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Oily Rag Club Newsletters

Each week we publish new ideas and tips for the frugally inclinated (otherwise known as inclined!). Here are the latest issues.
4 April Cleaning from top to bottom & more >>>
28 Mar Creepy critters and soapy issues >>>
21 Mar Cleaning up, sun-dried tomatoes, & figs >>>
14 Mar Preserving the summer harvest >>>
7 Mar Pets, honey, & lots of cleaners >>>
28 Feb From dog flees to frozen meals >>>
21 Feb Fruit, fried silver beet & more >>>
14 Feb More Oily Rag Q & A >>>
7 Feb High rise storage, chips, and pesky cats >>>
31 Jan Romance, checkout tabs, & woolly socks >>>
26 Jan  Yum peaches >>>
19 Jan  From free travel to DIY sparkies >>>
For previous newsletters, see here >>> 

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Do you have a favourite money saving tip, a funny frugal yarn, or a comment about living on the cheap? How about sharing it with others. Click here >>>

Questions and answers

Paul from Northland who has this question: "The colder weather is bringing uninvited guests into the house - rats, mice and ants! I do not want to use expensive poisons. Does anyone have any suggestions how I can keep these pesky critters out of the house?" I you can help Paul please Click here >>>.

Jackie from Auckland has this rather unusual suggestion. "My son-in-law plays loud music to get rid of rats, the kind with a heavy, thumping base. The rats take off and run away."  Can't say we have heard that one before but we know Barry Manilow music has been used to scare off indolent souls from public places!

Joy from Hastings asks, "Can anyone advise as to how to make coconut milk yoghurt.  (we are needing to have a lactose free diet, but don't want to miss out on yoghurt).  Many thanks!" I you can help Joy please Click here >>>.

Don from Rotorua asks, "I own an old copper paraffin lamp that has gone black from living in Rotorua [sulphur area]. I would be pleased if anyone could give me ways of cleaning it. Thanks." If you can help Don with his Rotorua problem,  please Click here >>>.

JimO from Torbay in Auckland asks, "I know its and old problem but I'm desperate to find a 'cure-all' for cleaning the shower glass. I've tried  the commercial ones, even tried straight meths and Sugar Soap. None have got the ingrained soap/water marks off. Anyone else had this problem?" If you can help JimO please Click here >>>.

CatherineB from Auckland says, "We have found that Chemco with a Silver Lady cloth works wonders on shower glass. It's not that expensive and Chemco lasts for a long time."

Kirsty from Southland has this tip. "Heat a cup of vinegar in the microwave until hot (not boiling) put in an empty spray bottle and add 1/2 - 1 cup of dish soap and shake gently to mix. Spray all over the shower glass, walls, wherever hard-to-remove soap scum and water marks are. Leave for as long as possible - preferably overnight, but an hour or so will do at a pinch. Scrub gently with a non-scratch scourer then rinse off."

PB from Auckland writes, "To make a good general purpose cleaner, that would probably help with cleaning shower glass, take a spray bottle, put into it 50 ml dishwashing liquid, 100 ml lemon juice and fill with white vinegar. Shake well and spray on liberally. Let stand for a few minutes and clean off. Ingrained dirt may require scrubbing."

Joan from Masterton asks, "What does one use to clean pewter mugs?" If you have a "secret" recipe Click here >>>.

Lorraine  from Hamilton writes, "Pewter cleaning instructions can be found on the following website: pewter-pleasure.com. It all depends on the type of pewter you have. They are also contactable via email from their website."

Fay from Blenheim has a question. "Would lavender oil be okay to put on a dog to stop flees?" If you can help Fay fight dog-gone flees Click here >>> and we will share it around the oily rag community. [Also, do you have any tips about shampoos for cats and dogs - Oily Rag Ed']

Jeanne from Temuka replies, "I don't know if I would use lavender oil on a pet to help rid of it fleas but I have tried rubbing crushed mint leaves on both my cat and dog, especially along the length of the back and around the collar area. It works a treat. Any herb or plant with a minty or citrus scent works well."

Madcow from Opunake asks, "I would like to know how to make frozen roast ready meals, like the well known brands we find in the shop freezer. Can anyone help with ideas of what to put in them and how to cook them?" If you can help Madcow please Click here >>>.

Kathleen from sunny Tauranga has this suggestion. "When we have a roast, I slice the meat that is left, cover it with gravy, and freeze. It keeps really well, so when you want another roast all you need to prepare is the roast vegetables."

Doug from Featherston writes, "I just cook a roast and pack what is left over into take away containers and freeze them. I use these when I go away in my camper or when I get too lazy to cook!"

Thrifty from Hamilton has a question for those who use part sachets of yoghurt starter. "How do you store the remaining sachet for next time so that it doesn't go off? I've heard that you can seal the packet with sellotape and store it in the deep freeze - but wouldn't that kill the culture?" If you have some suggestions for Thrifty, please Click here >>>.

Em from Christchurch replies, "I just fold the top of the original packet over, and put the whole packet in a zip-lock plastic bag and seal it, then put it back in the cupboard. I normally use the rest of the packet within a week or two, and I have had no problems with it setting."

Thrifty lady from Taihape says, "When using a part of the sachet only, you don't have to do anything special with the rest- just fold it and put a pin on top or seal with some masking tape. We haven't had any bad experiences at all."

Kate from Hawera asks, "I have shifted to a house with a Hawera plum tree, I would love some recipes and tips!" If you can help Kate out with a plum recipe then please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on. We checked out more about this plum and found this on Wairere Nursery web site. "Originated from a chance seedling found on the roadside near, you guessed it, Hawera. Large dark red fruit with very firm dark red flesh. Yum Yum. One of the best deep red plums. Heavy cropper, freestone, ripens January. Self fertile." Sounds like a plum tree worth a try!

Rachel from Tauranga asks, "How do you feel about soda stream machines and yoghurt makers? Do they save money – are they worth it?" If you can help Rachel then please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Charmaine from Whangarei writes, "I just love my soda stream, but am also extremely careful not to purchase sweet drinks. I use mine mainly to carbonate plain water which is so much nicer to drink than ordinary water, which I don't like much. To this I can also add fresh orange, lime, lemon, or any natural juices - much nicer. So Rachael go get your soda machine - if used wisely they are great!"

Caroline from Wellington says, "I am able to make a healthy, lightly sparkling drink for next to nothing. Called Water Kefir, it is made with just water, sugar and Kefir grains. The grains are pro-biotic and eat the sugar, creating the fizz as a by-product. Once made, the grains are re-used, and the drink can be flavoured with vanilla, fruit or drink syrups. I also make Viili, which is similar to yoghurt. The main difference is that it doesn't need to be kept warm for it to 'set' the milk. Just leave milk with a tablespoon or two of your last batch on the kitchen counter, and in a day or two it is ready. To get started, ask around in your community. Many people make these products, and are often happy to donate some to a newbie!"

Penny-pincher from Taihape has this suggestion. "My husband uses his yoghurt making machine - it only takes 1/3 of the packet to have great yoghurt! Instead of using the other 2/3, substitute with whole milk powder. It is a lot cheaper than buying it at the supermarket and you can become creative adding different flavours and experimenting with it."

To do a quick check to see what savings can be made by making your own yoghurt we went online and compared the cost of buying a powder sachet to make 1kg of strawberry yoghurt and a 1kg tub which cost $5. At the everyday price the saving was 31c, but the day we checked the powder was on special so the saving was $1 a kg - a saving of 20%. There are other advantages too. One oily ragger says they like the convenience of making their own. "We live out of town so it's great having sachets on hand to make it when we need it. And the kids seem to love it even more, when they are engaged in the process of selecting a flavour and making it!"

Thrifty asks this question, "Does anyone have an economical homemade recipe for fabric softener including the amount to use per load please?" If you can help Thrifty please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Karen from Palmerston North has this suggestion. "White vinegar! Depending on the size of the load, use 1/2 a cup or so in the final rinse. It will also remove the 'shine' from the seat of uniform pants etc and keep black fabric dark."

Tramore from Whangarei has a number of suggestions for Thrifty. If you use 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner, you have your laundry detergent and fabric softener all in one!  

Tramore also suggests white vinegar. "Does the same thing as brand softeners but is a whole lot cheaper! It also kills bacteria, brightens colours, reduces lint, eliminates soap residue, and reduces static cling! Use 1/4 cup of white vinegar in the final rinse as a softener in your washing machine."

And this suggestion: "Washing soda is also a water softener; it's great to add to the washing if your water is very hard and makes the clothes feel hard and dry. The soda will stop this and also keep the washing machine clean from a build up of suds."

Doreen from Paraparaumu also suggests washing soda. "I suggest putting a couple of handfuls of washing soda into the machine. It costs very little at Bin Inn shops."

DH asks, "Can anyone tell me if Fonterra milk is dehydrated before being re-hydrated and sold in bottles? I have heard that this happens. I am a convert to dried milk powder which I re-constitute with more water than the packaging advises. No more plastic milk bottles, no more running out of milk and hugely cheaper." If you can help DH please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

K.F. from Northpark in Auckland would like to know how to remove nicotine grime from china. "How do you safely remove the build-up from china figurines and crystal (items of sentimental rather than monetary value)" If you can help K.E. please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Thrifty has this suggestion. "Try a solution of 50:50 white vinegar and water. The vinegar will need to be warmed as tar and nicotine develop a hard surface. Alternatively try LA's Totally Awesome Oxygen Orange All Purpose Degreaser available at The Warehouse and some $2 shops for about $3 per bottle. Spray on, remove grime with a small brush or cotton ball, and rinse off."

Thanks for the information on where to buy the draught excluder for less than $10. I live a long way from the shops and have made my own. I got two sticks, cut or break them to the width of the door and got an old towel, which I folded in half and is the same width as the door. I rolled one stick into one side of the towel and put a few small nails in it. Then I did the same with the other stick, rolling it in the other side of the towel, leaving about 5 cm free, enough room to slide it under the door. It doesn't look fancy but it sure does the trick. The only thing is, that it doesn't work on carpet but it does on lino. I'm searching for a kind of material that will slide on carpet. Has anyone got a good idea? - J.O. Springfield

Melsy from Auckland asks, "Have just joined your site and have spent a good part of the day reading all the money saving tips. So many of us out there trying to live off 'the smell of an oily rag' . I do have a question. Years ago I was given a banana tree and has grown so big. Cut a lot of it back and now my clothes are covered in banana sap stains. Any suggestions?" Click here >>> to help Melsy.

Thrifty from Hamilton replies, "Melsy...You could try nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol. They work for other sap stains. WD40 works on pine sap and may work on banana sap too. WD40 may stain too so be careful and patch test with these remedies first. I remove WD40 stains with good old Sunlight soap. The rest of the stain would be chlorophyll or natural pigments similar to grass stains and can be laundered accordingly. Without knowing the fabric involved it's hard to make a judgement but I hope this helps."

Karen from Northland has a sock problem. "Does anyone have suggestions to remove grass clippings from woolly socks?" If you can help Karen please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Steve from Tauranga says, "I just hold the toe of one sock in each hand and swing them together so they twist round each other, and pull them apart quickly, two or three times. It works well with sawdust - should work with any other loose material."

Shona from Martinborough has this simple trick. "To clean sawdust and grass clippings from socks use a wire brush - it just flicks off!"

Caron from Victoria, Australia writes, "Take a piece of clear packing tape or masking tape - about a 4 inch length works well. Fold it back on itself, making a loop, so that the sticky face is on the outside, then place 2 or 3 fingers into the centre of the ring of tape and work it over the grass clipping covered sock. The stickiness of the tape pulls the grass off. Keep working the tape over the sock, until there is no more sticky left, then make yourself another circle of tape, and keep going until the socks are clear of clippings. This method also works for removing pet hair from your clothing."

"Peggy" from Whangarei is looking for ideas on the best use for duck eggs. "We have adopted a wild duck with one leg (which we named Peggy). Every morning she flies onto our lawn so we feed her with bread and corn seed. Peggy is returning the kindness by producing an egg a day - on our back lawn! We now have a dozen duck eggs and I’m looking for ideas on the best way to use them." If you can help Peggy please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Valerie from Taupo has this suggestion. "Make Scotch pancakes/pikelets. You will need 2 duck eggs, 4 tablespoons white sugar, 3 cups self raising flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, full cream milk - to mix. Beat the eggs and add the sugar. Combine baking soda and cream of tartar with the flour and sift into the egg mix, adding milk as you go until it’s a dropping consistency. Heat an electric flying pan and smear with butter. Drop in tablespoons of the mix and turn when covered with bubbles. Stow under a linen tea towel. Lovely the next day with bacon or served with fried eggs." Many thanks for the recipe Valerie - we have tried it and can say they are delicious (oily rag ed).

Cheryl-Anne from Auckland has this question. "I am wondering if anyone has a tip on how to get blue nail polish off a light coloured carpet? Thank you." If you can help Cheryl-Anne please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Andrea from Christchurch replies, "Use hairspray and a damp cloth. Spray the hairspray onto the nail polish and rub gently with damp cloth. It will take a bit of patience but it does work. I took out nearly half a bottle of black nail polish out of a beige carpet using this technique."

Warren from Tauranga is asking for tips to clean shower tiles. "I am after an effective shower cleaner - as in cleaning glass, tiles, and a black mould build-up on silicone grout between floor and wall tiles."
If you can help Warren please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Michelle from Invercargill replies; "Like a lot of things, regular cleaning of tiles and glass saves a lot of hard work later on. For glass, always wipe dry after a shower with your towel or glass scraper. Once a week, use a cleaner or micro-cloth to remove any build up. For tiles, every week use baking soda and white vinegar with just enough water to make a spreadable mixture. Once it has black mould you need to use bleach or a product containing bleach, like exit mould to kill the spores. After cleaning tiles and glass, you can polish dry with car wash or car wax. Both will create a barrier to make cleaning of water spots and soap scum easier."

Carolyn from Perth asks, "I would love to create a family cookbook - so many memories of mum’s cooking and baking, smells and tastes! To use a website that creates it for you is pricey. So I am looking for ideas on how to create a fun, easy recipe collection full of memories, photos and food to share with close family. Any ideas or thoughts would be most welcome. Thank you!".
If you can help Carolyn please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Pat from Rotorua has this suggestion. "In our family we have five girls and one boy! One of my sisters photographed our Mum's recipe book and put it on a memory stick. It is nice to have her recipes in her writing. They could be printed and put into a folder if you prefer. Love the tattered and marked pages. Sweet memories!"

Marie from Rotorua has this suggestion. “I have done just this and it is very popular with the family.  I have called it Kitchen Knowhow, and have personalised the front page for each grandchild.  I simply compiled it in Word.  I typed it in landscape format with two columns and then folded each page to make an A5 booklet.  It takes some juggling to get each page relevant once you have a book.  This is more easily done in Publisher if you are familiar with this programme.  I included all the old fashioned household hints, the meanings of various terms such as “cream the butter and sugar”, and basic recipes with suggestions for alternatives.  I put in real family specials, but most people these days Google for recipes and use a Tablet as a cookbook.  Like the Sound of Music song, once you know the basic method, you can cook most anything.  This would make a delightful Christmas or Birthday present.  Get it started for next year!"

Ruth from Taumarunui asks, "We live in a small town where it is hard to buy quite a few things including essential oils.  How can I get some - the cheapest way possible please?" And Shelley from Kerikeri has as similar question, "I like the idea of using eucalyptus oil around the house but where can I buy it in bulk?  It seems to be quite costly even in a 100ml bottle." If you can help Ruth or Shelly please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Selina from Walton recommends this. "I buy bulk essential oils - orange, eucalyptus, etc, from www.gonative.co.nz. They also have lots of recipes, including making your own skincare. I save a lot buying oils in bulk and making products myself - and you know the ingredients you are using."

Andrea from Christchurch writes, "I always use www.essentialoil.co.nz for purchasing my essential oils. They have a huge range and they are cheaper than in the shops."

And Lois says, "Try your local supermarket. I find PakN'Save best - they often have tea tree oil at a reasonable price. Eucalyptus oil, under the brand name "Home Essentials", can be purchased cheaply from most pharmacies."

Noreen asks, “Has anybody any tips on how I can prevent pukeko from destroying my vege garden? I have tried netting but they just trample over it or pull the veg out between the holes in the netting. I would appreciate any suggestions.” If you can help Noreen, please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Gorsegully from Dunedin suggest the answer is, "Stewed in slow cooker."

Thrifty from Hamilton writes, "A pukeko is a bird with a strong sense of smell and it can be deterred from the garden with the smell of mothballs – but this may have an effect on beneficial insects in a vegetable garden too. Mothballs are usually used around flowers like roses." 

Lin, an oily rag reader from Leamington Spa in the UK, has a cooking question. “It’s summer here, in the UK, and despite trying very hard to stagger my vegetable crops, I always end up with a surplus of mature broad beans.  Does anyone have any ideas of what to do with broad beans once they've got big and tough?” If you can help Lin, please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

PJN from Auckland writes, “Shell the beans, gently cook them, then make into a pesto which can be frozen in small containers. Tastes very good.”

Hank from Rotorua has these suggestions. "I try to get as many young beans into the freezer early in the season as I can, but as the beans age, the 'younger' older beans can be podded and blanched and then the grey outer skin of the seeds can be removed before freezing. If they really have gone 'over' leave the pods to dry out on the plants.  I use the best ones for seed for the next year, and pod the others to store as dried beans for a delicious Sardinian side dish. Soak the dried beans overnight (15 hours) then simmer with a dash of olive oil in water with chunks of pork belly (cut into cubes about two to three cm) till tender (about an hour), skimming off the impurities as they cook. Then make a dressing in a dish using extra virgin olive oil, slices of garlic, chilli flakes and chopped flat leaved parsley. Drain the beans and pork, and toss into the dressing.  The heat from the beans and meat brings out a delicious aroma. Tastes great."

Paul from Paraparaumu has this tip. "Regarding the excess of broad beans - or any beans for that matter - harvest, cook really well and then puree. This can be used to flavour soups, thicken gravies and sauces etc. Freeze what you don't use straight away."

Callum from Torbay, North Shore, Auckland has a question. “I have a cat problem – they are using my mulch around the garden as a toilet, which is very unpleasant if one steps on it. What’s the best way to keep them away from Mulch and section please? Click here >>> if you can help Callum with cat poop problem...

Jill from Dannevirke says, "I have successfully used Jeyes fluid to deter cats. Sprinkle undiluted on the area targeted by the cats, but be sure to clean the area up first. You may have to repeat a time or two, but cats hate it. It also works for dogs! Jeyes fluid can be hard to find, but I bought some recently." [Jeyes Fluid is a multi-purpose cleaner and disinfectant that is used for a wide range of garden and outdoor cleaning jobs.]

New tips and recipes!

Some may have noticed recent publicity about a supermarket price war over nappies. The bottom line is they are discounting the price of disposables to lure mums down their isles so while they are buying up large on the discounted product they are also filling their shopping carts with the everyday priced goodies (the same ruse they use with discounted milk).

A quick search of prices does indeed show there is some hot competition in the nappy department. The best price we could find for a standard line product (a basic nappy for an infant) was from one of the major supermarkets. It was on special at a unit price of 33 cents compared to 45 cents from other outlets for the same item.

There is a remarkable range of products and pack sizes so young mums and dads could be forgiven for finding the task of a meaningful price comparison a little difficult. As a general rule we found buying in bulk was significantly cheaper. For example, in one case buying the 160 pack instead of 108 reduced the unit price by about 25%. Bulk buying does not always result in savings so one does need to have their calculator handy, but in this case the bulk buying made sense - and you never know when you will have a run on nappies(!) so having some spares may come in handy.

We also found a remarkable range in styles and prices.  The designer nappies with high street brands (like Versace - just kidding) were typically around a dollar per unit. 

As a general guide, we found the best value when buying nappies was bulk packets of house branded products at around 30 cents. - Oily Rag Ed'

I have had more than one washing machine repairman tell me that commercial fabric softener is their 'dream product' as it stuffs your machine and pipes! I now mix half water with half white vinegar in a 1 litre bottle, add 1 teaspoon of eucalyptus oil and few drops of your favourite essential oil. Shake up, and use in the fabric softener compartment. So cheap and clothes smell lovely. The bonus is the white vinegar solution also cleans your machine and pipes! - Tam and Soph's Mum, Taupo

This is a good and cheap flea remedy for cats and dogs that works. Mix 225 ml cider vinegar with 112 ml of warm water. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Shake well, put into a spray bottle and apply. - Margaret, Invercargill.

Here's a tip to prevent the wires coming out of your bras in the washing machine: wash them in a pillow case! Tie the top and wash on a gentle setting. I wash all our underwear on a gentle wash setting. Here's a recipe for a cheap laundry powder. Use 1 kilo of washing soda, 1 bar of sard soap, 1/2 a cup of borax. Chop up the soap and put into a kitchen whiz. Add the rest of the ingredients and whiz to a powder. Use about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup per wash. For a toilet cleaner I use baking soda and white vinegar. - Margaret, Invercargill.

When your soap is too small to use don’t throw it out. Save it in a dish and when you have what you think is enough, finely chop up the pieces, place into an old saucepan, add water and bring to a boil. Stir and simmer, then pour into blocks and let it cool. There you have it – more soap! - Ray, Tauranga

To make the most delicious sun-dried tomatoes you've ever tasted, you need firm, ripe tomatoes, salt, dried basil, a metal oven tray with a lip, and a cake rack that fits inside the oven tray. Cut tomatoes in half from the stem to the bottom. If large, cut in half again. Remove any tough bits around the stem area.  Use a spoon to remove the seeds and give them to the chooks.  Insert the cake rack into the oven tray.  Place the prepared tomatoes on the cake rack cut side up and fairly close together as they will shrink as they dry.  Sprinkle with salt and basil.  Put the tray on the dashboard of your car (or on the rear window sill if it’s wide enough).  Roll up all the windows and park in a sunny spot.  Start first thing in the morning and bring the tray inside at sunset. It may take two days for them to dry properly.  When ready, they should be flexible like a raisin, leathery not brittle.  Cool to room temperature then package in 100g lots in plastic bags, excluding all air, and store in the freezer. When you are ready to use them, you will need to pack them in oil first - just take out one bag at a time and layer the tomato slices in a small sterilised jar with a bay leaf, 3 peppercorns, a whole peeled garlic clove and a red chilli.  Pour in sufficient extra virgin olive oil to cover the tomatoes.  Cover tightly with a lid. Store in refrigerator and wait at least 3 days before using. Use within 2 weeks. - Bernie,  Christchurch

I use straight washing soda or soda ash in my washing machine - it works really well and is very reasonably priced. For my dishwasher I use washing soda and baking soda and citric acid with a white vinegar rinse aid. They both work really well. - Miriam, Kaitaia

If you are a tramper, yachtie or camper, you may want a great ‘compact’ food solution. When my husband was planning a 10-day tramp on Stewart Island, he was concerned about the weight of food in his pack, and the cost of dehydrated food, so I made 10 days worth of food for him in my dehydrator. Every night when we had a meal that was suitable, I dried a spare serving in my dehydrator, and put it into self-seal bags. Some experiments worked, but others didn't! You have to get everything the same size to dry consistently, and it has to be happy to have water added when reconstituting, so risottos, curries and stews all worked well. He was very happy but in the end, didn't eat them all because of the fresh venison and paua that came his way! Many of us like the convenience of processed food, so if we treat leftovers this way, they are meals in a moment if Mum is in hospital or away and there are no other cooks at home! - JB, Whangarei

Honey is already several months old when you buy it in the supermarket and it doesn't matter how long you store it for as it is a natural preservative itself. - Rosemary, Hastings. [For storage tips Rosemary recommends visiting hiveandhoneyapiary.com. In short, that site says, "The best way of storing honey is in jars or containers at cool room temperatures... Glass jars are ideal... Always make sure the jars are tightly sealed... It's not a good idea to store your honey in non-food plastic containers or metal containers because they can cause the honey to oxidize... and could cause health issues... If you don't plan to use your honey for a couple of months or longer, you should think about freezing it. Make sure you put it in a container that has extra room, because honey will expand when it freezes. You can keep it in the freezer for a couple of years." - oily rag ed'] 

For kitty litter I use wood pellets, (the ones used in pellet fires). I find them very economical. -

I use vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washing machine. It certainly removes the lint off of the clothes. This site comes up with some great ideas. Keep it up! - Doug Featherston

I use WD40 for heaps of things. It is brilliant at removing oil stains from concrete drives - just spray on and hose off immediately. Also polish your stainless steel fridge and shower cabinet with it. Stops water marks on your shower and fingermarks on your fridge door. - Canny Scot, Christchurch.

Gaynor from Paraparaumu says she has read it may in fact make stains worse, and instead suggests baking soda and vinegar as a cheap and non-toxic cleaning agent for brass, silver, gold, bronze, enamel, stainless steel. Also toilets, glass, fibre glass and oil on concrete. [We have had a quick look at the WD40 website and it does recommend it for a number of cleaning purposes. However, baking soda and vinegar would be cheaper. - Oily Rag Ed']

WD40 is a solvent and should be used carefully - and not in enclosed spaces. Baking soda and vinegar is a safer, greener option. - T, Tauranga.

WD40 works on pine sap and may work on banana sap too. WD40 may stain too so be careful and patch test with these remedies first. I remove WD40 stains with good old Sunlight soap. - Thrifty, Hamilton 

 have been enjoying a good fruit harvest from my dwarf fruit trees this year. When they all seem to ripen at once I slice nectarines and peaches and simmer them in some honey and cinnamon for five minutes then cool and freeze. Handy for whipping up a quick fruit tart or fruit cobbler when the family comes round. I am trying to avoid sugar and have a friend who has bees so some free honey. I freeze it in recycled takeaway boxes which I scrounge from my family as I don't often have takeaways but the boxes stack really well in the top of my freezer and keep it tidy with clear labels on the ends of the boxes. Great time savers. - Canny Scot, Christchurch. [That's a useful reminder for those planning an orchard - make sure you select varieties that will give you progressive fruit throughout the season.] 

I recently switched to Grey Power Electricity because the quote they gave me was $9 per month less than my previous electricity provider. A saving of $108 p.a. (single household user assessed on 100 units). To qualify for Grey Power Electricity you have to first become a member of Grey Power (contactable via your local telephone directory). Membership costs about $20 p.a. With that you get a discount book and other benefits. If anyone is interested in getting their own quote from Grey Power Electricity they can contact them on 0800 473 976 Mon-Fri and have an electricity bill handy for comparison and quote." - Thrifty. [Also try powerswitch.org.nz. It makes shopping around for the best power price deal easy.]

I also joined Grey Power and my power costs have dropped from just over $100 a month to $67. As I am a one-person household that is a real big saving - and it only cost me $15 to join Grey Power. - Doug, Featherston

In the rural reaches of the Basque Country (Spain), silver beet (chard) is known as chuletas de la huerta, which translates as 'chops from the vegetable garden'. Here's a recipe from a book by Teresa Barrenechea (in Spiain they grow silver beet for the stems). You will need 10 silver beet stems with the leaves removed and cut into 50-75mm lengths; 1/4 cup flour; 2 eggs, beaten; and 1/2 cup olive oil. In a large saucepan, bring about a litre of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the stems, and cook it for about 15 minutes, until soft. Drain well, then roll in flour, dip in the egg mixture, and drop in a skillet of oil over medium-high heat. Cook the stems for about a minute, turn and cook them for another minute. Drain on two layers of paper towels, and serve immediately. If you like, you can serve the leaves as an accompaniment. Chop and boil in salted water, drain well, then sauté in 2 tablespoons olive oil with a sliced clove of garlic. - XS, Auckland.

Gain extra storage space under a bed base that is too low by placing 5cm blocks of wood under the legs. This enabled me to fit 3 plastic under-the-bed storage boxes beneath a single bed. Boxes measure 800mm by 400mm by 170mm deep and there is 20mm clearance gap with that under my bed. The blocks used were from a decking job. Don't go too high with the blocks - remember someone still has to climb in and out of bed! - Thrifty, Hamilton.

Dab eucalyptus oil around the area. Cats detest smells like eucalyptus oil. I believe they don't like the smell of vinegar either but I haven't tried that out - only the eucalyptus oil. Reapply every few days. - Thrifty, Hamilton.

An 'Awesome' brand of calcium lime and rust removal is available in a green bottle (US 32 fl oz - 946 mls to us) selling for between $3-5 at some $2 shops, The Warehouse or Bin Inn. Just as good as more expensive brands. Worked well for me - I got rid of the white spots around my shower head, cleaned up the base of my taps, and removed a rust stain in the toilet bowl, all for the princely sum of $5 - and I still have 3/4 of a bottle left! As I'm flatting that is about all I'm prepared to spend. - Thrifty, Hamilton.

Making kale chips has become quite popular and is easy especially with the flatter varieties. I tried the same process with silver beet and it works well. Heat the oven to 150C. I spray a flat tray with rice oil, then after cutting out the white stem I rub both sides of the silver beet on the oiled tray then sprinkle a little salt and/or Za'atar (Moroccan spices of all types are good). Cut the leaf into bite size pieces. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until crisp. If they need a little longer, turn them over.  When cooked, put them in a container with a paper towel on bottom.  My grandkids eat kale and silver beet 'chips' instead of the fatty variety with great enthusiasm, and they are really good as an at-work snack. - Gayle B, Christchurch. 

When my husband and I were married 13 years ago, (2nd time round), when we sent out the invitations we put on the bottom BYO gents, ladies a plate (starter, main or desert). This was a huge success, with guests saying that it was the best wedding that that they had been to!

Always, always check your till receipt after doing your grocery shopping. It is rare not to find mistakes which have cost you money. The shop computer and the shelf prices don't always match and the staff are always happy to remedy this. - Katy, Whangarei

The best and cheapest exfoliate you can buy is a ladies frilly nylon bath sponge available at $2 shops or the big red shed for about $3 (at the time of writing). I just use water with the sponge on my face and my favourite body wash for the rest of me then moisturise. Simple. - Thrifty, Hamilton

To keep flies out of the house wipe door-jambs, window frames and the inside glass with undiluted vinegar. Any vinegar will do. White vinegar added to window cleaning water will also keep them off the windows. To clear the house of flies boil up a cup of vinegar on the stove. You'll get one or two stubborn ones left but the majority depart at the whiff of vinegar. - Thrifty, Hamilton

Use a small squirt of shampoo to a cup or two of water to clean house plant leaves. It doesn't need to froth. Wipe mixture on leaves. No need to rinse. Result is nice glossy leaves without using a leaf shine. - Thrifty, Hamilton

It's possible to cut travel costs and enjoy driving free rental cars and campervans in New Zealand by checking out the online transfer deals. Most of the time drivers also receive a free tank of petrol! How does this work? Rental car companies need to reposition their fleet for new hires and usually spend large amounts of money to do this using trucks for transportation. Having a free driver return the car to its home base is a win-win - for the traveller and the rental company, and it works well when combined with a cheap one-way flight. -  P.L., Auckland (Have a look at transfercar.co.nz. - Oily Rag ed.)

I use the inner tops off yoghurt half litre pottles of cottage cheese etc to separate layers of food for the freezer. Saves using plastic, and can be re-used over and over. I also find the white newsprint type paper that supermarkets wrap some goods in can make a good lining for my fridge vege bins to stop that wet messy bottom - and the used paper can be composted when soggy. I also get 52 free lunch bags a year using the Listener magazine wrapper so I never buy lunch bags! -   Lorraine, Whakatane.

May I spread the good news about the economies that can be derived from a very simple piece of kitchen equipment: the spatula. Not only will it ensure that every last drop of cake mix is saved but it also has a knock on effect of saving soap and water in the washing up bowl - which lasts a lot longer since it doesn’t get clogged up with bits of food. Every last scrap of food on plates gets scraped into the chicken or dog bowl. -     S.M., Honiara.

Make sure that you only DIY within your capabilities! I am an industrial electrician, mother, strict budgeter and long-timer oily-ragger, however, I get nervous when I see people cutting corners, risking their future financial stability and well-being to save a few bob in the short term! I've seen some lethal situations waiting to happen. The house we moved into had had a number of 'basic repairs' done by the home owner - metal light fittings not earthed, terminals not tightened properly, a ceiling waiting to catch on fire from absent heat shielding. There's a reason it costs good money to hire an electrician - it takes years to become one and they assume a lot of legal liability. Do it wrong, and you can void your home's insurance, face prosecution or at worst it can be fatal. The best bet is to save your tradesperson time, and if not urgent (or dangerous), have the small jobs saved up:

- Clear the way to the switchboard, under the house, the attic or the appliance being serviced and know where your access hatches are. They may need room to open a ladder and there's no point paying a specialist an hourly rate to do your spring clean.

- Make sure any fittings you have in mind can be fitted first. There's no point ordering fancy light fittings from China and hiring a tradesperson only to find out that you don't have existing earths or that the gear is unsuitable or non-compliant. A good tradesperson would rather advise you first than waste their time - and your money - later on.

- If the work will involve going indoors and out a lot (such as to an inside switchboard) consider throwing down old towels or drop-sheets in the work area to save time taking boots on and off.

- Record details of any faults and under what circumstances they happen, as complex appliances with intermittent faults may be time-consuming to fix.

- Consider travel time - it's probably worth getting someone local.

- Ask to see your electrician's practising licence - don't pay a premium rate for a cowboy.

- Make sure you get a copy of your Certificate of Compliance and/or Electrical Safety Certificate within 20 working days and store these in a safe place - it is your assurance that the work was completed safely and legally and it will help to have these if something should go wrong. - A.M., Wairarapa.

Planning a summer wedding? "Paid $100 for second hand dress from an opportunity shop in Waikanae and customised it. No need for a $2,000 dress." - Lori, Paraparaumu Beach. "I get the most enormous thrill out of making/growing things and generally avoiding supermarkets etc with the consequence that we were able to buy our modest little house here in the pricey S.E. of England for cash on a very meagre income." - Mrs. Valuable Forthright Opinions, Canterbury (in the UK).

"Explore the wonderful world of the hot water bottle. Warming you is much cheaper and probably healthier than heating the space around you. Re-boil the water when it's no longer warm enough to keep you toasty but still has some warmth in it - it boils much quicker this way. And wrap the hottie up in a blanket if you leave it for any length of time. It stays warmer longer this way." - Mrs. Valuable Forthright Opinions, Canterbury (in the UK).

"Add layers if you live in a cold climate. It you're a gal, wear a petticoat and long-johns underneath. Fetching I know, but sexier than frostbite and large heating bills. Wear a number of layers of cotton, then a woollen layer over the top.' - Mrs. Valuable Forthright Opinions, Canterbury (in the UK).

"Make your own tofu. Boil up the cheapest shop-bought soya milk you can find - 1 to 2 litres is a good amount. Coagulate it with some vinegar or lemon juice. Drain it through a tea towel and squish it down with something heavy. Use the yellow liquid that's left over for making bread. This is the cheapest and freshest tofu I know." - Mrs. Valuable Forthright Opinions, Canterbury (in the UK).

As a family of eight, I find natural yoghurt (even spiced up with some flavours), to be a healthy and economic food source. We use Home brand powdered milk, and two good sized soup spoons from a 6 pack of meadow fresh yoghurt, into the yoghurt maker, and that makes a litre of quite thick yummy yoghurt. Costs about $2 a litre.- Anyway, Whangarei.

I prefer the option of on-line grocery shopping. It's easier for my lifestyle, and it’s actually easier to control what you spend. On the surface of things, Pak n Save looks cheaper, but if you know how to use your on-line shopping features, you can make it work quite well for the budget. One of the best features is the ability to sort items by 'unit price - low to high'. It tells you very quickly which is the cheapest item, by bulk and price. The other aspect of online shopping, is that if you have a set budget, you can see straight away if you are going over it (before you buy), so you put items back, or exchange them for something cheaper. I have found it much more reliable to stick to a budget.- Anyway, Whangarei.

I have six children (and counting), and have found that lots and lots of baby items that you buy are pretty much a waste of time. There is nothing that your baby will like better than being in your arms (rather than those gadgets). Front packs and beds are good, but apart from that, I have found that even prams can be excess to requirements. Also if you’re cooking dinner, this is a really good time for a busy daddy, to get to know baby. Except for my eldest, all my kids have been out of day time nappies by 18 months and mostly out of night time nappies by two years. Good relationships make parenting easier - and children much easier to train. No equipment will ever replace that. - Anyway, Whangarei.

If you are not careful a compost heap can become a great smelly heap of sloshy muck. You are supposed to turn it over which is hard work, especially for old folks. Here is a tip. Get an old 40 gallon drum. Make a hole in the bottom. Put a piece of scrunched up wire netting over the hole to keep it clear, and perhaps a couple of broken pots.  Prop it up on bricks till you can easily slip a bucket in under the hole. Put vege scraps and weeds in the top, put a lid on if you have one, and the moisture that will run out the bottom into the bucket is wonderful liquid manure. This method is especially good for grass clippings which can go really soggy. When worms start appearing in your liquid you will need to pull it over and empty it out. It will be full of lovely compost. - Marie, Rotorua.

When fruit and veg are in season, and therefore cheap, buy extra and freeze. I do this, for instance with brussels sprouts so that I have them for Christmas dinner. - PB, Auckland

Tofu is important protein for vegetarians. It is commonly available in Chinese grocery shops. Tofu is available in single and two-piece packs. If you have a small family, buy the single pack which costs about $1 a box instead of the 2 piece pack because once opened, it will only last for 2-3 days - if the water is changed every day. You can buy 2 packets of the single pack tofu and keep it in the fridge until needed. It can keep for 2-3 weeks if unopened. - Ramenkia, Papakura 

To clean rust marks from clothing simply squeeze lemon juice on the stain then liberally coat with plain salt. Then place out in strong sunlight. You might have to repeat the process, but most times once does the trick. - Anonymous, Whangarei. 

For the last few years all the adult family members decided to enjoy the food, wine, and company for Xmas. The gift buying is only done for the children, grandchildren etc. That is what makes it a great day - watching their faces! - Sue, Christchurch.

A reader from Whangarei is having a "make it" Xmas. One lucky family of relatives will be receiving a custom-made chicken coop made from left-over building materials. "It features Ritz style nesting boxes and perches to cater for every rung on the pecking order."

Wrap the tops of old panty-hose around the bristles of a soft broom and use with a little detergent if necessary to clean the car or windows. Hosing down first helps, then dry off with a clean rag. Cut sections off the legs of tights or knee highs to use over lower trouser legs to stop them being caught in a bike chain. Pieces of old tights make effective cleaning cloths. Old tee shirts and skivvies make good pyjama tops. Get the last of the contents out of tubes by cutting them in half. - Gaynor, Paraparaumu.

"If you are like me and by yourself, vacuuming under the bed is difficult. Here is a tip. Get the scissor jack out of the car and use it to lift up the bed. Lift, vacuum, put the jack back in the car - job done. Very easy." -  Douglas, Featherston. [Great idea Douglas, and a lot easier than changing a car tyre! - oily rag ed']

"I only use a large rubbish bag about once a month for rubbish to go to the dump. I always put fruit and vege scraps, tea bags, egg shells, and vacuum cleaner contents into a bucket and when it is full I dig it straight into my small vege garden, where it turns into soil in next to no time. The compost bin is used for grass clippings and prunings and the odd weed - that takes much longer to produce soil." - C.T. Onerahi, Whangarei. [Good idea C.T. We put all household scraps into a compost bin, and a few weeks ago we emptied it to find dark rich soil. We formed it into a fertile mound, which has now become a thriving melon and pumpkin patch. Another way of getting rid of kitchen food scraps is to start a worm farm. We read an article recently about one being made from a length of 160mm downpipe. It was fun for the kids and a great way of having tiger worms turn kitchen waste into plant nutrients. - oily rag ed']

"I steam broad beans till they are cooked and free flow them on baking trays in the freezer making sure the outer skin is taken off if they are old. Then they can be put into lunch bags to use when needed. Also green beans and carrots can be cooked cooled and frozen in lunch bags and just heated up when needed." - Anonymous.

"To keep the birds from scratching your seeds out and eating your vege plants, get any old DVD, CD or PC disc and thread fishing nylon through the centre hole and tie to a garden stake. Place stake in the ground where needed on an angle so the disc can spin in the breeze. Works a treat and has kept the birds away from my tomatoes." - Nana, Inglewood. 

"I see the ads on TV for expensive treatments for cracked heels. Just as effective (if not more!) is to apply a coating of petroleum jelly (generic of course!) to the cracked/rough area. Cover with a piece of cling film, then a cotton sock (to keep it in place). Pumice away the dead skin in the shower/bath the next day. You should only need to treat them once or twice, and just maintain by pumicing once or twice a week. (Pumice can be picked up for free on our beaches.) You'll also find that this prolongs the life of your socks/tights/sheets etc." - Karen, Palmerston North. 

"Shampoo is expensive - we tend to use twice as much as we need to. Because we apply it to one spot on the crown of the head, the hair there can become damaged and break. I now spread a surprisingly small amount of shampoo between the palms of my hands, then apply to the sides of the head first, then to the back and top. Of course it depends on the type and length of your hair, but I use less that a 10c coin size. I also find that by not leaving it on for a prolonged period I seldom need to apply conditioner, and my hair has never looked better, so it's a win-win." - - Karen, Palmerston North. 

To teach our kids about saving on the outside of their money box we write down how much is inside and a target to be saved. Each week we count the coins and figure out how much needs to be saved to reach the target. Once reached we then put it into their KiwiSaver account. Our kids got pretty excited when they saw the government add $1,000 and then top it up each year with the 50% subsidy. They think it’s pretty cool. - Dee, Whangarei.

The best face cleaner you can get is ground almonds - from the bulk foods section at Pak 'N Save. Make a thick paste with milk, and just before using add a quarter teaspoon of salt.  Rub fairly gently onto your skin at first as it is abrasive. Wash off with warm water.  Makes you face feel like Cleopatra and her bath of milk! - Marie, Rotorua.

Silver Beet is our favourite vegetable. Wash well, chop very roughly and steam. Do not boil or overcook.  Add a sprinkle of sugar and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Delicious. - Marie, Rotorua.

Growing up I lived with my grandparents. I always had cereal with tinned fruit for breakfast, two pieces of fruit in my lunch plus a sandwich which normally had lettuce or something like that on it, and a piece of fruit when I got home from school. For dinner nana used to mix potato and kumara or pumpkin in a mash, and at least two other veges. So it’s not hard to get lots of fruit and veges into your diet. I always went along to the supermarket and helped choose the fruit I wanted that week which made me more inclined to eat it. Now it’s just a habit to eat lots of fruit and veges every day. - Nikita,  Taupo.

To get the last out of a container, instead of cutting the top off a hand or body cream container put it in the microwave for about ten seconds, then pour the contents into a new container. Works well for makeup and other products too. - J, Paraparaumu

Baby wipes are wonderful for removing fly-spots from walls and ceilings. - KASW, Waikanae.

To keep pot plants watered, punch a column of small holes down the side of a thin plastic bottle. Bury it in the pot with the top poking above the soil, and the holes facing the plant. Fill the bottle up and it will act like a reservoir and drip feed the plant. - John, Whangarei.

I cut plastic hand cream bottles in half and it is amazing how much is still left in the container that a 'pump' will not let you have (I always get a couple of weeks worth from the cut open bottle). Likewise with plastic make up foundation/concealer creams etc - it always keeps me going for a few more weeks. - C, Auckland

Try a splash of lemon on cooked silver beet just before serving - it's delicious."  - Rose

I like to chop up my silver beet really fine and add it to home made meatballs or beef patties. Also boil it up and puree it with my stick mixer and a bit of margarine then freeze it in portions to add to spaghetti bolognaise, lasagne mince, or pasta sauce." - Nikita, Taupo [Sounds yum! - oily rag ed']

To make banana 'ice cream', cut up ripe bananas into chunks and freeze them.  Take them out of the freezer and straight into the food processor and pulse till smooth and creamy, then serve.  You would never be able to tell that it was just frozen banana.  It has a beautiful creamy consistency. My kids are dairy and gluten intolerant and they think this banana ice cream is fantastic.  I also add other fruits when in season - strawberries go very well with the banana. - Pseudonym, Napier 

In today's edition of The Northland Age someone wanted to know how to remove ballpoint pen marks from wallpaper. Although I haven't used it on wallpaper, I have found methylated spirits gets it off painted walls and also clothing and upholstery. Use a white rag, cotton wool or white kitchen paper and dab or rub gently. If the wallpaper is coloured, test it on a hidden bit first in case it affects the colour. Good luck! - SW, Mangonui

"M" from Masterton has this fertiliser tip that is not likely to suit everyone (especially one where the neighbours get a good view of your garden!). M says, "I recycle my urine and use it on lemons, Brassica's and other plants where you want good leafy growth".

For those who have not turned away at the thought, here are some facts to think about:

Urine is 95 per cent water, 2.5 per cent of which is urea, and a further 2.5 per cent of which is a mixture of minerals, salts, hormones and enzymes.

It may be poured undiluted into a compost heap to accelerate the composting process, as well as adding nutrients. When using directly on plants the recommended dilution rates are about one part urine to ten parts water for garden plants and one to thirty for pot plants. Undiluted is OK for trees, shrubs and lawns.

Here's an old trick I use to keep 'possums away from my fruit trees. I fill up a small stocking with dog hair and hang it from the tree. The 'possums smell the dog and keep well clear. A more permanent and better solution is to trap them, but this will at least keep them away if you don't have a trap. - Here's a tip to stop the neighbour's cat from ‘using’ your garden. Scatter the rinds of oranges or lemons - cut into chunks or strips - around the garden. It won't harm the pesky cat but they really don't like the smell. Adds a bit of colour and breaks down into compost after a while. - Sam, Auckland [Funny how cats prefer to use someone else's garden! - oily rag ed']

I use banana skins (and bulk overripe cheap bananas) to fertilise and mulch roses. - M, Masterton

When I have used about a third of my bottles of shampoo and conditioner, I top them up with water, shaking to mix them well. You will notice very little difference in the consistency of the liquid, and it lasts heaps longer! I have been doing this for more than thirty years now. And it works for a lot of other liquids too. - Vicki, Waihi

My thermal drapes are past their best and no longer keep the warmth from escaping through the windows in winter.  Before winter started this year I purchased enough shower curtains of a similar colour to the backing on the thermal drapes. They have no pattern on them and are the size used for a shower over a bath. They have worked really well - the difference in warmth when the curtains are pulled back is telling.  I bought mine at Kmart - they were a lot cheaper than the Warehouse. -
If your powdered stock goes hard in the cupboard try storing it in the fridge - I found that fixes the problem. - Mavis, Papamoa

We always plant our pea seeds in lengths of spouting filled with potting mix. When the seeds have germinated and are ready for the garden, all we do is dig a trench and push the length of pea plants into the trench. Works better than trying to get the seeds started in the soil and we don't have wasted areas of bare ground. - Rosie, Wanganui

To remove a stain from vinyl flooring (wine, curry, etc) soak a small piece of white cloth in one part bleach to three parts water. Place the cloth on top of stain, and leave for one hour (no longer or it may discolour the vinyl). You may have to do this a few times until stain is gone. Works really well on porcelain too. - Honey, Christchurch

The other day I had to help with some catering and found myself running low on butter so I used half butter and half cooking oil (like canola). Use this idea when you have to melt the butter - melt then top up with the oil. - Annette, New Plymouth.

Dry stock purchased in plastic jars always goes hard quickly. I put the container inside a screw top glass jar, and it stays free flowing. - N.W., Wanganui.

I was buying some nails at Bunnings the other day. I needed 2000 (it was a big handyman job!) so I bought 2 boxes of 1000 each. The friendly chap at the counter asked if I had looked at the price of buying 3000 instead. I hadn’t so he went to the isle to check the price and returned with a box of 3000. The costs was about 10% less than the two 1000 boxes. Not only did it cost 10% less, but I ended up with 50% more nails! I was very grateful for the excellent service. - Happy Harry, Whangarei.

Living on a lifestyle block means we are too small for the machinery a ‘real’ farmer has, but we do need it from time to time. So we have friends who will mulch our gorse with their tractor, and let us use their workshop for carpentry. Whenever we get a favour, we make sure we return it though. One friend likes a bottle of our homemade rum, and another likes a roast of lamb from our own flock. Many of these people don't have time for the activities we enjoy because they are too busy making money - asset rich, time poor. - JB, Whangarei. 

The best fire starters we have discovered are our flax bush flower spikes. A friend told us when pruning the flaxes to cut up the flower spikes and store until dry for kindling. They are better than any kindling we have ever tried apart from pine cones which we never have enough of. We also save our grape vine prunings, which are great because they are so thin.” We too harvest flax flower stems - not only do Tui feed on the flowers, but we benefit from an endless source of excellent kindling! - JB, Whangarei. 

We have a clothes rack on a pulley above the woodstove so we are heating our house, drying clothes, cooking food and heating hot water all at once. We grow our own firewood also so the only cost here is the petrol for the chain saw, since there's not enough hours in the day to chop wood manually. - JB, Whangarei. 

Looking around our home, I realise most of the furniture is recycled. My husband made the dining table out of planks from his Dad, the chairs don't match but I painted them all the same. When my mother in law downsized, I painted all the garden furniture which she had no need for. The lounge suite, piano, coffee tables were all passed on. We even scored the kitchen bench from someone who was doing up an old house. Friends had concrete laundry tubs lying in long grass and an old chip heater and hot water cylinder in their garage. We have found that people doing up houses are reluctant to chuck their old stuff on the tip, so we take things away – including a house-lot of windows from a home being refitted with aluminium frames, which the owner was going to have to pay to dump at the tip. We never say no to an offer and over time have passed on only a few things we couldn't use. - JB, Whangarei. 

I bought two inexpensive pillowcases and have just finished embroidering a design on them. With the addition of a bit of lace, I have some pretty, personalised pillow cases for a Christmas present. I did the same with a plain tablecloth, which I found at an op’ shop, but this time I used fabric paint for the design. One does not need to be an artist to do this, just copy or trace a simple picture, and transfer using transfer paper from an art supply store. I start making/buying Christmas presents early in the year, so that by Christmas, I have them all already. - PB.

Coffee grounds are a good growing medium for mushrooms. - JD, Northland.

Set aside part of your garden to grow flowers with long stems. This could save you a fortune in florist bills. - Meg, Te Pukes

Some of us with fireplaces enjoy cosy evenings in front of a warm fire. Not too many of us are good at starting fires so I hope this tip will be a winner in many households. I save and dry used teabags. I peg them next to the fire to dry, then put 10 to 20 into a jar, add methylated spirits, screw the lid on tight and shake. Use one soaked teabag each time you light your fire. Why spend money on fire starters, when it’s that easy! Thanks for your column. I always read it and it brings a smile to my face. - Anita, Whangarei [We have tried Anita’s tip and can say it works a treat! You don’t need much meths - just some dribbles over the top and a really good shake! - Oily Rag Ed]

I have four small plastic containers I use to catch the first water from the hot tap. It's cold and good for pot plants and special garden plants. It saves a surprising amount. - Joyce

I have this dead simple recipe for Yorkshire pudding. I saw it on TV - it's so simple that we now make it regularly. I use 2 eggs, 100 ml of skim milk, 100gm of flour, and a pinch of salt. Mix it all up into a thin batter. Place cooking oil in the bottom of each recess of a muffin tin, then put into a hot oven at 250 degrees Celsius. Once heated through, take the tin out and quickly pour in the batter. Place in the oven and leave 5-10 minutes until they rise. The trick is to have the tin really hot to start with – and NOT to open the door while they are cooking! We have them with a meat roast - yum!. - Fred, Northland

I would like to recommend to your readers a non-fiction book called ‘A Secret Gift’ by Ted Gup (published 2010). It's the secret stories of people who were obliged to learn to live off the smell of an oily rag during the Great Depression, particularly Christmas of 1933. It doesn't exactly list frugal hints, but the reader absorbs them in these life stores. Your column is my Poor People's Vade Mecum (a reference book or manual]. Thank you. - RM, Christchurch

I agree one has to check prices per kg when buying from bulk bins. Craisins (dried cranberries) bought from a supermarket bin were $13 a kg dearer than packaged ones from the same shop! I was informed it was because they came in fresh from the suppler. - WWG, Waipu 

Living cheaply has been a 20 year preoccupation which we call self-sufficiency and it all began with planning. We moved to a piece of land where we can grow all our food - vegies, fruit, meat, eggs – as well as make hay for the animals and have firewood trees for the woodstove. We thought about all our needs so we are not having to produce a high income to live well. We now have our own homemade wine from our grapevine, jars of sauce, and preserves, and enough surplus to take to the markets or trade with friends. It has taken planning but we can now live very cheaply without having to cope with fulltime work as we age. - JB from Whangarei is enjoying the good life. [Well done JB! [Oily Rag Ed']

The stalks of broccoli can be peeled, chopped and cooked with the florets. After cooking, mix with hummus, or you can use hummus as a dip. An eye specialist once told me that broccoli is good for eyes, and should be eaten every day. Cauliflower is delicious with hummus, also silver beet. - Jackie

A tip for making compost using nothing more than large black plastic rubbish bags, helps with the slug and snail problem too. Jackie recommends filling the rubbish bags with soft green waste rather than stalks, keeping them in a warm sunny place, and turning them occasionally. She says the warm bags attract heat seeking slugs and snails. “Gather them each day, tie in a plastic bag and pop in the rubbish bin, or douse them with boiling water and put them in the compost.”

The common G3 type razor blades work out around $4 each and the cheaper ones cut me to ribbons. I am getting over 6 months from a blade. Use baby oily instead of shaving foam as a lubricant, and on the blade after shaving to preserve the edge of the blade and stop it from rusting. Plus you get a really superb shave, even against the grain without any shaving rashes. Keep the blade sharp by honing. Cut the leg off an old pair of denim jeans and rub the blade the wrong way 20 times, reverse it and repeat. If the blade is really old and blunt then do it again.  - Joker

 use my tea bags twice, even the herbal ones. The sweet mix berry tea work only once but others did fine. - Lori, Paraparaumu

Many people can't afford to buy a slow cooker. I have used my oven, putting the casserole or whatever into the oven in the evening, and turning the temperature on very, very low so that it just "clicks" on. I leave it overnight and wake up to a toasty warm kitchen and a cooked meal. It can't overcook, and the meat is always so tender. If it hasn't quite cooked, then turn the heat up for another half hour or so. - Jacqui, Blochouse Bay.

Create a slow cooker with a straw box or hay box by using a chilly bin or a carton, and putting a folded towel in the bottom. Bring your casserole to the boil so it is all bubbling, then put it into your straw box. Push clean towels around it so there are no gaps. Fold another one on top of the lid to make sure it's surrounded by this padding material. Leave for the required time. I actually cooked a one pot meal using this method as I drove from Auckland to Morrinsville. The meal was ready when I got there! - Jacqui, Blochouse Bay.

Freezing food is a great cost saver but don’t forget the cost of power to freeze it. You can reclaim the energy you used to freeze the food by taking it out and storing it in the fridge for a couple of days before you need it. The defrosting food will keep your fridge cold without using any power. - Gary, Christchurch.

I decant a biggish bag of milk powder, skim or full cream, into a glad container or such and pop in the freezer. It does not go solid and can be spooned out as and when needed. – AK, Kaikohe

Ants in letterbox. We've found an effective yet non-toxic ant bait is 1 tbsp baking soda, 1 tbsp icing sugar, 1 Tbsp active yeast mixed together (replace if/when it gets wet). - Margaret from Mt Maunganui

Let kids save for their own college fund by encouraging them from a very early age to earn money by getting paid for what they enjoy doing! Our little boy who is now three loves dogs, so we offered to walk the neighbours’ dog for $5 a week. It makes us get out for exercise and gives the dog half an hour of much needed attention while their owner is at work. I know it doesn't sound like much but each year he earns himself $260 for his college fund so I'm calculating by the time he is 18 he will have well over $4,000 towards his college education - just from this hobby alone. Similarly our daughter enjoys baking so every week we invite her friends over to a baking session making simple things like scones, biscuits, raisin buns etc. They are learning something new and having fun. The mums are more than happy to contribute $5-$10 for the ingredients and the pleasure of not having to mess up their own house. We put half in the kitty for the ingredients and half goes to my daughter’s college fund so she can save between $10 and $20 each week. If we are able to do something like this every week until she is 18 she would have over $8,000! - Stephanie. 

To clean burnt pots, cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice and rub the lemon on the burnt area, then scrub with goldilocks or the steel pot mitts which are a lot cheaper. I find the burnt-on food comes off easily. - Tess, Auckland

Use a cake of sand soap to clean bad water spots off your glass shower. You can pay up to $100 for simular products. - Mervyn, Dunedin.

Too keep away the winter chills here is a tip for a DIY heater. You will need some tea light candles, a bread baking tin, and two ceramic flowerpots! “The tea lights (up to four) are placed into a bread loaf baking tin then covered with the smaller upside-down flower pot so the pot sits on top of the edges of the baking tin. The drainage hole in the top of the upside-down pot is covered (sealed) with the metal casing leftover from one of the tea light candles. Then a second larger ceramic flower pot is placed over the first (making sure they don’t touch). The hole in the bigger flower pot is left uncovered.” Apparently this creates a very efficient heater. If you want to see this technique in action, go to YouTube and search “flower pot heater”. - Pamdelilah, Christchurch [A word of caution. The pots get very hot and there is of course a flame from the candles involved so only do this on a hard surface that is not at risk of burning … we don’t want you burning your house down!' - ed]

We have found that by placing a fan in front of our built in fireplace we use less wood and get more heat from the fire. Basically, the increased airflow over the fires surface, transfers the heat to the air at a faster rate, which makes the room much warmer. The same fan can be used with free standing fireplaces, just aim the fan at the flue and feel the increase in room temperature. - C A S, Whakatane

Free recycled curtains for bedrooms and living areas are available to people on low incomes through the Community Energy Action's Curtain Bank. Call 0800 GET WARM for a measurement form. - Jess, Community Energy Action, Christchurch

Do-it-Yourself window insulation is available through Community Energy Action. It starts from $29 and can be as effective as retrofit double glazing in reducing heat loss and condensation. It will help keep your home warmer and healthier for a fraction of the cost of double glazing!” Check them out on their website, www.cea.co.nz; they are doing great work in their community. - Jess, Community Energy Action, Christchurch

Check out www.whatsmynumber.org.nz to see if you can get a cheaper deal on your power. Power companies constantly change their prices and you may find a cheaper company who won't lock you in to a contract. - Lucie, Wellington.

How fuel efficient is your car? Click here >>>

Calculate the energy cost of your household appliances. See Energywise >>> 

A reader has asked about loo paper... specifically if we use the "flat roll approach" mentioned on page 107 of Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Here is my reply: "Nowadays visitors are subject to a quota per visit system. Each visitor is provided with a toilet roll as they are greeted at the door and the number of squares on that roll inventoried. They are given a usage quota of 1/2 a square per hour of their stay (or part thereof). On their departure a stock take is done of the remaining squares on that visitors roll. Visitors can elect to become part of an emissions trading system (ETS) modelled on the internationally recognised  carbon trading approach, whereby a group of visitors (typically a family but not necessarily so) may trade their allocated quota. This we believe is a fair system as it accommodates individuality and diet. Those visitors who exceed their tissue allocation are required to provide suitable compensation in cash or bartered goods (at a rate determined by market pricing), while those under quota are provided a return invitation." Just kidding. Oily Rag Ed.  

A wee note from Oily Rag Ed'

We have received great feedback from the column about frugality and home ownership. Many have said “well said”, which was nice, and a few have said they remain of the view that home ownership is an impossible dream. It is impossible if one does not save, and for most, saving means giving up the things we can do without: like smoking, drinking, gambling, flash cars, and so on.  

It's no coincidence that smokers and drinkers are usually the people who have the least money – and for obvious reasons: they spend it on smokes and booze! Save and invest $50 a week and within 14 years a person will have $50k for a house deposit. A couple could do it in 8 years. If people don't want to give up something to get something then, yes, they will forever rely on others to provide their housing. Here's the article, 9 Sep Hints on home ownership >>>

Feature comment

The Best Comment of the moment is (drum roll please!)...

“I have lived the oily rag existence out of necessity. My husband left me and took our life savings. I had to exist on a benefit which I just hated but ill health has left me unable to work again.  My biggest savings came from buying nearly everything from our local hospice shop and local second hand shops. I have bought everything from clothing to gifts for my family from these shops and I really enjoy buying from them or having a sniff around. Unfortunately they don't sell food but by buying home brands or things on special and a very careful shopping list I can still manage to save money from my benefit. As well I save all gold coins in my purse left over from shopping trips. It is surprising how fast it grows. I put them all into a tin I have and last year alone the amount came to $3000. It was money I never missed at the time, and the money saved I put towards a lovely holiday with friends. They just could not believe I had a holiday with the savings I had made from gold coins.  Already this year I have saved $250 so it can be done.” - Lynne, Dunedin

I think your site is an excellent one and I will be informing our city Missioner about it too. BTW last year we ran some budgeting and cooking classes for the low incomed entitled Living on the smell of an oily rag. I took the budgeting one which was quite successful and had requests to speak on the subject around Wanganui. The base line most found challenging was my statement that shopping for $40 per week per head would allow one to enjoy not only the basics but some luxuries like chocolate, ice-cream, ginger beer, and the occasional dozen cans for those times my mate wants to lollygag with a beer. Actually we do more than just fine as we shop only once a month and draw out $340.00.......$320.00 for ALL our groceries and $20 for petrol for our van. We are both long-term beneficiaries, I handle the admin side, and so speak from a do as I do point of view. - Lynda.

Nice comments

I am 76 years of age so was brought up in the days of "waste not want not". It amazes me sometimes when I see waste especially electricity eg: lights being left on, food being thrown out when it could be used the next day, vegetable scraps going down the thing  in the waste disposal unit, huge pieces of land covered in lawn or weeds instead of it being a vegetable garden etc." - Maureen.

Rosana from Opotiki writes, “Your great oily rag ideas have really inspired my lifestyle. From Townie to Coastie, now 51 years old it’s time to get back to nature. We do a swap – hen eggs for duck eggs or a cake or a batch of fried bread for some cows full-cream milk. But the best part is making new friends. I am hoping to revive a small orchard and grow all my veges this summer.”

"Many years ago I read with delight your Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag and our family have been leading a very simple life ever since thanks to your wonderful book! After seeing Good Morning recently it reminded me of just how much I have got out of your book and thought it would be a wonderful idea to buy two more for my two oldest children that have since left home. (I have implemented so many of your ideas in your book over the years, they are second nature to me and our home now)...

"Thank you so much for a wonderful book. I hope my son and daughter get as much reward (financial and contentment knowing they have done it/made it themselves) We are about to embark on the next adventure of our life – buying a little bit of land so we will soon be the family on the front of your book – free range chooks included! Can’t wait to extend our veggie garden and plant fruit trees and save even more whilst having fun! Also enjoying your emails on new tips now that I have joined your club." - T. H. 

A wee note from Oily Rag Ed'

The contributions that appear on this site have been entered in the way they have been submitted. Any editing is of a grammatical nature only (and from time to time we even add our own grammatical errors!). Our policy is to not exclude suggestions that some may think unfashionable or not politically correct. Freedom of  expression is one of our oily rag mottos (actually, we just make up the mottos as we go!). We also do not test every tip that is sent in and posted on this site, so miracles are not guaranteed!  - Oily Rag Ed

Another wee note from Oily Rag Ed'

You might be interested to know that about 50% of our members live off the smell of an oily rag because money is tight and they need to make ends meet. About 36% hate waste, and the other 14% want to increase their savings (perhaps for a specific purpose like saving a deposit on a house). Whatever the reason, we think living off the smell of an oily rag is fun and makes sense! - Oily Rag Ed

Another wee note from Oily Rag Ed'

What I enjoy most of all is the humour of oily raggers We know living off the smell of an oily rag is fun, and you display that in your comments. Thank you everyone for sharing your oily rag tips. Just keep on sending them in! - Oily Rag Ed

Another another wee note from Oily Rag Ed'

We have developed this site on the smell of an oily rag. We don't employ experts, we just learn as we go. So don't expect a seven figure site. This is living off the smell of an oily rag in action! Your thoughts and suggestions for improvement would be appreciated. - Oily Rag Ed

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The Oily Rag Club

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Join the hundreds (thousands!) of people who are already members of the Oily Rag Club. It's fun, it costs nothing, and we will email you each week with new tips and yarns. Be part of the oily rag community! Click >>> for more.

Number of members: 6356
(as at ) - and growing by the day!


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Oily Rag Questions

Do you have any oily rag questions you would like to ask the Oily Rag Research Department? They have their clip-boards in hand, pencils at the ready... to ask a question click here >>>

Living the real simple life  
(ABC Nightline)

A New Zealander and his family live on a fifth of an acre section in the Los Angeles community of Pasadena. To view the video click here >>> 

Links of interest

Down to Earth blog. Australian site, very interesting stories and tips. Go to >>>

Oh boy...what have I done now?
When we first wrote How to Live off the Smell of an Oily Rag in 1991, we didn't realise what we were getting ourselves into! Since then the Oily Rag tips have been published as a syndicated column in 30 or so community newspapers in New Zealand and as far afield as Norfolk Island. We have received thousands of letters from those eager to share their favourite penny pinching tips. It would be a shame not to share these gems and what better way to do so than through the web. So here goes... 

The oily Rag 

New Zealander's are joining the oily rag movement in their droves! Lots of kiwi's are becoming disenchanted with the rat race. Millions of New Zealanders (OK, that may be an exaggeration!) are realising they don't have to sell their soul for the sake of a few extra dollars when they can save heaps around the home and have a better quality of life by living off the smell of an oily rag. 

Why live off the smell of an oily rag?

There are lots of very good reasons why so many people are living off the smell of an oily rag. To view or add your own reasons click >>>

The price of milk

How much is a 2L bottle of milk? Where to find the best buys.
To read the results of our nationwide survey click here: 
PDF (printable version) >>>
, or HTML (web page) >>>

Media play catch-up on milk pricing

Ah, um, well, ah, yes... it is the same milk.

TV3’s Campbell Live have discovered what oily raggers have known for quite some time. Read more >>> 

What can you do with a can of baked beans

We want to know what you can do with a can of baked beans. send in your tips and suggestions.  Click here >>> For reader tips click here >>>

Oily Rag survey - how do you hang the toilet paper roll?

To see the results click here >>>