Oily Rag: Prices 40 years ago and today

By Frank, Muriel Newman

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New Zealander's are spending about the same on food as they were 40 years ago. Photo/Thinkstock
New Zealander's are spending about the same on food as they were 40 years ago. Photo/Thinkstock

New Zealand has changed a lot in the past 40 years. Not only are there new words such as tweeting, and the movies we used to watch back then are more like today's reality than yesterday's science fiction, but what we do with our money is also changing.

According to Statistics New Zealand, we are spending a lot more on rent, about the same on food, and a lot less on clothing, alcohol, and tobacco.

RENT In 1974 for every $100 we spent, $3.30 went on rent. Nowadays it's $8.60 - a difference of $5.30.

CLOTHING We now spend $2.80, instead of $9 40 years ago. That's a massive $6.80 per $100 less. That's probably because families are now benefiting from low-cost imported products, and stronger competition in the retail sector.

FOOD Spending on general food items is relatively unchanged from $17.60 in 1974 to $17.30 today, down 30 cents. Spending on fruit and vegetables has also dropped, from $2.90 to $2, and there has been a massive drop in spending on meat, poultry and fish, down from $5.30 to $2.50.

ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO The campaigns to reduce smoking and encourage more responsible drinking are clearly having a positive effect on the household budget. In 1974 $4, out of every $100 of household spending was spent on alcohol and tobacco. Now it's $2.70 (and still too much in our view).

Interestingly, these four items in total took about a third of total household spending, and is relatively unchanged in four decades. We think this shows that people are not necessarily putting the cost reductions into savings, but are instead spending that money on other things. This would also suggest a reason why the average house price is higher now than it was 40 years ago. The money that used to be spent on clothing and fags and booze is now being spent on housing, in the form of bigger and better homes.

On the subject of food costs, Denise from Auckland explains how she cut down on the cost of meat. "Think differently when it comes to buying meat. When visiting a supermarket don't look at the price of the item but how much per kg. You can pay $16 for sausages and $10 a kg for beef. Buy a piece of meat i.e. a beef bolar. From that one piece of meat you can cut it into: slices to slow roast in the oven or slow cooker; smaller pieces to casserole; or mince it and make burgers. Same principle with pork. You may need someone to show you how to cut the meat correctly but it's worth finding out as you will save yourself money. Maybe your friendly butcher will show you how to cut meat. I never buy chicken pieces, always a whole chicken. From one chicken you can make - from the breast - butter chicken, or schnitzels to pan fry; legs can be slow cooked; wings can be fried Chinese style. The frame can be cooked with onions, carrots and celery then left overnight. Next day, skim off the fat, retain the meat and veggies and add a can of cream style corn to make chicken sweetcorn soup, or add extra veggies and make a chicken vegetable soup. If you buy a fresh chicken you can then freeze the stock for another time. If you don't have a mincer either borrow or pool money with friends and buy one together. Same with the meat - sometimes it is an outlay to buy a medium to large piece of meat, but again pool with your friends and distribute between you. Once you get the hang of it, the recipes are limitless and you're saving a heap of money and eating well." Nice one, Denise.

If you have a favourite recipe or oily rag tip that works well for your family, send it to us at www.oilyrag.co.nz, or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei, and we will relay it to the readers of this column.

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