Tips from readers

Frugal living does not go on holiday, judging by the number of letters we have received recently. Here’s a sample.

M B from Gisborne writes, “Re-use zip lock bags by washing in hot soapy water and drying, either in a dish rack or pegged up on a hanger”.

MD from Auckland writes, “Cook a large piece of meat then portion and put in snap lock bags and freeze. Always keep a list of what you have in the freezer and plan meals around what you have”.

Rachel writes in reply to our column about a spend-nothing year. “I was interested because I have done the same thing. I had run up a credit card debt unwisely. Then I saw an ad on TV saying that if I transferred my balances to their bank they would give me 0% interest for a year. So I did. This was not easy, with no spending at all, just on food and bills. But I paid off the debt in less than a year. It was very challenging but I do not owe any money to anyone – and I’ve now started a serious savings account. Sometimes I ended up with only $1 in my account before my next super came in. Anyone can do this – if you mean it. Cheers for anyone who gives it a try.”

Well done Rachel. We think it’s a good idea for those with mounting credit card debt to switch to a zero interest provider with the aim of having it fully repaid within the year.

Annette from Takanini in Auckland has this tip. “Buy a few cheap solar garden lights. Charge every day, by leaving in the sun, and at night, use them inside the home. To avoid switching on electric lights at night, put one in the passage, another in the toilet or bathroom and one in the kitchen. When you get up during the night, you’ll be surprised at the wonderful lights – and you’ll be saving electricity all the way!”

Mary has a suggestion for making a never-fail pavlova. “An easy way to mix the pav is put 4 egg whites and 1 cup of caster sugar in the mixer and beat continuously for ten minutes on high. Mix 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, and 1 tablespoon cornflour together and then add to the egg whites, beating continuously for a further four minutes. It never fails!” Place the mixture onto a baking paper covered tray and shape into a circle about 200mm in diameter. Preheat the oven to 150C. Put the pav into the oven and turn down to 125C. Wait an hour then turn the oven off. Leave it in the oven until cold or overnight.

Now for a TV treat – if you want to get a bit fancy, try caramel corn. All you need is 125g popping corn, a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil, 125g butter, two tablespoons honey, and three quarters of a cup of sugar. Heat oil in a large saucepan until hot. Add the corn, place the lid on the pan and shake constantly until popping ceases (or use a popcorn maker!). Place the popped corn into a large bowl. Combine honey, sugar and butter in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved, then boil for 5 minutes. Pour the syrup over the corn, mixing until the popcorn is well coated. Pour onto greased oven trays then dig-in when cool!

And a holiday treat – American-style pancakes are great for breakfast, lunch, or as an after dinner dessert. All you need is 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of milk, 1 egg (use a duck egg if you have one), a couple of tablespoons of sugar, a heaped teaspoon of baking powder, a tablespoon of melted butter, and a pinch of salt. Mix the dry ingredients. Lightly beat the egg and combine with the milk and butter, then add to the dry ingredients. Blend together and pour about a quarter of a cup of the batter into a hot, lightly greased frypan. Cook until bubbles break the surface, flip, and finishing cooking. Pile the hot pancakes on a warm plate, with a dot of butter between each. Serve with maple or golden syrup, cream or yoghurt, and heaps of chopped summer fruits.