Times are tough in the wake of Covid-19. NZME, publisher of the Rotorua Daily Post, is launching a finance series where our local experts share their top money-saving tips and advice.
More than double the number of people sought help from the local foodbank during the first half of this year compared to 2019 and the service is expecting demand to increase as the economic effects of Covid-19 set in.
Job losses, wage reductions, and not being able to access other services during lockdown meant demand for food parcels from the Salvation Army Rotorua foodbank "escalated considerably".
The Salvation Army Rotorua foodbank helped 1548 clients from January to May, compared to 737 the same time last year.
Community ministries director Lieutenant Kylie Overbye said the foodbank moved from operating three days a week to six during alert levels 3 and 4 to cater for demand. Between 5 to 30 food parcels were given out each day.
"People receiving support have been largely families affected by Covid either through not being able to access other services, wage reduction, job loss, or beneficiaries who were experiencing greater consumption of consumables due to being in lockdown," she said.
"And we've also brought some food support to community groups supporting the homeless community."
But since level 2 Overbye said demand had dropped as families resumed a semi-normal routine with greater access to services such as schools, work and shops.
"But I wouldn't assume it will stay this way, as we are yet to experience the longer-term effects from Covid-19 and we anticipate we will likely see an increase in demand as the economic effects on the country set in."
Overbye said community organisations such as the foodbank were a vital connection for the long-term sustainability of communities.
"While community organisations provide essential services, they also play a key role in helping community folk come together and support each other.
"We are about nurturing people, and bringing hope to their lives."
Meanwhile, Rotorua Budget Advisory Services manager Pakanui Tuhura said for the past five years client debt levels were an average of $19 million.
But he expected things to get worse in the coming months, especially when the Government's temporary Covid-19 measures for mortgages end.
"I think this will have a downriver effect on rents as well, especially if there is a strong re-entry of developers into the housing market.
"The increase in debt will probably be driven by new home buyers with new mortgages and old mortgage repayments by the newly unemployed Covid-19 impact on businesses."
Tuhura said three or four people had come into the office and there had been 20 to 30 phone inquiries since the service opened its doors again a week and a half ago.
"We believe there are a number of reasons for this including people 'toughing it out' until they feel they need to see us," he said.
"We haven't seen the expected landslide yet but I guess it is just a matter of time."
He said the people who had visited so far were looking for help with KiwiSaver hardship refunds and issues they had before but exacerbated by the lockdown.
"Strangely most seem pretty upbeat as the lockdown prevented a lot of non-essential spending. However, that will restart now that we are out of lockdown.
Rotorua Budget Advisory Services manager Pakanui Tuhura has shared his top tips for saving money on your weekly grocery bill.
1. Plan your grocery shop
It is really important to plan your grocery shop because it makes you think and plan for downstream activities for the week such as:
·The meals you are going to cook
·The cost to be taken out of your overall budget (ie, will there be enough for rent, power, fuel for trips, etc?)
Write it down and take it with you.
2. Nutrition is paramount
You don't have to buy top quality ingredients, just ones that are nutritionally good for you. If you want to see how it is done there is a great show on TV "Eat Better for Less" and there is nutritional advice available through the internet and books. We can also provide books for our clients that show nutritionally good but cheap meals and recipes.
3. Stick to your list
Don't impulse-buy and stick to your written shop, even if there are 'awesome sales on'. Remember, your shop forms the basis of your meal plan so if you buy something else it will be for an additional meal you may not need. To help people follow this tip we used to say "take just enough cash to cover your planned shop" but nowadays with contactless payment that isn't appropriate. Perhaps get a Paywave debit card and load only sufficient for your shopping as an alternative.
4. Look around and shop where there are specials
Usually supermarkets are cheaper than dairies and small grocery shops but sometimes buying at the local within walking distance may cost you a few more cents - saving a lot more on fuel than travelling to the supermarket. Remember, loyalty can sometimes come at a cost so if you shop at one supermarket because that is where you always shop then you may be missing out on the worthwhile specials at another one.
5. Don't use takeaways to plug any gaps in your weekly meal plan.
Generally they are much less nutritionally good for you and require cost of fuel to access (or get delivered). Takeaways are a treat, not a necessity, and it's okay to put them into your meal plan but ONLY as a treat. Most nutritionists will tell you to get rid of them from your diet altogether in favour of healthier, cheaper options that can be cooked at home.