I underestimated the budget required for food while in New Zealand. A meal for one person runs about $30 NZ for an entrée and a drink. You can save about $5 NZ if you opt for tap water, which is free at every restaurant and available even if you’re not ordering a meal. (They provide water free to encourage people to bring their reusable water bottle with them and avoid buying bottle water.) Dinners may be more expensive at about $50, and breakfasts can be less expensive at about $10 NZ. You can split meals if you and your travel companion are light eaters, but we found we would be hungry again just before we went to bed. Two people eating out three meals a day and sharing should expect to budget about $70 NZ minus any midday snacks like Hokey Pokey or chocolate fish.
Finding a grocery store can help, especially if you have a hotel room with a kitchenette. Because grocery stores cater to Kiwis rather than having tourists as their target market, they are more likely to offer reasonable prices (and you can get a variety of fresh fruits there). The other advantage to grocery stores is that, at least at Countdown and World Market, they accepted my Discover card, which meant I had a little extra cash for the many places that did not accept Discover. (Visa and Mastercard are almost universally accepted – just be sure that you get a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.)
If you do go to Countdown, grab a discount card before you enter the store. The clerk can use this to ring up your groceries, which will give you some immediate discounts. If you spend $200 NZ, you’ll get an $15 NZ in credit loaded onto your card. Our first purchase at the store without the card amounted to $92 NZ. We were in New Zealand long enough that we probably could have used the $15 NZ. At World Market, the friendly cashiers use a card they have at their station, so you don’t mis out on the discounts and you don’t have to sign up for a card. (We did not make it to Pak’nSave, allegedly the least expensive grocery store in the country, because we did not find any within walking distance of our hotels.)
Grocery stores aren’t only a good place to get groceries, they’re also a good place to get gifts for the people back home. You can find a lot of New Zealand foods here, especially chocolate and coffee, for less than what you would pay in a tourist store. Cookie Time anyone!