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Oily Rag Readers’ tips

Oily Rag readers’ tips

By Frank and Muriel Newman

It’s time to empty the oily rag mailbags and look at the new and novel money-saving tips sent in by readers. As always, there are some interesting ideas about how to make a dollar worth two, and how to make the most of what we have around us.

C.M. from Christchurch has a simple way to rid houses of ants, which are known to be invading homes at present. “I had ants and having no lemons - which I used to use in Hamilton for many years - I tried cinnamon. Apparently ants don't like the smell - just a light sprinkle was all it took on the window sill and they haven't been back since!”

Some weeks back R.J. from Auckland asked if anyone had some tips on how to clean the underside of their iron which had gathered a black sticky residue and was staining their clothes.

L.M. from Whangarei replies, “This is a tip that was given to me years ago and it really works. Use wet and dry sandpaper to clean the soleplate. Use the sandpaper wet, then wipe off. Take care not to get the steam holes gunked up with the resulting black goo and do a test iron on an old piece of cloth before you start ironing your good clothes!”

P.A. from Auckland has this tip. “Place scrapings of candle wax in between two sheets of paper. Warm the iron to maximum setting and iron the top sheet of paper......all sticky residue from bottom of the iron will magically transfer to the paper!”

Marian from New Plymouth has a favourite fish recipe. “Try poaching the fish in cider or apple juice. I use whatever is in the cupboard - usually clear apple juice or appletise. Add salt and pepper and flavourings to your taste. You can poach apples to go with it.”

P.L. from Opotiki has this tip to make a cheap and cool ladies nightie. “Get a large men’s cotton shirt (size 3xL) - it must be cotton for coolness. Remove the collar and sleeves. Leave the collar band on and re stitch the top seam of it. The arm holes can be turned in and stitched. To make it smaller just stitch the side seams to fit. Shirts cost approx $3 at the op shop.”

W.S. from Pahiatua says, “Most supermarkets sell their meat cheap on Monday mornings. It is near the ‘best by’ date, but you can buy extra and freeze it. I hardly ever buy meat at full price.”

Shirl from Napier is asking for help. “Can anyone tell me how to etch my concrete terrace using vinegar? I have heard it works well, and having breathing problems, I don't want to use harsh expensive chemicals.” If you can help Shirl please let us know.

Carol A from Christchurch has a number of tips to share. The first is about reducing your power bill. “Turning off every possible switch before you go to bed at night (also when you leave a room or have finished using the appliance) has kept my power account to around $100-$120 a month. We have quite a reasonable size home which is relatively new, but I turn off the coffee maker, the washing machine, the clothes dryer, the dishwasher, the kettle, and the light switches as soon as I have finished using them AT THE WALL. Anything on standby i.e. the switch left turned on even if the appliance isn’t running uses POWER. We reduced the hot water cylinder down to 55 deg. even though we are on night rate water heating and it is turned off between 7am - 9pm (this is on a special meter which automatically shuts down every day).

“I have taken to using up stale-ish bread by making old-fashioned Bread and Butter pudding.

“I have been buying eggs in a tray instead of a dozen… you get lots of specials at the supermarket. I can bake more often and don’t buy baked goods so often. I even make my own ice cream now.”

Hmmm - Carol has mentioned home-made ice cream: do you have a recipe for low-cost ice cream – or any other favourite summer treat – that you would like to share? If so, please send your ideas to us at or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei so we can share them with others.

*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


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