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The Oily Rag Mail Bag

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

The mail bag has been bulging and the inbox has been inundated – many thanks to those who have sent contributions in to the oily rag website. Here is a selection of some of the interesting money saving ideas.

  • Vikkin from Auckland says, “Keep your grated cheese in the freezer. I get a big block (on special) grate and freeze it in a container. A quick shake frees it up and it is ready to use in sandwiches or as a topping. Pop it back into the freezer once you have taken out as much as you need. No more mouldy disgusting lumps of cheese in the fridge and more importantly, no waste.”
  • Pamflitt from Hawera writes, “Buying or keeping a car over 40 years old results in considerably reduced registration fees and insurance is a lot cheaper as well. Depreciation is no longer a factor and if you buy the right type of car the worth may actually be going up. Gas mileages on well maintained cars are usually quite good. You also have the chance to meet new people via car clubs etc – never mind the stares from owners of a new car that has just lost them $10,000 by their taking delivery. Plus you are recycling in a big way by not replacing your old car with something newer.”
  • S.J., from Dunedin says, “If your seal has started to go on your fridge simply change the direction the door opens. Most of them are able to be adjusted to the other side for left or right handed opening. Our fridge seal needed to be replaced at the cost of $120. I asked hubby to try this idea first and it worked. The door has excellent suction and closes fine.” (Another reader, Margaret, advises that some modern fridges can’t be changed without high cost.)
  • Crafty wee savage from Opotiki says, “My mum was throwing away some old woollen jerseys that were a little bit moth eaten…so I rescued them from the bin, felted them by washing in boiling water, then used the sleeves to make mittens and the body/scraps of the jerseys for either a matching scarf or hat…so cute!”
  • And here’s a tip from Mean Girl from Hastings. “School Holidays – can't afford a school holiday programme? Then get together with friends and start your own. If you can only get one day a week off work, then get your mates to do the same thing, (different days), and drop your kids at the appropriate house with their packed lunch. Arrange between yourselves different activities for each day depending on what each can provide. For instance one person may be able to take all swimming while another may not have the transport necessary, so maybe they could do art and crafts, video days, pizza making, board games, a wheel outing, (skateboards, bikes, skates or scooters).”
  • Kim from Auckland cut his rent in half by flatting with an old high school friend. At the same time he changed jobs and had a 25% pay rise.
  • George asked the oily rag community, "What type of fish smoker is best and what's the best way to prepare the fish?" Martin Buchanan from Taupo replied: "Buy the cheapest available Smoker (usually the Warehouse), take off the grill plate and place directly upon the BBQ. Using the lowest heat setting and manuka sawdust, you can produce delicious smoked fish (Taupo trout of course), sausages, chicken, beef, veg, anything in about half to ¾ hour."

You can share your frugal living tips via the oily rag website ( 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 on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at