A budgeting agency says some families are having to cut back on clothing, home heating or doctor's visits so they can buy food.
The latest Consumer Price Index figures shows New Zealanders are spending more on food and rent and less on cars.
In its three-yearly review, Statistics New Zealand says for every $100 spent on goods and services $18.79 is spent on food. The amount in 2008 was $17.83, reflecting a rise of 14% in food prices since then.
The Federation of Family Budgeting says the problem for many families is that their wages have not increased to compensate for rising costs.
Chief executive Raewyn Fox says many people are having to cut back on other essentials in order to put food on the table.
The Consumer Price Index survey shows spending on housing and household utilities rose to $23.55 - 80 cents more than in 2008. This has been attributed to higher rents and electricity prices.
Less is being spent on transport and cars, down by almost $1 on three years ago.