The Price of Fish: How to Save on New Zealand’s Favorite Seafood

Getting a daily dose of protein is increasingly expensive, with meat and egg prices rising sharply in recent years.

In general, fish prices have headed in the same direction – even New Zealand’s favorite Friday night combo, a piece of fish and chips, hasn’t escaped price increases.

So how do you get your fix of fish without sinking?

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How much are we paying for fish now – and how does that compare to five years ago?

The Stats NZ Food Price Index measures changes in average food and food service prices by tracking the cost of individual foods in a representative food basket.

The average price of fresh fish reached 38 dollars per kilo.  (File photo)

Jeremy Wilkinson / Stuff

The average price of fresh fish reached 38 dollars per kilo. (File photo)

As well as monitoring the cost of fresh and canned fish, Stats NZ monitors the price of frozen fillets and takeaway fish and chips.

Unfortunately for fish lovers, all but one have seen reasonably steep price increases over the past five years.

Canned tuna saw the biggest price increase, with a 185-gram can up 25% to $3.08.

Although significantly more expensive per kilo, fresh fish saw a smaller increase, up 21% from $31.49 in June 2017 to $38.18 in January 2022.

At the chippie, a piece of fish and chips cost $6.38 five years ago, but it now costs $8.07, an increase of 26%. However, part of this will be due to the higher price of potatoes, up 36% from $1.96 to $2.67 per kilo since 2017.

Contrary to the trend, the price of frozen fish fillets remained relatively stable. Although there were many small fluctuations, a 500g packet was actually cheaper in January this year, at $7.39 compared to $7.44 in June 2017.

What is the most expensive fish you can find and the cheapest?

Assuming you don’t catch it yourself (in which case snappers/kahawai/spotties are all about the same price – pretty much free), canned or frozen fish are the cheapest options.

Using average prices from Stats NZ, canned tuna comes to $16.65 per kilo, while frozen fillets cost $14.88/kg, less than half the average price of fresh fillets.

Of the fresh options on offer at the supermarket, New Zealand snapper regularly tops $50 per kilo, $5-10 per kilo more than fresh local salmon.

At the other end of the scale, the fresh New Zealand pearl can be found for around $15 per kilogram. Also known as the ghost shark, the pearl is a firm white fish, frequently used in fish and chips.

What are some tips that can help buyers save money?

Buy on sale

If you like the finest fish, choose to indulge only when they’re on sale. Wrap, date and freeze what won’t be eaten immediately – oily fish (such as trout, tuna or salmon) will keep for about three months in the freezer, while lean fish (cod, gurnard or snapper) will will keep for about six months.

A piece of fish and chips cost an average of $6.38 five years ago, but now it costs $8.07.  (File photo)

matthew grant/stuff

A piece of fish and chips cost an average of $6.38 five years ago, but now it costs $8.07. (File photo)

grab yours

As the saying goes, give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat all his life.

If you have the patience to fish, a rod, reel and a few hooks can be a very worthwhile investment. A basic kit costs as little as $50 at a place like The Warehouse, or you can pick up a used rod and reel for even less.

Add $5 or $10 for a bag of bait and you’re set for multiple weekends at the dock or the river mouth.

Don’t waste, don’t want

If you buy a whole fish, use the bones to make broth by simmering the head, bones, tail and leftover flesh with aromatic vegetables and herbs.

Onions, leeks, garlic, celery, parsley, tarragon and bay leaves are all good, but avoid carrots, which will give your broth an unappealing orange hue.

Use the broth in chowders, soups, seafood risotto or paella. Unused stock can be frozen for up to six months.

Support a local business

If you have a fish-loving family, try shopping at a local fish market or retail store attached to a processing plant.

As well as offering the freshest fish you are likely to find, they often have a better selection and better prices than supermarkets.

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