If you change your definition , you might be able to eat cheaply in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it will require some sacrifice on your part and a change in expectations, most likely. While you may be able to eat cheaply, the other question you have to ask yourself is if you really want to.
For two people, I thought I could get away with $50 NZ a day for food. Breakfast is usually inexpensive, we could make dinner at our hotels, which left lunch the meal out. Lunch tends to be cheaper than dinner. I looked on line, and this seemed like it was reasonable. It was way underbudgeted. We spent between $70 and $100 NZ a day.
Coffee ran between $3 and $6. Pastries were between $4 and $6. That made breakfast between $20 and $24 unless we wanted something more substantial. Our favorite breakfast place in Wellington, Lido, ran us right around $50 both times that we went, but it was so worth it because we stayed full for a longer time, and not feeling hungry makes everything more enjoyable. The Alpin Motel and Conference Center in Rotorua came with breakfast that was filling and huge, so we were able to save a little money there. (If your hotel deal offers breakfast for an additional $10, you should just go ahead and pay up for it, especially if you’re on a budget.)
Lunches usually ran $20 to $30 for a main course. We would split the meal, but often it would just leave us hungry again at 4pm. Still, splitting allowed us to try more restaurants and more foods if it didn’t actually save us any money.
Fish and Chips are around $25 depending on where you go. This is usually for three pieces of fish and a mound of fries. It may or may not include tomato sauce (ketchup) for the fries.
Meat pies are about $5 each, and they are not large enough to share. I could probably eat two for a meal. If you can eat one meat pie and be good with it, two people can eat for $10 plus whatever beverage you decide you want. We would get the pies from the dairies (convenience stores), where they were ready to serve.
Carl’s Jr. had two burgers for $10. I didn’t really see what other international fast food places were offering because it’s not what I want to eat ever, really, but especially not in a place that has different food from what we would find in the U.S. or Russia. In fact, a mince and cheese pie is every bit as good as a fast food burger. We did go to Domino’s for their $5 pizza offer. It was an American size small, so it only fed us for a meal and a snack.
If you’re okay with eating at chains that perpetrate the same food crimes every where they go (and many people are as evidenced by the completely unscientific representation of the popularity of McDonald’s videos from other countries as compared to other restaurant and food videos) or going to a supermarket and making your own food, you may be able to eat cheaper, but is that really what you travel for?
Culture is inextricably related to food, so just plan your budget accordingly. About $35 a meal should cover two people who are willing to share plates. It will allow you to spend more on one meal and less on others. If breakfast is only $20, you can spend $65 on lunch, for example. Then you won’t have to worry about eating cheaply in New Zealand, just eating well.