In case you haven't noticed, everything in New Zealand is going up (except our pay packets). Petrol is on the wrong side of $2, supermarkets push up prices of produce every month, you can't rent a decent house for under $500 a week and – my number one barometer of how expensive New Zealand is – last week I saw a $6 coffee on a cafe menu.
Yet few of us feel more comfortable than when the last financial crisis hit 10 years ago. We continue to be disappointed by our country's exorbitant cost of living versus the relative low-wage economy compared to other OECD nations. Where do Kiwis hurt the most? I think it's with our food.
Being frugal doesn't have to feel punitive. In fact, I've found many joys in it. In recent years, I've learned how to scrimp coin, take the cheapest options, and make-my-own.
Most of it starts and ends in the most money-demanding place in your house – the kitchen.
Today, here's what I know about being frugal (and happy about it) in the heart of the home.
Comparison shopping rules
I don't think I've ever bought anything without knowing how much it costs elsewhere. Don't buy anything branded in a store without pulling out your phone and doing an internet search of competitive stores for a better price.
Know the vast differences between Pak'nSave and New World pricing despite it being the exact same product. Actually read the price lists in bars and pubs and go elsewhere if there aren't reasonable prices for glasses of wine and beer.
I'm telling you, savings of $1 here, $2 there give you extreme satisfaction in your shopping.
You decide where you meet your friends
Whenever catching up with friends, I always take the reigns and suggest where to meet. This way, I won't begrudgingly have to sit through an expensive dinner I'm not happy with.
Check out menus online, go for lunches not dinners, and don't let the peer pressure to spend get to you.
I swear you get the same enjoyment of catching up with an old friend over $8 eggs as you do a $40 steak. I get even more - because I'm not worried about the bill at the end.
Use your scraps
Frugal people never waste their scraps and any leftovers get made into something else. I'm in favour of "kitchen sink" meals – where you take everything leftover from your fridge and figure out how to cook something delicious with all of it.
In my household this week we've made shakshuka out of the previous night's curry, 100 per cent fruit sorbet from an overripe pineapple, and a good five litres of vegetable stock for soups from old bits of fennel and celery.
Understand that almost everything can be make into something else.
Go without instead of opting for convenience
I have never nipped to the service station across the road for milk or bought anything at airport shops because I had no other options. And I strive never to drive when I could have walked.
It's more pleasurable to go without something than overpay for the convenience of having it right away.
You can handle going without that morning coffee, the snacks for your one-hour flight, or taking 20 minutes to get somewhere when it could take five.
Are you eating too much?
I tried "bulking" this winter to increase my muscle mass. It pushed my food bills to almost double for physical gains so small I could'nt see it as a good payoff. In a similar vein, whenever someone I know is trying to diet, my best advice has changed from watching carbs and macros to a simple phrase: "buy less food".
We don't need to consume nearly as much food as we do. We're an overfed nation.
If you haven't paid for the food and your pantry is a bit emptier – and you resist other temptations like fast food (which also costs too much) – not only will you be happily frugal, you'll receive the added gratification of feeling better about your body too.