Alternative title: Eating cheaply in New Zealand
Before getting sticker shock at NZ restaurants, remember that tax and tip are included...or actually, there's no tip, but your server is paid much better than he/she should be. GST (Goods and services tax) is 15%, but is already figured into the cost of everything you buy. If you make any big purchases to take home, the shop may be able to send it directly to the airport and not charge you GST). But I digress.
1) Have coffee and a scone (or cake) for breakfast. Order a flat white; you can only get them in NZ and Australia...some claim there is a difference from a latte... Just about any restaurant with "cafe" in the name will have a pastry case and coffee section (and just about any restaurant with "cafe" in the name will require you to order at the counter...then they'll bring you your food; if in doubt, a menu on the wall is a clue that you have to order at the counter). Expect to pay $7 to $10 for coffee and a pastry. If there's a sign out front that says $5 for coffee and cake, that's even better.
2) Pies!!! You can buy these just about anywhere (like petrol stations), but if they come from a real bakery, they're much better. There are bakeries everywhere. It's like a hand-held chicken pot pie (you can get other meats in them as well; mince=ground beef; if you find a vegetarian one, those are my favourite, followed by chicken and vegetables). $4 to $6 for a high quality pie from a bakery; less from a dairy, market, petrol station. Make this a breakfast and/or lunch item, as the bakeries close up in the early afternoon.
3) Fish and Chips!!! (or as they say in the NZ: Fush and Chups). Just about the cheapest thing you can eat, and probably the worst for you. I order them without salt in an attempt to make them healthier (they're not quite as good, but still seem to come with a lot of residual salt). You can find these everywhere...if the place also sells Chinese food, it probably won't be as good. "Two Fish and one scoop of chips" should feed two of you for a little under $10. (Battered fish is much better than crumbed, but probably worse for you.)
4) Ethnic food: NZ does Indian well and isn't too bad at Thai. These should be cheaper than Kiwi/European food. There are also Kebab places everywhere (virtually all Middle-Eastern food in NZ is Turkish...the locals seem to like it, but we've been unimpressed every time we've tried it).
6) Combine dining with something else. It costs $25 to get to the top of the Sky Tower. If you eat in Orbit or the Observatory, Sky Tower admission is included. The Observatory is a buffet ($42.50 lunch, 62.50 dinner); Orbit is a sit down restaurant (mains $30 to $35); we ate there with a group. It's good, especially if you keep in mind that you're eating there for the view. They serve high tea on Saturdays and Sundays...
5) More restaurants: Great restaurants do not cost much more than average restaurants. There's a giant collection of them (restaurants, not great restaurants) around Viaduct Harbour. They all turn into nightclub type places around 9, so don't wait too long to eat. Note: "Entrees" are appetizers; "Mains" are main courses. On the Viaduct, we've eaten at Degree (mains in the $20 to $30 range)--only in NZ will a restaurant put an 800 degree stone on your table so you can cook a lamb chop. Kermadec (mains in the $35 to $45 range) is supposed to be the place to go for fish/seafood. We ate there once during a rugby game, and it was obscenely busy. Can't remember much else about it--they have a few other restaurants in their building (all with Kermadec in their name): a brasserie, a tasting room, etc. These are all a little cheaper. We seem to end up at Fox's Ale House a lot. It's what I picture a British pub looking like, but you can eat for under $20 a person. We have not tried any of Auckland's best restaurants.