Two bargain buy books for kids.

"Fun to read... and my kids loved it too! I liked its messages about values. Good stuff."

"Very clever and outrageously funny...."

"Awesome! And I haven't been a kid in decades."

Find out more >>> A bargain for oily rag bargain hunters!

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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.
19 April Frugal fashion week >>>
12 April A right Royal feast >>>
6 April Paddling pumpkins! >>>
29 March Rising electricity prices >>>
22 March Egging on oily raggers >>>
15 March  Backyard gardening & renting appliances >>>
8 March  Preserving the summer harvest >>>
2 March  Four decades of spending >>>
23 Feb Bad debt and very bad debt >>>
15 Feb  Money saving tips from readers >>>
8 Feb Money saving tips for students >>>
1 Feb Fantastically frugal pumpkin >>>
For previous newsletters, see here >>> 

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Click >>> for more.

Fishy recipes

A reader is asking the oily rag community for fish recipes. This summer they are going on a fishing holiday and are keen to try try lots of new fish recipes. If you have a favourite fish dish send in your comments and ideas >>>

I have found that cooked rice in a fish pie will extend the amount without affecting the flavour or texture of it. Adding turmeric powder will give a nice golden colour and is good for you too. - J.S., Taupo.

Place mashed potato in bottom of shallow Pyrex and place hake or cod fillets on top of mash after dipping first into melted butter. Bake until fish is cooked about 12-15 minutes at 180C. Mix together - half cup of mayo., half a cup of grated cheese, 2 egg yolks, a teaspoon of dried mustard, and stir in the whisked egg whites. Place over cooked fish and bake until nicely browned in moderate oven. - Diana, Whakatane

Spicy fish. 3 minutes to prepare, 12 minutes to cook. Serves 2 people. Ingredients: 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, cumin, turmeric; 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (if you think this is too hot, use half the amount), 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil, 2 cloves garlic peeled and sliced, 250g fish fillet cut into 50mm pieces, 200ml canned coconut milk, and coriander leaves to garnish. Mix together the spices with 1 tablespoon of water and set aside. Heat oil in pan, put in garlic until lightly browned. Add fish and sauté for 2 minutes.  Stir in spices and cook for another minute.  Pour in coconut milk, cover and simmer for 3 minutes. - Diana, Whakatane

Raw fish salads are great.  Just dice pieces of fish, mix with chopped up red onion, red peppers, celery, tomatoes or whatever good ingredients you have and like, then pour a vinaigrette dressing over it. This salad is good left to marinate for a while, but can be scoffed as soon as it's mixed. - Raglob, Dunedin.

Share your oily rag tips?

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 >>>

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 >>>

Questions and answers

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

I have a question. I have bought some new towels that only smear the water and not absorb it. I did hear a long time ago you could put something in the wash water to get rid of the dressing on the towels from the manufacturing, but cant remember what it was. I was wondering if anyone could help me make my towels absorbent. Thanks. Graeme, Christchurch. Click here >>> if you can help Graeme.  

Viv from Masteron asks, “I have an excess of Nashi pears. Has anyone got some good tips? I thought about jam but not sure what to put with them. Click here >>> if you can help Viv.  

I use our excess in baking instead of apples, or preserve them as I would pears etc. Chopped up small and used in 'Apple, cinnamon & sultana muffins' is one of our kids favourites. Pears can also be used for this. - Jinny, Palmerston North.

Jim asks, "There used to be a number of places were you could buy (a case 10 ) of chicken seconds. The fault could be a broken wing. Used to be one on Great South Rd north of main Manukau centre. Does anyone know of such a place now. Pukekohe or Papakura: perhaps Manukau." Click here >>> if you can help Jim.    

BW from Auckland replies: Apparently, there is the Chicken Farm Shop at Puhinui Road, Manukau. They sell discounted chicken and some other products too (chicken hearts, liver pots, sausages and eggs, corned beef, soy sauce and vermicelli as well as coconut cream). See here >>> . I have never been - but my friend used to work there a few years ago and the quality was pretty good.

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.  

Lee from Rotorua asks, "How do other folk keep cups and mugs clean? I truly hate seeing the insides of dirty cups but need a quick and easy method not one that takes hours to work.  Click here >>> to help Lee.  

I have found that if you fill the stained mug or cup with water and drop in a generous dollop of bleach and leave it to stand- it cleans the mugs beautifully after about an hour. Rinse it out and wash as normal and there is no bleach taste or smell, just a nice shiny white cup or mug. - Anne, Auckland.

Hello, just to let you know, I have been for years putting a 'tiny' amount of bleach into glasses, coffee mugs, vases then fill with water, to be rid of stains. You do not need a 'dollop' and takes not very long to then wash as usual. I have no dishwasher and I always put a drop or two in the sink when doing dishes. Keeps the dish cloth white plus the white drain pipe nice. Great for grease to. - Maria

To clean stains off cups sprinkle salt in them and rub with a damp cloth.  - Canny Scot, Christchurch  

When cleaning stains off cups, try using baking soda, - works a treat! You could also try bleach for those incredible stubborn stains. - SPS, Tuakau  

To rid the inside of cups from tea and coffee stains use some bleach neat. Then wash thoroughly. - Kate, Hawera

Question: Cleaning/ Sterilising Your Toothbrush: I have tried before the boiling water/soda and (I think) vinegar soaks but always seem to still end up with that strong "toothpasty" smell so it never quite feels as fresh as new. Any ideas guys? Thank-you – Wendy (Kapiti) Click here >>> to help Wendy.  

I have found that if you fill the stained mug or cup with water and drop in a generous dollop of bleach and leave it to stand- it cleans the mugs beautifully after about an hour. Rinse it out and wash as normal and there is no bleach taste or smell, just a nice shiny white cup or mug. - Anne, Auckland.  

Reply to Wendy and her toothbrush. Use conventional supermarket toothpaste- Aim or Colgate.   It's dental assoc approved, and best for you tooth and gum health..  ....probably cheapest too! Use only a blob the size of a pea.  I do this and rinse T. brush between use...with no after taste. Good Luck. - C.  I., Tauranga

Cleaning and freshening toothbrushes. I use Steradent, and if you have someone in the house with false teeth pop your toothbrush in the glass with them.   Don't worry about picking up their germs, Steradent is a steriliser and you can wash your toothbrush in jot water before you use it again. - Jacque, Napier

Rodders from Rotorua asks, "I am a bachelor and find that my clothes always smell musty when I take them out of the drawers after a while. What do I use to keep them smelling nice?"

To keep your clothes smelling sweet, store cakes of soap in your drawers.  Not only do they make your clothes smell nice but the soap matures and hardens on storage and has a longer life when finally used. - Bernie, Christchurch

Cakes of your favourite toilet soap placed in your clothing drawers will change the musty smell. - H.E, Te Kaha

Can anybody help me clean the underside of my iron? It has black sticky residue on it which stains any clothes I might want to iron. I have tried baking soda, and ceramic cleaner (the iron is ceramic after all) but nothing will get it off as yet. – RJ, Auckland. Click here >>> to help our reader.

Heat the iron and then rub over the bottom with a candle. ( not a coloured one). Wipe iron a few times onto a paper towel. Works really well. - Charmaine, Whangarei

Nowadays I use a detachable teflon sole plate, not cheap but they last a long time and nothing will stick to them! Before that, I used to do the old 'salt trick'. Spread a layer of table salt on a sheet of newspaper. Move warm iron back and forth until clean. Discard salt and repeat with clean salt if necessary. Wipe iron on clean, damp cloth, tapping on ironing board to dislodge any salt in the steam holes. Finish by rubbing a candle stub over the plate and iron over clean newspaper until all traces of dirt and grease are gone. Never, ever, use abrasives (like sandpaper) to clean! - Emma, Auckland.

My mother would place salt (the fine pouring kitchen salt) onto a piece of brown paper and run the hot iron surface over the salt - work the iron back and forth until it comes clean. This was for metal iron but imagine it might also work on ceramic. – Jayasri, Christchurch.

I remember cleaning the base of the iron by turning it on and then ironing salt on brown paper. Worked a treat! - Summer Day, Auckland.

This is a tip that was given to me years ago and it really works. Use wet and dry sandpaper to clean the soleplate.  Use the sandpaper wet, then wipe off.  Take care not to get the steam holes gunked up with the resulting black goo and do a test iron on an old piece of cloth before you start ironing. – LM, Whangarei

A reader has asked about cooking offal. If you cook offal please share your recipes and tips with the oily rag community. Click here >>> to help our reader.

I only cook ox kidneys and liver and absolutely love them.  One kidney is generally enough for 2 of us but usually I buy 2, just so I have some left over for the following day. I just dice the kidney removing all the fat and dice up an onion with them.  Add 1 tsp salt and a good shaking of pepper for added flavour.  I cook this like I would a stew for about 30 -40 minutes on a slow heat then thicken with some cornflour and water.  Yes it smells but on goes the range hood and the lid on the pot reducing the smell. For liver, remove the sinew running through the centre and soak in milk for as long as needed. I cut the liver into pieces about the size of a small steak.  I usually prepare it in the morning ready for tea at night.  Remove from the milk and dry with a paper towel.  Dredge it with flour and put into a dish in the oven with a small knob of butter.  It can be fried if you like but we tend to love it oven baked with some bacon pieces and when cooked make a gravy and pour over it. We love having these dishes maybe twice a month. I only ever cook up ox kidney and dislike the smaller sheep kidneys immensely.  My father used to love the sheep kidneys halved and fat removed then fry them.  He always had a large pot of cabbage to eat with it.  As for my own family we don't ever fry food but the sheep kidneys have quite a different flavour and none of us like them at all. – Lynne, Dunedin.

Lambs fry (lamb liver), sheep kidneys, sheep hearts. Slice thinly, dip in flour and fry until cooked. Ox heart can be stuffed and roasted. – Robin, Palmerston North.

Chris from Tirau asks, “What can I do to make my washing smell nice without spending a fortune on conditioner.” Click here >>> to help Chris.  

Use left-over perfume or aftershave that no one likes as fabric freshener. - Ann, Matamata.

If you add a few drops of essential oils to your load they will come out smelling nice. Also if you use a dryer try adding a couple of drops to a clean rag or face cloth and add to the dryer with your load. That way the smell lasts longer. - Kla, Stratford

A few drops of tea tree oil in your wash will make it smell fresh and lovely and have the added benefit of being antibacterial. - LAJ, Sydney.

Buy baking soda from Bin Inn and add to wash with laundry powder. You can also reduce the amount of laundry powder by about 1/5 as baking soda is also a cleaner. I use equal amount of baking soda and laundry powder. - Motel Owner, Whakatane.

When my son came back from flatting he asked me what washing powder I used to get my washing to smell nice. I discovered that he had been overloading the washing machine and drying the clothes in a poorly ventilated room so they ended up smelling musty. I do a cold water wash with unperfumed washing powder. I hang it to dry in the wind and sun or inside in the sun on an airer and if necessary put a fan heater going to speed up the drying time. I hope this is helpful to Chris. - Rosemary, Christchurch.

Click for details >>>


"I have read your 'Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag' book and think it is fantastic!… Thank you for such an inspiring book. I have told all my friends about it.” – Wayne.

"Thank you  so much for a wonderful book. I hope my son and daughter get as much reward (financial and contentment - knowing that they have done it / made it themselves) from the book as we have. 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! Thank you - Tina" 

"Your book is fantastic and now has a permanent place on the coffee table, where we can brush up on ORT's (Oily Rag Tips) whilst chilling on the sofa. Our enthusiasm for keeping our money in our pockets has been ignited and we look forward to many happy hours of ORA's (Oily Rag Adventures). Many thanks." - Sarah

New tips and recipes!

Here is tip for buying clothes at second hand shops.. Always check the clothing labels to see how worn the garment is before purchasing. Also we find clothes can be cheap at garage sales during the summer especially at sales where people are moving overseas. - E.  Loo.

When looking out for bulk fruit go to your local flea market about 30 minutes before it ends and make an offer. One day  I got maybe 10kg bananas and even more spotted peaches for FREE by building a relationship and buying produce sometimes The bananas went straight into the freezer, the peaches turned into jam and bottled. - Faye, Auckland.

Quite recently I have started to make healthy green smoothies from the vege garden. Into the blender I put last nights left over vege water, along with a handful of spinach and silver beet leaves,2 or 3 young beetroot leaves and some parsley. To balance the bitterness, in goes 2 bananas/and or other fruit plus a sprinkling of cinnamon. Since having these I am sleeping better and not so tired. - Faye, Auckland.

Instead of throwing out the root end of the celery, place it in a jar of water. In no time, roots will develop and it can be planted in the garden for lots of free celery. - Faye, Auckland.

I only buy the cheapest flannelette sheets, and they can be prone to pilling/fluffing. I put them - while still in their plastic wrappers - into the freezer for at least 24 hours, then wash as usual. They wear evenly and with no pilling, and are lovely and warm. Works with kids' flannelette pyjamas too. - Karen, Palmerston North

When the price of milk escalated a few years ago I had 2 kids (now 3) which all loved milk - as a drink, hot chocolates, in cereals and in baking. So it was becoming VERY expensive to buy fresh milk as the rate we were consuming it.  In my own childhood I was born and bred in Sydney and was the 8th child out an 11 child family. So we used and drank powdered milk mostly. The fresh milk was delivered at night but by the morning it was normally all gone. My memories of powdered milk was quite bad - mostly do to with lumps - lots of them which made it most unpleasant to drink. So I decided I would try out powdered milk here in Auckland and see if it was something I could use to reduce our fresh milk costs. Well I was so surprised as the powder seemed to melt into the water and mixed up beautifully - with no lumps at all.  I even did a 'taste test' of a cup of fresh milk vs a cup of made up milk with my son who loves milk, and he chose the powdered milk cup as being the fresh milk. So since then I have used powdered milk in all my cooking bar one - my cup of teas.  I have found the taste is noticeably different in a cup of tea.  So now I buy a 1 litre that I keep for my cup of teas only and the rest I use made up milk. Apart from the massive cost savings I am making I find that having powdered milk in a container ready to go means I am never having to rush out and 'get milk' or ask my husband to pick up milk on the way home from work. Just before I retire for the night I quickly mix together a jug of milk and put it in the fridge for the next mornings breakfast round and it is delicious. - Margaret, Auckland

I bought a great draught excluder yesterday. It's double sided so you just slide it under the door and it stays there when you open or shut the door. Less than $10 from a local hardware store. Have noticed a huge difference - no more cold air on my feet in the evenings. - Niki, Christchurch.

I try to save as much money as I can when it comes to clothing. I buy out of season when the sales start ready for next year. Already I have shorts and tee shirts packed for next spring and summer and will be using winter clothes I bought in spring when the weather cools down. If you don’t mind being a season behind it’s a great way to save money and have some new clothes! Sometimes I buy one item and if I really like it keep an eye out and buy more when the sales hit. - Denise, Auckland

Many service manuals are available free online. I recently diagnosed and repaired my very geriatric F and P smartdrive washing machine by finding the service manual and engaging in a bit of problem solving and DIY. The Service Manual is different to the User Manual that you get given when you buy a machine.  The Service Manual is what the manufacturer produces for the repair technicians to use. It can take a bit of puzzling out to work out exactly what its all trying to tell you, but well worth it to save a technician call-out fee. And even if you can't repair it yourself, you're in a much better position to tell the tech what they need to know and save them some valuable time, too. - Stacey, Dunedin.

Wanted to make lemon and cream cheese icing for my Banana cake. By mistake bought sour cream. Oh dear! Anyway had to make do. Here is my recipe and tip. 1 small potle of sour cream, zest of one lemon, a few drops of the lemon juice and then add the icing sugar. Wow! It was even better than the original cream cheese icing and definitely cheaper. – Annie, Auckland

I have a heated towel rail, but never use it! In winter, I place my bath towels in the airing cupboard overnight, they're still warm and bone dry when I use them the next morning. Luxury! – Karen, Palmerston North

Think differently when it comes to buying meat. When visiting a supermarket don't look at the price of the item but how much per kg. You can pay $16.00 for sausages and $10.00 a kg for beef. Buy a piece of meat i.e. a beef bolar. From that one piece of meat you can cut it into: slices to slow roast in the oven or slow cooker; smaller pieces to casserole; or mince it and make burgers. Same principle with Pork.  You may need someone to show you how to cut the meat correctly but it’s worth finding out as you will save yourself money. Maybe your friendly butcher will show you how to cut meat. I never buy chicken pieces – always a whole chicken. From one chicken you can make - from the breast - butter chicken, or schnitzels to pan fry; legs can be slow cooked; wings can be fried Chinese style. The frame can be cooked with onions, carrots and celery then left overnight. Next day, skim off the fat, retain the meat and veggies and add a can of cream style corn to make chicken sweet corn soup, or add extra veggies and make a chicken vegetable soup. If you buy a fresh chicken you can then freeze the stock for another time. If you don't have a mincer either borrow or pool money with friends and buy one together. Same with the meat - sometimes it is an outlay to buy a medium to large piece of meat, but again pool with your friends and distribute between you. Once you get the hang of it, the recipes are limitless and you’re saving a heap of money and eating well.  - Denise, Auckland.

If you have a lemon verbena bush growing, it makes a lovely summer drink. Just shove as many leaves/branches (I don't strip the leaves off) as you can into a jug and fill with water. Put it in the fridge and strain to drink. - P.L., Hamilton

When you can't squeeze any more out of your tube of hand cream or makeup, sit it on its lid for a while, then cut the tube about 1/3 of the way up. You can then get to scoop out all the extra cream that will be sitting on the lid. The other end will fit over the tube to keep it from drying out. This has given me a good two weeks worth of hand cream. - P.L., Hamilton

I have put up bubble wrap on my bedroom windows. It needs blue tac. On a window that is not important to the outside look it seems to work well and there is no condensation to worry about. Mind you that moisture probably condenses somewhere else. I shall put up more this winter. - Jim, Pukekohe

Instead of heading to the supermarket to buy your groceries and food, shop online and try to use coupons to save a bit of extra cash - I use for coupons.This way, you're able to stick to your list, and  there are no sweet temptations. - A Howe, Auckland

Warm Salad. Preparation time: 4 minutes. You will need: 3 medium carrots coarsely grated, 2 or 3 Brazil nuts crushed slightly, 1 level teaspoon salt, a rounded teaspoon of honey, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of butter. Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the nuts. Drop the carrot into the pan and add the honey. Turn the heat down. Stir and toss for half a minute until the carrot looks pale but still has some crunch. Tip into a bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice on top and serve warm. - JWC, Auckland

I'm 74 now but I well remember being a poor university student and begging bacon ends from the butcher and ends of the cheese rounds from the grocer. We ate Pavlova most nights - sugar was cheap and we got egg whites free from the laboratories because they only used the egg yolks for their tests.  We used to line our rooms with egg cartons for sound insulation and to stop draughts. That was in 1957.- JWC, Auckland. [Egg cartoons for sound proofing and insulation – now that is an oily rag trick!]

I bought a spray bottle from a dollar store and put in just a little bit of cream cleanser – with a good shake it is ideal for the shower and bath. - LM, Paraparaumu Beach

Using pumpkins. Make a normal pancake mix using wholemeal flour, cooked and mashed pumpkin, spices, butter, a cup of rice milk, and two eggs. Pour into a pan and cook for a minute on each side. - LM, Paraparaumu Beach

Make tasty breadcrumbs by using up dry bread - grill and turn every couple minutes until golden then blend. I also add blended cornflakes to give a nice golden colour. Kept in an airtight container it lasts for months. I keep odd slice of bread in the freezer until there’s enough to defrost and make batch. - Denise, Auckland

To make a cheese sauce that looks cheesier without using lots of cheese, add a small amount cheese then chicken power and optional mustard - to enhance the flavour. Adding a pinch of turmeric will give it a golden colour - but don't add too much! - Denise, Auckland

I bought the cheapest bleach in a trigger spray bottle and keep it at hand to clean benches, tea stained cups etc. Using a trigger spray is very economical. By using bleach in kitchen, the summer flies are kept away too! - Denise, Auckland

With lemons being plentiful on my tree I came up with a refreshing summer drink.  For each litre of water you need the juice of 3 lemons and around 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Strain the juice to remove seeds. Heat juice and sugar in the microwave for a few seconds - to make the sugar dissolve faster - then pour into a bottle and top up with the cold water and refrigerate. - R'laine, Kawerau

For a refreshing fruit iced tea you will need: 5 teabags (either black or green - I like the Twinings Green Tea with Cranberry), 1 litre (approx) boiling water, 2 litres cold water, 1 cordial sachet with the flavour of your choice (Apple Berry, Raspberry, Crisp Apple or Peach are nice ones for this) with white sugar added to make it up to about two-thirds of a cup. Place teabags in heatproof jug.  Add boiling water.  Allow to steep for at least 5 minutes then remove teabags. Add sugar and cordial mix and stir to dissolve. Pour into 3 litre juice bottle. Top up with cold water and refrigerate. - R'laine, Kawerau

Collect water for your pot plants, place a bucket in the shower, and collect the water you waste waiting for the shower to reach the right temperature. I leave the bucket in the shower and collect what I splash around. - Annenz, Auckland

My Mum never ever turned the oven on to just cook one thing. So when there was a casserole etc. on the bottom rungs, there was always a cake or date loaf or pudding on the top ones. I now do the same and even if I'm making scones, I whip the temperature down as soon as they're cooked and then in goes a lasagne/stew/macaroni cheese and then a cake or two. Once cooled into the freezer they go. - GVP, Waipu

The plastic domed packets that duvets or sheets come in make ideal kneelers for gardening.  Just stuff with the packaging or a newspaper. - Yane, Porirua

As a retired couple we do not need large jars of preserved fruit so I pick up small amounts of fruit on special.  I then use jam jars or similar jars (about 400mls) which have the seal in the lid. The other advantage you can do small amounts of fruit in the microwave. Two or three jars at a time is no major hassle. - Matureteddybear, Taupo

This is not a new tip as such but a big thank you for the idea of making ones own gift baskets. I followed the idea of creating themes and made one on baking, and another on scone making. It is great to be creative and the cost of these baskets is so cheap compared to ready made ones. - E.L., Christchurch

I have read many suggestions for making soap ends into liquid soap or soap cakes but didn't want to wait until I got a good quantity. I took the foot of an old pantyhose, put in the soap ends and tied a knot.  I have used this pad for cleaning my hands after gardening and find it great for scrunching fingernails in- no need for a brush!  - Muff, Birkenhead

I save my empty Maggi stock plastic containers (washed & dried) remove label & re-label-for my Spices & Herbs. One side used as a sprinkle the other side if I want to use a bit more. - Shar, Wellington

I freeze a few lemons whole and grate them as needed into sauces etc when cooking and also bottle up preserved lemons by using Annabel Langbein's prefrozen quartered lemons recipe. After trying different processes this one worked the best for me. - Dordy, Auckland

Many people think they can get good pocket money by delivering junk mail. THEY CAN'T! I did it for a few years and I wouldn't pay young kids the hourly rate it works out at!  And also it's hard work! If you live in an urban area ask your local real estate agent if they want circulars delivered. They tend to be a bit tight until you can satisfy them that you're reliable but YOU set the pay rate, and if they don't want to pay that much they can do it themselves. Once you have a couple of regular clients, ask around local businesses for the same work, but tell them you'll give them a cheaper rate to deliver in areas where you're already going. I charge real estate agents $70/1000 flyers and have been told by 2 clients that I'm not charging enough! Add-on work is $60/1000 which can give me a return of about $23/hr  cash! and it keeps me fit and healthy so I'll live longer. I'd kill myself trying to earn that much from a junk mail company - their average is about $4/hr overall. - SWB, Auckland

I bulk buy frozen food(K9) in 5 kg. lots for my dog and find that weighing a daily amount and bagging it up in the blue bags is a very handy way to store it in the freezer. it helps identify dog food in the freezer and once she has eaten it I re-use the bag for scooping the poop. Saves finding lots of containers. My dog is on 400 grams a day which fits nicely in the blue bags which have to be the cheapest bags around. - Canny scot, Christchurch

A friend trims the scraggly bristles of her toothbrush to make it last twice as long. I thought I'd try it, too. The brush looks a bit odd, now and it feels like there are more bristles on the brush! Maybe it will do a better job cleaning my teeth, too! - JO. Springfield

Members of Grey Power can get cheaper electricity from From what we can see, Grey Power has done a deal with Pulse Energy a power retailer. The website does not give any examples of the savings but they do make the promise of “low prices, price protection and additional discount options”. To gain these benefits you do need to be a Grey Power member, which costs $20 a year. - Tony, Blenheim 

A lot of my Xmas gifts came from dollar stores. No one needs to know the price. I brought men's and women's perfume for only $6. It was well worth my time and money when you are on very tight budget. - LM, Paraparaumu

To make fabric softener and freshener I use one teaspoon of washing powder (fragrance powder) tablespoon of baking soda 1 cup of water fragrance hair conditioner if you don't have a fragrance in your conditioner add a 15 drops of an oil of your choice, mix then put in finial rinse. - LM, Paraparaumu

I wipe the toilet with water and nice rose essential oil - makes it smell good and on tube of toilet paper roll when in use. Vinegar and baking soda is another good cleaner. - LM, Kapiti coast.

Hair shampoo. 1 tablespoon baking soda, Water, 8 oz bottle. - Pauline, Tauranga

Hair conditioner. Apple cider vinegar, water, 8 oz bottle. - Pauline, Tauranga

Teeth whitening formula. 1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon water and a dab of toothpaste. Apply weekly until desired results, then reapply monthly. - Pauline, Tauranga

I always seem to have an over abundance of lemons and most neighbours have as well, so I juice them and put them into ice-cube trays and freeze, then bag them and take out what I want when I need them especially with fish. Keep the tips coming, love them. - Lee, Rotorua

If you or a friend have one tomato plant it is really easy to get many freebies. Use the laterals. These are the 'unwanted' side shoots that you are told to remove. Do remove them. As you do your gardening keep a cup of water handy, carefully pull the shoot off and put the shoot in the water. After about 3 days in water the shoots will start to grow roots. A new plant. Once the roots are about 1-2cm long plant them into pots of mix or compost & soil, then after a week or so into the garden. If you have some fine gravel or pumice put this in the water the shoots are in. It helps to keep the roots separate, grow stronger & easier to pot on. DO NOT DO THIS, BELOW, FOR GRAFTED TOMATOES. Always plant standard tomatoes deep so the top is just above soil level. The original roots are deeper, closer to water and the buried stem will grow roots allowing the plant to  grow faster & healthier. - Michael. Auckland

My cat suffers from skin allergies -maybe from flea bites, maybe something else - but I used to spend hundreds of dollars every year on vet visits and cortisone injections, as he would lick constantly and end up with bald and/or weepy/bloody patches. After researching online, I now give him a cod liver oil capsule every 2 or 3 nights, and his coat is gorgeous and intact. Caps are around $7 for 100, what a relief all round! - Karen, Palmerston North

Christmas sweets. If you make uncooked slices, instead of spreading it flat - roll in balls and coat with coconut - Truffles. For gifts put about 6 in the containers you get from supermarket deli sections. Some supermarkets will sell them for a nominal cost. - Ranat, Christchurch

Avoid chucking out your leftovers! Not sure what to do with that last little piece of pumpkin, kumara and potato, broccoli or handful of peas, carrot and leftover mashed veges? Try whisking up 3-4 eggs, 1/4 milk and about 1/4 cup of flour together.  Add some chopped parsley and 1-2 tablespoons of curry powder and salt/pepper.  Add your leftovers or grate your singular vegies (spring/onion also if desired) and mix thoroughly.  Using a spoon and commonsense cook either using deep or shallow fry method...DELICIOUS! - Sarah, Gisborne

For the silver beet conundrum my incredibly fussy eater (miss 3 year old) at the time LOVED these fritters: 2-3 eggs mixed with about half a cup of flour/s.r flour and approx. half a cup of milk.  Whisk together to get rid of the lumps and add a couple of finely chopped silver beet leaves (stalks removed), mixture will seem kind of runny which is good, season with salt/pepper. Deep or shallow fry in spoonfuls or as one big fritter which can then be broken up.  We dip our fritters in sweet chilli sauce-absolutely delicious!! I was a bit apprehensive about these when I first tried making them but every time I serve these up to guests they ALL get eaten and people ask what they are and how I made them.  I guess they taste a little like paua? Not at all how one would expect them to taste. - Sarah, Gisborne

To make strong "rubber" bands of varying sizes, cut used rubber gloves into strips. The cuffs make big bands and fingers make smaller ones, good for keeping pairs of knitting needles etc together. - Canny Lass, Upper Hutt

Old toilet roll spools.  Save them up, cut them in half, pack in a kitty litter tray and fill with seed raising mix. Add your parsnip seeds, one to each roll. When they sprout you can plant out by lifting the toilet roll and transferring to garden bed.  Roll breaks down in soil. - Alastair, Whangarei

Christmas ideas. Print out a snowflake template from internet.  Trace it onto an old plastic milk bottle, cut it out, decorate with glitter, buttons, beads etc and then glue a child's photo to the centre, punch a hole, add ribbon and you have a gorgeous personalised ornament to hang on your tree or a grandparents one. - Andrea, Te Puke

I read this tip in local newspaper and it apparently is used a lot by chefs.  When you have a surplus of lemons, freeze WHOLE lemons in a plastic bag.  When you want lemon flavour, remove a lemon and, while still frozen, grate the whole fruit, including the pips. This provides the zest and juice and has a great flavour.  Great in rice salads, quinoa, a cooling drink, fish pie, anything. - C.E., Christchurch

I sell stuff on Trademe when some extra cash is needed. - LM, Kapiti coast.

Most mobile phones are expensive. I highly recommend skinny mobile or Te lecom for those who 100% need a mobile phone but can't afford the other types of phone. You can put money away in a loose-change jar and use it to top-up the phone. - LM, Kapiti coast.

Buy makeup from 123 store and they work just as good as expensive makeup. Some cost $4 for mascara. - LM, Kapiti coast.

For fitness, use the internet and do bodyrock.  You can find it on youtube. Bodyrocktv is popular and free! - LM, Kapiti coast.

I use candles for lighting around the house saves heaps of money [hey, but be careful about the fire risk! - ed]. I use family members washing machine [hope they don't mind paying! - ed] - LM, Kapiti coast

Rather than wasting old pieces of soap in the bath or shower, the last one to have a bath or shower squeeze the old soap onto new cake of soap, after you soften up the new cake and leave overnight. The old soap will blend into new soap with no waste. - Diesil Den, Christchurch

This is a trick I learnt when I was tired of paying for haircutting.  I have long hair (just above my waist) and when I want to trim it, I just get a hair tie and scissors.   I lean forward and brush all hair forward and put it in a ponytail.  I then pull the hair tie down as far as I want to trim and then cut.  It gives a great layered look without the cost.  I have only done this with wet hair. – SandyA, Auckland

Regarding your tip on reusing old tea bags as firefighters do you need to drain off the kero’ after adding to the jar of dried teabags?  Very drippy and smelly and it lingers on the fingers for ever! Have used a wooden skewer to fish them out and put the whole thing in the fire. By the way my husband tells me his Dad used to do a similar thing with cut up old Pinex soft board tiles. - MJP, Rotorua. [In answer to MJP’s question, yes, drain off the kero’ so the now kero’ infused teabag is dry.]

When using spring onions, leave the last 3 / 4 cm at the root end and replant in your garden, it will regrow, can then just cut spring onion leaving root in ground. Will have for spring onions for seasons from 1 original purchase. - C J Turner    Masterton

Gather all the old pieces of hand soap and place in a jar.  Fill with water and let it dissolve. It becomes liquid and is ideal for hand washing, washing woollens etc. – Mike, Auckland.

Bread crusts make great croutons. Cut them up and toast them in an oven with other dishes, or after the oven has been turned off just leave them there. Store in a jar...use on soup or salads. (The only ones missing out are the birds!!) – Jaelle, Auckland.

A lot people have trouble getting parsnip seed to strike. The secret is after you have put in the fertiliser and sown the seed in the row pour boiling water over the seed. I know someone who always had trouble getting parsnips to strike I told him of this method, and he has had success ever since. Make sure to use hollow crown seed so you don't get a tough core. This method also works on older seed. - Diesil Den, Christchurch

To clean oil from concrete, place wood ash on the affected area and leave for a couple of days. You wouldn’t know there was any oil spilt when you clean it up. - Diesil Den, Christchurch.

As a Kiwi settled long-term in Melbourne, here's a budgeting tool I find extremely helpful. You will need to change the odd government allowances term. Just fill in the details and hey presto! – LP, Melbourne moneysmart >>>  

Check out 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.  

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 >>>


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.

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

To see the results so far click here >>>

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'

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

We are looking for New Zealand's biggest pumpkin
We are looking for New Zealand's biggest pumpkin. Click here >>>

Check out the latest newsletter from Sam at Here's the link >>>

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 >>> 
Search this site

Frank & Muriel Newman on Breakfast TV 
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Tell a friend about this site

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 >>>

The Oily Rag Club

Join the oily rag revolution!

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 when a real pearler of a tip is sent to us. Be part of the oily rag community! Click >>> for more.

Number of members: 5602
(as at ) - and growing by the day!

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) >>>

Oily Rag News Headlines

Adrian pays between $30 & $60 a month for power

Frugality finds a home in the US...

Wedding cost take the cake (NZ Herald)...

 Tightening budgets and soaring meat prices are fuelling a revival in the cheaper, old-fashioned cuts that granny used to cook.

Don't know how to boil and egg? You are not alone.

Heat pumps blamed for power bill rise (NZH) ...

 See stories click >>>

Oily Rag Club Newsletters

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 >>>

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 >>>