It can be difficult to shop on a budget and have a healthy diet, especially if you are short on
time and have to coordinate with your flatmates. With a little bit of planning and know-how, you
and your flatmates can take charge of your shopping list and learn how to shop and cook
healthily on a budget.
Stocking up the pantry: learn your staples
Your pantry staples are the versatile ingredients that can be used in heaps of different recipes.
Working out what your most used staple ingredients are can be a bit tricky if you’ve never
cooked before, so we recommend starting with a general list of staples and adapting it as you
become more comfortable in the kitchen.
In most households, staple ingredients include:
- Cooking oil
- Stock cubes
- Instant noodles
- Baking ingredients (e.g. flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa)
- Herbs and spices (e.g. mixed herbs, coriander, cumin, chili powder, paprika)
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Sweet chili sauce
- Canned tomatoes, beans, fish etc.
Generally, you won’t have to buy these staples that often, and they tend to last a long time in
the pantry or fridge. Stocking up on these types of ingredients is also helpful for weeks when
you are too busy to go do a big shop at the supermarket, or for times when money is a bit tight.
These staple ingredients also have a long shelf life and are incredibly versatile (they can be
used in a lot of different meals).
The first grocery shop that you do as a flat is going to be the most expensive, as this is the
time when you stock up on everything, including your pantry staples, breakfasts, snacks,
cleaning supplies, and ingredients for dinners that week. But once you’ve got that trip to the
supermarket out of the way, it’s just a matter of restocking when needed.
Planning your meals is one of the easiest things that you can do to make sure you are keeping
your grocery bill down. Sometimes we find ourselves at the supermarket buying things we don’t
need, which adds up over time. Planning meals around what is on special and in season can help
to make sure you are keeping things as cheap as possible. Coordinating the meal plan with your
flatmates and making a shopping list together can also be super helpful, because then you
decrease the amount of ingredients on the list by using them across multiple meals (e.g., it’s
better to buy one bag of potatoes to use across multiple meals, than buying three different bags
of potatoes for three meals).
If you want to save even more money by meal planning, you can check out the weekly specials at
your local supermarkets to see what is on sale that week. You can plan your meals around what is
cheapest that week and in season.
Meal planning and creating a shopping list can also help to decrease your grocery bill. By
sticking to the list, you are limiting the number of impulse purchases and you are also able to
make sure you don’t forget anything. Sometimes it’s the quick trip to the supermarket between
weekly shops that we are more likely to make impulse purchases.
Stuck for ideas? You can check out heaps of recipes online and the top three NZ supermarkets have
tonnes of easy recipes on their websites.
If you aren’t sure about where to start with grocery shopping and planning meals for a
large number of people, then check out the UCSA’s shopping guide.
Dairy-Free shopping guide
Egg-Free shopping guide
Gluten-Free shopping guide
Gluten-Free and Vegan shopping guide
No dietary restrictions shopping guide
Vegan shopping guide
Vegetarian shopping guide