Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search


Oily Rag column: from coffee and tea to self sufficiency

Readers’ tips: from coffee and tea to self sufficiency

by Frank and Muriel Newman
Week of 4 August 2014

Here are some of the many tips we have received recently.

Greenfingers from Wellsford says coffee grounds are a good growing medium for mushrooms.

Meg from Te Puke says, “Set aside part of your garden to grow flowers with long stems. This could save you a fortune in florist bills.”

Anita from Whangarei writes, “Some of us with fireplaces enjoy cosy evenings in front of a warm fire. Not too many of us are good at starting fires so I hope this tip will be a winner in many households. I save and dry used teabags. I peg them next to the fire to dry, then put 10 to 20 into a jar, add methylated spirits, screw the lid on tight and shake. Use one soaked teabag each time you light your fire. Why spend money on fire starters, when it’s that easy! Thanks for your column. I always read it and it brings a smile to my face.” We have tried Anita’s tip and can say it works a treat! You don’t need much meths - just some dribbles over the top and a really good shake!

Joyce has this water saving tip. “I have four small plastic containers I use to catch the first water from the hot tap. It's cold and good for pot plants and special garden plants. It saves a surprising amount.”

Fred from Northland has this tasty tip. “I have this dead simple recipe for Yorkshire pudding. I saw it on TV - it's so simple that we now make it regularly. I use 2 eggs, 100 ml of skim milk, 100gm of flour, and a pinch of salt. Mix it all up into a thin batter. Place cooking oil in the bottom of each recess of a muffin tin, then put into a hot oven at 250 degrees Celsius. Once heated through, take the tin out and quickly pour in the batter. Place in the oven and leave 5-10 minutes until they rise. The trick is to have the tin really hot to start with – and NOT to open the door while they are cooking! We have them with a meat roast - yum!”

RM from Christchurch has some suggested winter reading. “I would like to recommend to your readers a non-fiction book called ‘A Secret Gift’ by Ted Gup (published 2010). It's the secret stories of people who were obliged to learn to live off the smell of an oily rag during the Great Depression, particularly Christmas of 1933. It doesn't exactly list frugal hints, but the reader absorbs them in these life stores. Your column is my Poor People's Vade Mecum (a reference book or manual]. Thank you.”

WWG from Waipu has this shopping tip. “I agree one has to check prices per kg when buying from bulk bins. Craisins (dried cranberries) bought from a supermarket bin were $13 a kg dearer than packaged ones from the same shop! I was informed it was because they came in fresh from the suppler.”

PJN from Auckland has this tip for our reader from the UK who asked for suggestions on using mature broad beans. “Shell the beans, gently cook them, then make into a pesto which can be frozen in small containers. Tastes very good.”

JB from Whangarei is enjoying the good life. “Living cheaply has been a 20 year preoccupation which we call self-sufficiency and it all began with planning. We moved to a piece of land where we can grow all our food - vegies, fruit, meat, eggs – as well as make hay for the animals and have firewood trees for the woodstove. We thought about all our needs so we are not having to produce a high income to live well. We now have our own homemade wine from our grapevine, jars of sauce, and preserves, and enough surplus to take to the markets or trade with friends. It has taken planning but we can now live very cheaply without having to cope with fulltime work as we age.” Well done JB!

We have received too many tips to include them all in this column - see the oily rag website for more.

Don’t forget to send your money-saving tips to us so we can share them with others, by visiting or by writing 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 by email at

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Scoop Review Of Books: Worldly And Unworldly

"Being Magdalene" by Fleur Beale The situations shown in this youth novel are shocking, scary, and very moving as we experience Magdalene’s struggle to be a perfect girl as defined by the cruel and unreasonable leader of “The Children of the Faith”, as she moves reluctantly into young womanhood. More>>

Whistle Stop: Netball NZ To Implement New INF Rules

Netball New Zealand (NNZ) will implement the new Official Rules of Netball, as set down by the International Netball Federation (INF), from January 1, 2016. Key changes include the elimination of whistle following a goal, amendments to injury time and changes to setting a penalty. More>>


Scoop Review Of Books: Waiata Aroha

Vaughan Rapatahana on Chappy by Patricia Grace: With this eminently readable novel Patricia Grace returns to the full-length fiction stage after a hiatus of ten years. More>>

'Ithaca' At Q Theatre: Introducing NZ's World Class Cirque Troupe

NZ’s very own cirque troupe is set to become a household name with the premier of its adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey having secured a key season in Auckland. More>>

Music Awards: The Tuis Are Broody This Year

Topping off a sensationally eventful year both at home and internationally, Nelson born brother-sister duo Broods has taken home four Tuis from this year’s 50th annual Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. More>>


Sport: Richie McCaw Retires From Rugby

Richie McCaw has today confirmed he is hanging up his boots and retiring from professional rugby. The 34-year-old All Blacks captain and most capped All Black of all time has drawn the curtain on his stunning international career which started in Dublin 14 years ago, almost to the day, and ended in London last month when he hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup aloft for the second time. More>>


John McBeth: On Jonah Lomu

For many New Zealanders, the enormity of Jonah Lomu's reputation will have come as a surprise... His deeds were watched and enthused over by movie stars and musicians, politicians and superstars from other codes. He reached into the lives and homes of millions and mixed with famous people most New Zealanders would only have read about. More>>


Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news