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Treats and Tricks for Dining Out

8524 Dining Out
8524 Dining Out

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman

Continuing on our Xmas theme we show how to bake a Christmas day treat and how to dine out on culinary fare with frugal flair.

Here’s an idea for a Xmas treat – make gingerbread men (or persons if you prefer). Here’s a simple recipe recommended by Chelsea sugar. You will need: flour, baking soda, ground ginger, brown sugar, butter, and an egg. Sift 2 cups of flour with ½ teaspoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of ginger. Add ½ cup of sugar then mix in 150g of soft butter then 1 egg. Mix into a dough – add flour if the dough is too sticky. Place the dough in the fridge for about half an hour then roll on a lightly floured surface until about 5mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to make gingerbread men or use a sharp knife to create your own shapes – like a gingerbread house! Bake in a pre-heated 180deg oven for about 10 minutes or slightly less so they are golden brown.

To make icing: add a few drops of food colouring and 1 to 2 teaspoons of water to icing sugar. Use the icing to make fancy wiggles and squiggles like clothing, or as a glue – for lollies and other decorations or to hold the house together. It can be great Christmas day fun – especially if it’s raining! If you have a favourite gingerbread recipe to share, please visit our oily rag website at

Holidays are also a time for dining out. Here’s a way to wine (not whine!) and dine out on the smell of an oily rag.

  • 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 (some oily raggers have even been known to stop off at a certain establishment to take advantage of their 60 cent ice-creams!).
  • 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.
  • 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 offers a senior citizen discount.
  • Keep an eye out for 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.
  • Check out the ethnic restaurants operating from low-profile mall alleys that only the locals know about. They usually run off the smell of an oily rag and pass the savings on to 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.

If you have a favourite shopping or eating-out tip then share it with others so they too can have a happy and frugal Christmas. All tips can be sent via our website or posted to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei. All tips are posted on the

* 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