We all want to live more cheaply, healthy and low waste, and what better motivation than skyrocketing food prices. We spoke to experts and readers who say it's easy if you have the know-how.
It's 10am and Shannon Burnand already has tonight's dinner prepped.
Rice is soaking, and later she'll cook it with home-made bone broth, vegetables and eggs.
The meal, costing $6, will also be lunch the next day.
The eco-mum and former anaesthetic technician has an "extremely limited" grocery budget of $140 a week.
She scours supermarket flyers for bargains before she shops; and forages from her backyard fruit and vegetable garden.
With Omicron adding to economic uncertainty; a struggling supply chain; and pressure from a fast-changing climate, more families like the Burnands are turning to roll-up-your-sleeve food methods.
The main way to make meals cheap and sustainable, is to eat less meat (it is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions) and more plant-based foods - the nearer they're grown, the better, say experts. Some foods can have a large carbon footprint.
For Burnand, 36, plant seeds are sourced from friends and the Rotorua Seed Library. She doesn't have a raised planter, she simply digs out bare land.
Making the family's money go further has involved problem solving and research.
Time, she admits, is on her side as a stay-at-home mum.
"A pot can simmer all day, and I can bake."
Several nights a week the family of four eat vegetarian - shredded veg, tomato paste and cheese on home-made pizza is a favourite; and on other nights, she's worked out ways to make meat go further.
For example, she'll cook rump steaks with a base of salt and pepper and portion them.
"You can add orange, mushroom, ginger and cinnamon one night, and sesame oil and Chinese five spice the next."
In terms of food sustainability, lettuce is easy to grow and "you can make a tin of tomatoes really sing with herbs".
She is also saving money elsewhere and has minimal rubbish.
Using cloth nappies over disposable saves $50 a week; pump soap has been swapped for bar soap and all cleaning is done with hot water and dishwashing liquid.
"It does take a bit of time to learn all this, but it's incredibly worth it because they're skills that last a lifetime."
It used to always be this way
Sustainable eating won't be new for older generations.
Rotorua's Cheryl Lescheid grew up in a "foraging" family.
They had an edible garden on their rural property in Canada's British Columbia; chickens and turkeys, and her father was a hunter and fisherman.
Nowadays the mother of three and educational consultant has kept that lifestyle up, avoiding waste where possible.
She's made zero-waste banana peel muffins and Korean kimchi (spicy pickle) with watermelon rinds.
She's also started eating more vegetarian meals in a feeling of "global consciousness", not wanting to support big agribusiness.
"If we could buy a [home kill] beast or share a beast with someone, we would prefer that."
The family have learned to be "exploratory" with cooking.
"I read an article last year that questioned whether chickpeas were suitable donations for foodbanks because people didn't know what to do with them. It's a problem that people don't realise how many things they can make out of the ingredients that aren't expensive."
If you are struggling to reduce food waste, working with a holistic health coach may help.
Tauranga's Heidi and Steve Jennings, of Jennings Holistic Health Coaching, are writing a book on sustainable living, following on from their first Amazon bestseller From Living Hell to Living Well.
Heidi has been on a plant-based diet for the past four and a half years, while Steve and their two children are 80-20, which gives them "wriggle room".
"A lot of people are caught in what we call the Standardised American Diet, where they eat a lot of plastic-packaged and processed foods that are really expensive. Once you get rid of that and start buying fresh, and in bulk - grains, nuts and seeds - it works out cheaper."
Some of her tips: If you do choose packaged foods, look for fewer than five ingredients on the label; vegetables, especially leafy greens, should be a priority if you're on a budget because they provide the best health benefits; find friends or neighbours who you can trade fruits and vegetables with; and freeze fresh fruit that is about to go bad, and use in smoothies.
"It's super-easy once they get going. It's just a mindset thing."
Much like our view on weeds.
Most gardeners pull out weeds without giving them a second thought, but it turns out you could be eating some of them - and they're free.
While experts warn amateur foragers to be careful, there are many weeds growing throughout New Zealand that are edible and also have medicinal purposes.
Wild food educator Julia Sich, of Tauranga, knows of more than 45 edible weeds and holds regular workshops to share her knowledge with others to create more awareness about the valuable food source that weeds provide.
The horticulturist - with a BA in German and Anthropology, and author of Julia's Guide to Edible Weeds and Wild Green Smoothies - credits wild edibles, leafy greens and fresh fruit (alongside Western medicine) with helping her autoimmune disease; and she is a stroke survivor. She drinks up to 2 litres of green smoothie superfoods every day.
Edible weeds can also be consumed in pestos, salads, soups, stews, pickles, wraps and sprinkled on rice dishes.
Broom flowers; tree spinach or magenta spreen; lambsquarters or fathen; elderberry; creeping mellow; and miner's lettuce are just a few you can grow, and you don't necessarily need a big backyard to do it.
The same goes for herbs and microgreens: "You can put quite a few things in one pot or on a window sill."
What's more, if a plant goes to seed, you can collect the seeds to grow them again the next year.
She grows a medley of foods on her 870sq m wild backyard, including cos, rocket and oak leaf for salads, mixing it with the likes of finely chopped dandelion, chickweed, creeping mellow and speedwell. She garnishes it with edible flowers - nasturtium or borage, which looks "pretty" but is also nutritious.
She incorporates her organic plant-based diet with a small amount of organic meat.
While there are planetary effects to eating red meat, not all are negative.
"Animals can be part of regenerating the soil and nature. Fertilising it, stamping it down and creating humus, which holds moisture and nutrients. I am more into a balanced approach."
Many Kiwis have been eating too high on their hog for their own health: "If people could eat more vegetables and whole foods it would nourish them more than hollow carbs."
Better nutrition is achievable on a budget, she says, it just requires time and effort.
"You feel so much better if you do go out and just pluck from the garden, or a pot. We've become trained out of that way of life. My parents were war children and they experienced rationing. The whole country was told to find food in the wild. They used nettles for soup and gathered rose hips (high in vitamin C to keep away bugs). It's going back to things that we've really been trained out of."
Foraging is also harder these days.
"You cannot forage in a public space without worrying that you're eating [toxic] sprayed food, which is a humongous tragedy."
Learning to gradually adopt a diet that derives most of its protein from plants is something Rotorua woman Alice Bartlett has been doing.
The pandemic forced the 43-year-old security officer to budget by planting a vegetable garden, and she does weekend fishing and diving trips for kaimoana, a skill she's teaching her children and grandchildren.
"The biggest changes have been that I get to save money and my kids get to have a bit more enjoyment than we ever did in the last two years."
Julia Sich says: "We need to empower ourselves and feed ourselves, and make ourselves more resilient."
Golden rules for enjoying wild edibles
• If you don't know what it is, don't eat it: Learn to identify plants that are edible and get to know those that are poisonous. Julia Sich's next workshops are April 10, May 1 and June 12, or she can visit you at home. juliasedibleweeds.com for info.
• Know plants at different growth stages: This will allow you to pick it at its most edible stage - young and leafy. Once flowering, the energy goes into the flowers and then seeds. Flowers and seeds can be very nutritious too.
• Know what places plants like to grow: If you find something similar but growing in the wrong place, it can be a warning.
• Make sure the plants you harvest are not sprayed or from contaminated soil, or where pets toilet.
• Sample new edibles in small amounts to start with: Chew between your two front teeth. If you have no adverse effect after some time, a little more can be eaten.
• Get permission from landowners before foraging.
• Don't forage for mushrooms unless you are with an expert. Identifying fungi is a specialist topic.
• Respect the plants: Just take enough so that you don't wipe out a population.
Source: Julia Sich