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Fun and entertainment off the smell of an oily rag

Beach combing

  • Gain extra benefit from a day at the beach. Pick up a load of seaweed to feed your garden or some driftwood to fire the BBQ or fireplace (but only use in a stone fireplace with stone chimneys because driftwood is saturate with salt and will corrode a metal flue pipe.


  • Reading a book costing, say $1 from a second hand book exchange provides many hours of entertainment. Not only is this an incredibly thrifty form of entertainment, but you will also learn a great deal.  

  • Use the local public library and your reading entertainment will cost you nothing – newspapers, magazines, novels, reference books and educational material.

  • Ebooks are a cheaper than the published versions. This is ideal for short publications like short stories and childrens stories.  


  • While camping one year we had trouble keeping things cool, milk, butter, cheese and meat, and flies were also keen to get our supplies. I found an old beer crate (or use a box with holes or a grate box, like a bird cage for instance). Place a shallow tray, like foil oven tray or old baking dish (use imagination anything that will hold water will do). On top of the box/cage and pull a muslin bag over the lot and then hang this up in a cool shady place where there is a breeze, like under a tree or at least in shade. Now weight the muslin into the tray with some stones no bigger than say about fist size, and fill the tray with water. Put your food items inside the box and let the Muslin fall down to cover the box and its contents. Hang all this on a previously prepared hook or wire or tree branch in the previously chosen shady place. The water will slowly wick down the muslin and keep it wet. The action of the breeze through the shade will evaporate the water from the wet muslin and lower the temperature inside the food store box so much so that I guarantee the butter will go so hard you will not be able to spread it easily on your bread. If you walk through you wet washing hanging on the line, even on a hot day it is very cool, as long as it is wet, same principle. To take this contraption to the next level fill a glass jar with water and stand it upside down into the pool of water in the tray, chicken feeder style, and you can leave your new fridge for hours unattended, bigger jar longer periods between filling. A fridge of the grid and good for camping as long as there is water in the tray. - Shane Dumbell, New Plymouth.

  • We love camping but with not having a fridge I was finding it really hard to keep everything cold in the chilly bin. The slicker pads are good for a picnic for a day but not really for much longer. I have now found a way to keep a chilly bin and contents cold for at least 3-4 days at a time. Find an old wire fridge shelf, measure about a 1/4 from the bottom of the chilly bin and then cut the shelf to fit. Freeze a couple of old lemonade bottles of water, place them on each long side of the chilly bin, fill the space in between with ice and then put the cut shelf on top. Place all you food, milk etc on the shelf. The ice and bottles of ice keeps everything cold for at least 3 days whilst the shelf keeps everything off the wet. When the ice is melting too much simply replace with another bag of ice. I'm going to try burying my frozen meat in containers under the ice this trip - thinking it will work brilliantly. Happy Camping. - Jayne, Christchurch.

  • If you are camping or don't have a clothes dryer, there is enough heat in your car on a sunny day to just finish drying out clothes not quite dry.  Leave one car window a little open. - N.W.,  Waverley

Day trips 

  • Take the family on bush walks. Encourage them to appreciate nature. Most cities have a number of bush walks. Go take a hike! Make an adventure by climbing local landmarks (like the town clock tower!).

Dining out

  • My brother and his wife, along with 2-5 other couples eat out at each others house once a month. They each have a course to prepare and take. For example, they might go to friend #1's place this month and take entree. Next month, they go to friend 2's place and take mains. The month after, they might stay home and make desert. This has been working for several years now. Around the end of the year, they will all go to a restaurant. It's up to your own imagination how many courses you do, but it seems to work with 3-4 - Oily ragged chook, Hawera.

  • Next time you go to a restaurant for dinner, order pass on the drinks order and ask for water instead. It's free.

  • Never let it be said that those living off the smell of an oily rag don’t eat out. Oily raggers deserve a night out wining and dining from time to time, but in true frugal form they will be looking to do it at the cheapest possible price. That does not mean you have to resort to lurking and lingering ready to swoop on leftovers at the local fast food joint. Dining out is a great way to get out of the house and give the chief cook and bottle washer a day off.

  • Keep an eye out for kids-eat-free deals.

  • Have an entrée instead of a main and share a desert – just ask for two spoons – or skip the desert and make desert at home.

  • Some restaurants offer an early-bird menu for early diners, or have a late lunch as the lunch menu is usually cheaper.

  • Share a plate. Most restaurants will allow two people to share a plate for no additional cost.

  • Look for 2 for 1 deals. Take along a buddy, and split the cost so you both save.

  • The add-ons are usually the biggest cost of dining out. Avoid ordering the drinks by saying “water please” when you are asked for your drinks order. Give the side dishes a miss. The mark-up on wine and fizzy drinks is out of this world. If you want to drink something other than water with your meal take it with you.

  • Take a doggie bag, but instead of giving the leftovers to the doggie have it for a second meal. That way a $25 meal becomes two meals at $12.50.

  • Seniors should ask if the establishment offer a senior citizen discount. A well-to-do oily rag couple in Auckland are always on the lookout for senior specials – it’s their Sunday afternoon treat and a source of great pleasure when they ruminate on the savings which they are happy to brag about with all and sundry!

  • Check out any dining discount coupons. The coupons usually appear in local newspapers, in your mail box as junk mail, and even on the internet and are likely to appear more often when trading is a little slow - as it is nowadays! Read the fine print as often they have conditions attached, like dining on certain days or times. Recidivist diners may find savings by purchasing a book of discount coupons that are promoted commercially or as community fundraisers.

  • Become a mystery shopper. There are companies that pay people to mystery shop. Their clients include restaurants so you may get a chance to be paid for dining for free!

  • Check out the ethnic restaurants operating from low-profile mall alley that only the locals know about. They run it off the smell of an oily rag and pass the savings onto their customers!

  • Sporting clubs and RSAs usually have big good value meals.

  • If you are going out for a group dinner, ask for a fixed price at the time of making the booking. Think of it like a bulk discount.

  • Ask if the menu comes with chips and salad/vegetables, before ordering side dishes.

  • Ask about the banquet meal and work out if it is cheaper than ordering individual dishes.


  • Entertain friends at home on special occasions rather than in restaurants. Try a progressive dinner, or take your guests on a trip or picnic. Others will remember a special occasion by what they do, not by how much the meal cost. There are hundreds of ways to make an evening entertaining. Friends want your company, not expensive gourmet meals.  

  • Organise a neighbourhood bonfire night – complete with sausage sizzle and effigies.

  • A reader from Auckland has some advice about dinner parties and BBQ evenings. "I have lots of bread for people to eat because it is filling an cheap. Sausages are the main meat which sounds a bit boring but I make it interesting by having different flavours for people to try. For drinks we have lots of water, and large bottles of drink rather than cans. We discourage alcoholic drinks by making it a BYO! Fortunately most of our friends also live off the smell of an oily rag so they go for the water and fizzy drink instead!"

Family fun night

  • Recently we wanted to play Happy Families but not having the cards we gathered shoes and distributed them and then had to find the matching one. We each 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 that finds its hard to lose. – A.C.

Fun for kids

  • School Holidays... Can't afford a school holiday programme? Then get together with friends and start your own. If you can only get one day a week off work, then get your mates to do the same thing, (different days), and drop your kids at the appropriate house with their packed lunch. Arrange between yourselves different activities for each day depending on what each can provide. For instance one person may be able to take all swimming while another may not have the transport necessary, so maybe they could do art and crafts, video days, pizza making, board games, a wheel outing, (skateboards, bikes, skates or scooters). Remember to join the kids in the activities because the kids will appreciate it more especially if it embarrasses you or if you have trouble doing it. They then learn that nobody is perfect and that they too can participate in difficult challenges and enjoy it. - Mean Girl, Hastings

  • Here are some free and fun ideas for the kids on cold, wet days: 

  • Place a drop of food colouring on their tongues – this should entertain them for five minutes or so.

  • Give them an ice cube in a cup and ask them to melt it – this could occupy them for about 10 minutes or until the ice cube is eaten!

  • Draw a map of a messy room, including the items you want tidied up. The kids have to pick up all the items and cross it off the map. There's about 20 minutes of entertainment here, even more if the room is really messy!

  • Get a bucket and some rolled up socks and have a tossing game down the hallway - entertainment times may vary on this one, but usually lasts up to half an hour.

  There you go. You could get over an hour of entertainment for no cost at all! - R.H.

Greeting cards


  • Hire CD’s from your local library at about $4 pw. You can get a recent release for about $6. Cool, aye! – K.C.

Swimming pools

  • If you are lucky enough to have a swimming pool, consider using salt-water treatment rather than chlorine, it’s cheaper.


  • Join a local theatre group and get involved.  You'll not only meet a great bunch of people and improve your social life cheaply, you'll also save power by spending less time at home where you might otherwise be watching TV, playing video games or 'socialising' on your computer. - J.C., Masterton


  • Make your own toys. There are lots of second hand books (or available in the library) showing how to make toys from cardboard and other materials. A load of sand will keep small children entertained for hours (and all of the cats in the neighbourhood!).


  • Hiring a video is much better than taking the family to the moviews. It costs half the price of a single admission ticket to the movies, and what’s more you can usually have it for a number of days. This give you the chance to swap videos with your friends and invite a group around for a BYO video evening.


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