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Oily Rag Column: Best Buy Shopping

Best Buy Shopping
By Frank and Muriel Newman

We often hear the phrase, “shop smarter New Zealand” during the TV ad breaks, and that’s exactly what those living off the smell of an oily rag do. In fact, oily raggers have quite a lot to say about making their dollars go further.

Here are some tips.

• We reckon the best grocery buying strategy for those watching their pennies is to shop at the chain that has the cheapest everyday prices - but to keep a lookout for those extra special specials offered by the other chains. The easiest way to find these specials is to look at the supermarket flyers and advertisements, or go on-line and search their list of specials.

• Products sold online by a major grocery chain do not cost any more than if they were bought directly off the supermarket shelf. However, you do have to factor in the delivery charge. On-line buying is not likely to suit most oily rag shoppers, but the convenience of having someone else do your shopping for you, and then delivering the goods to your door, will suit some – especially those with limited mobility, or limited time.

• Bob from Wellington says, “Be wary of the bulk bins at supermarket, they are not always the cheapest. I always pull out my cell phone, use the calculator on it and work it out. Often if I am buying nuts I will find that the pre-packed ones in the baking section are cheaper. We used to make hummus and used dried chick peas, but the tinned ones turned out to be cheaper and didn't require all the cost of boiling them on the stove nor the time to re-hydrate them.”

• Shih from Auckland has a number of suggestions, “We shop at the supermarket once per month, meat shop once every 3 months and vege/milk/bread shop weekly. I spend no more than $250 for the month for 2 people on general groceries - which ends up meaning $29 per person per week for food. This also includes lunches for work. I buy meat in bulk, package into meal size portions and freeze. I do not buy pasta sauces or satays etc but make them from scratch - much cheaper and healthier for you. Initially I thought it was much more expensive to home make, but that is really only for the initial outlay for specialised products. Buying ingredients in bulk is the way to go but only if you have the capacity to store what is left over. Using fresh herbs grown in your garden makes for very tasty seasoning - easy to grow herbs are mint, parsley, basil, chives, coriander and thyme. And my final oilyrag suggestion is to run a household system which is "one product in use and 1 spare” in the cupboard. This works out well as there are times the product is not at a reasonable price so we do not get one every month. This works particularly well with regards to cleaning products (I will often buy 2 spares if these are on special).”

• ME from Auckland says, “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 Wednesday night - so it’s a sure bet if what you like is not sold out, you'll find it at a great price that night.”

• A reader from Australia has a similar idea, “Go food shopping about half an hour before the supermarket is due to close. You can pick up things like cooked chickens for half price and use them for lunches during the week. There are a lot of cut priced items on sale because the store can't sell them the next day.”

• Bella from Auckland writes, “When you’re going to the supermarket for midweek top-up shopping use the basket instead of a trolley. It saves time, makes you think what you really need, and saves you money! If you have young children, sit them in the supermarket trolley as this will reduce space and help you buy less!”

• Jaycee from Kawerau says, “Watch for ‘Use today’ meat specials, that are often half the normal price, and freeze for future use. Towards the end of the week meat that is already on special becomes an especially good buy.”

Do you have shopping advice or other money-saving tips 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.

*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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