Entertaining oily rag style

Thanks to the readers who responded to the Housing goes up in smoke column. Many expressed the view that cutting down on things like alcohol and cigarettes should be the very first thing to do when money is tight. We agree – it’s the responsible thing for parents to do if the family is struggling to make ends meet, even if that means facing up to what may have become an addiction.

MM from Bluff writes, “Just wanted to say Thank you for the newsletter (home buying). I have a home of my own and stopped smoking six years ago. When an empty section came for sale at a low price I couldn’t resist and bought it and a small caravan. The biggest part is from my ‘no smoking’ money. Now I’m growing organic veggies on that section. How cool is no smoking!”

Frugal Kiwi from Whakatane has a question for readers, “I love your oily rag newsletter and books! It is such a peace of mind to live within our means and very empowering to be resourceful and find ways of getting what we want or need without going into debt. I would like to invite your readers to comment on ideas for finger food, bring a plate and other options for get-togethers with friends. What’s your favourite dish or recipe for a family or neighbour reunion?”

Let us know if you have suggestions for Frugal Kiwi. One of our favourites is Cheese Crisps – use a loaf of country-style bread sliced very thinly (better still, bake your own!), olive oil, and grated cheese. Place the bread on a baking tray, brush with the oil, lightly sprinkle over the cheese, and bake until crisp and golden – about 15 minutes. Break each slice into large pieces and serve warm or at room temperature. To turn these into an ultra-healthy treat, add a smear of marmite to the bread, or, to spice them up, add a touch of garlic to the oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and sesame seeds. For an extra special occasion, serve with dip or salsa.

Try a pot luck dinner – this when everyone brings along a plate as their contribution to the meal. That may mean you end up with multiple pavlovas and nothing much else, but that’s all part of the fun and people like pavlova anyway; it would be a bit more worrisome if you ended up with multiple beetroot salads and nothing else!

Or what about a progressive dinner. Entrée at one house, soup de jour at another, the main somewhere else, and dessert somewhere else again. That means you get to nosy around lots of house and no one person is stuck with all the preparation or all of the clean up activity.

Theme dinners can also be pot luck or progressive but the main idea is that the entire dinner takes on a theme, such as Mexican, Italian, Oriental… not only providing an interesting taste treat, but if you dress the part and listen to the music, or watch a DVD, you can share in that country’s culture too!

The one thing that’s the same for all of these ideas is the notion of fun, frivolity and frugality – that’s the oily rag way.

Still on the entertainment theme, a reader writes, “We wanted to play Happy Families but not having the cards we gathered shoes, divided them up between us, and then had to find the matching one. We hid behind sofas/chairs in four corners of the room with our little collection and peeped out to ask for the missing shoe we were after. The children thought it was great fun. This was an ideal teaching situation for the child who finds it’s hard to lose.”

We recently came across a chest full of well-used board games. We had a great time with the grandkids playing Battleship and other classics. Many of the great board games can be found in garage sales at really good prices. Games can be both educational and entertaining, and encourage participation and active communication (like shouting!). Why not arrange a game swap in your neighbourhood? This gives everyone a chance to enjoy games at a minuscule cost. Better still, invent your own games.