings.

By doubling the cheaper ingredients, like onions, carrots and pasta, and halving the quantity of mince, a basic spag bol will go much further.

Add some extra beef stock and herbs to the mix and the taste difference is minimal.

Think like your grandparents

If your garden produces a bumper crop of tomatoes, apples, feijoas or other preservable fruits and vegetables, bottle or freeze them for later.

If you haven’t preserved food before, start by learning the proper techniques, including sterilising jars and correct vacuum-sealing.

It’s not complicated and popping open a jar of homemade strawberry jam in the middle of winter can brighten an otherwise bleak day.

Several online maps allow users to pinpoint free fruit, vegetables and herbs.

supplied

Several online maps allow users to pinpoint free fruit, vegetables and herbs.

Follow your favourite food outlets

Most food producers, cafes, restaurants and supermarkets have at least some presence on social media and following them means you’re among the first to hear about special deals and competitions.

Subscribing to mailing lists can also pay off. Most of the emails will land in your junk folder by default but a quick scan once or twice a week can unearth a bargain.

Make your own mixes

Pre-packaged pancake mix is a godsend when faced with a bevvy of hangry kids on a Saturday morning.

But the convenience comes at a cost. Prep your own dry mix and store it in an airtight glass or plastic container, marked with the date you put them together, and add to wet ingredients when you’re ready to cook.

The same can be done for muffins, biscuits and cakes.

Outsmart the supermarket

Sure, getting the notification that you’ve earned a reward through a loyalty scheme is nice, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Supermarkets exist to make money, not return it to their customers.

And they’ve got some clever ways of wringing more cash out of us, including placing more expensive, higher-margin items at eye level and cheaper options at the top or bottom of the shelving.

There’s also a reason for those towering end-of-aisle displays, and it’s not the supermarket owner’s deep concern that you might have forgotten your (truly dire) shortage of Whittaker’s chocolate.

Suppliers allow store owners to take a bigger cut from the items in those displays, simply because they know they’ll sell more. We’re suckers for an end-of-aisle offer and supermarkets know that.

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