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Self-Help Oily Rag Style

Living off the smell of an oily rag is all about rolling up your sleeves and doing things for yourself. Here are a few new tips from oily raggers:

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman

One of the major weekend papers recently had a story about cash strapped consumers changing their shopping and eating habits. It was interesting to note that during the last year two-thirds of all shoppers had switched to cheaper unbranded products. Many shoppers do not seem to realise that in many cases it is the very same products that are packaged under a plain “house” brand label, that go into the attractively packaged and highly priced premium brands.

It’s time more consumers got brand savvy, and realised branding is a technique retailers and manufacturers use to position their products in a competitive market place to maximise profit. People also don’t seem to realise that one supplier may package their product under multiple brand names. Although this gives the impression of competing products, that may not be the case. They may instead be may simply be making it harder for a new competitor to enter the field and knock them off their perch.

There has also been a resurgence in baking. In March last year we wrote about the great family Sunday bake, and suggested some simple (almost!) fail safe recipes for bread, muffins, scones, and other goodies that can be made at a fraction of the cost that such treats cost in stores and tuck shops.  These and other tasty temptations are on the Oily Rag website at

There were also a few surprising comments in the article that can’t pass without a mention. One couple living in the same rental accommodation for eight years and on a +$100,000 household income were quoted as saying, “We buy a lot of Coke because it’s so cheap. My health is terrible.” Perhaps they could try water – it’s actually free (or almost), and healthy!

They also said they would put in a vegetable garden – when they move into their own home. They shouldn’t wait. All you need is some soil and containers for a patio garden or for a raised garden, some timber or old tyres to hold it in. When they do shift they can take the containers or raised garden with them!

Living off the smell of an oily rag is all about rolling up your sleeves and doing things for yourself.  Here are a few new tips from oily raggers:

  • M Hope from Hastings writes, “I have lots of figs this year, (if I can beat the birds and chooks!). One of my favourite ways to eat them is cut in half, a drizzle of honey a small piece of blue vein cheese and grilled for about 10 mins!”
  • A.G. from Masterton suggests those with spare figs turn them into cash. “If you have an over productive fig tree, pick a big basket, take to your local market and sell them there, or even just sell bags from your front gate.  I'm a bit of a foodie and would love to be able to get fresh ripe figs in season, but we only rarely see them for sale here.”
  • John from Wanganui says, “I shoot rabbit for fresh meat. It takes only a couple of minutes to skin and gut, so from shooting to cooking takes about 10 minutes. Can't get fresher than that!”
  • Allie from Nelson has a couple of tips for using Basil. “When you are harvesting basil, as well as making pesto, freeze some leaves in very small plastic bags. They will last all year in the freezer. Just take one out, crumble it (while it is still crunchy) into pasta dishes. It keeps all the fragrance and flavour of fresh basil. Her second tip is, “The basil in a pot that you can buy at the supermarket is not a single plant but a cluster of about 20 seedlings.  Choose one with lots and then plant them out in the tunnel house or a sheltered corner of the garden. Much cheaper than buying a pack of basil plants at the warehouse or garden centre.”
  • Bobbob from Wellington says, “Be wary of the bulk bins at supermarket – they are not always the cheapest. When buying nuts I find that the pre-packed ones in the baking section are cheaper. My girl friend used to make hummus and used dried chick peas. The tinned ones were way cheaper and didn't require all the cost of boiling them on the stove and the time to re-hydrate them.”

If you have a favourite 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. The book Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at

* 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