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.
22 Nov Fresh & frugal markets >>>
15 Nov Santa's low cost gift giving >>>
8 Nov The best place to shop >>>
1 Nov Oily rag Q & A >>>
25 Oct Attention! Spring clean, hop to it! >>>
18 Oct Money matters >>>
11 Oct From face cleaners to pot plants >>>
4 Oct Dentures & kitchen tips >>>
27 Sept Your tips >>>
20 Sept A fruit tree in every backyard >>>
13 Sept Going bananas >>>
6 Sept Oily Rag mail bags >>>
30 August Oily Rag Party Manifesto >>>
23 August Our high five tips >>>
16 August A lawn is a vegetable opportunity >>>
9 August Reader tips: bulk buying, lifestyle, Xmas >>>
2 August Reader tips: self-sufficiency & more >>>
For previous newsletters, see here >>> 

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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 >>>

Questions and answers

Busy Mum from Whangarei is thinking about Christmas - in particular what to prepare for a Christmas feast, without high cost. If you can help with thrifty ideas for Christmas Day delicacies then please send them through as we are sure Busy Mum is not the only one with this on their mind! If you can help Busy Mum please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

Graeme as a bathroom question. "I have false teeth and am looking for an alternative to paying $7 at the supermarket for denture cleaning tablets." If you can help Graeme, please contact us and we will pass on your tips. If you can help Graeme please Click here >>> and we will pass your comments on.

J.M.L. from Whangarei writes, "To clean dentures use a teaspoon each of citric acid and baking soda. I found if I mixed these together in a container they hardened, so I keep them in separate containers. Put dentures in cup, add citric acid and baking soda, then cover with hot water. It will fizz when water is added. Rinse with clean water. Occasionally you will need to give dentures a clean with a toothbrush and just baking soda."

Cheryl from Timaru says, "Plain baking soda works better than commercial expensive cleaners. Just put it straight onto a toothbrush and use the same as you would use toothpaste. It works a treat."

Mozzy from Auckland writes, "Instead of expensive denture cleaner, buy a bottle of extra strength bleach from Pak 'N Save for 2 to 3 dollars and add a tiny dash (not too much) to a glass of water and soak dentures overnight. Rinse thoroughly before using. Much cheaper, lasts forever and does a better job."

Ronnie from Gisborne uses Clor-o-Gene from his local supermarket (not the lemon one). He soaks his dentures in it overnight then gives them a quick brush with detergent. It produces "a brilliant smile every time"!

Annette from New Plymouth says her "dentist recommends dish washing liquid and a weekly over night soak in Janola". (Heavily diluted of course.)

Beetle from Whangarei recommends Steradent Active Plus which comes as a powder in a 200g bottle. He says it works really well and is economical (he buys it from Pak 'N Save).

Shar from Wellington says, "I use 1/4 cup of white vinegar topped up with warm water in a container (equivalent to a cup). Soak dentures overnight and brush with a little baking soda the next morning." Shar signed the message with a happy face flavicon with a very white smile.

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 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 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 veggie 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."

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.]

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. Click here >>> if you can help.

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.

New tips and recipes!

"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,; they are doing great work in their community. - Jess, Community Energy Action, Christchurch

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.  

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'

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

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: 6034
(as at ) - and growing by the day!


Search this site

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 >>>

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


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 >>>