Times are tough after Covid-19. NZME, publisher of the Bay of Plenty Times, is launching a finance series where local experts and the community share their top money-saving tips and advice.

Make a list and don't deviate from it.

That is a Rotorua mother's top tip for saving money on the weekly grocery bill.

Sarah Blakey spends just $200 a week on food for her and her 11-year-old daughter and her partner when he comes to stay. "Not a cent more not a cent less."


Three cats and a dog are also budgeted into the weekly shopping bill.

Blakey, 44, writes her shopping list on refill paper and jots items down as she runs out of them.

"From that, I plan my meals."

The key, she said, is not to deviate from that list.

"There is no shame in getting to the checkout and saying to the checkout lady I only have $200, I might have to put things back.

"I got over that years ago. I used to crawl with shame and be bright red in the face having to put things back, now they get it, they understand it.

"I don't walk around the supermarket with a calculator, I just put things back."

Blakey doesn't bulk buy after realising buying five tins of tomatoes was pointless if she couldn't afford the meat to go with it.


Toasted sandwiches are a hit and it's usually leftovers for lunch.

Garlic bread is made from leftover burger buns from a previous night's dinner and she mixes vegemite and water to make stock for cooking.

Rotorua mum Sarah Blakey doesn't buy in bulk. Photo / Andrew Warner
Rotorua mum Sarah Blakey doesn't buy in bulk. Photo / Andrew Warner

Blakey is not a fan of spending all day Sunday preparing meals for the week.

"One-pot mince is key," she said. "Pasta, frozen veggies, stock and mince: boom, done."

Blakey also advises using only half the amount of washing powder recommended on the packet.

"You never need as much as they say. Just $2 for 1kg of washing powder and it lasts me months."

And if her favourite Garnier Fructis shampoo and conditioner is not on special, she won't buy it.

"You can't be brand loyal when you're on a budget."

Blakey's message to other families on a budget was: "It is really hard for everybody but there is nothing wrong with toasted sandwiches for dinner."

Sarah Blakey's top tips to save money on your grocery bill
1. Don't be fooled into bulk buying. At the moment, money in the bank matters more.

2. Meal planning. I link what I need for one meal with another.

3. The slow cooker is your friend. Cheap cuts of meat become lovely.

4. Don't buy stock. Vegemite and water or a packet of Oxo cubes are cheaper and last for ages.

5. I never use all of the recommended product. Halve the recommended amount of washing powder, tomato paste, shampoo, dishwasher powder, soy sauce.

6. Don't be ashamed to put things back at the checkout. I have been doing it for years - it gets easier!