New Zealand: Saving Money on Food and Gifts at the Grocery Store

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!


New Zealand: Take a Spin over Auckland with Orbit Restaurant

Orbit Restaurant, in Auckland’s Sky Tower, features good food, service, and views. We booked our lunch as part of the Aulky Walky Tour we had taken earlier in the day. The Sky Tower is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, so on a good day, diners can see from sea to sea as the restaurant revolves during the meal.

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New Zealand: Rotorua’s Alpin Motel and Conference Centre Provides a Great Place to Stay

Rotorua’s Alpin Motel and Conference Centre was our favorite motel in New Zealand. It had all the comforts of home and added a hot tub filled with geothermally heated and mineralized water. The room was large, had a kitchen, and the couple in charge were really nice. The motel was the only place we stayed that provided a French press, or plunger, and ground coffee to go in it. (Everywhere else had instant coffee.)

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New Zealand Visit Bohemein Fresh Chocolates for Amazing (Chocolate) Fish

Checkers Penguin posted a picture of himself with a chocolate fish on Instagram, and I thought, “Eh, chocolate and marshmallow? I don’t know.” Then I saw these chocolate fish on different YouTube videos about New Zealand snacks, and I was still unimpressed. Marshmallow just isn’t my thing. They’re all right; they’re good for s’mores. I just, generally, won’t choose to eat them as a part of another dessert. Then, we went to Bohemein Fresh Chocolates.

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of New Zealand Foods

On “Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted,” Chef Ramsey visits Chef Monique Fiso in New Zealand to see how Maori cuisine gets combined with fine dining. He chops his way through the forest to get to “bush asparagus.” His mouth burns with the flavor of horopito, a bush pepper tree. He scales a Fuschia tree to get to the bright purple berries.

I don’t think we’ll have to go to those extremes if we get to New Zealand. The country is full of food delights and local cuisine.

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The Honolulu Cookie Company Experience

The Honolulu Cookie Company is almost as ubiquitous as the ABC Stores. While not quite on every block, the stores are spaced out just far enough from each other to provide a nice place to duck inside and grab a sample of their delicious cookies. And they are delicious. The stores are clean and the employees are friendly.

The shortbread cookies with the distinctive pineapple shape come in a variety of flavors that change with the season. Inspired by the islands, pineapple macadamia, white chocolate dipped coconut, and dark chocolate dipped Kona coffee are just a few of the flavors available. At Christmas time, you’ll find white chocolate dipped ginger spice, and peppermint. My favorites were the Kona coffee, and the chocolate dipped triple chocolate macadamia.

So, put your walking shoes on, and head down Waikiki’s main street. Make a game out of collecting cookie samples on the way. Because if you’re looking for a taste of the islands, the Honolulu Cookie Company has you covered.

Oahu’s Cheeseburger in Paradise

If you’re not familiar with the Jimmy Buffet song, a Cheeseburger in Paradise can still be tempting. Not affiliated with the singer,the signature cheeseburger is billed as a juicy, messy burger that you’ll need five napkins to clean up after.

When it arrived in front of me, I was not a believer. A patty with cheese on one half and tomatoes, lettuce and onion on the other. The juice was nowhere to be found. There was no drippiness. It was a burger, and those thoughts were my mistake. I assembled the burger, squished it a little so it would fit in my mouth and bit down.

Hamburger juices went squirting out everywhere. They ended up on my plate, on the table and on my pants. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I have no idea how they seared so much juiciness into the patty, but I definitely needed two napkins, two wet wipes and a sink to clean up afterwards. Worth every bit of sacrifice? Cheeseburger in Paradise indeed.

ABC Stores: Go Local, Go Less Expensive

If you’re on a budget in Oahu, then the ABC Stores should be your best friend. Some say that “ABC” stands for “All Blocks Covered,” and like Starbuck’s in Seattle, ABC Stores are everywhere. Not only are they conveniently located, they are reasonably priced for Hawaiian tourists. Stores carry many of the same items though selection depends on the store’s size. From ready-to-eat hot meals to fresh cut fruit and from flip flops to ukuleles, ABC Stores are ready to help you with almost every need. “ABC” may stand for the store delivering everything in the alphabet.

The staff is friendly and happy to see you. They greet with “Aloha!” and end the interaction with “Mahalo.” The fruit in the refrigerator section is sweet and local (and better than what we got at Safeway on the island). You can eat relatively well for between $3 and $6 depending on your needs. Breakfast burritos, musubi, wraps, sushi… If you see the Mac-Nut Pesto Pasta, I recommend that as one of the best offerings. You don’t have to compromise on culture or taste because of your budget.

ABC Stores are locally owned. They promote from within and attempt to keep their employees through retirement with exceptional benefits according to an article in “This Week Oahu” (Nov. – Dec. 3, p. 28). Before choosing a national chain, shop local. Save your receipts and, if they total to $100 or more, you get a gift! Maybe “ABC” stands for “Aloha Brings Customers…”

King’s Pizza Cafe: You’re Budget and Taste Buds’ll say “Thank You, Thank You Very Much!”

If you head down Kapahulu away from the beach, past President Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, and just a little farther beyond, you’ll find a tiny restaurant called King’s Pizza Cafe. Voted as the community’s best pizza, it serves them up by the slice and always freshly made. By Oahu’s food standards, it’s a bargain. In a place where two burgers, a side of fries and one drink is regularly $30, getting two large slices of pizza and two drinks for around $10 is a bargain. The slices we had were cut in half, so it was more like getting two slices of pizza rather than one giant slice.

The Queen’s Pizza was by far the best of the two varieties we tried. Stacked full of correctly crisped pepperoni, olives and other great pizza ingredients, it played the best in our mouths. The Chicken Ginger Pizza was a little less successful. It provided a clean ginger flavor, which is what it’s supposed to do, but I wasn’t as fond of it as I was my wife’s choice. Both pizzas featured a sauce that was the right amount of sweet and tangy, and the crust was edible on its own without reservation.

The atmosphere is eclectic 1950s through the 1980s. Tables are topped with 45s or LPs from the 1980s. DJ cats playing pizza on the turntable are on the throw pillowcases, and a variety of other pizza related items are available for sale.

King’s Pizza Café is a nice-priced oasis with great food in a desert of high-priced mediocrity. Come for the break from the hub bub and high prices along the beach and enjoy a slice of goodness. When you’re done,you can head up the street a little more and get to Leonard’s Bakery for dessert (and even getting six Malasadas, you’ll still be ahead of most dinner options that aren’t fast food in the area).

Interior shot of King's Pizza Cafe counter in Oahu