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Oily Rag: Pricey food and priceless tips

Oily Rag: Pricey food and priceless tips

By Frank and Muriel Newman
Week of August 29, 2011

Each month the people at Statistics New Zealand walk the isles of our supermarkets with clip boards and sharpened pencils to see how the prices of what we are putting into our supermarket trolleys have changed. Their latest Food Price Index report has some interesting things to say so here are some highlights:

The average household (if there is such a thing!), spends $199 a week on food, up from $178 three years ago – an average annual rise of 3.9 percent per year which is pretty much the rate of inflation. The biggest rise has been in the last year, with food prices up 7.9 percent. Some of that, of course, is due to the government digging a little deeper into your pockets by increasing GST.

As we all know from reading the money saving tips from readers, oily raggers are not very average – they are something a little special. We think oily raggers will be well positioned on the lower side of the average when it comes to spending money at the supermarket as they are unlikely to be buying out-of-season fruit and veges - like tomatoes at $13 a kg!

We know oily raggers are probably spending less than half the weekly average by growing their own vegetables, and buying in-season fruit and vegetables when they are plentiful and therefore cheap.

Another interesting statistic is that out of every $100 spent on food, $38 is on groceries, $21 is spent on eating out or takeaways, and about $16 is spent on meat, poultry, and fish. Fruit and vegetables account for $14, and the remaining $11 is spent on non-alcoholic beverages, such as packaged coffee, soft drinks, and juices.

That’s a lot of money spent on eating out. There are many ways oily raggers can cut the cost of eating out. “Oily ragged chook” from Hawera for example says, “My brother and his wife, along with 2-5 other couples eat out at each other’s house once a month. They each have a course to prepare and take. For example, they might go to friend #1's place this month and take entree. Next month, they go to friend 2's place and take mains. The month after, they might stay home and make desert. This has been working for several years now. Around the end of the year, they will all go to a restaurant. It's up to your own imagination how many courses you do, but it seems to work with 3-4”.

Senior oily raggers should ask if the establishment offers a senior citizen discount. A well-to-do oily rag couple in Auckland are always on the lookout for senior specials – it’s their Sunday afternoon treat, and ruminating on the savings they have made is a great source of pleasure!

Another interesting fact from Stats NZ is that tomatoes, yoghurt, lamb and capsicums are now more expensive than they have ever been, rising by up to 52 per cent in the past year. They say the floods in Australia have affected the supply of some products here - and as we know, something in short supply is always going to become more expensive!

While news headlines lament rising prices and hungry tummies, it’s good to know that some things are cheaper – rice for example. We know of one oily rag family that is now using rice as the basis of every evening meal – and they are really enjoying it. They say they use less meat so the meals are cheaper, more filling and healthier!

Do you have a favourite rice dish? Share your comments and tips 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

© Scoop Media

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