West Auckland mum Kimberly Manning knows first hand how tough it can be to feed a family a healthy, tasty dinner each night.
When Manning became unemployed, she needed an affordable way to put good food on the table and found it in a new, free meal planner booklet called Easy Choice - Family Kai.
Launched today by food waste reduction organisation Love Food Hate Waste, the booklet consists of a month's worth of weekly dinner meal plans for a family of six - two adults and four children - at a cost of approximately $60 a week.
Established by Fresh Choice supermarkets in Ranui and Glen Eden and supported by Auckland Council, Manning says the Easy Choice planner has been a real dinner time game changer: "I thought I had hit the jackpot when I started using Easy Choice.
"I was surprised that I could make so many meals for only $60. It has made a real difference to our financial situation as the meal planner ensures that we can stick to our food budget."
The book details what to buy each week to make what Manning says are "easy and healthy" meals.
Vegetarian dishes make up part of the menu and while Manning says initially she wasn't too enticed by "beans instead of meat", a lot of the vegetarian options have become her favourites.
In fact, Manning is so sold on the meal planner she wants to hold a free cooking class to share the resource with others.
"I didn't know how to cook very well to begin with and was really struggling to work within my food budget. I know that there are many other families out there in the same position so I'm keen to pass on the skills I have learnt and tell other people about Easy Choice."
Love Food Hate Waste's spokesperson Jenny Marshall believes while popular meal services can be convenient, they're still out of reach for low-income families.
"We know how popular meal delivery services are such as My Food Bag and WOOP, which take all the work out of meal planning but for many families they are still unaffordable," says Marshall.
"Easy Choice makes it possible for lower-income families to stick to a budget while still eating healthy and delicious food. This is particularly valuable at the moment with the high cost of vegetables."
Love Food Hate Waste's online guide reveals the average Kiwi family throws away three shopping trolleys of food a year. So by meal planning, the guide notes shoppers can ensure food doesn't go to waste because they're only buying what's needed to feed the family each week.
Click here to download the Autumn Easy Choice – Family Kai meal planner and recipe book.