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The Mailbags Are Full of Great Tips

Last week we received an emergency phone call. It was the lovely lady at NZ Post. Desperate, she was - "Can you PLEASE come and clear your mail box. Oily Rag mail has overflowed onto the floor and is piled up to the ceiling!"

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

Last week we received an emergency phone call. It was the lovely lady at NZ Post. Desperate, she was – “Can you PLEASE come and clear your mail box. Oily Rag mail has overflowed onto the floor and is piled up to the ceiling. We can’t even get into the mail room!”

We of course responded swiftly – as one does in emergencies – by despatching our strongest staff members to relieve the situation. We are now going though the long but pleasurable task of opening, reading, and posting the material on the oily rag website. Here are some of the tips we have received.

  • The aftershocks have not stopped JO from Christchurch coming up with this tip. “How much toothpaste do we need? TV advertisements show us to cover the whole toothbrush. Why not try and use a little less each day and find out how little we actually need!” … that reminds us of the old oily rag motto which says, “Use half as much and get the product at half price!”
  • V.M from Levin has fun with competitions. “If you have time enter online competitions at Also, if there's a competition in the paper or on a chocolate wrapper enter it.  I have won loads of stuff over the years; from prams to make up, label clothing and more. “Lucky Break” and “That's Life” magazines are very generous and have sent me cheques for photos I sent by email and forgot about!  Not only do your children get published in a magazine you get $50! My children have also won prizes from these magazines.  Go for it – its fun and its great receiving prizes in the post!”
  • ME from Auckland has had a busy Christmas emailing her favourite frugal tips.

“Shop for specials. In our local supermarket every week they rotate the brands on special so one of the ice creams and 1 litre yoghurts will always be on special. For example, a major brand of ice cream is discounted from $5.99 to $3.99.  My supermarket always marks bakery breads and rolls down to 1/2 anywhere after 8.30pm every night, and marked down cakes that don't sell are cleared to be binned.”

“Buy a fresh or frozen whole chicken 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 it and using it in gravy and steamed rice dishes like butter chicken, Thai curries or teriyaki chicken.”

“Make your own hummus, its cheaper and yummier. You need: 400g can of chick peas, juice from 1 lemon, 1teaspoon of minced garlic, 2 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt to taste, and a pinch of ground cumin if you have/want. Blend the lot with 1/2 the liquid from the can, adjusting the amount for the consistency you prefer. If you don't have a blender, peel the chick peas in some water and then mash with a fork. It comes out smooth and creamy with little effort.”

“One of my favourite cheap yummy meals we make is eggs and rice. I cut onions into thick slices and cook till translucent, and add to a scramble egg mix, with salt to taste.  Cook on medium heat so it doesn't burn and barely stir so you have nice big fluffy scramble.  Take off the heat about 45 seconds before you think it’s cooked because the egg keeps cooking.  Serve on fresh steamed rice, which is so cheap to buy (30 packs of rice for under $6).”

The book Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at If you have a favourite living off the smell of an oily rag tip, share it with others by visiting the oily rag website or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at