It can be difficult to buy healthy groceries at the supermarket without paying exorbitant amounts through the nose once you reach the till. However, in a bid to show Kiwi households how they can best eat nutritiously without breaking the piggy bank, Pak'nSave and the Herald have come together to discover what you should be doing to Eat well and pay less.

Four separate households from across New Zealand were selected to take part in an experiment to see if they could shop cheaper and eat better.

Pak'nSave with the help of Healthy Food Guide nutritionist Claire Turnbull gave each household free advice of where they could change.

The households were made up of retirees, students, an urban family and a solo parent.

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They initially spoke with Turnbull about their regular shopping and eating habits before she made recommendations they could follow.

Now, several weeks after first speaking with Turnbull and the Herald about what they wanted to change, the experiment's results can now be shared.

The Solo Dad

The small changes Joel Young implemented around grocery shopping since talking to Turnbull a few weeks ago has drastically changed his life.

The solo dad now keeps to a budget of around $120 per shop - saving around $50 - and he said the changes had made him "more healthy".

"To be honest, I'm feeling more healthy and have a bit more energy, rather than having to scramble around trying to sort the kids on the day."

Young, who shares the care of his three children with their mother, once struggled to feed them healthy food and plan his week thoroughly.

However, after meeting with Turnbull where she gave him a number of tips to improve their eating habits, things have been much different.

Joel Young and his children, Kade (7), Mila (4) and Kyra (6). Photo / Supplied
Joel Young and his children, Kade (7), Mila (4) and Kyra (6). Photo / Supplied

One tip was to meal prep at the start of the week and get the children involved, which was exactly what he'd done since the meeting.

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"Every Monday the kids are with me we write a list of what we want for the consecutive days and shoot to the supermarket together and [they] pick it all out," Young said.

"They'll then do stuff like stirring the pot, pouring the sauces in, things like that, it's making it a lot more enjoyable for them.

"They love it, they're making it our kind of thing now which is good. It makes them eat more if they cook it themselves."

Young's son Kade had a habit of being a fussy eater and it presented its challenges but the 7-year-old was now extending his palate.

"I've got to the point where if he doesn't like it, he's gotta eat the number of mouthfuls of his age. He's more of a visual person and if it looks odd he's not going to eat it.

"Since we've implemented that rule he's trying a lot more food and realising they actually taste pretty good."

Young also keeps an eye on specials running at the local Pak'nSave store and buys in bulk as much as possible.

The shopping and cooking habits Young had changed were "pretty straightforward" and he hoped other people thinking about a change would commit to one.

"Do it, save money, save time and there's a lot [of benefits] if you do it right."

The Students

Sticking with old habits and creating the same five meals over and over again was a constant for Claire Hicks and her University of Otago student flatmates.

And following a meeting with Turnbull, the flat was initially gobsmacked by the meals she had planned out for them.

However, while there was some hesitation at the start, the meals were surprisingly easy to create and just as delightful to eat, Hicks told the Herald.

"I wouldn't say we are fussy eaters but there were one or two recipes in Claire's cookbook that we did think yeah no, I'll stick to the 'unhealthy version'," she said.

"For example, her curried chickpea patties - we love homemade burgers but this initially seemed a bad dupe for your classic beef or chicken patties, surprisingly they were yum and this encouraged us to give a few meals that we had originally written off a go."

Dunedin flatmates April Hyland (left), Claire Hicks, Hannah O'Leary, Brylee Lott, Mikaere Teki. Photo / Supplied
Dunedin flatmates April Hyland (left), Claire Hicks, Hannah O'Leary, Brylee Lott, Mikaere Teki. Photo / Supplied

The flat's shopping habits also improved, now only going to the supermarket about twice a week rather than once every day - the benefits were also recognisable on the money they were saving.

Before the meeting with Turnbull, the flat would spend upwards of $600 each week, now the bill is much closer to $400.

"It's definitely possible if you shop smarter and put in a little extra effort. Having that extra money every week really does stack up over time," Hicks said.

Eating meals like beef and vegetable fajitas with avocado salad, vegetable dumplings, or even homemade popcorn thanks to Turnbull had also improved their energy levels, which had skyrocketed.

Hicks said there was no reason, in her mind, for people not to make small changes around grocery shopping because the ones they had made were outstanding.

"There's nothing to lose, we have only benefited from it. We have saved money and time, we have more energy, and now also have a wide variety of meals we can have for dinner rather than recycling the same five old recipes.

"For anyone thinking of switching their routine up and wanting to try a healthier lifestyle, give it a go."

The Retired Couple

Graham and Pam Harrison were far from unhealthy before taking part in the Eat Better For Less series, but they wanted to make changes to their diet.

They had been set in their ways, eating the same "boring" meals each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But they also wanted to look after their health, which wasn't bad, but they wanted to keep their cholesterol down without having to resort to medication.

After meeting with Turnbull however, the retired pair were given helpful and easy tips of where they could make changes.

"Claire was really helpful and we have mainly changed our breakfast and lunch habits," Pam said, a couple of weeks after first speaking to the nutritionist.

Pam and Graham Harrison. Photo / Supplied
Pam and Graham Harrison. Photo / Supplied

"It's not been a major lifestyle change for us but I think it has helped, eating more fruit and vegetables and we've incorporated that into breakfast and lunch."

Breakfast usual involves fruit with yoghurt and lunch would see canned tuna mixed with a batch of coleslaw.

The Harrison's also venture to the supermarket less, preplanning what meals they'd like to eat for the week and going from there.

They said the experiment with Pak'nSave and Turnbull had been beneficial and recommended others questioning whether to make changes to do it.

"We wouldn't have thought about doing it ourselves but it has given us the kick up the backside we needed."

The Urban Family

Shaz Austin decided to take part in the EWPL series hoping she'd be able to shave a few extra dollars off her urban family's fortnightly shopping bill.

And since speaking with Turnbull, that's exactly what's happened, saving upwards of $50 to $75 each shop.

Austin was gobsmacked at how significant the changes Turnbull suggested she took onboard had on her family.

"We've implemented quite a few of the changes she suggested and it's making my life a little bit easier, it's working for me," Austin said.

School lunches for her children used to be just a bit of a throw together, however, now Austin tries hard to get more fruit and vegetables into their diets.

Shaz Austin and her family, husband Dale and children Dylan, Vivienne and four-month-old Chloe. Photo / Supplied
Shaz Austin and her family, husband Dale and children Dylan, Vivienne and four-month-old Chloe. Photo / Supplied

If a child wants an afternoon snack, Austin makes sure they've eaten everything from their lunchbox before offering them something else.

Meanwhile, her husband Dale was often on the road for work and providing quality meals he could eat away from home was difficult.

Without buying him food that is too perishable, Austin said they try and buy bulk where possible and Dale didn't mind a good snack.

"We bulk buy and I try and pack him as much as I can on those away days," she said.

"If we buy a big pack of muesli bars he keeps them in his glovebox and he'll just eat away, he also gets nuts and dried fruit."

Overall, the changes implemented by the family had been lifechanging.

Austin said it worked really well for her family and couldn't understand how it wouldn't work for others to follow.

"You hear about it but you never really implement it but when you do, it actually really works.

"I'm a bit of a creature of habit so you stick with whatever works - it was tough changing but now it works. It's a working machine, it's become the new norm."

This article is part of a partnership between the NZ Herald and Pak'nSave aimed at helping people learn how to eat well for less.