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An oily rag banquet

Feasting off the smell of an oily rag does not mean you have to miss out on the good things in life – like desserts! Here is a low-cost three-course meal.

Soup – Boil up a pumpkin, add some stock for flavouring (say chicken), dice a couple of onions and in they go, add a couple a rashers of chopped bacon and there you have it.

Salad – A good wholesome salad should cost next to nothing. Use greens on special or those abundant in your garden.

Bread – Very filling and good value. Buy a single serving of bread rolls or make you own. Beg borrow or steal (that’s colloquial for borrow!) a bread making machine. We picked up a near new bread-making machine at a garage sale for $15.

Main course – As a main a serving of mince or sausages with potato or rice would go down a treat.

Dessert – Even dessert need not be expensive. Spongy pud’s made out of flour, eggs, butter, sugar and milk, with a little jam or fruit pieces on the bottom, can be made in a jiff in the microwave, or boiled on the stove.  Fruit puddings made from windfall apples, tamarillos, peaches or plums, with a crumbed topping made out of flour, butter, sugar and a dash of cinnamon, are delicious with a splash of cream.

All in all, a banquet.


Your favourite recipes


  • This year I experimented with making cider vinegar with windfall apples from the side of the road. It was beautiful cider vinegar and well worth the effort. – Reader, Masterton.

Baked beans

  • Here's a tasty tip to use with a tin of baked beans. You will need: 1 x capsicum diced, 1 x onion diced, 2-3 tablespoons jalapenos, a tin baked beans, and eggs. Fry capsicum and onion, add jalapenos (mine are from a jar), and baked beans - stir until hot, drop to a medium heat and crack eggs on top of the mixture - poaching the eggs on top of the baked beans - serve when eggs to your liking (I like mine semi-soft) - and enjoy Kids love this and have requested this several times lately. - Mum of 4 hungry kids, Christchurch.

  • Try half a can of baked beans and stir in two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds, two tablespoons of ground (not crushed) linseeds, two tablespoon of sunflower seeds and two tablespoon of sesame seeds. Serve on toast. Purchase seeds at the Bin Inn, which I find are the cheapest. - Kevan, Kaiwaka.

  • Hurry Curry Beans recipe. “You will need an onion, some cooking oil, 1 tablespoon of cheap brand curry, 500g mince, 2 cans of baked beans (house brand or on special), cooked rice, and green beans. Fry up onions with oil and curry till clear. Add the mince and fry until brown. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add seasoning, then eat with rice and green beans. Yummy and filling!” - Anonymous, Rotorua. 

  • This recipe is quick and easy to make and is yummy too.  It serves 2 but for 4 people, just double the ingredients. You will need: half a regular can of baked beans, 2 to 3 sausages, sliced thinly 1/2 bell pepper, diced (you could use 1/4 red pepper and 1/4 green pepper for added colour), and a few lettuce leaves (stacked together and sliced thinly). Here’s what you do. 1. Empty baked beans into a microwavable bowl/plate. Add cut sausages. Cover with microwave-safe cling wrap and leave a small opening. Microwave for about 2 minutes on high or until warm. 2. Use a spoon to mix the sausages and baked beans well. 3. Microwave the peppers for about 2 minutes on high. 4. Mix in half of the cooked peppers, then top the dish with some lettuce, and the remaining peppers. Serve with rice. – BW, Auckland.

  • As one with celiac disease I use half a tin of baked beans into which I put two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds, 2 of sesame seeds, 2 of ground linseed and 2 of sunflower seeds. Add a little water. Place on toast. Makes a delicious breakfast. I you have celiac disease, make sure beans  have no wheat flour. I use Oak baked beans in BBQ sauce, which is G/F. - Kevan, Kaiwaka, Northland.

  • We empty a tube of sausage meat and a finely chopped onion into a glass dish, squish together, then microwave until cooked. Add tin of baked beans and spread over, then cover with mashed potato and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Grill until brown. - Linda Mitchell, Te Puke.

  • Make a yummy toasted sandwich variation... tortilla wrapped baked beans and grated cheese parcels. Looked in the cupboard for something quick and easy the other night and saw baked beans, but felt bad about serving just that...saw the tortillas and well that was it.  The kids LOVED them! Just be sure to wrap edges so you don't have any explosions.  Stick in sandwich press and YUMMO! - M.A., Hokitika.

  • I love putting mashed leftover veges with cheese on top with a can of baked beans underneath & heated well.  Its a vegetarian version of a cottage pie! - A Hume, Wairoa.

  • Carol from New Plymouth says, a tasty easy meal consists of a tin of baked beans and a tin of pineapple pieces. Heat both together gently in a pot and serve on toast! Delicious!

  • S.J. from Dunedin writes, When we have a surplus of 'baked beans' I make Tacos. Ingredients:

500gms mince 2 onions.
Oil Tomato sauce
Chilli Powder Fresh tomatoes
2 tins baked beans. Grated cheese
Lettuce Spring Onions
Bean sprouts Taco shells or tortillas

Brown mince in a little oil. Add chopped onions and cook until onions are transparent. Add about 1 tsp chilli powder or less if you don't like hot tacos Wash most of the sauce off the baked beans and add to mince mix. Now use enough tomato sauce to make mix moist. This is usually about 1 cup. Add fresh chopped tomatoes and cook through. Serve in taco shells with bean sprouts, spring onions and lettuce, topped with grated cheese. Reinvent recipe to suit your own tastes.


  • 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 

  • I make toasted banana and cinnamon sugar sandwiches for dessert with a dollop of vanilla flavoured sweet Greek yoghurt. Cheap and yummy! - Mary Stevenson, Tokoroa.

  • I PEEL and then freeze over ripe bananas (i buy them cheaper when over ripe).  I then use the frozen nanas straight from the freezer - pop a full one into a blender with milk, peanut butter and some honey - this makes 2 big glass full.  Whizz up into a delicious thick and ice-creamy milkshake - wonderful. - Thelomies, Hamilton.

  • Ripe bananas which are great for muffins and banana loaf can be frozen in their skins (as is) and just defrosted prior to use.  I microwave them for a minute before I use them. - M.H., Christchurch.

  • I make a date and banana loaf each week. 3 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup bran flakes. butter or margarine, 3 teaspoons baking powder, spices -Cassia, mixed spices or others. One overripe banana cut into pieces. I whirl the lot in my food processor and add sufficient water to make a very thick moist mixture. Place in a greased ovenproof dish, and bake for 2 hours in a slow oven. Add or remove ingredients like dates, bran, sultanas or what have you. Makes a large loaf which will last ages. Mine does a week for 2 of us. - Tex, Christchurch.

  • When bananas get too ripe, simply put them in the freezer skins and all.  They will go black on the outside, but if you unfreeze (lay in a bowl first) and snip off one end, you can squeeze the banana pulp out easily.  Pulp is ideal for use in all banana cooking recipes.  - D.R., Masterton.

  • I bulk buy bananas, peel and cut either in 1/2 or 1/3s. Put them in the plastic bag and put in the freezer, whole. They last pretty well and I slice them up in the morning and cook them directly in my porridge mix. As a single, I love to buy some thing in bulk and this means I can buy the 'branded bunch' and still know I have nice looking bananas not all mashed up! - Cathy in NZ

  • What to do with lots of bananas. Process peeled bananas which are not too ripe in the blender with very little soy milk until of ice cream consistency and store in small containers in the freezer. (Being allergic to dairy I have not tried using milk.) My home grown bananas, plentiful this season, are quite sweet, but you can of course add a little jam or fruit jelly or honey. This makes a great dessert, much cheaper and healthier than ice cream. - Thirties depression baby, Auckland.


  • "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.


  • 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

  • Broccoli/Courgette:  If you already have broccoli and a recipe calls for a courgette (which you don't have), you can use the broccoli stalk instead.  Broccoli leaves are also edible (raw or cooked). - ANG, Masterton.

  • Broccoli stem soup. For using up those tough broccolli stems. You will need: 1 onion (diced), 1 large broccoli stalk (diced), any left over broccoli florets, 1 large potato, 1 vege stock cube dissolved in 2c water, 1t butter, 1/4c milk or cream, 1/4c cheese (optional), and salt and pepper. Saute onion in butter till clear. Add broccoli and potato. Cover with vege stock and simmer for 30 minutes till very tender. Blend and season. Reheat with a little milk or cream. Sprinkle with cheese if you like. - VR Lilley


  • A good way to store and use celery in the winter is as follows. Cut off the base, and the very coarsest top leaves if necessary,  and discard.  Wash the remainder thoroughly.  Dry and chop fairly finely ( leaves and all) Store in the freezer in zip top bags. Add handfuls to soups, stews, stir frys and casseroles as needed. No waste, quick and convenient, stays fresh. - Allie, Nelson.

  • I find that when buying even half a celery, we don't use it quick enough and the celery goes soft. I save a couple of stalks in the veggie crisper in the fridge and chop and freeze the rest. It is great for adding to winter soups or stews and free flows like frozen peas do. - NZGreenie, Auckland.

Cheap (and not so cheap) meats

  • 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.

We took a quick trip to an online supermarket to see which meats were the best value for the oily rag dollar. this is what we found:
Cost per kg

Cost per kg

Sausages $6.99 Lamb chops $18.49
Sausage meat $7.78 Sirloin steak $19.99
Beef shin $12.99 Rump steak $19.99
Gravy beef $13.99 Beef roast $19.99
Beef mince $14.00 Lamb steaks $19.99
Pork mince $14.99 Beef schnitzel $20.99
Blade steak $14.99 Pork steak $21.99
Pork roast $14.99 Pork schnitzel $24.99
Lamb mince $15.90 T-bone steak $25.99
Top side $15.99 Scotch fillet $29.99
Lamb roast $15.99 Eye fillet $35.99

What do you find to be the best value meat? Click here >>> to let us know.


  • Buy fresh or frozen whole chickens on special and cut it up yourself.  It is so easy, and you get 2 full chicken breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks and a carcass for chicken stew and dumplings. Cooking for one, a chicken can last me up to two weeks. I also get 3 servings out of each breast by cubing, and using in gravy and steamed rice dishes like butter chicken, thai curries or teriyaki chicken. Think about when you get a takeaway butter chicken. You really only get about a breast worth in a container and that covers 2-4. - ME, Auckland.

  • Here's a fantastic recipe that my mum used to make. It's cheap, quick and delicious and is now a family favourite in my home. This recipe also freezes really well, so you can make it in advance or freeze the leftovers. Ingredients:

    • Chicken legs and/or thighs

    • Large tin of tomato soup

    • Large carrot, sliced

    • 10 mushrooms, chopped in chunks

    • Large brown onion, thinly sliced

    • 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs.

Method: All you have to do is place the ingredients in a casserole dish, mix, and then place the lid on the dish. Cook in a moderate oven for approximately 45 minutes - 1 hour. I usually stir it after 30 minutes to mix it all through. Serve with rice and beans or peas. Mum used to coat the chicken pieces in flour and brown them before placing in the casserole dish. However, as a busy mum myself, I skip this step and it turns out just fine. It is such a hearty meal, you will all love it! - M.M.

  •  Quick Chicken. Set oven to 180 degs C.

    1 chicken or chicken pieces
    1 cup of strained tea, from teapot 

        1 - 2 tablespoons soy sauce
        1 -2 tablespoons honey.

    Cut chicken into portions. Mix tea, honey and soy sauce. Pour over chicken in a casserole dish and bake till cooked. Wash your potatoes, wrap in foil and cook on oven shelf alongside. Carrot and other vegetables can be included in the casserole too, and save electricity that way. This is a family sized meal, but I live alone and buy only one or two portions of chicken at a time and scale it down. I found and bought smaller sized casserole dishes from the salvation army shops, and whenever I use my oven I make sure that I cook two different  casseroled meals  at once to save electricity that way. On the second night it means just a quick zap in the microwave to heat my dinner. - K.W., Waitakere City.

  •  One chicken has many creative uses. Firstly cooked chicken makes a superb roast, any meat left over etc is great cold for sandwiches the next day. Then use the carcass to make  chicken stock. Add 6 cups of water, 2 leeks, 2 carrots, 1 bay leaf, peppercorns, celery, fresh chopped thyme and parsley, bring boil, then simmer for a couple of hours then strain. All the chicken meat falls off. I then use the cooked vegetables and chicken for dog food which I mix in with their dog biscuits. I then use the chicken stock to make homemade pumpkin soap, which I then freeze into lunch serving portions. - Sandee Bee, Auckland.


  • Fritters are a good way to use up left-overs. If making fritters with meat or fish, you will find a little goes a long way. Sweetcorn fritters are also a yummy snack. Keep a can of corn in the pantry for unexpected visitors. - M.N.

Crumbed steak

  • I love crumbed steak and I remember my Mum making this. She did it the hard way I cheat and buy the ready made crumbs. I buy two or 3 slices of lean topside and then pound them with a tenderiser and cut the slices into meal size pieces. I crumb them the normal way egg and milk etc but the crumbs are the secret. I use no name stuffing mix and at 75cents a packet it goes a long way. I then place all the steak in the fridge for and hour or more then simply cook it and freeze it. I cook it as it comes out of the freezer as the crumbs tend to go soggy if you let them defrost first. Serve with mashed potato and fresh beans or peas/carrots. I have kept this steak in my freezer up to 3 months and it's as fresh as a daisy. BTW I wrap it in cling wrap then in foil. - Mishka, Mooloolaba.


  • One of my fav' cheap yummy meals mum makes is eggs and rice :Cut onions into thick slices and cook till translucent, and add scramble egg mix, salt to taste.  Cook on medium so it doesn't burn and barely stir so you have nice big fluffy scramble.  Take off 30 secs to a min before you think its cooked because egg keeps cooking.  Serve on fresh steamed rice.  So yum and cheap when you buy 30 packs for $5-5.99. -ME, Auckland.

  •  Anyone who buys the dozen pack of eggs, just have a quick look at the price of the 1/2 dozen pack, as I always find you can save anywhere between 2 cents and 20 cents by buying two of the 1/2 dozen packs instead of one dozen pack. - M.M., Auckland.

  • Quiches are easy to whip up anytime, and you don't need pastry to have one. For my family of 6 we like having mini quiches.  Just chop up finely half an onion, fry with a bit of crushed garlic and oil. Place in greased muffin pans, add a bit of grated cheese. Then in a bowl or jug add eggs and milk (depends on how much you are making) For us it was 5 eggs and 1½  cups of milk. Add ½  teaspoon of salt and beat till mixed well. Then pour over onion and cheese, and baked until the tops are nicely golden. Does not take as long as one large quiche. Great with fresh salad. Also quiches are a great way to use up veggies, especially if you find you have some cooked veggies leftover after dinner.  Doesn't take long to make and cook, and then you have already part of the next nights dinner. - Alicia Webster

  •   For more information about egg farming see the Egg Producers Federation website, click here >>>


  • 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

  • A good economical batter that I use for fish: 1 cup S.R. flour, pinch salt, water to mix into a good batter consistency, 1 teaspoon white vinegar. Let it sit for a while, say half an hour before using.  I add a drop of yellow colouring so it looks like an egg is used. - Merle, Brisbane.

  • “I make the most of a tin of salmon by adding grated carrot. It bulks it up and makes it go twice as far.” - Joan, Tauranga.

  •  Some fish shops and supermarkets sell salmon frames, the back bone left over after filleting. They are a fraction of the price of salmon steaks or fillets and can be a really good buy. If they are not on display, ask for them. Poach in a bowl over boiling water, remove all bones and mash the fish with finely chopped raw onion and garlic, a generous squirt of lemon juice, seasoning and, if you like, some hummus. Best left in the fidge overnight. This makes a fantastic dip or spread for toast. - Thirties Depression Baby, Auckland.

  • Martin Buchanan from Taupo has a tip for smoking fish: "Buy the cheapest available Smoker (usually the Warehouse) and place upon the BBQ instead of one of the grills. Using the lowest heat setting (as well as turning down the gas bottle valve) and manaka sawdust (cutting your own creates heat) makes delicious smoked fish (Taupo trout of course), sausages, chicken, beef, veg, anything in about half to .75 hour."

  • Jaime Oliver uses an old biscuit tin with a chicken wire mesh to raise the meat up from the sawdust. Just place the whole thing over a gas burner or meths in a small tin. - Kurt, Auckland.

Hamburger, Oily Rag style

  • When we were both studying with a young family we discovered that adding a good heap of rolled oats to the mince mixture was a fantastic healthy 'stretcher' to bulk up the patties. Even better is to then add grated carrot or zucchini which puts moisture back into the patty and is unrecognisable to those fussy vegetable averse people! - Cate, Hamilton.

  • A trick my good cook mother taught me. Delicious cheese for a burger: Use onion pieces, whole rings work best, placed on the grill (flat grill) then add cheese (edam works well) within the onion rings to melt. Cheese is contained within the onion borders making a cheese patty of sorts and the combined taste of melted cheese and onion flavour is yum yum on a burger! - Tara, Palmerston North.

  • Buy your buns from Magills in the morning - they usually have a good selection of day old bread reduced to $1.  You can toast the buns for your burgers and no-one will ever know they weren't totally fresh. - Sam the Goddess, Te Awamutu.


  • Here's a simple way to make hummus. All you need is 1 tin of chickpeas, 5 cloves of garlic, and the juice from 1 lemon. Whiz them together in blender, place on plate add a tablespoon of oil. And we are all set to spread! - Heza, Manurewa 

  • Make your own hummus, its cheaper and yummier. No need to fork out on Tahini. You need: 400g Can chick peas $1.25 (4 for $5), 1 lemon - use a teaspoon as a juicer .20c 1t minced garlic (5c), 2 - 4 T Olive oil (40c?), salt to taste, and a pinch of ground cumin if you have/want. Blend the lot with 1/2 liquid from can.  Play and adjust liquids for consistency, as you like. If you don't have a blender, peel the chick peas in some water and then mash with a fork.  Comes out smooth and creamy with little effort. - ME, Auckland.

Ice blocks

  • To make chocolate ice blocks that turn out exactly like the expensive store-bought ones, at a significant savings. First make a chocolate custard. Place 500ml milk in a saucepan (I use fresh whole milk, but you can use reconstituted powder milk for extra savings) and bring it to the boil. Then add a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of cocoa, and a tablespoon of cornflour. Stir constantly until thickened, then cool. Second, pour the cooled chocolate custard into pre-moistened ice block moulds. Freeze for at least three hours. Cost to make one ice block (if using powdered milk): approx 6 cents. Cost to make one dozen: approx 80 cents. Savings: $27.60 per dozen (based on the price of a dozen chocolate ice blocks at the corner shop). - LTB, Auckland

Ice cream

  • 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 

  • Here’s an easy super cheap ice cream recipe. Freeze left over ripe bananas in slices or chunks. Blend in a food processor until ice cream consistency. Add flavouring ideas – like shredded coconut, a splash of cream or coconut milk, a spoonful of milo or cocoa, nuts, peanut butter, chocolate chips. Give it one more blast and your good to go. Easy, cheap, healthy and yummy. - Melanie KB, Auckland.Here’s an easy super cheap ice cream recipe. Freeze left over ripe bananas in slices or chunks. Blend in a food processor until ice cream consistency. Add flavouring ideas – like shredded coconut, a splash of cream or coconut milk, a spoonful of milo or cocoa, nuts, peanut butter, chocolate chips. Give it one more blast and your good to go. Easy, cheap, healthy and yummy. - Melanie KB, Auckland.

  •  says, "This ice cream recipe doesn't cost much and it's easy to make.  The kids would love to get involved too. Use 3 bowls. Place four egg whites in the first bowl. Beat till stiff then add ¼ cup of sugar and beat again. In the second bowl beat 4 egg yolks with another ¼ cup of sugar until frothy. In the third bowl, beat 300ml of cream until fairly stiff. Use a metal spoon to fold in the contents of the first and third bowls into the second bowl.  Pour the mix into a 2 litre ice cream container and freeze approx 6 hours. No need to beat again.  How easy is that!"  - BW, Auckland.


  • A cheap jam can be made from a pumpkin base. Use the Edmonds Recipe book, "Melon & Lemon" Jam recipe and use pumpkin as the base. Use whatever fruit you wish to flavour. I use about 6 lemons and slice the rind thinly and it makes a marmalade-type jam. I also save the rinds of mandarins, oranges, etc that have been eaten during the year, put into bags in the freezer and sliced thinly and added to the mix. The more rind, the more bitter-type marmalade turns out. Another alternative fruit would be to use a tin of pineapple pulp. – G.B.


  • When making a jelly add 1 rounded teaspoon of Gelatine to the jelly, stir well & add 2.5 to 3 times the hot water normally used. This cuts the amount of colouring, taste & sugar per serving by approx 66%. - 73Avenger, Hastings.


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 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


  •  Try to take your own lunch to work, its a sure method of saving! - Stretch, New Plymouth.

  • Make a double batch of homemade muffins then pop in a wee bag or wrap in gladwrap and put in the freezer. Put them in the lunchbox frozen and by morning tea or lunch they're defrosted and taste fresh. I usually make banana ones - you can freeze bananas which are too 'past it' to eat, the outer goes black but the inside is fantastic for baking with. -  PK


Recipe from "Easy Iron-rich Meals for Babies & Toddlers" leaflet from the NZ Beef & Lamb Mktg Brd.
"Baby's Beef Mince with Kumera"


  • 300-450g beef mince

  • 1 cup peeled, grated kumera

  • 400g peeled, grated apple

  • 1 cup water.

Put mince, apple & kumera into a saucepan.  Add water and bring slowly to simmering. Cook gently for about 45 mins, stirring often, until reduced & thick but still moist.  Take out the amount required for baby/toddler.  When you are catering for a family that includings a baby/toddler, it is sometimes useful to make meat dishes that are bland and can be revved up at the end of cooking for 'oldies'.   To continue for "Parents' Vindaloo Mince Potato-top Pie" - ingredients 2-3 tsp vindaloo curry paste, 500-700g potatoes, butter, milk, 1 cup grated cheese.  Cook the mince/appple/kumera as above then add curry paste stirring well.  Separately make the mashed potatoes and cover over the mince in a small pie dish.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.  Bake at 190 C until cheese bubbles.  Pie serves 2-4 adults.

We have a family of 2 adults, 2 young children.  This mince meal serves two days, when served with vegetables. - D.M. 


  • 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.


  • 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.

Make them into Chutney. There are many recipes on line and you just substitute the pears for the nashi. - K Silvester from Morrinsville.

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.


  •  Sausage Pie. Use two of the tubes of sausage meat for a family size pie, or just one for a smaller one. a packet of puff pastry, some herbs of your choice, fresh or dried, some onions, chopped & sauteed without colour. A dish that can go in the oven. Make a pie with pastry on the bottom, a layer of sausage meat. Cover with a layer of herbs & onions, then the rest of the meat. Put a top on and bake til the pastry is cooked. Delicious! A family favourite when mine were growing up. - Onelady7, Hamilton.

  • Fast, cheap, healthy pie. Butter 3 slices of bread, press (butter side down) into shape of pie dish. Fill with any fresh vegetables, spinach, parsley, finely chopped onion or chilli, silver beet chopped. Fill to about an inch above rim of dish as it settles. Make hole in centre and slowly pour in about 3 or 4 beaten eggs with salt & pepper. Close hole and cover top in grated cheese, pop in oven for about half an hour. Vary as much as you like, use up frozen veges, just make sure you keep silver beet leaves to bottom of pie as they can blacken with the heat. Thanks to my friend Brenda for this favourite. - Canny Scot, Christchurch

  •  When cutting off bread crusts (e.g. to make Canny Scot's magnificent bread-based pie which is, incidentally, also delicious made with leftover cooked chicken or smoked fish), cut the crusts into regular lengths and crisp these on a tray while using the oven for other cooking. Use them instead of bought crisps, with a dip of hummus or anything you fancy. Visitors, I find, love them and are impressed. - Thirties Depression Baby, Auckland


  • I make my pizzas using scone dough. Make as usual (no sugar) roll out as thin as possible and cut into rounds. Put tomato paste on top and cheese. Some times I put spaghetti on top then cheese. Any topping you like. Ham, onions, sausage anything you have in. The kids love choosing their own. - PB, Greymouth

  • I use the bread maker to make pizza dough. Put your favourite toppings on the pizza base and cook it in the oven for 30 min on med/high. On Fridays I use left overs from the previous night or whatever is in the fridge. This is a great way to use up left over food, eg meatballs, crab meat or left over cheese pasta. - Anneke Vandenberg, Hastings.


  • One of my fav' cheap yummy meals mum makes is eggs and rice :Cut onions into thick slices and cook till translucent, and add scramble egg mix, salt to taste.  Cook on medium so it doesn't burn and barely stir so you have nice big fluffy scramble.  Take off 30 secs to a min before you think its cooked because egg keeps cooking.  Serve on fresh steamed rice.  So yum and cheap when you buy 30 packs for $5-5.99. -ME, Auckland.


  • Buying ricotta is super expensive, but is cheap and easy to make. Heat 2ltr or even 1ltr of blue top milk (don't use trim as you get less yield) to 90 degrees, take off the heat and pour in 1-2 tblsp of white vinegar or lemon juice. You will see the milk separate into curds and whey. Strain off the curds (ricotta), refrigerate, or eat straight away. The whey is great for the garden. - Laura, Otago.


  • 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


  • 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 


  •  Simply Sausage. Cook cubed potatoes. Fry sausages and sliced onions. Drain off fat and cut sausages into 3. Make up pkt of Maggi Oxtail soup with 1 1/2 cups of water, add to pan with sausages, onions, potatoes and mixed frozen veges. Heat until frozen veges are cooked.  Ingredients can be added to for more people. I love this recipe. - JayFKay, Manurewa

  •   Easy peasy! Sausages, a rasher or two of bacon, capsicum (not red), onion, garlic if liked, tin of tomato, seasoning (herbs if liked), sprinkle of sugar. Brown sausages, add onion, garlic and bacon. Slice capsicum and add. Add chopped tomatoes and season. Sprinkle a little sugar and stir well. 45 minutes on the top of the cooker or about an hour in the oven - casserole temp. Serve with pasta, rice, mashed potato etc. Easy peasy. You can add other veg - the idea is to keep it colourful!

  •   Sausages and Pineapple - Fry sausages and add drained pineapple pieces. To each cup of pineapple juice add 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, 2 teaspoons cornflour. Bring to boil and when thickened, pour over sausages and pineapple. - Margaret  Read, Napier.

  • Sausages and Sweet and Sour Beetroot - Melt 1 tablespoon butter, add 1 tablespoon cornflour and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add liquid from one tin beetroot, stir till thickened, add beetroot. Pour over grilled sausages. - Margaret  Read, Napier.

  • If you are cooking sausages and don't have as many as you need to serve "whole", cut into slices and serve in gravy as a stew. The sausages go a whole lot further. - M.N.

  • Slow Cooked Curry Sausages. Turn crock-pot onto high for about 20 minutes and heat while preparing the rest.

          500 - 750 grams sausages ( I use pre-cooked)
          2 medium onions sliced
          2 teaspoons curry powder
          1  440 gram can chopped tomatoes ( I use the budget variety for the
                   supermarkets.  What ever is the cheapest.)
          1 - 2 440 gram cans baked beans or chilli beans (the cheap ones  
          1 - 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Put the onions in the crock pot, the add the sausages.  Add the tomatoes beans and curry powder and brown sugar and mix. Turn crock pot onto low and cook for 6 - 8 hours on low. - C.K., Christchurch.

  • Sausage Pie. Use two of the tubes of sausage meat for a family size pie, or just one for a smaller one. a packet of puff pastry, some herbs of your choice, fresh or dried, some onions, chopped & sauteed without colour. A dish that can go in the oven. Make a pie with pastry on the bottom, a layer of sausage meat. Cover with a layer of herbs & onions, then the rest of the meat. Put a top on and bake til the pastry is cooked. Delicious! A family favourite when mine were growing up. - Onelady7, Hamilton.

Silver beet

  • In the rural reaches of the Basque Country (Spain), silver beet (chard) is known as chuletas de la huerta, which translates as 'chops from the vegetable garden'. Here's a recipe from a book by Teresa Barrenechea (in Spiain they grow silver beet for the stems). You will need 10 silver beet stems with the leaves removed and cut into 50-75mm lengths; 1/4 cup flour; 2 eggs, beaten; and 1/2 cup olive oil. In a large saucepan, bring about a litre of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the stems, and cook it for about 15 minutes, until soft. Drain well, then roll in flour, dip in the egg mixture, and drop in a skillet of oil over medium-high heat. Cook the stems for about a minute, turn and cook them for another minute. Drain on two layers of paper towels, and serve immediately. If you like, you can serve the leaves as an accompaniment. Chop and boil in salted water, drain well, then sauté in 2 tablespoons olive oil with a sliced clove of garlic. - XS, Auckland

  • Making kale chips has become quite popular and is easy especially with the flatter varieties. I tried the same process with silver beet and it works well. Heat the oven to 150C. I spray a flat tray with rice oil, then after cutting out the white stem I rub both sides of the silver beet on the oiled tray then sprinkle a little salt and/or Za'atar (Moroccan spices of all types are good). Cut the leaf into bite size pieces. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until crisp. If they need a little longer, turn them over.  When cooked, put them in a container with a paper towel on bottom.  My grandkids eat kale and silver beet 'chips' instead of the fatty variety with great enthusiasm, and they are really good as an at-work snack. - Gayle B, Christchurch. 

  • 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.

  • 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']

Young Mum has a conundrum – one many families will relate to. “We have silver beat growing all year round. It’s easy to grow, and free which is even better, but unfortunately it’s not a favourite with our young children. Can anyone help me with ways to introduce silver beat into our meals in a way that makes it more palatable to young tums?”  If you can help Young Mum, then click here >>>

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

After cooking the silver beet and putting it on the plates we always put some mint sauce on it and found that the kids ate it that way. – Julie, Napier.

I like to chop silver beet up fine and put it into a mince Bolognese sauce. Kids won't know it's there if you cook it well. You could also put small raw amounts into a fruit smoothie. Add apple juice, kiwifruit, silver beet, honey to sweeten. Lovely green colour! Rather than steam cooking silver beet, another nice way to have it is to cook in a frypan with a knob of butter and finely minced garlic, with salt and pepper to taste. Yum! - R Williams, Mangawhai.

“Not sure if kids like it, but adults will do.  Need a big pan with a lid.  Cook chopped silver beet in a little water (cut off big stalks), chop a bit more then drain well.  Separately cook 2 rashers bacon chopped (microwave) and cupful of chopped pumpkin (micro wave). Assemble all in big pan with olive oil, stir till mixed well and hot, then add bits of feta on the top, put the lid on, heat well down, then off, 5 mins. Eat as main or side dish.” - Silver Beet Fan, Whangarei.

Hammelschwanz from Whakatane suggests, “In answer to young mum whose children do not like silverbeet I would suggest to make a thick white sauce with whole milk and add finely pureed silverbeet or spinach. The creaminess hides that 'teeth blunting' feeling, serve the vegetable with mashed potatoes and a fried or poached egg. Try and add a little vegetable stock powder or nutmeg to the blended vegetable and sauce mix.”

LandP writes, "Young Mum wanted a recipe for silverbeet which her youngsters will enjoy. What follows works just as well with Spinach and is delicious. Here are the ingredients for a meal for four: 750 grams of silverbeet, 2 eggs, 6 tablespoons flour, 500 grams cottage cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, freshly ground pepper, and 1½ cups grated tasty cheese.

“Wash the silver beet, trim & chop finely; cook & drain squeezing out excess water. Beat eggs & flour together until smooth, add silverbeet, cottage cheese, salt, nutmeg & pepper combining them well. Put into a well greased 23 x 34cm baking dish sprinkling more grated cheese over the top. Bake uncovered at 180 degrees for 45 minutes; it can be eaten hot or cold. A decadent option is to chop & & precook a couple of rashers of bacon sprinkling these & the bacon fat over the top a little prior to serving.”

Lorraine Barnes suggests this. “This is a useful way to use as little or as much silverbeet as you prefer. I use 4 leaves of silver beet chopped finely, a batter mixture of 3/4 cup flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 or 2 eggs whisked, add flour etc., milk to thin and greens. Fry in a little hot oil. It’s lovely with tomato sauce, which should appeal to children.” [Who can disagree with that – adding tomato sauce to anything usually does the trick!]

G M from Christchurch has a tip for spinach (which could also be used for silverbeet). “Chop the stuff up finely as if it is parsley and sprinkle it in everything...muffins with cheese, quiche type recipes, sprinkle on spuds, add loads to salad, add to soups, casseroles. The flavour is negligible but that iron goodness is incorporated into lots of food.”

Children prefer the taste of the coloured "Bright Lights" silver beet as it is sweeter tasting than regular silver beet. Looks more interesting too. – S, Christchurch.

  • Silver beet stalks are edible and are nice sauteed in a little butter, with some S&P, or added to all sorts of things (e.g. soup, quiches).  - ANG, Masterton.


  • Every child I know loves this soup. 750 gm cubed potatoes, 1 bunch of silver beet with stems removed and roughly chopped. (stems can be sliced up into mince, stew, or stir fry etc), 5 cups chicken stock (vege stock works just as well), 1 cup of cheese, 3/4 cup sour cream. Boil potatoes in stock then add silver beet. When cooked, remove from heat and blend. Add cheese and sour cream. Season to taste. - Liz, Auckland

  • To make very cheap stock for soup and other dishes, keep a 3-4 litre tub in the freezer to which you progressively add onion, garlic, carrot and celery trimmings and peelings as you make them. Don't add too much of the brown outer skin of onions as it is bitter, go for the ends and inner skins. Spring onion trimmings and leek trimmings also work. Also add chicken bones, whether raw or cooked. When the tub is full, add the contents of the tub and 2 teaspoons salt, 10 peppercorns, 4-6 bay leaves a big handful of parsley, and lots of water, into a big pot. Simmer it for 4 hours. Allow to cool, lift out most of the solid stuff with tongs, and sieve the liquid. Taste for salt and add a little more if needed. You can do the same with other meat bones, e.g. beef and lamb and venison. You can mix all red meat bones together but don't mix red meat and chicken. - Y.W., Christchurch.

  • At the supermarket or butchers buy (some butchers give them away) a bag of dog bones. Boil in a large pot of water until all the meat comes off, then remove the bones and you have soup. You can then add other veges to this if you want. - R.T.

  • Free Soup - well almost!  Any cooked vegies left over after dinner, pop into a clean ice cream container and pop in freezer. (Cut all the vegies into approximately the same size first) Continue to do this until container is full. Defrost. Fry an onion in a  little oil, add contents of container, a teaspoon or two of stock powder (or home made stock!) and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and puree. Season with Salt and pepper. You can add 1/4 cup cream if desired for a rich creamy soup. Enjoy! - TS

Snacks & treats

  • Popcorn is cheap, healthy and a popular snack, especially when your house is full of hungry children or tennagers (watching TV/rugby!). - M.N.


  • "Make your own tofu. Boil up the cheapest shop-bought soya milk you can find - 1 to 2 litres is a good amount. Coagulate it with some vinegar or lemon juice. Drain it through a tea towel and squish it down with something heavy. Use the yellow liquid that's left over for making bread. This is the cheapest and freshest tofu I know." - Mrs. Valuable Forthright Opinions, Canterbury (in the UK).

  • Tofu is important protein for vegetarians. It is commonly available in Chinese grocery shops. Tofu is available in single and two-piece packs. If you have a small family, buy the single pack which costs about $1 a box instead of the 2 piece pack because once opened, it will only last for 2-3 days - if the water is changed every day. You can buy 2 packets of the single pack tofu and keep it in the fridge until needed. It can keep for 2-3 weeks if unopened. - Ramenkia, Papakura 


  • Enjoyed this week's sweet treats column in our local newspaper but realised the Canadian thing I do that my Kiwi friends love should be passed on. Toast some bread, spread with butter or marg’ while warm, sprinkle and spread soft brown sugar, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Delicious, and washes down well with a milky coffee or hot chocolate. - A Canuck from One Tree Point


  • As a family of eight, I find natural yoghurt (even spiced up with some flavours), to be a healthy and economic food source. We use Home brand powdered milk, and two good sized soup spoons from a 6 pack of meadow fresh yoghurt, into the yoghurt maker, and that makes a litre of quite thick yummy yoghurt. Costs about $2 a litre.- Anyway, Whangarei.
  • You can make yoghurt using fresh milk for a fraction of the price of yoghurt powder. Put fresh milk into your yoghurt maker, and add 3 tablespoons of yoghurt powder. You will have to change the water after about 8 hours with hot water from the tap (not boiling) and leave a few more hours. The yoghurt will have a different consistency than if you made it with powder and water, but it will still be yummy. Using this method, a sachet of yoghurt powder will last for about 5 litres of yoghurt. You must make sure that the yoghurt container and spoon are perfectly clean to start with. - Katherine, Hamilton. 

  • Like yoghurt? I love E***yo Nectarine home made. Buy the pack of yoghurt & also buy bulk skim milk powder. The yoghurt pack contains 225g powder. Make the yoghurt with 112g yoghurt powder & 112g skim milk powder. Taste is same as normal. Cuts fat content by almost 50%. - 73Avenger, Hastings.

Yorkshire pudding

  • 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

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